Venezuelan Congress Breaks Out in Brawl as Lawmakers Battle Over Chávez Politics

A fistfight between two lawmakers – one a supporter of President Hugo Chávez, the other an opponent – was caught on camera in Venezuela's National Assembly on Thursday.

Security guards rushed to separate the two battling elected officials in what was the second scuffle among lawmakers since early January. Newly elected opposition lawmakers last month took their seats in a Legislature that had for years been controlled almost exclusively by Chávez allies.

Tensions boiled over on Thursday when several opposition lawmakers, including Alfonso Marquina, approached the podium during a debate involving top government officials who were taking questions. Marquina complained that boisterous Chávez supporters inside the chamber should be silenced.

Incensed lawmakers in front of the podium began pushing and shoving, then Marquina and pro-Chávez lawmaker Henry Villanueva went to blows.

The melee ended after the assembly's vice president called for calm and security guards and fellow lawmakers separated Marquina and Villanueva.

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No one was seriously injured, state television said.

Another scuffle between the rivals factions erupted a few weeks; no one was hurt in that fight, either.

Venezuela's previous National Assembly was controlled almost entirely by Chávez allies after the opposition boycotted 2005 legislative elections. But voting in September saw Chávez opponents win 67 of the assembly's 165 seats.

The arrival of those lawmakers in early January raised tensions with Chávez's allies, used to rubber-stamping government initiatives. Sessions have seen insults and threats.

The opposition's gains prevent Chávez allies from obtaining the two-thirds majority needed to pass some types of legislation.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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