Nearly two weeks after the swearing in of democratically-elected president Nicolás Maduro, the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, unilaterally declared himself interim president of the country and said he will try and push forth a “Council of Transition”.
The declaration was immediately supported by US President Donald Trump and his administration, who have been demanding that Maduro step down since his inauguration on January 10.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on twitter “The United States recognizes Juan Guaido’s courageous decision to assume the role of Interim President per Venezuela’s Constitution Article 233. We support @AsambleaVE and their efforts to establish a transitional government and prepare #Venezuela for free and fair elections.”
Nicolás Maduro spoke on Wednesday afternoon from the Miraflores palace in Caracas to thousands of supporters and denounced the actions made against the sovereignty of Venezuela and the attempt to violate the will of the people. He announced that Venezuela will cut all diplomatic relationships with the United States and the personnel have 72 hours to leave the country.
Maduro exclaimed, “We say no to coup attempts, no to interventionism, no to imperialism…I have decided to break diplomatic and political relationships with the imperialist government of the United States. Get out! Leave Venezuela, here there is dignity damnit!”
The General Secretary of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, has also voiced his support for Guaidó and countries of the Lima Group are following suit. Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador and others have publicly stated their support for the self-appointed “interim president”.
It is important to point out that even before this action, the National Assembly has been in contempt of court since 2016 and as such, all of their actions are invalid.
The move comes in a moment of elevated tensions in Venezuela. On Monday, the Ministry of Defense announced that the Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela contained an attack on their facilities in Caracas by a group of defecting soldiers from the Bolivarian National Guard.
Presidential elections were held in Venezuela in May 2018 and were called for by the National Constituent Assembly. Ahead of the elections, a sector of the far-right opposition called for a boycott of the elections and were supported by the US and their conservative Latin American allies of the Lima Group who declared that the elections would be illegitimate and they would not recognize the results.
On May 21, 2018, with over 6 million votes (68% of the votes) cast in his favor, Nicolás Maduro was re-elected as President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Henri Falcón, the main opposition candidate, came in second place with 21% of the vote and Javier Bertucci, an evangelical pastor came in third with 10% of the votes.
Ignoring the high levels of participation from all sectors of Venezuelan society and the transparent elections process, the US and their allies remained firm in their rejection of the elections and reported that they would not respect Maduro’s term beginning on January 10.
On August 4, during the 81st anniversary celebration of the Bolivarian National Guard on Bolívar Avenue in Caracas, an attempt was made to assassinate Nicolás Maduro using drones loaded with explosives, which were neutralized. In December, Maduro denounced publicly that a coup attempt was being planned against him with support from Colombia and the US and some hundreds of paramilitaries were being trained on the Venezuela-Colombia border for said operation.
Despite the latent coup threat, thousands took the streets of Caracas today to show their support for legitimate, democratically elected President Nicolás Maduro and their support to the Bolivarian Revolution. Mobilizations are also planned in several cities across Latin America such as Lima, Peru, Buenos Aires, Argentina, San José, Costa Rica, and elsewhere.