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Venezuela Guaido changes 3 tests for taking power, new ones are easier

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Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader who describes himself in as the country’s “interim president” last week, appears to have changed one of his three criteria for taking power from beleaguered President Nicolás Maduro.

Guaidó used to say that he needed the backing of the Venezuelan people, the international community, and the military to effect a successful transfer of power.

However, a Wednesday op-ed in The New York Times, Guaidó appeared to reframe his campaign. He dropped the tough ask of military support, to instead talk up the National Assembly.

Guaidó is already the majority leader of the National Assembly, which is Venezuela’s parliament. He stepped up as Maduro’s main challenger this month as massive anti-government protests erupted across the country.

Guaidó, here at a rally in Caracas demanding Maduro’s resignation this month, said he needed the support of the National Assembly, international community, and Venezuelan people to truly secure power.
AP/Fernando Llano

According to The Associated Press, Guaidó previously said he needed support from three groups: The Venezuelan people, the international community, and the military.

The military is the toughest of the three to crack. Since the unrest stepped up, Venezuela’s military leaders have pledged their loyalty to Maduro, and personnel continue to act in his support.

It is difficult to measure Guaidó’s popular support around the country, but tens of thousands marched in support of him last week. Guaidó’s claims that 84% of Venezuelans reject Maduro’s rule.

Read more: Meet Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela who’s challenging Nicolas Maduro for power

A composite image of Guaidó and Maduro, who has ramped up his attacks on his critics.
Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters; Marco Bello/Reuters

Guaidó’s goalposts

In his op-ed, Guaidó acknowledged that he still needed “support from key military contingents” and “the military’s withdrawal of support from Mr. Maduro” to bring about a change in government.

However, the shift in emphasis downgraded military support from a core pillar of his efforts to instead be one of many steps.

The US, EU, Canada, and almost all of Latin America have recognized Guaidó as the country’s interim president.

Spain, Britain, Germany, and France also told Maduro to call new elections or else they will formally recognize Guaidó as interim president who will call the new vote.

Maduro’s government responded by saying other countries had no “power to issue deadlines or ultimatums to a sovereign people.”

Shortly after US President Donald Trump recognized Guaidó as interim president, Maduro also told all US diplomats in the country to leave. Washington has refused to obey that order.

Russia, Turkey, Syria, and Cuba are among the countries who have pledged support for Maduro.

US President Donald Trump has openly recognized Guaidó’s power. Maduro, right, told all US diplomats in the country to leave in response.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; Reuters

It is difficult to measure Guaidó’s popular support around the country, but tens of thousands marched in support of him last week. He also wrote that 84% of Venezuelans reject Maduro’s rule.

Venezuela’s military leaders have pledged their loyalty to Maduro. Since anti-Maduro protests erupted earlier this month, many law-enforcement officers have been raiding neighborhoods around the country and attacking civilians to intimidate Maduro’s critics, Bloomberg reported.

Read more: Venezuela’s Maduro has been blacking out social media — and sometimes the whole internet — to stifle his US-backed opposition

Guaidó swore in as National Assembly president on January 5, and as the country’s interim president on January 23.
Fernando Llano, File/AP Photo

Don’t call me ‘self-proclaimed’

Guaidó also argued against the notion that his ascendancy to interim president was a “self-proclamation.” He said that according to the Venezuelan Constitution, “if at the outset of a new term there is no elected head of state, power is vested in the president of the National Assembly until free and transparent elections take place.”

Maduro swore in for a second, six-year term as Venezuela’s president on January 10. Critics accused him of vote rigging and say that his presidency is unconstitutional and fraudulent.

Guaidó swore in as interim president on January 23.

“It was not of my own accord that I assumed the function of president that day, but in adherence to the Constitution,” Guaidó wrote.

He has appeared to exercise that power already. He wrote on Wednesday that he had started appointing ambassadors abroad, and “locating and recovering” assets belonging to the Venezuelan government.

Earlier this week he also wrote to UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, asking them not to grant Maduro access to $1.2 billion of Venezuelan gold reserves at the bank.

He said that Maduro would sell the gold and use the money “to repress and brutalize the Venezuelan people.”

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