CARACAS, Venezuela – The head of the opposition congress in Venezuela said on Friday that he was ready to intervene temporarily in the presidency of the nation to replace Nicolas Maduro, whose inauguration was rejected as illegitimate by most of the countries in the hemisphere.
The president of the National Assembly Juan Guaido issued the statement to an energetic crowd that blocked a busy road in Caracas one day after the inauguration of Maduro to a second term.
"Guaido for the president!" He sang the crowd. "Out with Maduro!"
But Guaido said he would need support from the public, the armed forces and the international community before attempting to form a transitional government to hold new elections to replace Maduro.
"The constitution gives me the legitimacy to carry out the presidency task on the country to call the elections," Guaido said. "But I need the support of citizens to make it a reality."
The head of the Organization of American States, Secretary General Luis Almagro, was not waiting. He sent a tweet recognizing Guaido as interim president of Venezuela. "You have our support," said Almagro in a tweet.
United States National Security Advisor John Bolton later issued a statement praising Guaido, although he did not echo Almagro's passage to call him interim president.
Reaffirming the US position that the May elections that gave Maduro a second term "are not free, fair or credible", Bolton said that "we support the courageous decision" of the declaration of Guaido "that Maduro does not legitimately hold the Presidency of the country ".
Guaido asked the Venezuelans to participate in a national demonstration on January 23, a historically important date for the Venezuelans – the day a mass uprising overthrew dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez in 1958.
The constitution assigns the presidency to the head of the National Assembly if Maduro is illegitimate.
But the global army has so far remained firmly behind Maduro, despite some reports of attempts at small-scale uprising.
Once a rich oil nation, Venezuela is gripped by the growing crisis of relentless inflation, food scarcity and mass migration.
The announcement is a bold challenge for the socialist leader, who rejected criticism of his re-election and whose government has imprisoned many of the major critics.
Maduro accuses the United States and local enemies of planning a coup.
Seventeen countries in Latin America, the United States and Canada have reported the Maduro government as illegitimate in a measure adopted Thursday in the Organization of American States in Washington.
In May, Maduro declared the victory after an election that his political opponents and many foreign nations considered illegitimate, partly because popular opponents were banned from running and the largest anti-government parties boycotted the race.
Friday's demonstration was the biggest demonstration of anti-government supporters in more than a year, but it was far below the thousands of people who took to the streets for over four months in 2017, causing clashes in which more than 120 people died.
Guaido, 35, made the announcement less than a week after being selected to lead the Venezuelan National Assembly, promising to press for the transition of power.
Guaido won international support by speaking on the phone this week with American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
"We are not victims here, we survived and we will survive this," Guaido said. We are here to talk about the path, because there are no magical solutions. "
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