National Assembly president Juan Guaido sent shockwaves throughout the country today by seemingly announcing that he was taking on the powers of the executive branch, essentially declaring himself President of the Republic.
Guaido’s statement was ambiguous enough that, as of the writing of this post, the intent behind his words is still being hotly debated by journalists and politicians.
The announcement came at the end of a demonstration in Caracas in rejection of Maduro’s presidency and in support of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. Guaido made the comment at the end of that event, saying:
… as the president of the National Assembly, adhering to the Constitution–articles 233, 350 and 333–[I] take on the powers of the office of the President of the Republic. Now, is it enough to adhere to the constitution during a dictatorship? No. The people, the Armed Forces, should carry us to take on the mandate…
Shortly after making the comment, Guaido shared a Tweet on his official account that appeared to re-state the point:
Taking on the legitimacy given to me by articles 233, 333 and 250 of the [Venezuelan Constitution], I call on the Venezuela people, on the [Venezuelan army] and on the international community to
Guaido’s statements caused a considerable amount of confusion because they were worded ambiguously. Rather than unequivocally stating his intention to take on the role of President of the Republic, Guaido instead alluded to that in a roundabout, verbose manner.
One sign that Guaido did in fact mean to announce his effective takeover of the presidency is the three constitution articles that he cited. They are:
- Article 233: Establishes that conditions under which the office of President of the Republic can be vacated. One of these conditions is a declaration from the National Assembly that the president has abandoned the office.
- Article 333: Establishes that the constitution will remain in effect even if it is declared to be irrelevant by, for example, a dictator.
- Article 350: Establishes the duty of the Venezuela people to disown tyrannical governments.
Following Guaido’s cryptic comment, the National Assembly released a statement in an attempt to bring clarity to the confusion. The statement was much more direct, and stated that in fact Guaido had declared himself to President of the Republic. Part of the statement reads:
Adhering to articles 333, 350 and 233 of the National Constitution of Venezuela, deputy Juan Guaido, president of the National Assembly, took on the powers of the Presidency of the Republic in order to, together with the people of Venezuela and the Armed Forces, call forth a process of free and transparent elections to facilitate a peaceful and democratic transition in the country.
After his statement, Guaido called on Venezuelans and the National Armed Forces specifically to take to the streets of the country on January 23 to protest against the Maduro regime. Guaido’s call is noteworthy not only because of his explicit call for the participation of the military, but because of the date chosen for the protests: January 23, the 61st anniversary of the start of the protests that saw Venezuela’s last dictator, Marcos Perez Jimenez, kicked out of office.
Below, a short clip of demonstrators who attended Guaido’s speech this morning:
President Guaido! President Guaido! President Guaido!
Below, some more images and video’s from today’s event.
Guaido (grey suit, left) claps while Nicmer Evans, the head of the Marea Socialista party, speaks:
The crowd that gathered to listen to Guaido and other speak:
Reaction to Guaido’s Announcement Trickles In
While Guaido’s announcement may have been ambiguous, the reaction from some observers has not been.
Secretary of American States Luis Almagro tweeted his support for Guaido as “interim president” of Venezuela in a tweet:
We welcome the rise of [Juan Guaido] as interim President of Venezuela in accordance with article 233 of the Political Constitution [sic]. He has our support, that of the international community and of the People of Venezuela [sic].
Minister of Penitentiaries Iris Varela threatened Guaido with prison in a tweet:
Guaido, I’ve already set up your cell, along with your uniform, I hope that you name your cabinet quickly so that you can find out who will accompany you “you dumb kid” [sic]
Maduro was less explicit in his reaction, saying:
It is important for people to continue to mobilize. The people, mobilized, are the guarantors of stability. That’s the vaccine against any destabilizing process.
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