The Latest: Venezuelan lawyers seeking protection for Guaido

By The Associated Press | Updated - Jan 23rd, 2019 @ 8:07pm | Posted - Jan 23rd, 2019 @ 7:03am


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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The latest on nationwide protests in Venezuela (all times local):

10:50 p.m.

Three Venezuelan lawyers are asking the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to grant precautionary measures to protect opposition leader Juan Guaido, his wife and his daughter.

The request, shared with The Associated Press by the lawyer Ignacio Alvarez, argues that the measure is needed to safeguard the life, personal integrity and personal freedom of Guaido and his immediate family.

The document, filed only hours after Guaido declared himself an interim president of the country, states that the request does not equal to a recognition of the legitimacy of the Maduro administration.

The human rights body of the Organization of American States has the authority to grant precautionary measures as a way to request states protection for persons at urgent and grave risk of suffering irreparable harm.

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10:10 p.m.

Mexico and Uruguay are urging all parties involved in Venezuela's crisis, both inside and outside the South American country, to try to reduce tensions and prevent an escalation of violence.

Uruguay's foreign ministry released a statement Wednesday saying the two countries are proposing a "new process of inclusive and credible negotiations with full respect for the rule of law and human rights" to resolve the dispute peacefully.

The statement came after numerous governments in the Western Hemisphere quickly recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president amid anti-government protests that have left at least seven people dead. The United States and all but one member of the Lima Group of regional nations threw their support behind Guaido.

The declaration by the Lima Group, which has been vocal in denouncing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, was signed by Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay and Peru. Mexico was the only member to not sign.

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9 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States won't pull its diplomats out of Venezuela as ordered by President Nicolas Maduro.

Pompeo made the announcement Wednesday night, hours after the U.S. recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president. That decision prompted Maduro to sever relations with the U.S. and order American diplomats to leave within 72 hours.

But Pompeo said the U.S. would instead abide by Guaido's directive that countries retain their diplomatic missions in the South American country. Pompeo says the U.S. doesn't recognize the authority of Maduro and that he doesn't have the legal authority to break diplomatic relations with the U.S.

Other nations, including Canada, Brazil and Argentina, also have recognized Guaido as Venezuela's president.

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8 p.m.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has expressed his gratitude to U.S. President Donald Trump for his support.

Guaido on Wednesday retweeted Trump, who said he officially recognized the Venezuelan congressman as the interim president of his country.

Guaido sent his appreciation to the U.S. president on behalf of all of Venezuelans.

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7:40 p.m.

Authorities say seven people protesting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government have been killed in a violent day of demonstrations across the country.

Opposition spokesman Freddy Superlano said Wednesday that four people were killed by gunfire in the southwestern city of Barinas.

Tens of thousands in the capital of Caracas and throughout the Venezuela rallied around opposition politician Juan Guaido, who declare himself interim president and call elections.

Superlano said members of the National Guard and police were dispersing protesters at the end of an opposition march when the gunfire erupted. He said another three people were injured.

A spokesperson for the Civil Protection office in the state of Tachira said the number of deaths in unrest in the city of San Cristobal had risen to three.

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7:05 p.m.

Colombia's president is urging Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to give up his post.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Colombian leader Ivan Duque said Wednesday that Maduro should "step aside and let the Venezuelan people be free."

Duque spoke after a tumultuous day that saw Juan Guaido, the head of Venezuela's opposition-controlled congress, declare himself interim president and call elections.

Colombia joined several other Latin American governments as well as the United States and Canada in quickly recognizing Guaido as Venezuela's leader.

Duque was asked if military intervention in Venezuela was a possibility. He responded: "We're not talking about military intervention. We're talking about a diplomatic consensus and also the support of the Venezuelan people."

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5:10 p.m.

Lawmakers in Russia, which has close relations with Venezuela, are sharply critical of U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of an opposition politician who has declared himself the country's legitimate interim president.

"I think that in this developing situation the United States is trying to carry out an operation to organize the next color revolution in Venezuela," the deputy chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the upper house of parliament, Andrei Klimov, told state news agency RIA-Novosti. "Color revolution" is a Russian term for the popular uprisings that unseated leaders in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

"I do not think that we can recognize this -- it is, in essence, a coup," another committee member, Vladimir Dzhabrailov, was quoted as saying by the Interfax agency.

Russia is a major political ally of Venezuela, and Russia's largest oil company, Rosneft, is heavily invested in the South American nation's oil fields, which produce less crude each month.

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5:05 p.m.

Authorities say two protesters are dead and five others injured in anti-government demonstrations in the Venezuelan city of San Cristobal.

A spokeswoman for the state of Tachira's health agency said the two demonstrators were shot to death but provided no further details.

At least one other person has been killed in this week's unrest.

Meanwhile demonstrators in Caracas are facing off against security forces firing rubber bullets and tear gas as they march through the capital.

Thousands of President Nicolas Maduro's followers are heading toward the presidential palace, heeding socialist leader Diosdado Cabello's call to protect the embattled leader.

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5 p.m.

The opposition leader who has declared himself Venezuela's interim president is looking to undermine President Nicolas Maduro's orders for American diplomats to abandon the country within 72 hours.

In a statement, Juan Guaido urged all foreign embassies in the country to disobey Maduro's orders and not remove their diplomats.

Although the message didn't name the U.S., it seemed to be issued in response to Maduro's announcement that he was severing relations with the United States.

The 35-year-old opposition leader says it is his right under Venezuela's constitution to take over the presidency until new elections can be called.

He and his supporters accuse Maduro of usurping power after being sworn into a contested new term.

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4:50 p.m.

At least two Latin American governments are standing behind Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Bolivian President Evo Morales has expressed his "solidarity" with the Venezuelan people and condemned what he called an "imperialist attack."

On Twitter he said: "Our solidarity with the Venezuelan people and @Nicolas Maduro, in these decisive hours when the claws of imperialism are once again trying to deal a death blow on democracy and self-determination on the peoples of South America. We will not be the backyard of the U.S. again."

A spokesman for Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also said that Mexico would continue recognizing Maduro as Venezuela's president.

Jesus Ramirez Cuevas told Milenio television Wednesday: "We maintain our position of neutrality in the Venezuelan conflict."

He also said: "The Mexican government is analyzing the situation in Venezuela. Until now, there is no change in its diplomatic relations with that country nor with its government."

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4:35 p.m.

A U.S. senator from Florida is calling for designating Venezuela a "terrorist state" and imposing additional sanctions in order to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to resign.

Sen. Rick Scott, the junior senator from Florida, told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that Maduro "is clearly a terrorist."

Scott added: "The way Maduro has treated his citizens is disgusting."

Scott also urged U.S. President Donald Trump to "look at every sanction he can have" and impose penalties on anybody doing business with or supporting Maduro.

Scott said he expects that opposition leader Juan Guiado, who has declared himself interim president, will call elections "as quickly as possible."

Florida is home to tens of thousands of Venezuelans who have fled the chaos in their country in recent years.

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4:30 p.m.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro is giving American diplomats 72 hours to abandon the country after breaking diplomatic relations with the U.S. over its decision to recognize an opposition leader as interim president.

"Before the people and nations of the world, and as constitutional president.....I've decided to break diplomatic and political relations with the imperialist U.S. government," Maduro told a crowd of red-shirted supporters gathered at the presidential palace.

He made the announcement following a tumultuous day that saw Juan Guaido, the head of the opposition-controlled congress, declare himself interim president and call elections.

The move was immediately backed by the Trump administration, which said it was willing to use all its economic and diplomatic power to restore Venezuela's democracy.

Maduro said in his speech the U.S. was making a "grave mistake" by trying to impose a president on Venezuela and rattled off a long list of countries — Guatemala, Brazil, Chile and Argentina — that saw leftist governments toppled or come under military rule during the Cold War with U.S. support.

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4:15 p.m.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been asked whether the U.S. would use military action in Venezuela to support the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro and his response was ambiguous.

"We are not considering anything, but all options are on the table," Trump told reporters following a roundtable discussion at the White House on medical costs.

The comment came after his administration announced it would recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president over Maduro.

Trump did not clarify what he meant by "all options."

His administration has imposed several rounds of sanctions aimed at pressuring the government of the South American country.

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4:05 p.m.

The head of the Organization of American States says that the two-year process initiated by Venezuela to leave the organization was interrupted after opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself president of the South American nation.

Luis Almagro said Wednesday: "Obviously the clock is stopped from today."

Guaido presides over the opposition controlled National Assembly, which adopted a document Tuesday expressing its intention to remain in the OAS and appoint ex-legislator Gustavo Tarre Briceno as special representative.

Guaido declared himself interim president on Wednesday before thousands of demonstrators cheering in support.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro began the process to leave the entity in April 2017, alleging that Almagro exceeded his duties by criticizing a member state.

The Supreme Court in Venezuela has declared documents issued by the National Assembly null and void.

The Venezuelan mission to the OAS did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

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3:50 p.m.

Venezuelans are holding rallies across Spain against the government of Nicolas Maduro and in support of an opposition leader who has declared himself interim president of the country.

The rallies were staged in many provincial capitals, with major protests in Tenerife, Barcelona and Madrid. They were timed to coincide with marches in the streets of Venezuela.

Organizers said that around 7,000 protesters gathered in a central square of the Spanish capital, where there is a large Venezuelan community.

The protesters cheered when exiled members of the Venezuelan opposition announced that the U.S. government had recognized the interim leadership of Juan Guaido.

They called on Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to follow the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump in endorsing Guaido.

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3:35 p.m.

Socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello is calling on government supporters to mobilize in front of Venezuela's presidential palace to protect Nicolas Maduro from what he is calling a U.S.-led conspiracy to remove him from power.

"The Bolivarian revolution doesn't have an expiration date," he told a crowd of red-shirted supporters at a rally in downtown Caracas.

"We are going to stay in the streets, and stay in battle, for now and forever," Cabello said, marking the government's first reaction to opposition leader Juan Guaido's decision to declare himself interim president.

Supporters responded with shouts of "They Will Not Return!," a popular refrain used by the government to denounce the elite politicians who governed Venezuela before Hugo Chavez's revolution in 1999.

The pro-government march attracted thousands but was far smaller than the cross-town opposition march where Guaido said he would temporarily take over as president and call elections.

The Trump administration immediately backed Guaido's declaration.

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3:30 p.m.

Three South American nations are recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president.

The leaders of Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay all quickly expressed their support after Guaido took a symbolic oath before thousands of supporters.

Colombia President Ivan Duque said his nation would accompany Guaido "in this process of transition toward democracy."

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also said that he would support the 35-year-old lawmaker "so that peace and democracy return to Venezuela."

Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez said on Twitter that his country supported Venezuela's interim President Juan Guaido. "Count on us to embrace freedom and democracy again," Abdo Benitez said.

Guaido says it is his right under Venezuela's constitution to take over the presidency until new elections can be called.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was sworn into a contested second term two weeks ago in a move condemned by dozens of nations.

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3:20 p.m.

Canada says it is recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela.

Two officials familiar with the matter confirmed the Canadian position, but spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The move comes shortly after the U.S. also issued recognition of Guaido as president and called for President Nicolas Maduro to step down.

Guaido declared himself interim president on Wednesday.

Recognition of the opposition leader by the U.S. and Canada increases international pressure on Maduro and could result in severe economic consequences for his government.

-By Associated Press writer Rob Gillies

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3 p.m.

The Trump administration is calling for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down after recognizing the chief of the country's opposition-led National Assembly as its interim leader.

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo all issued statements proclaiming U.S. recognition of Juan Guaido. Each of them said the U.S. would take all diplomatic and economic measures necessary to support a transition to a new government.

In his statement, Pompeo said Maduro should "step aside in favor of a legitimate leader reflecting the will of the Venezuelan people."

Guaido declared himself interim president on Wednesday amid widespread street protests against Maduro.

At a pro-government rally, powerful socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello said right-wing forces do not represent the majority.

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2:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the U.S. is recognizing the president of Venezuela's opposition-led National Assembly as the country's interim president.

The Trump administration has been moving toward such a declaration of support for Juan Guaido ever since Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a contested second term two weeks ago. Guaido declared himself the interim president before thousands of cheering supporters Wednesday.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence this week said Maduro is a dictator who did not win the presidency in free and fair elections.

Trump said in Wednesday's statement that Venezuelans have "courageously spoken" against Maduro and for freedom and the rule of law.

Venezuelans are marching in the streets to demand that Maduro step down, citing spiraling inflation, a shortage of basic goods and a migration crisis that is dividing families.

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2 p.m.

A civil society group says it has detected major internet disruptions in Venezuela affecting YouTube, Google, Android mobile platforms, and other services.

The NetBlocks observatory said on its website Wednesday: "Social media services are notably disrupted, with Facebook, Instagram intermittently cut off and the disruptions have increasingly affected other services."

Tens of thousands of people are marching in the South American country demanding that socialist leader Nicolas Maduro step down from power.

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1:55 p.m.

A Trump administration official and a U.S. congressional aide say U.S. President Donald Trump plans to recognize the president of Venezuela's opposition-led National Assembly as the interim president of the crisis-mired South American country.

The official and aide said on condition of anonymity that Trump is expected to issue a statement recognizing Juan Guaido (GWA-ee-DOH) as the interim president after the Venezuelan parliament votes to appoint him to the post.

The parliament is not expected to convene until Thursday at the earliest. Guaido declared himself interim president on Wednesday.

The official and aide spoke on condition of anonymity because the statement has not been released and the White House had no comment.

The Trump administration has been inching toward such a declaration ever since Nicolas Maduro was inaugurated earlier this month. Maduro was re-elected last year but the opposition in the country says the election was fraudulent and does not recognize him.

Recognition of Guaido by the U.S. would increase international pressure on Maduro to step down and could result in severe economic consequences for his government amid an already painful economic crisis in the once-prosperous oil-producing nation.

-By Associated Press writer Matthew Lee

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1:50 p.m.

Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido has declared himself the nation's interim president before thousands of demonstrators cheering in support.

The 35-year-old lawmaker raised his right hand and said he was "formally assuming the responsibility of the national executive."

The move comes as tens of thousands march around Venezuelan demanding that the socialist leader Nicolas Maduro steps down from power.

Maduro was sworn in for a contested second term two weeks ago but has been met by international condemnation.

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1:30 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California, says it is hypocritical for the U.S. government to impose sanctions on Venezuela, but not Saudi Arabia.

"The US is sanctioning Venezuela for their lack of democracy but not Saudi Arabia? Such hypocrisy. Maduro's policies are bad and not helping his people, but crippling sanctions or pushing for regime change will only make the situation worse," Khanna wrote on Twitter.

Legislators from both parties have previously criticized the U.S. response to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul last year.

Khanna posted his message while Venezuelans marched Wednesday in the streets demanding that President Nicolas Maduro step down from power.

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1 p.m.

Powerful socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello is accusing Venezuela's opposition of being on a mission to "threaten and cause terror."

At a pro-government rally Wednesday, the head of the all-powerful constitutional assembly said right-wing forces do not represent the majority.

He added that anyone who acts out of line at Wednesday's protest will be met with justice.

Venezuela's government routinely accuses the opposition of inciting violence. Rights groups say the government itself regularly violates citizen rights.

Opposition and pro-government marches are taking place concurrently Wednesday, about two weeks after Nicolas Maduro was sworn into a contested second term.

The marches have at times briefly crossed paths, with government supporters crying out words like "Traitor!" to opposition demonstrators.

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12:30 p.m.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio says that Venezuelan authorities may use "agitators" to employ violence so they can later accuse opposition leaders of terrorism.

The Florida senator wrote on Twitter: "The regime's response is being directed by #Cuba's intelligence agency. Expect them to undertake a massive disinformation effort, cut off internet, use agitators to provoke violence & ultimately accuse members of National Assembly of treason & terrorism."

Rubio posted several messages Wednesday morning in both English and Spanish while Venezuelans marched in the streets demanding that President Nicolas Maduro step down from power.

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11:35 a.m.

Venezuelans are marching in the streets and waving their nation's flag as they demand that President Nicolas Maduro step down from power.

Members of the National Guard launched tear gas at protesters in the middle-class neighborhood of El Paraiso on Wednesday.

Protests in other parts of the city were taking place without any confrontation.

Venezuelans attending the anti-government protest say they are fed up with spiraling inflation, a shortage of basic goods and a migration crisis dividing families.

Demonstrators are shouting phrases like "Get out Maduro!" as they heed the opposition's call to gather.

Pro-Maduro Venezuelans are also beginning to converge in concentration points for counter-protests organized by the government.

The government has accused the opposition of trying to provoke bloodshed.

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11:15 a.m.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is telling the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro that social protest and freedom of expression are "fundamental values" in any democratic society.

The human rights body of the Organization of American States says repression of demonstrations through excessive use of force may be a grave violation to fundamental rights.

The commission said in a press release that the Venezuelan crisis has deteriorated since Maduro took office on Jan. 10 for a second six year-term.

The Venezuelan opposition is holding street demonstrations Wednesday in multiple cities throughout the country.

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11:05 a.m.

A statue of former socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been burnt to a crisp amid a wave of anti-government unrest.

Videos shared on social media late Tuesday show the statue in the city of San Felix in flames as residents bang pots and pans.

Chavez installed the nation's socialist system two decades ago and designated current President Nicolas Maduro as his successor.

While many in Venezuela still hold Chavez in high esteem, statues of his image have been targeted in various protests over the years to show discontent.

Venezuelans are angry over soaring hyperinflation and food and medical shortages, and have taken to the streets this week. They accuse Maduro of usurping power and demand he step down.

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11 a.m.

At least one person has been killed in a looting incident in southern Venezuela coinciding with bouts of anti-government unrest.

A police report said that a 30-year-old worker named Carlos Olivares was killed Tuesday night in Ciudad Bolivar by four unidentified people who descended from a beige Jeep and fired upon a crowd that had raided a store.

The report was based on an interview with the victim's sister-in-law.

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10:40 a.m.

Ivanka Trump is reiterating the U.S. government's support for Venezuelans ahead of a forthcoming anti-government demonstration seeking to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

"@Potus, @VP and the whole Administration stand with the people of Venezuela as they seek freedom from the oppression of dictator Maduro," Ivanka Trump posted on Twitter on Wednesday, in reply to an earlier post by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

The message from the White House senior adviser and daughter of U.S. President Donald Trump echoed a similar sentiment from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence said Tuesday that Venezuelans have the "unwavering support" of the United States in their effort to restore democracy to their country.

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9:52 a.m.

There was an eerie calm on the streets of Caracas early Wednesday ahead of a planned anti-government demonstration seeking to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

Many shops were closed while riot police flanked by water tanks and lightly armored vehicles guarded the emblematic Plaza Venezuela that leads to downtown.

Juan Guaido, the newly-installed leader of congress who called Wednesday's march, urged security forces to stand alongside peaceful protesters.

"The world's eyes are on our homeland today," he said in an early-morning tweet.

Overnight there were reports of unrest in several working-class neighborhoods of Caracas as residents took to the streets to set fire to barricades demanding Maduro's resignation.

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9 a.m.

Venezuela's re-invigorated opposition faces a crucial test Wednesday as it seeks to fill streets nationwide with protesters in an appeal to the military and the poor to shift loyalties that until recently looked solidly behind President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government.

The protests have been called to coincide with a historic date for Venezuelans — the anniversary of the 1958 coup that overthrew military dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez. Government supporters are also expected to march in downtown Caracas in a rival show of strength.

The competing demonstrations will come after a whirlwind week that saw an uprising by a tiny military unit, fires set during protests in poor neighborhoods and the brief detention by security forces of the newly installed head of the opposition-controlled congress.

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