Juan Guaidó, the head of Venezuela’s parliament, took a presidential oath of office in front of a crowd of anti-Maduro protesters on Wednesday afternoon. The current president, Nicolás Maduro, has not expressed any intention of stepping down and still has the support of the military and the Supreme Court.
Smaller pro-Maduro protests have cropped up as well, with the current leadership and loyalists in power dismissing Guaidó’s power grab as illegitimate. Maduro expressed his conspiratorial belief that this turn of events was orchestrated in part by the U.S. and far right forces, rather than the rampant hunger, poverty, and neglect that his administration has presided over ever since the passing of Hugo Chavez. Maduro has managed to retain power despite past protests in which many people were gassed, detained, tortured, or killed.
International Recognition of Guaidó’s Presidency
Analysts feel that this week’s activism is different and may end up toppling the authoritarian regime because it finally has engaged working-class citizens. As a figurehead of the movement, Guaidó has also galvanized both national and international forces. Wednesday’s declaration immediately drew the support of the Organization of American States, which is currently made up of 35 member states from across the Americas. The United States and Canada, along with a growing list of Latin American countries, have expressly offered their support for the announcement and intend to recognize Guaidó as the interim president.
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In an official statement, President Trump declared that he would use “the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy.” He has not ruled out offering military support to Guaidó and the congressional body if Maduro refuses to step down.
A Call to Action for Free Elections
Maduro was inaugurated into office at the beginning of January for his second term as president, though many Venezuelans and leaders across the globe felt his election last year was a sham. Critics claimed election fraud and corruption led to his reelection. Guaidó has been a vocal critic of Maduro’s regime for some time and has been detained in the past for his opposition.
Last week, the Washington Post published an op-ed submitted by Guaidó in which he outlined the constitutional basis for ousting Maduro. He called upon everyone, including the international community, to help him bring democracy back to the country and has indicated his intent to arrange free elections once Maduro is out. Critically, he will need support from the Venezuelan military in order to successfully push Maduro from office.
“The chain of command has been broken, and there’s no commander in chief,” Guaidó wrote. “[It’s] time to get on the right side of history. Venezuela and the world will thank you; success will depend on each one of us doing our part in this difficult hour for the country.” Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans rallied in support of this call to action, participating in anti-Maduro protests across the country which have grown heated. In one city, a Chavez statue was toppled, while a teenager elsewhere was shot and killed on the streets. Earlier this week, 27 members of the national guard were arrested for turning against the Maduro regime, signaling that the tides may turn against Maduro yet.