Ariana Cubillos/AP
Lawmakers stand as a group of government supporters force their way into the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday. Government supporters interrupted a special congressional session where lawmakers were discussing bringing legal charges against President Nicolas Maduro.

Did Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro stage a coup?

In a rowdy session of Venezuela's legislature, lawmakers declared Sunday that, by blocking a recall effort, President Nicolas Maduro had staged a coup.

Venezuelan lawmakers declared Sunday that President Nicolas Maduro had staged a coup by blocking an effort to remove the unpopular leader from office, a decision that came during a heated legislative session that was briefly interrupted by dozens of demonstrators. 

The vote came days after a court suspended opposition lawmakers' campaign to collect signatures to hold a referendum to recall President Maduro, escalating political tensions in Venezuela and resulting in a vow by lawmakers to put the president on trial.

The session on Sunday turned even more raucous when roughly 100 pro-Maduro protesters wearing red shirts burst onto the floor, chanting, "Congress will fall!" After the protesters had left the building, opposition lawmakers said the situation directly reflected their complaints about the state of democracy in Venezuela.

"The fact that lawmakers elected by 7.5 million people were silenced by 300 thugs sums up the situation better than any speech could," Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) spokesman Jesus Torrealba told the Associated Press. 

The move to take legal action against the president is unlikely to produce results, as the Maduro administration controls the courts. But the vow demonstrates just how extreme political tensions have become in Venezuela, where as many as 80 percent of voters tell pollsters that they want the president removed from office this year. 

"It is a political and legal trial against President Nicolas Maduro to see what responsibility he has in the constitutional rupture that has broken democracy, human rights, and the future of the country," said opposition majority leader Julio Borges, as reported by Reuters.

The little support the president still has left reflects core supporters of Chavismo, a movement led by Maduro's late predecessor Hugo Chávez, as David Iaconangelo reported for The Christian Science Monitor in July: 

"They have seen their life changed during the Chávez period and they are still grateful to the movement that he created," said Dimitris Pantoulas, a Caracas-based electoral expert, in an email to The Christian Science Monitor.

Under Chávez, the ranks of government employees swelled, and many of those who remain feel they owe their livelihoods to Maduro's leftist coalition. And with the economy contracting, some may fear that austerity measures under the opposition's leadership would bring mass layoffs.

Part of Maduro's core support, said Mr. Pantoulas, is about distrust of the political opposition, which swept into control of the Venezuelan National Assembly in December.

The court ruling last Thursday, which suspended the recall vote on the grounds of alleged fraud during signature collection, was condemned by the US State Department and the Organization of American States. Congress approved a resolution on Sunday officially asking the international community to intervene and "protect the people's right to democracy by any means necessary."

This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Did Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro stage a coup?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today