Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro’s Socialist Party announced on Monday that its lawmakers are taking back their seats in congress after a three-year boycott, targeting the power base of the president’s chief rival.
The congress is led by Juan Guaidó, who in January claimed to be the country’s rightful president, and it is the only governing body not under Mr. Maduro’s control.
The re-entry of the Socialist legislators threatens not only the independence of congress but also the platform Mr. Guaidó has used to build his legitimacy domestically and internationally as he challenges Mr. Maduro’s presidency.
The ruling party’s announcement is the latest step in an increasingly complex nine-month political struggle between the two leaders. While Mr. Maduro retains control of the military and the government bureaucracy, Mr. Guaidó draws on popular support and recognition from the United States and around 60 other countries.
Mr. Guaidó’s attempts to unseat the president this year through mass protests, military defections, American sanctions and mediated talks have run up against the government’s brutal repression and skilful political manoeuvring, resulting in a tense impasse. Sensing weakness, Mr. Maduro has now gone on the offensive.
On Monday, Mr. Maduro’s main negotiator and political adviser, Jorge Rodríguez, signed what he called a “peace deal” with several minor opposition parties outside of Mr. Guaidó’s coalition. Under the deal, 55 of its allied lawmakers will retake seats in congress, reform the electoral council and release some political prisoners.