Venezuela: the divided opposition puts an end to the “interim government” led by Juan Guaido

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The Venezuelan opposition spoke out on Friday for the disappearance of the “interim government” led by Juan Guaido, self-proclaimed president since January 2019. This body had no real power but controlled Venezuelan assets abroad.

Almost four years after its creation and the day after Juan Guaido’s call for it to be maintained, the Venezuelan opposition put an end to the “interim government” of Juan Guaido on Friday, December 30, who had declared himself president in January 2019 in the goal of ousting Nicolas Maduro after a 2018 presidential election, boycotted and not recognized by part of the international community.

The deputies of the former Parliament, elected in 2015 and controlled by the opposition, voted with 72 votes for (29 against, 8 abstentions) the disappearance of the presidency and the “interim” government, which had no power real but nevertheless controlled the Venezuelan assets abroad, estimated at 24 billion dollars by Nicolas Maduro. This former parliament defends its continuity by considering the legislative elections won by the government in 2020 fraudulent.

Loss of international allies

International support for this “interim” government and presidency, recognized in particular by the United States and France, had withered over the months. Officially, the American or French positions have not changed, but in reality the chancelleries have already been discussing with the power of Nicolas Maduro for a long time.

The oil crisis caused by the war in Ukraine has led to a warming of relations between President Nicolas Maduro and Washington, which had sent emissaries to discuss directly with him. The White House also eased sanctions against Venezuela in November after a breakthrough in negotiations between power and opposition, notably allowing the oil company Chevron to operate in Venezuela for the next six months. On the French side, President Emmanuel Macron had met Nicolas Maduro in front of the cameras in the corridors of COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, calling him “president” and indicating that he was going to call him.

Juan Guaido has also lost weighty allies among his South American neighbors, with the swing to the left in recent months of countries like Colombia or Brazil which were governed by hard rights very hostile to Nicolas Maduro.

“A leap into the void”

On Tuesday, three of the four major Venezuelan opposition parties (Primero Justicia, Accion Democratica and Un Nuevo Tiempo) said in a joint statement that the “interim government” had “stopped being useful (…)”. “The interim government was an emanation, an emergency of the National Assembly. What was temporary has become perpetual”, assured Friday during the session the constitutional lawyer Juan Miguel Matheus, favorable to the disappearance of the interim government. “Assets are not at risk,” he added. “The law provides sufficient tools to protect assets in Portugal, the United States and England.”

For Juan Guaido, “it’s a leap into the void. Today we capitulate. 72 deputies have capitulated”, he reacted after the vote, adding in a more consensual tone: “the differences we have today today we will undoubtedly dispel them”.

Prominent opponent Freddy Guevara, who supported keeping the presidency, railed against his disappearance when voting: “I can’t understand how we are committing this suicide. It should put us all to shame (. ..) We cannot guarantee that with this reform (removal of the presidency) the assets will be protected. I want to be wrong, I want gold not to fall into the hands of Maduro in the future. If tomorrow Maduro is coming out stronger, know it’s your responsibility.”

The vote of the Assembly elected in 2015 comes in a context of division of the opposition which did not know how to unite during the regional elections of 2021 won by the power and while the presidential election of 2024 whets the appetites.

The opposition recently announced that it would organize primaries to choose a single candidate to face Nicolas Maduro in the presidential election. “There are opposition leaders who believe that the interim government was an advantage for a possible candidacy of Guaido,” commented consultant Pablo Andres Quintero.

With AFP

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