Second inauguration of Nicolás Maduro
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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|
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.
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 had been rescheduled twice by Maduro — the incumbent — in a move that was seen as limiting the ability for other candidates to run.
The election saw a turnout of 25.8%, as well as arbitrary disqualifications of Maduro's opposition. It was also announced by the Constituent Assembly, which should not have had the power to do so. The Constituent Assembly is a body created by Maduro as a substitute for the nation's actual legislative body, the National Assembly, since his party was in a minority. Despite the opposition making up a majority of the government, Maduro does not allow them power, and has said that they need to "leave [him] alone to govern".
The main "illegitimate" contention to the inauguration was primarily based on the unusual election activity. This belief was declared by many countries worldwide. To Maduro being inaugurated, Argentine President Mauricio Macri said in a simple statement that "Venezuela is living under a dictatorship".
Maduro's inauguration took place on 10 January 2019 outside the Supreme Court building in Caracas. Traditionally, it would have happened in front of the Assembly building, an institution he ignores. Critics of Maduro had urged him to not remain as President but he ignored their pleas and by doing so was called a "usurpation" by many. Maduro was sworn in by Maikel Moreno, President of the Supreme Court, at 3:00pm. Additionally, the Constitution instructs that inaugurations must be conducted with the National Assembly, which this was not.
Before the stage was a large military parade on Avenida Bolívar, which had moved through Caracas. The military also gave their inaugural announcement to pledge undying loyalty to Maduro for his six-year term. During his inauguration, Maduro gave an 80-minute address to the gathered people, in which he said: "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. Representatives from 17 countries attended, though Maduro claimed there were 94 countries present.
There was a "small" crowd gathered for the inauguration, showing "little support". This has been compared to the large crowds at Maduro's first inauguration. Ricardo Sánchez, a member of the Constituent Assembly, said at the inauguration that there was obvious national support for Maduro, that "[the government] are 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 is also reported that members of this group were forced to appear, including all those who work for the government, with one woman telling The Guardian that she had been forced and despite working in a government Ministry isn't paid enough to feed her family, so is planning to leave the country as soon as she can. Other people at the inauguration were there because they believe in Maduro, one labourer saying he can "identify with Maduro because he's a humble man" and shares his ideology.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan voiced solidarity with Maduro. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Bolivian President Evo Morales, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, President Salvador Sanchez Ceren of El Salvador, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves, and Vice President of Suriname Ashwin Adhin attended the swearing-in ceremony of Nicolas Maduro for his second term.
Nationwide protests were reported in several states, such as Lara, Zulia and Trujillo, and in the capital city, Caracas. Several cacerolazos were reported in many areas of Caracas, including near to the Supreme Tribunal, where Maduro took oath.
There were large protests 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 happened 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. U.S. National Security Advisor John R. Bolton said, "The US will not recognize the Maduro dictatorship’s illegitimate inauguration." 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.
Peru and Paraguay closed their embassies in Venezuela and recalled diplomats. Peru also barred Maduro and 100 other Venezuelan politicians from entering the country, while Paraguay also removed Venezuelan diplomats from its own country. On 11 January, Venezuelan ministers claimed there were violent attacks on the Venezuela Embassy in Lima, Peru. 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, Maduro threatened the group with "diplomatic measures" if they didn't revoke the resolution.
David Smilde from the Washington Office on Latin America had said after the preemptive threats from the Lima Group that he didn't expect any of them to actually go through with removing embassies, that they'd simply tell Maduro he's illegitimate and that they would be ignored. However, they did follow through, Smilde having 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"; the government claimed that Zerpa left the country so he wouldn't be charged with sexual harassment. With the loyalist Zerpa defecting shortly before the inauguration, US Intelligence also suggested that there was more fracturing in Maduro's close ranks, that his general Vladimir Padrino López threatened to resign if Maduro took office.
Though there were many calls 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, were not united well enough to bring the failing state into prosperity.
National Assembly responses
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: "Today there is no head of state. Today there is no commander-in-chief". Beforehand, opposition had called on the people to protest during the inauguration, and they boycotted it. One protest was co-hosted between students 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, Guaidó announced a state of emergency, saying that they need to recover control by uniting between 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 that Maduro could fully disband the National Assembly, which he said he would.
Guaidó summoned an Open cabildo (Spanish: Cabildo abierto) on 11 January; the term roughly translates as a "town hall meeting", but cabildos abiertos were historically convened for more emergent or disastrous matters. From its opening on 5 January, the National Assembly has been formulating plans to implement a transitional government, before taking back control. 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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