One day after the beginning of the second term of Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro openly challenged the leader of the disempowered parliament. "The Constitution gives me the right to take over the Presidency of the Republic to call elections, but I need the support of the citizens," said Juan Guaidó. For January 23, he called for mass protests across the country.
He also asked for the help of the armed forces and the international community. However, there is no indication that the powerful military could drop Maduro. The opposition itself is severely weakened.
Despite protests at home and abroad, Maduro had been sworn in on Thursday for a second term. Numerous states, international organizations and the Venezuelan opposition described his re-election last year as undemocratic. The Organization of American States (OAS) does not recognize Maduro as a legitimate president. The US and the EU called on the head of state to return to democracy.
The US government supports the Speaker of Parliament. The National Assembly is "the only legitimate state force lawfully elected by the Venezuelan people," said National Bolivian National Security Advisor Donald Trump. "In particular, we support the courageous decision of President Juan Guaidó to appeal to the Constitution and declare that Maduro is not the lawful president of the country."
Opposition is weakened
As long as the forces support him, Maduro should remain in power. The military are benefiting from the Maduro system: Generals are at the major power points, controlling the oil business, importing food, banks and mining companies.
Maduro had the opposition-controlled parliament outlawed in 2016. His powers have been transferred to the government-loyal Constituent Assembly. Numerous opponents of the government are in custody, are not allowed to be politically active or have gone into exile.
In previous waves of protests, the opposition had spent tens of thousands of people campaigning against Maduro for weeks. During clashes between security forces, paramilitary motorcycle gang, the Colectivos, and protesters, more than 160 people were killed between 2014 and 2017.
The opponents of the government are weakened by the imprisonment and flight of prominent representatives. After the ultimately unsuccessful protest waves of the past years frustrated and divided by internal struggles. The opposition forces in exile have become increasingly radicalized and are calling for military intervention in Venezuela.