The Venezuelan National Assembly is a little shaken up after a brutally violent brawl broke out between politicians on Tuesday night as the pro-government lawmakers sparred with the opposition — literally. It's unclear who started the fight, but based on the Associated Press's abbreviated coverage of the incident, assembly members loyal to newly elected Nicolas Maduro threw the punches. Perhaps because he was handpicked to be Hugo Chavez's successor, Maduro's election has left many Venezuelans unsatisfied. Those who supported Maduro's opponent, Henrique Capriles, say they have thousands of documented incidents from voters that prove the election was rigged due to everything from voter fraud to the media playing favorites.
All this served as a troubling preamble to Tuesday night's fight. Apparently members of Maduro's coalition acted out when the opposition "tried to protest a proposal barring them from legislative activities." There was evidently a banner that read "Parliamentary Coup" involved in the protest. We haven't seen a video of the incident itself, but a television appearance by a bloodied Julio Borges, who's a member of the opposition, a few minutes after the incident suggests that it was no slap fight. "The blows we received today also land on every Venezuelan," he said, adding that the president of the National Assembly "embodies hatred, Fascism, does not recognize the expression of our people's April 14," the date of the recent, possibly rigged election.
If you've been following post-Chavez Venezuela, none of this news is very comforting. While Venezuela is no stranger to a little bit of violence between its lawmakers, the country is also in a fragile state after having lost its strong man nearly two months ago. The rhetoric's been getting nasty for weeks, but this move to violence suggests that political opponents aren't just failing to make progress in terms of building a functional government. They're moving backwards.