Venezuela: US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaims himself interim President
Guaidó is currently President of the National Assembly, an elected legislature whose acts were declared null and void by Venezuela’s Supreme Court on Monday. The National Assembly had refused to recognize the authority of President Nicolas Maduro, declaring his election victory last year illegitimate.
Guaidó took the oath of office in front of a crowd of supporters in Caracas on Wednesday, as thousands of Venezuelans thronged the city’s streets to protest Maduro. He urged the country’s armed forces to support new elections, and pledged to perform the duties of president in the interim.
Moment after the news broke, US President Donald Trump said he recognizes Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president, and encouraged other western powers to follow suit.
“The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law,” Trump said in a statement. “We continue to hold the illegitimate Maduro regime directly responsible for any threats it may pose to the safety of the Venezuelan people.”
Ahead of Wednesday’s protests, US Vice President Mike Pence released a video message reiterating the US’ commitment to regime change in Venezuela. Denouncing Maduro as “a dictator with no legitimate claim to power” who has “never won the presidency in a free and fair election,” Pence vowed that the US “will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles.”Also on rt.com Maduro orders ‘total revision’ of Venezuela-US diplomatic ties after Pence calls for regime change
Pence’s tacit endorsement of regime change prompted Maduro to order a “total revision” of the already-strained diplomatic ties between the two countries. “Mr. Pence doesn't have a job. Now he wants to come and run Venezuela, handing out instructions on what should happen” he told supporters, before accusing the US of “promoting instability and violence” in Venezuela.
The latest protests began after a group of National Guard soldiers staged a mutiny in northern Caracas on Monday morning and called on other military units to do the same. The rebellious servicemen were arrested, but civil unrest spread through the city in the following days. Four people have reportedly died during the protests.
Demonstrators torched statues of Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s predecessor and mentor, who steered the country towards socialism after winning election in 1999. In the city of San Félix, the anti-government crowd hung another statue of Chaves from an overpass.
#23Ene El busto de la estatua de Hugo Chávez fue colgado en la pasarela de la Av. Guayana, adyacente al sector Campo Rojo en San Félix, luego que manifestantes le prendieran fuego durante la noche de este martes. Fotos William Urdaneta. pic.twitter.com/U1c05uRPhc— Correo del Caroní (@CorreodelCaroni) January 23, 2019
Guaidó’s oath, and Trump’s recognition of him as president, comes on a symbolic day for Venezuela’s socialist government. The 23rd of January marks the anniversary of the 1958 coup d’etat that overthrew dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez. As protesters took to the streets with their own calls for democracy, the Venezuelan leader took to Twitter to celebrate the occasion.
We commemorate 61 years of historic #23Ene, the day when the warring people took to the streets to regain democracy. Today we can say with pride and determination that the flags of fight of January 23 will never be betrayed. A leading and [...] https://t.co/O99phaJIJV— Nicolás Maduro (@maduro_en) January 23, 2019
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