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New Venezuelan National Assembly Seated

Opposition legislators pose for a group photo on the steps of the National Assembly entrance, after attending their swearing-in ceremony, in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. Venezuela's opposition was sworn in as the majority during a heated parliamentary session that saw pro-government representatives walk out in protest after pushing and shoving their way onto the dais as the new leadership laid out its legislative agenda. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

The United States congratulates the people of Venezuela on the seating of their new democratically-elected National Assembly.

The United States congratulates the people of Venezuela on the seating of their new democratically-elected National Assembly. It was a historic day as Venezuela’s opposition took majority control of the National Assembly for the first time in 17 years. The press was allowed access to the legislature for the first time in many years and state TV broadcast interviews with opposition leaders.

New Venezuelan National Assembly Seated
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State Department Spokesperson John Kirby called the seating of the legislature “an important and necessary step towards fulfilling the will of Venezuelan voters as reflected in last month’s elections.”

However, the Venezuelan Supreme Court barred four lawmakers from taking their seats while it probed allegations of electoral fraud. As a result, only 163 of the 167 lawmakers were sworn in on January 5. The next day, three opposition deputies were sworn in over protests by members from the legislature’s minority who announced their intention to challenge the move. Consistent with the spirit of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which both the United States and Venezuela have committed to uphold, the United States calls on all parties to respect the independence, authority, and constitutional prerogatives of the National Assembly. In recognition of the installation of the National Assembly and in support of inclusive and meaningful political dialogue, said Spokesperson Kirby, the U.S. “again call[s] for the release of all [Venezuelans] imprisoned for their political beliefs and activities.”The United States believes the new National Assembly can serve an important function in advancing and promoting national dialogue focused on addressing the social and economic challenges facing the Venezuelan people.

As President Barack Obama has said, “Democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and respect for the rights of minorities.”