Today, lawmakers belonging to Venezuela’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), alongside minority opposition factions, proclaimed a new president of the National Assembly. Their announcement was made as security forces blocked access to the legislative palace, preventing the opposition majority and the current National Assembly President Juan Guaidó, from attending. Because the session was held without the legal quorum needed, the proclamation lacks democratic and constitutional legitimacy.

This is a crass attempt by the government of Nicolás Maduro to consolidate control over the last remaining democratic institution in Venezuela, and a clear violation of popular sovereignty. The international community must immediately and forcefully condemn this action.

Nicolás Maduro frequently manifests a desire for dialogue. If he wants to demonstrate actual commitment to meaningful negotiations, he can do so by recognizing the legitimate president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, and by resuming negotiations over the makeup of a free and fair National Electoral Council (CNE). Moving forward, it is clear there can be no solution to the crisis without transparent and free elections that renew not just the legislature, but the executive branch. It is time for Venezuelans to choose their own leaders in a fair and democratic process.