Venezuela’s opposition officially assumed control of the country’s legislature Tuesday for the first time since the charismatic socialist Hugo Chavez took power 17 years ago. The congressional swearing-in ceremony was gripping and suspenseful, but also a shambolic, sweltering and chaotic exercise, a fitting start to what promises to be an even more contentious era in Venezuela’s already turbulent political saga.
The uncertainty in the air was accompanied by a sense of foreboding mixed with excitement. Competing street demonstrations and political battles that raged outside and inside the parliament building made it abundantly clear that neither side has any intention of moving in the direction of compromise in the months ahead.
Both sides have already raised the stakes, and both have shown they are prepared for a fight. But it’s worth noting that, despite countless scuffles, the standoff remains largely peaceful. And the tactics so far, if not strictly within the bounds of the law, remain largely political and legalistic, rather than violent.