CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Sunday President Nicolas Maduro’s government is preparing to dissolve the opposition-run legislature and call new legislative elections, potentially escalating Venezuela’s political crisis.
Guaido, who is also head of congress, said the decision would be made on Monday by the all-powerful Constituent Assembly – a parallel legislature controlled by the ruling Socialist Party – and could involve more arrests of legislators.
Such a move would likely fuel criticism of Maduro in the international community and halt Norway-brokered talks between the government and Guaido allies meant to reach a negotiated solution to Venezuela’s political stalemate.
“Tomorrow they intend to dissolve parliament, illegally convene parliamentary elections or even begin mass persecution of legislators,” Guaido said in a video posted on Twitter.
“If they do what they intend to do tomorrow, the result will be a phase of escalated conflict,” he said.
The next parliamentary elections are not scheduled until December 2020.
The information ministry did not reply immediately to a request for comment.
Socialist Party No. 2 Diosdado Cabello, head of the Constituent Assembly, confirmed on Twitter that a session is planned for tomorrow and mocked Guaido by saying “if you’re scared, buy a dog.”
“It looks like we’re getting to a crisis of justice and these traitorous worms are leaving in a stampede,” Cabello wrote.
Guaido invoked the constitution in January to assume a rival presidency, saying Maduro’s 2018 re-election was fraudulent. He has been recognised by more than 50 countries, including the United States, as Venezuela’s legitimate president.
Government supporters have staged attacks outside the assembly’s headquarters in recent months. At least 21 deputies have fled the country, been arrested, or sought asylum in embassies to avoid detention.
Maduro said on Saturday Guaido will face justice for supporting the most recent round of U.S. sanctions, which block all commercial transactions with Venezuela’s government and freeze its assets in the United States.
He called on Cabello last week to begin an offensive against the “traitors” in the legislature.
(Reporting by Vivian Sequera; Writing by Mayela Armas and Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Paul Tait)