Second inauguration of Nicolás Maduro
The second inauguration of Nicolás Maduro as President of Venezuela took place on Thursday, 10 January 2019. The inauguration involved the swearing-in of Nicolás Maduro for his second term, and, especially within the context of Maduro's election, has been controversial and contested by various figures and organizations.
Nicolás Maduro shortly after his swearing-in
|Date||10 January 2019|
|Time||3:00pm VST (UTC-4)|
|Also known as||2019 Presidential inauguration of Nicolás Maduro|
On 20 May 2018, elections were held across Venezuela to elect the President to take office in January 2019. These elections should have been held as usual in December 2018, but were rescheduled twice by Maduro—the incumbent—in a move seen as limiting the ability of other candidates to run.
After arbitrary disqualifications of Maduro's opposition, the election saw a turnout of 25.8%. The Constituent Assembly, a body created by Maduro as a substitute for the nation's actual legislative body (the National Assembly), announced the election, however it should not have had the power to do so constitutionally. Despite the opposition making up a majority of the government, Maduro does not afford them power, and has stated that they need to "leave [him] alone to govern".
The contention around the legitimacy of the inauguration was primarily based on the unusual activity of the election, and many countries worldwide declared that the election was illegitimate. In response to Maduro's inauguration, Argentine President Mauricio Macri stated, "Venezuela is living under a dictatorship".
Maduro's inauguration took place on 10 January 2019 outside the Supreme Court building in Caracas. While it traditionally would have occurred in front of the Assembly building, Maduro ignores the National Assembly as an institution, and thus his inauguration was not conducted there. The change in venue represents another instance of lack of adherence to Venezuela's constitution in regards to the election; while it instructs that inaugurations must be conducted by the National Assembly, Maduro's was instead officiated by the Supreme Court. Maduro was sworn in by Maikel Moreno, President of the Supreme Court, at 3:00 pm. While critics of Maduro had urged him to not remain President, he ignored their pleas, resulting in many calling the event a "usurpation".
Before the stage, a large military parade—which had moved through Caracas—took place on Avenida Bolívar, and the military gave its inaugural pledge of undying loyalty to Maduro for his six-year term. At the start of the inauguration, Maikel Moreno went blank and stuttered, having forgotten what to say, before looking to the side and continuing. Maduro gave an 80-minute address to those gathered, in which he stated: "We are a true, profound, popular and revolutionary democracy [...] I, Nicolás Maduro Moros, am a genuinely and profoundly democratic president." He also directly threatened Colombia, the United States, and Europe, telling the latter to "respect Venezuela […] or sooner rather than later you’ll pay the historical price". However, he controversially also criticized his own party and political affiliation, saying that his plan for his second term was to "correct the mistakes of the Bolivarian Revolution", and that "corrupt chavistas" are actually his greatest threat. While representatives from 17 countries attended the inauguration, Maduro claimed that 94 countries were present.
The "small" crowd gathered for the inauguration showed "little support"; this has been compared to the large crowds present at Maduro's first inauguration. Ricardo Sánchez, a member of the Constituent Assembly, said that there was obvious national support for Maduro at the inauguration, and that "[the government is] convinced that the majority of the people who voted for the president in May are united today with loyalty and discipline to be with Nicolás Maduro for another six years". It has also been reported that some people present at the inauguration were forced to appear, including all those who work for the government; one woman told The Guardian that she had been forced to attend. She also said that despite working in a government Ministry, she isn't paid enough to feed her family, and is planning to leave the country as soon as possible. Others at the inauguration were present because they believe in Maduro; one laborer said he can "identify with Maduro because he's a humble man" and shares his ideology.
In addition, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan voiced solidarity with Maduro, and Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, Bolivian President Evo Morales, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, President Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves, and Vice President of Suriname Ashwin Adhin attended Maduro's swearing-in ceremony.
Protests were reported in several Venezuelan states, including Lara, Zulia, Trujillo, and in the capital city Caracas. Several cacerolazos were reported in many areas of Caracas, including near the Supreme Tribunal, where Maduro was sworn in.
Large protests also took place in Miami, United States, an area with a large Venezuelan migrant population, as well as a dozen other nations worldwide, including multiple protests across Spain and its islands. Protests also took place in cities such as Barcelona, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Lima, London, Madrid, Ottawa, Paris and Quito.
Many nations and supranational bodies did not recognize Maduro as a legitimate President, including the Lima Group and the Organization of American States. John R. Bolton, U.S. National Security Advisor, said, "The US will not recognize the Maduro dictatorship's illegitimate inauguration." In response, Maduro said during his inauguration that the United States and Lima Group's lack of recognition was turning his ceremony into "a world war". On 11 January, Russia accused the US of attacking Venezuela's freedom.
On 11 January, Venezuelan ministers claimed there were violent attacks on the Venezuela Embassy in Lima, Peru. Peru and Paraguay closed their embassies in Venezuela and recalled diplomats, and Paraguay also removed Venezuelan diplomats from its own country. Peru also barred Maduro and 100 other Venezuelan politicians from entering the country, and Argentina similarly banned the entry of Venezuelan government personnel. As a collective, the Lima Group announced that if Maduro took office they would ban travel to their nations and stop military cooperation, supposedly tactics designed to turn the Venezuelan military against their leader. Mexico abstained from the group announcement, with new president Andrés Manuel López Obrador citing the non-intervention policies of his government. In response to the group's announcement, Maduro threatened them with "diplomatic measures" if they didn't revoke the resolution. David Smilde from the Washington Office on Latin America had said despite preemptive threats from the Lima Group, he didn't expect any of the member countries to actually remove embassies. Instead, he thought that they would simply tell Maduro that he is illegitimate and that they would be ignored. However, the Lima Group did follow through with their threats, and Smilde suggested that this action would make Maduro and his allies "fret". In a foreign ministry statement, Brazil called on "all of the world's countries" to "stop supporting [Maduro] and come together to liberate Venezuela".
Early controversy came several days before the inauguration, with loyalist Supreme Court Justice and member of the Electoral Commission Christian Zerpa, having defected to the United States on 7 January 2019, calling the Maduro regime "incompetent" and "illegitimate"; in response, the government claimed that Zerpa left the country so he wouldn't be charged with sexual harassment. In keeping with Zerpa defecting, US Intelligence also suggested that there was more fracturing within Maduro's close ranks, and that his general Vladimir Padrino López threatened to resign if Maduro took office.
Though many called for power in Venezuela to be deferred to the National Assembly, Phil Gunson of the Caracas Crisis Group said that the opposition, which has the Assembly's majority, was not united well enough to bring the failing state into prosperity.
National Assembly responsesEdit
Juan Guaidó, the President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, gave a speech in the Assembly after Maduro's inauguration. In no uncertain terms it called for a reclamation of power, and declared that Venezuela was technically without a leader, stating that "today there is no head of state. Today there is no commander-in-chief". Beforehand, the opposition had called on the people to protest during the inauguration, and they boycotted it. Students took part in one protest led by Rafaela Requesens and Guaidó's Popular Will party, blocking off a road and again calling Maduro a "usurper".
In an official statement on the day of Maduro's inauguration, Guaidó announced a state of emergency, emphasizing the need to recover control by uniting the people, foreign allies, and the military. He expressed anger that Maduro continues to "dismantle" the rule of law and that Venezuela has ended up with a de facto government. In response to Maduro's "usurpation" he then proposed on behalf of the government "to declare the usurpation of the office of the President", saying "we call on those soldiers who wear their uniforms with honor to step forward and enforce the Constitution [...] we ask citizens for confidence, strength and to accompany us on this path." He also said that Maduro's inauguration was a "coronation of paper", and defied the idea that Maduro could fully disband the National Assembly, which he said he would.
From its opening on 5 January, the National Assembly has been formulating plans to implement a transitional government, before taking back control. On 11 January, Guaidó summoned an open cabildo (Spanish: Cabildo abierto); the term roughly translates as a "town hall meeting", but cabildos abiertos were historically convened for more emergent or disastrous matters. At the open cabildo, the National Assembly announced Guaidó's assumption of presidential powers and duties.
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La Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela se declaró en emergencia ante la usurpación de Nicolás Maduro en el cargo de la Presidencia de la República, así lo anunció el presidente del Parlamento venezolano, diputado Juan Guaidó ["The Venezuelan National Assembly has declared that it's in a State of emergency with the usurpation of the job of President of the Republic by Nicolás Maduro, as announced by the President of the Venezuelan Parliament, Deputy Juan Guaidó"]
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