Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was set to further consolidate power as a majority-socialist Congress was installed Tuesday in Caracas.
The new Congress was set to be led by Maduro's former chief of staff, Jorge Rodriguez. Maduro was expected to attend the inaugural session after having avoided legislative sessions for years when the opposition controlled the National Assembly.
Today "begins a new cycle for Venezuela, a new National Assembly born from the popular vote is born," Maduro wrote on Twitter. "Together we will take a great leap toward economic recovery, reconciliation and national peace."
The installation follows Venezuela’s December 6 legislative elections. The opposition boycotted the vote, which resulted in socialists taking control of the National Assembly.
This marks a shift in balance as many Western powers, including the U.S., have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s de facto president. Elected in the context of the opposition’s 2015 landslide victory, Guaido has slowly lost public support since he declared himself interim president in January 2019.
In the aftermath of the legislative elections, opposition lawmakers voted in December to extend their term for another year. The Maduro-controlled Supreme Court was quick to revoke the law. The decision, however, has not stopped Guaido and his allies from further pushing for new elections.
"The national parliament will not be stopped until we have seen free elections take place in Venezuela," Guaido said in a Sunday video message shared on Twitter.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement last month the elections in Venezuela were a "political farce intended to look like legislative elections." He said the U.S. "will continue to recognize" Guaido as interim president.
Although U.S. sanctions remain in effect on Venezuela, the U.S. Treasury Department has issued a license allowing certain transactions with Guaido. A statement Monday, however, says transactions involving the Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly convened by Maduro or the National Assembly that was just seated are not authorized.