FILE PHOTO: Juan Pablo Guanipa (C), elected governor of Zulia state, attends a rally with supporters in Maracaibo, Venezuela October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Isaac Urrutia/File Photo(reuters_tickers)
By Isaac Urrutia
MARACAIBO, Venezuela (Reuters) - The newly-elected opposition governor of Venezuela's western Zulia state was dismissed on Thursday by the pro-government local state legislature, an aide said, adding to disarray among foes of the ruling socialists.
The sacking of Juan Pablo Guanipa, one of five opposition governors in Venezuela's 23 states, came after he refused to swear loyalty to an all-powerful national legislative superbody aligned with President Nicolas Maduro's ruling socialists.
"They held a secret, express session to remove him," Guanipa's spokeswoman Erika Gutierrez told Reuters of the morning meeting of Zulia's state legislature.
Venezuela's opposition Democratic Unity coalition, which groups several dozen anti-Maduro parties, has been in crisis since a surprise defeat at this month's state elections.
Despite polls showing it would win a comfortable majority due to widespread public anger over Venezuela's brutal economic crisis, the opposition only took five state compared to 18 for Maduro's Socialist Party candidates.
Opposition leaders blamed both dirty tricks by the government, including the last-minute moving of many vote centres in opposition areas, and abstention by supporters disillusioned at the failure of protests earlier this year.
Driving home its advantage, the government said only governors who recognise the supremacy of the pro-Maduro Constituent Assembly could take office.
Four opposition governors did that this week, sparking recriminations and bickering within the coalition, but Guanipa said he would never "kneel before the dictatorship."
"This is an assault on the will of the people," he tweeted after his removal on Tuesday, denouncing a "coup" in the oil-rich state on the border with Colombia.
(Reporting by Isaac Urrutia; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by David Gregorio)