CARACAS, Venezuela – The head of Venezuela's opposition conference said on Friday that he was prepared to temporarily join the national presidency to replace Nicolas Maduro, whose inauguration was rejected by most countries in the hemisphere as unlawful.
President Juan Guaido of the National Assembly made the statement to an energetic crowd who blocked a busy street in Caracas one day after Maduro's inauguration to a second term.
"Guaido for president!" Called the crowd. "Get rid of Maduro!"
But Guaido said he needed the support of the public, the armed forces and the international community before he tried to form a transitional government to hold new elections to replace Maduro.
"The Constitution gives me the legitimacy to exercise the leadership of the presidency over the country to hold elections," Guaido said. "But I need support from the citizens to realize it."
The head of the Organization of American States, Secretary General Luis Almagro, did not wait. He sent a tweet and recognized Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela. "You have our support", Almagro said in a tweet.
Guaido asked the Venezuelans en masse in a nationwide demonstration on January 23, a historically important date for Venezuelans – the day that a massive uprising dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez in 1958 overturned.
The constitution assigns the presidency to the head of the National Assembly if Maduro is unlawful.
But the overall army has so far remained firmly behind Maduro, despite some reports of small-scale attempts to revolt.
Venezuela, once rich in oil, has been gripped by the growing crisis of ruthless inflation, food shortages and mass migration.
The announcement is a daring challenge for the socialist leader, who has rejected the criticism of his re-election and whose government has imprisoned many leading critics.
Maduro accuses the United States and local enemies of plotting a coup.
Seventeen Latin American countries, the United States and Canada denounced the Maduro government as unlawful in a measure adopted on Thursday at the US State Conference in Washington.
In May, Maduro declared victory after an election that his political opponents and many foreign nations considered illegal, partly because the popular opponents were not allowed to flee and the biggest anti-government parties boycotted the race.
The Friday demonstration was the biggest demonstration of anti-governmental supporters in more than a year, but lagged far behind the thousands who were on the streets for four months in 2017, which led to skirmishes in which more than 120 people died.
Guaido, 35, made the announcement less than a week after he was selected to lead the National Assembly of Venezuela, swore that he insisted on the transition of power.
Guaido has won some international support by talking to the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week.
"We are not victims here, we are survivors and we are going to survive this," said Guaido. We are here to talk about the route because there are no magical solutions. "
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