Venezuela: indigenous lawmakers in critical role

Venezuela appears headed for a showdown in the wake of this month's electoral reversal for President Nicolás Maduro. "We're facing a large-scale crisis that is going to generate a power struggle between two poles: the patriots and the anti-patriots," Maduro said in a speech to the military Dec. 12. "A conflict which is going to create big tensions… It's a counter-revolutionary crisis." The new legislature begins on Jan. 5, and the opposition has said its priority is an amnesty law for imprisoned activists—which Maduro insists he will refuse to sign. Opposition leader Leopoldo López is among those whose release is also being demanded by Amnesty International. (Reuters, Dec. 12;, Dec. 9)

The Dec. 6 legislative elections was the victory of the right-opposition United Democratic Roundtable (MUD) over the incumbent United Socialist Party (PSUV) of President Nicolás Maduro. Unexpectedly, the MUD appeared to win a two-thirds "supermajority" in the National Assembly, allowing it to remove Supreme Court judges, appoint an independent attorney general and national comptroller, and approve amendments to the constitution, subject to ratification by referendum. But the supermajority is razor-thin. The MUD claims 112 seats out of 167—exactly two-thirds. If it falls short of perfect unity, the list of powers available to the MUD will diminish considerably. (WP, Dec. 14 via VenezuelAnalysis)

The thin margin places the three independent candidates representing indigenous peoples in a potentially decisive position. The MUD claims the indigenous legislators are aligned with them, but the National Election Commission has yet to officially asign them to a bloc. The three—Virgilio Ferrer from the western Guajira region, Gladys Guaipo from the eastern electoral region and Romel Guzamana from the south—will fill seats reserved for indigenous peoples under the Venezuelan constitution. (TeleSur, Dec. 10)