three opposition lawmakers resign in concession to Maduro

‘Vote of confidence’ in Vatican talks as trio who were banned by supreme court, but reinstated by parliament, step aside for elections

Three opposition lawmakers at the centre of a dispute between Venezuela’s congress and its top court stepped down on Tuesday following an agreement meant to ease a political standoff between the opposition and President Nicolás Maduro.

Julio Ygarza, Nirma Guarulla and Romel Guzamana submitted their resignations in writing to congress on Tuesday.

The lawmakers – two from the Amazonas jungle state and one who represents indigenous groups – were key to handing the opposition a super-majority in December 2015’s legislative elections.

But in January a supreme court order banned them on allegations of fraud.

The National Assembly defied the government by reinstating them in July, leading authorities to declare congress illegitimate and setting up a power clash with Maduro’s socialist administration.

In Vatican-backed talks between the opposition and the government over the weekend, the two sides agreed the lawmakers would resign to trigger fresh elections for the three seats.

“This is a vote of confidence in the dialogue,” said opposition lawmaker Angel Alvarado. “Now [the government] has to call elections.”

The hardline opposition party Popular Will and some opposition activists are angry over the deal, fearing the promise of elections will not be kept and that dialogue gives unpopular Maduro a respite.

Maduro, whom the opposition has been seeking to remove in a recall referendum, cheered the exit of the lawmakers.

“The process begins for the National Assembly to respect the supreme court, respect the constitution, meaning that there will be elections in Amazonas [state] very soon,” he said during his salsa radio show.

The opposition took a major hit in October when the country’s electoral board all but ended hopes for a recall referendum against Maduro.

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