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Guaido blasts Venezuela regime after security forces block congress

AFP  |  Caracas 

accused the of trying to "gag" congress after security forces prevented opposition lawmakers from entering the on Tuesday, two weeks after the opposition leader's failed uprising against

Deputies said members of the National Guard, who provide security for the building, along with police and SEBIN intelligence agents, blocked access to the opposition-controlled

The move came as International said it believes the Venezuelan authorities have committed crimes against humanity in their crackdown on anti-government protests, and urged the to investigate.

"SEBIN agents, using the excuse that there's an within the facilities, took over the federal palace. We're surrounded by intelligence agents," lawmaker told AFP.

Guaido said the security forces used "brute force", adding that congress was "occupied militarily".

He tried to incite an uprising against Maduro on April 30 but only around 30 members of the armed forces joined him, and the revolt quickly petered out. It did however spark two days of deadly clashes between protesters and security forces.

Since then, the Maduro regime has ramped up pressure on Guaido's allies and supporters.

The Constituent Assembly, a rival legislative body that was created by the and is packed with people who support him, voted Tuesday to strip immunity from five more opposition lawmakers in the That brings to 14 the number who will presumably go to trial for backing the failed insurrection. The charges include treason.

One of them, Edgar Zambrano, was arrested by SEBIN agents last week. Another fled to neighbouring while three others sought refuge in diplomatic compounds.

Guaido -- the National Assembly -- has accused Maduro of trying to dismantle the legislature.

"They're trying to hold the legislative power hostage while the dictator entrenches himself alone in a palace where he shouldn't be," Guaido said on

He has previously accused the of terrorism for his heavy-handed response to demonstrations.

said responded with "a systematic and widespread policy of repression" in late January, when anti-government protests swept the country after Guaido declared himself

The London-based rights group said at least 47 people were killed during the protests from January 21 to 25. At least 33 were shot dead by the security forces and six by government supporters.

"Eleven of these deaths were extrajudicial executions," said Erika Guevara, director for International, who presented a report in Mexico City, following February's fact-finding mission to

Some Maduro opponents were tortured while 900 people, including children, were arbitrarily detained, Amnesty said.

"The nature of the attacks... the level of coordination by the security forces, as well as the signs of similar patterns in 2014 and 2017, leads to believe that the Venezuelan authorities committed crimes against humanity."

Maduro himself "knew about these public and appalling acts and took no measures to either prevent or investigate them", Amnesty added in its statement.

Guaido's declaration that he is the country's legitimate acting president, which has been supported by more than 50 countries, plunged into a political crisis.

It came about after the National Assembly branded Maduro a usurper over his controversial re-election last year in polls widely regarded as fraudulent.

The oil-rich, cash-poor country has been stricken by recession and a humanitarian crisis in which almost a quarter of its 30 million population is in urgent need of aid, according to the (UN).

The UN also says that more than 2.7 million people have fled the country since 2015.

Those remaining behind face shortages of basic necessities such as and medicines, and failing including water, and transport.

From early Tuesday, the cordoned off the building housing the National Assembly. Bullet-proof vehicles and a tow truck were parked in the surrounding streets.

"This is a recurring theme. It's not the first time it's happened," said Bolivar, who claimed this was part of "a policy to weaken the Assembly" and "intimidation" related to the power struggle between Guaido and Maduro, who retains the support of the armed forces.

Guaido insisted the move would not stop lawmakers from doing their job.

"Tomorrow we will be in session again, we'll reconvene and let the regime decide if it wants to continue with a type of political harakiri," he said.

"Whether it's in a square, in the annex buildings, under a bridge, the Assembly will sit and there will be a session," said

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, May 15 2019. 05:50 IST