Maduro rival Guaido claims Venezuela presidency with U.S. backing
January 24, 2019 12:00 PM NPT
Photo Courtesy: Agencies
CARACAS, Jan 24: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president on Wednesday, winning the backing of Washington and many Latin American nations and prompting socialist Nicolas Maduro, who has led the oil-rich nation since 2013, to break relations with the United States.
U.S. President Donald Trump formally recognized Guaido shortly after his announcement and praised his plan to hold elections. That was swiftly followed by similar statements from Canada and a slew of right-leaning Latin American governments, including Venezuela’s neighbors Brazil and Colombia.
At a rally in the east of the capital Caracas that drew hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans, Guaido accused Maduro of usurping power. He promised to create a transitional government that would help the country escape its hyperinflationary economic collapse.
“I swear to assume all the powers of the presidency to secure an end to the usurpation,” 35-year old Guaido, the head of the opposition-run congress, told an exuberant crowd.
Guaido’s declaration takes Venezuela into uncharted territory, with the possibility of the opposition now running a parallel government recognized abroad as legitimate but without control over state functions.
In a televised broadcast from the presidential palace, Maduro accused the opposition of seeking to stage a coup with the support of the United States, which he said was seeking to govern Venezuela from Washington.
“We’ve had enough interventionism, here we have dignity, damn it! Here is a people willing to defend this land,” said Maduro, flanked by top Socialist Party leaders.
Any change of government will rest on a shift in allegiance within the armed forces. So far, they have stood by Maduro through two waves of street protests and a steady dismantling of democratic institutions.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Venezuelan military to protect “the welfare and well-being of all Venezuelan citizens,” along with U.S. citizens in Venezuela. Pompeo said the United States would take “appropriate actions” against anyone who endangered the safety of U.S. personnel.
The United States would conduct its diplomatic relations with Venezuela through “the government of interim President Guaido,” he said.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said on Wednesday that the armed forces did not recognize a self-proclaimed president “imposed by shadowy interests ... outside the law.” Military top brass indicated their continued support for Maduro in tweets.