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article imageWatch Venezuelan lawmakers brawl in National Assembly

By JohnThomas Didymus     May 1, 2013 in World
Caracas - A brawl erupted on Tuesday on the floor of Venezuela's national assembly between members of the country's opposition coalition and pro-government legislators supporting late President Hugo Chavez's heir President Nicolas Maduro.
The opposition says at least 17 of its members and five pro-government deputies were injured while protesting against a ban on speaking in the National Assembly.
According to Reuters, the government-controlled legislature passed a measure that barred opposition members from speaking in the National Assembly until they recognize the April 14 election victory of President Nicolas Maduro. Diosdado Caballo, leader of the National Assembly, said: "Until they recognize the authorities, the institutions of the republic, the sovereign will of our people, the opposition deputies will have to go and speak [to the private media] but not here in this National Assembly."
AP reports that on Tuesday, Pedro Carreno, head of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, asked for an extension of the ban. Some members of the opposition appeared in the assembly with a banner protesting. The banner read: "Coup against the parliament."
According to Reuters, an assembly worker said the fight began when opposition legislators shouted "fascist" at the National Assembly leader. A group of pro-government legislators attacked them. During the brawl, lawmakers hurled laptops and tables, and hit each other with chairs.
The video was reportedly obtained by the private TV station Globovision. It shows legislators punching each other as others cried "stop." The fistfight lasted for several minutes on the floor of the congress.
According to AP, opposition lawmaker Ismael Garcia, said: "Without a word, like cowards, they came at us from behind."
A government loyalist Odalis Monzon, said she and some colleagues were attacked. According to Reuters, she boasted: "Today again I had to defend the commander's [Chávez's] legacy."
Workers were forced to show their phones before leaving the assembly grounds to stop them going out with videos and photos of the brawl.
AP reports that an assembly member Julio Borges, appeared on an independent TV station soon after the fight with a black eye, swollen and bloodied face. According to Reuters, he said: "They can beat us, jail us, kill us, but we will not sell out our principles. These blows give us more strength."
The two sides have accused each other of starting the fight. Garcia said government loyalists attacked them first. Pro-government legislators appearing on state TV blamed "fascist" opposition member for the violence.
President Maduro accused the opposition of starting the fight and counseled legislators to settle their differences peacefully. He said: "We knew the opposition came to provoke violence. This must not be repeated."
Carreno said government loyalists only defended themselves: "If I’m standing here and you come to attack me, it’s likely that I’ll react, but it’s the aggressor who went out with a black eye."
National Assembly leader Diosdado Cabello has defended the measure barring opposition lawmakers from speaking. According to AP, he argued that by casting doubt on the process through which they were elected, opposition lawmakers lose their legitimacy also.
The crisis is the aftermath of the election in which Maduro, 50, won by a narrow margin of 1.49 percent over opposition candidate Henrique Caprilles, 40. The opposition rejected the election result citing irregularities in the process and describing the votes as "stolen." Opposition members claim that thousands of votes were cast using names of dead people.
Both sides have plans for peaceful demonstrations on the streets of Caracas on International Workers' Day, Wednesday. Tension remains high with fears of violence.
AP reports that Capriles said he is boycotting an official audit of the election and that he plans to file a challenge in court against the results.
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