World / Politics

Venezuela opposition-led congress to debate return to Cold War-era regional defense pact

AP

Venezuela’s opposition-controlled congress met Tuesday to discuss a proposal for Venezuela’s return to a regional defense agreement that dates from the Cold War — a move that could provide political cover for greater international involvement in the nation’s crisis.

U.S. officials have repeatedly said they are considering military “options” in the Venezuelan crisis in addition to diplomatic and economic pressure that has been intensifying for months against the government of socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Military police prevented journalists from entering the National Assembly, and some reporters were harassed by government supporters outside the building.

The lights in the chamber went out temporarily as a senior assembly member, Edgar Zambrano, was speaking. The cause of the power cut was unclear.

Last week, Venezuela’s pro-Maduro top court opened a treason investigation of Zambrano, who had joined opposition leader Juan Guaido outside a military base in Caracas during a failed call on the armed forces to overthrow Maduro. The appeal to the military was followed by deadly clashes between police and protesters.

The United States recognizes Guaido, head of the National Assembly, as Venezuela’s interim president, saying Maduro’s re-election last year was rigged.

Guaido sent a tweet saying that the session planned to consider a proposal to re-enter the U.S.-led defense treaty, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assisance. Venezuela and other left-governed nations pulled out of the treaty years ago.

Guaido earlier met top diplomats from some of the more than 50 countries that support his campaign to seize power from Maduro, whose allies include Russia, China and Cuba.

Maduro says he is the target of a U.S.-engineered coup plot and has denounced the Guaido-led assembly, instead recognizing a rival assembly packed with government loyalists that was set up in 2017.