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A crisis concerning who is the legitimate President of Venezuela has been underway since 10 January 2019, when the opposition-majority National Assembly declared that incumbent Nicolás Maduro's 2018 reelection was invalid and the body declared its president, Juan Guaidó, to be acting president of the nation. The process and results of the May 2018 Venezuelan presidential election were widely disputed. The National Assembly declared Maduro illegitimate on the day of his second inauguration, citing the 1999 Constitution of Venezuela enacted under Hugo Chávez, Maduro's predecessor; in response, the pro-Maduro Supreme Tribunal of Justice said the National Assembly's declaration was unconstitutional.
This article documents a current event. Information may change rapidly as the event progresses, and initial news reports may be unreliable. The last updates to this article may not reflect the most current information. Please feel free to improve this article or discuss changes on the talk page. (January 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
A crisis concerning who is the legitimate President of Venezuela has been underway since 10 January 2019, when the opposition-majority National Assembly declared that incumbent Nicolás Maduro's 2018 reelection was invalid and the body declared its president, Juan Guaidó, to be acting president of the nation.
The process and results of the May 2018 Venezuelan presidential election were widely disputed. The National Assembly declared Maduro illegitimate on the day of his second inauguration, citing the 1999 Constitution of Venezuela enacted under Hugo Chávez, Maduro's predecessor; in response, the pro-Maduro Supreme Tribunal of Justice said the National Assembly's declaration was unconstitutional.
Mass demonstrations throughout Venezuela and the world occurred on 23 January when Guaidó called for Venezuelans to protest against Maduro. Demonstrations in support of Maduro and Chavismo took place as well. Special meetings in the Organization of American States (OAS) on 24 January and in the United Nations Security Council on 26 January were held but no consensus was reached. Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres called for dialogue.
Since 2010, Venezuela has been suffering a socioeconomic crisis under Nicolás Maduro (and briefly under his predecessor, Hugo Chávez), as rampant crime, hyperinflation and shortages diminish the quality of life. As a result of discontent with the government, the opposition was elected to hold the majority in the National Assembly for the first time since 1999 following the 2015 parliamentary election. After the election, the lame duck National Assembly—consisting of Bolivarian officials—filled the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, the highest court in Venezuela, with Maduro allies. The tribunal stripped three opposition lawmakers of their National Assembly seats in early 2016, citing alleged "irregularities" in their elections, thereby preventing an opposition supermajority which would have been able to challenge President Maduro.
The tribunal approved several actions by Maduro and granted him more powers in 2017. As protests mounted against Maduro, he called for a constituent assembly that would draft a new constitution to replace the 1999 Venezuela Constitution created under Chávez. Many countries considered these actions a bid by Maduro to stay in power indefinitely, and over 40 countries stated that they would not recognize the National Constituent Assembly. The Democratic Unity Roundtable—the opposition to the incumbent ruling party—boycotted the election, saying that the Constituent Assembly was "a trick to keep [the incumbent ruling party] in power". Since the opposition did not participate in the election, the incumbent Great Patriotic Pole, dominated by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, won almost all seats in the assembly by default. On 8 August 2017, the Constituent Assembly declared itself to be the government branch with supreme power in Venezuela, banning the opposition-led National Assembly from performing actions that would interfere with the assembly while continuing to pass measures in "support and solidarity" with President Maduro, effectively stripping the National Assembly of all its powers.
Maduro disavowed the National Assembly in 2017; as of 2018, some considered the National Assembly the only "legitimate" institution left in the country, and human rights organizations said there were no independent institutional checks on presidential power.
In February 2018, Maduro called for presidential elections four months before the prescribed date. He was declared the winner in May 2018 after multiple major opposition parties were banned from participating, among other irregularities; many said the elections were invalid. Politicians both internally and internationally said Maduro was not legitimately elected, and considered him an ineffective dictator. In the months leading up to his 10 January 2019 inauguration, Maduro was pressured to step down by nations and bodies including the Lima Group (excluding Mexico), the United States, and the OAS; this pressure was increased after the new National Assembly of Venezuela was sworn in on 5 January 2019.
Between the May 2018 presidential election and Maduro's inauguration, there were calls to establish a transitional government. CEO of Venezuela Al Día, Manuel Corao, argued that Maduro was no longer the president and that "the tendencies in Venezuela represented in the National Assembly [wish to] designate a transitional government that fills the vacuum of power and liberates Venezuelans from Communist evil". Former Venezuelan legislator Alexis Ortiz stated that "Castrochavism [...] rots in incompetence, corruption, and surrender of national sovereignty", calling on a transitional government to work on reconciliation, establish general elections, receive humanitarian assistance and protect civil liberties, among other requests.
A November 2018 report by the International Crisis Group said that "[n]eighboring countries and other foreign powers have taken steps–including sanction–to achieve some kind of negotiated transition, which is still the best way out of the crisis".
The Venezuelan opposition bases its actions on the 1999 Venezuelan Constitution, specifically Articles 233, 333 and 350. The first paragraph of Article 233 states: "The President of the Republic shall become permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice; permanent physical or mental disability; ... abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote."
Later paragraphs describe what to do in the event of a vacancy due to "permanent unavailability to serve", depending on when the vacancy occurs:
Article 233 was invoked after death of Hugo Chávez, which took place soon after his inauguration, and extraordinary elections were called within thirty days. In 2019, the National Assembly invoked Article 233 due to abandonment of [President's] position, arguing that "de facto dictatorship" means no democratic leader. Invoked by the National Assembly, Guaidó was declared interim president for thirty days until elections could be held; Diego A. Zambrano, an assistant professor of law at Stanford Law School, says that "Venezuelan lawyers disagree on the best reading of this provision. Some argue Guaidó can serve longer if the electoral process is scheduled within a reasonable time". The National Assembly announced that it will designate a committee to appoint a new National Electoral Council, in anticipation of free elections.
Article 333 calls for citizens to restore and enforce the Constitution if it is not followed. Article 350 calls for citizens to "disown any regime, legislation or authority that violates democratic values". The National Assembly argues that both the national and international community must unite behind a transitional government that will guarantee humanitarian aid, bring the restoration of Venezuela's rule of law, and will hold democratic elections.
Signs of impending crisis showed when a Supreme Court Justice and Electoral Justice seen as close to Maduro defected to the United States just a few days before the 10 January 2019 second inauguration of Nicolás Maduro. The justice, Christian Zerpa [es], said that Nicolás Maduro was "incompetent" and "illegitimate". Minutes after Maduro took the oath as president of Venezuela, the Organization of American States approved a resolution in a special session of its Permanent Council declaring Maduro's presidency illegitimate and urging new elections. Maduro's election was supported by Turkey, Russia, China, and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA); other small Caribbean nations reliant on economic assistance from the Maduro government (such as Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago) attended his inauguration.
At the time of the inauguration, The Times reported that US intelligence had allegedly learned that Minister of Defense, Vladimir Padrino López, had requested that Maduro step down, threatening to resign if Maduro did not. On 15 January 2019, Padrino López swore loyalty to Maduro, stating that members of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela (FANB) "are willing to die to defend that Constitution, those people, those institutions and you as supreme magistrate, president of Venezuela".
Juan Guaidó, the newly appointed President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, began motions to form a provisional government shortly after assuming his new role on 5 January 2019, stating that regardless if Maduro began his new term on the 10th, the country would not have a legitimately elected president. On behalf of the National Assembly, he stated that the country had fallen into a de facto dictatorship and had no leader, declaring that the nation faced a state of emergency. He called for "soldiers who wear their uniforms with honor to step forward and enforce the Constitution", and asked "citizens for confidence, strength, and to accompany us on this path".
Guaidó announced a public assembly, referred to as an open cabildo, on 11 January—a rally in the streets of Caracas, where the National Assembly announced that Guaidó was assuming the role of the acting president under the Constitution of Venezuela and announcing plans to remove President Maduro. Leaders of other political parties, trade unions, women, and the students of Venezuela were given a voice at the rally; other parties did not speak of a divide, but of what they saw as a failed Bolivarian Revolution that needed to end.
Maduro's response was to call the opposition a group of "little boys", describing Guaidó as "immature". The Minister for Prison Services, Iris Varela, threatened that she had picked out a prison cell for Guaidó and asked him to be quick in naming his cabinet so she could prepare prison cells for them as well.
Following Guaidó's speech, the National Assembly released a press statement saying that Guaidó had assumed the role of acting president. A later statement clarified the position of Guaidó as "willing to assume command ... only possible with the help of Venezuelans". The opposition did not consider this a coup d'état based on the acknowledged "illegitimacy" of Maduro by many governments, and the constitutional processes that the National Assembly said they were following, specifically invoking Articles 233, 333, and 350 of the Constitution. The president of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice of Venezuela in exile (based in Panama), wrote Guaidó, requesting him to become acting president of Venezuela.
On 15 January 2019, the National Assembly approved legislation to work with dozens of foreign countries to request that these nations freeze Maduro administration bank accounts. Guaidó wrote a 15 January 2019 opinion piece in The Washington Post entitled "Maduro is a usurper. It’s time to restore democracy in Venezuela"; he outlined Venezuela's erosion of democracy and his reasoning for the need to replace Maduro on an interim basis according to Venezuela's constitution.
Guaidó announced nationwide protests to be held on 23 January—the same day as the removal of Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1958—using a slogan chant of ¡Sí, se puede!. The National Assembly worked with a coalition (Frente Amplio Venezuela Libre) to create a plan for the demonstrations, organizing a unified national force. On 11 January, plans to offer incentives for the armed forces to disavow Maduro were revealed. Venezuelan political experts, like David Smilde from the Washington Office on Latin America, suggested that this action would enrage Maduro, who already called the National Assembly traitors for not attending his inauguration, and who might arrest or attack more of its members. A friend of Guaidó, in response, said that they were aware of the risks but believed it needed to be done to allow democracy to reappear in Venezuela.
Luis Almagro (Secretary-General of the OAS) was the first to give official support to this action, tweeting "We welcome the assumption of Juan Guaidó as interim President of Venezuela in accordance with Article 233 of the Political Constitution. You have our support, that of the international community and of the people of Venezuela." Later on that day, Brazil and Colombia gave their support to Guaidó as acting president of Venezuela.
Guaidó was detained on 13 January by the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) and released 45 minutes later. The SEBIN agents who intercepted his car and took him into custody were fired. The Information Minister, Jorge Rodríguez, said the agents did not have instructions and the arrest was orchestrated by Guaidó as a "media stunt" to gain popularity; BBC News correspondents said that it appeared to be a genuine ambush to send a message to the opposition. Almagro condemned the arrest, which he called a "kidnapping", while Mike Pompeo, United States Secretary of State, referred to it as an "arbitrary detention".
After his detention, Guaidó said that Rodríguez's admission that the SEBIN agents acted independently showed that the government had lost control of its security forces; he called Miraflores (the presidential house and office) "desperate". In a later announcement, he declared himself acting president, his most direct claim to the position.
In early 2019, a group of Venezuelan ex-army and police officers in Peru announced support for Guaidó, disclaiming Maduro. Multiple groups of similarly retired or displaced soldiers said that they would return to fight Maduro if needed. It was also reported that though the top military swore allegiance to Maduro, many had spoken to exiled and defected soldiers to express their wish to not suppress any uprising that could oust Maduro, secretly supporting Guaidó. The National Assembly offered amnesty for military defectors.
Early on 21 January, at least 27 soldiers of the Venezuelan National Guard stationed near Miraflores Palace mutinied against Maduro. The Guardian reported that they kidnapped four security staff and stole weaponry from a post in Petare, and posted videos on social media promising the military would fight against the government. Rioting and arson took place in the area and tear gas was used on civilian protestors. After overnight fighting, the soldiers were taken by authorities. Five were injured and one person died in the mutiny: a civilian woman who was confused for a protester was killed by members of a colectivo. The BBC compared the mutiny to the El Junquito raid a year earlier, which resulted in the death of rebel leader Óscar Pérez.
On 23 January, Guaidó swore to serve as Interim President. Smaller protests had been building prior to that day. On that morning, Guaidó tweeted, "The world's eyes are on our homeland today." On that day, millions of Venezuelans demonstrated across the country and world in support of Guaidó, described as "a river of humanity", with a few hundred supporting Maduro outside Miraflores.
The opposition march was planned for a 10:00 a.m. start, but was delayed for 30 minutes due to rain. At one end of the blocked street was a stage where Guaidó spoke and took an oath to serve as interim president, swearing himself in.
Before the protest began, the Venezuelan National Guard used tear gas on gathering crowds at other locations. Another area of the capital was blocked off at Plaza Venezuela, a large main square, with armored vehicles and riot police on hand before protestors arrived. Photographic reports showed that some protests grew violent, resulting in injuries to both protesters and security. By the end of the day, at least 13 people were killed. Michelle Bachelet of the United Nations expressed concern that so many had been killed and requested a UN investigation into the security forces' use of violence.
A defiant Maduro accused the US of backing a coup, and said he would cut ties with them. He said Guaidó's actions were part of a "well-written script from Washington" to create a puppet state of the United States. In December 2018, Guaidó had traveled to Washington D.C. and met with OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, and then on 14 January 2019 to Colombia for a Lima Group meeting, in which Maduro's mandate was rejected. According to an article in El Pais, the January Lima Group meeting and the stance taken by Canada's Chrystia Freeland were key. El Pais describes Trump's election—coinciding with the election of conservative presidents in Colombia and Brazil, along with deteriorating conditions in Venezuela—as "a perfect storm", with decisions influenced by US vice-president Mike Pence, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security advisor John R. Bolton, and legislators Mario Díaz-Balart and Marco Rubio. Venezuelans Carlos Vecchio, Julio Borges and Gustavo Tarre were consulted, and the Trump administration decision to back Guaidó formed on 22 January, according to El Pais. Díaz-Balart said that the decision was the result of two years of planning; soon after taking office, Trump had met with Lilian Tintori, Pence and Rubio. Bolton spoke in November 2018 of Havana, Caracas and Managua as a triangle of terror (troika of tyranny); Borges included Bolivia as fourth to Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Maduro asked for dialogue with Guaidó, saying "if I have to go meet this boy in the Pico Humboldt at three in the morning I am going, [...] if I have to go naked, I am going, [I believe] that today, sooner rather than later, the way is open for a reasonable, sincere dialogue". He stated he would not leave the presidential office, saying that he was elected in compliance with the Venezuelan constitution. He denounced the accusations against him as "US imperialism" and compared the alleged foreign interference to colonialism. He called Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro a Hitler of the modern era. He also sent a video appeal to the American people asking them not to convert Venezuela into another Vietnam. Guaidó asked for support from the military, and warned that the people protesting would never get tired. During the speech, Guaidó also replied to Maduro's call for dialogue, saying he would not initiate diplomatic talks with Maduro because he believed it would be a farce and fake diplomacy that couldn't achieve anything. Maduro has claimed one of the reasons the US is involved, is because they want to get access to Venezuelas oil.
Bolton stated "I think we're trying to get to the same end result here. … It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela."
Guaidó presented his socioeconomic project Plan País on 31 January at the Central University of Venezuela. The plan encompasses providing government subsidies to the most vulnerable populations in Venezuela, restoring experienced personnel—removed by former President Hugo Chávez—to PDVSA, and improving foreign investment. As the presentation concluded, Guaidó rushed back to his home after being informed that security forces were outside his residence while his wife and child were there. Neighbors stated that individuals dressed in black were seen near his home and gathered outside of Guaidó's home to support him. The Bolivarian National Police denied that authorities were present in the area.
According to Colombia's Caracol Televisión, Maduro said Guaidó was a clown with a "virtual mandate" who could be imprisoned. During a speech given during the start of the judicial year in the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, Maduro "joked" saying "I was thinking about sending my assistant to the self-proclaimed to end his life."; seconds later Maduro pointed out that "it was a joke" and that "they don't know what humor is." Diosdado Cabello—described by Urgente 24 News as the "president of the illegitimate 2017 Constituent National Assembly" and number two in command [of the country]—made another threat against Guaidó on 5 February in a public, videotaped discussion before the Constituent Assembly. Cabello said that Guaidó had "never heard the whistle of a nearby bullet, you don't know what it feels like when a bullet hits three centimeters from you". Cabello also was reported to have asked Guaidó how far he was willing to go, because they were willing, saying that "We will not care about anything." Guaidó's response was, "Caracas is the most violent capital in the world ... we have had political assassinations ... they have killed more than 40 children. Venezuelans have had to listen already to too many whistling bullets produced by a regime that does not care about the lives, the welfare of Venezuelans ... who need medicine and food ... you will not stop us with veiled threats."
On 10 February, Guaidó said that his wife's grandmother was threatened by colectivos.
Following the 23 January events, some Venezuelan diplomats in the United States supported Guaidó; the majority returned to Venezuela on Maduro's orders. Venezuela's ambassador in Iraq, Jonathan Velasco, recognized Guaidó, indicating that the National Assembly is the only government branch "associated with ethics, legitimacy and legality" and responsible for filling the "power vacuum created by the violation of the constitution". The Consul general of Venezuela in Houston recognized Guaidó, saying "I am at your service and at your disposal to serve my country." The top Venezuelan consular officer in Miami supported Guaidó, stating "it [follows] my democratic principles and values" and urging other diplomats to "embrace the Constitution" and join Guaidó in trying to force new elections. Two consular officials in Chicago recognized Guaidó, saying they wanted to be "associated with democratic principles and values".
Carlos Vecchio was accredited by Pompeo as the Guaidó administration's diplomatic envoy to the US. Gustavo Tarre was named Venezuela's Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States, and Julio Borges was named to represent Venezuela in the Lima Group. The National Assembly made more than a dozen other diplomatic appointments, including Elisa Trotta Gamus to Argentina, María Teresa Belandria to Brazil, and Humberto Calderón Berti to Colombia.
The Miami Herald reported that the Maduro regime feared a military uprising and defections, had made many arrests, and Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López ordered a counterintelligence effort to locate conspiracists or possible defectors. According to France 24, Maduro said "military deserters who fled to Colombia have become mercenaries" as part of a US-backed coup. CBS News said that rank-and-file troops, who made about US$6 per month, were hungry and pushed to a tipping point.
Guaidó said that the opposition had held secret meetings with military officials to discuss the Amnesty Law. An opposition representative said that the meetings were focused on army officers, who were amenable to the idea and "expressed concern about the Trump administration's past threats of military intervention in Venezuela and [...] that the armed forces would be outgunned in any fight". Analysts warned that the meetings could potentially only win partial support and divide the military, which could lead to a civil war or coup.
In February, the Venezuelan Air Force's head of strategic planning, divisional general Francisco Esteban Yánez Rodríguez, recognized Guaidó as interim president on 2 February 2019, stating: "Today, with patriotic and democratic pride, I inform you that I do not recognize the irritating and dictatorial authority of Mr. Nicolás Maduro and I recognize Deputy Juan Guaidó as the Interim President of Venezuela, for which I worthily place myself at your service". He said that 90% of the armed forces would back Guaidó if needed. Air Force general Víctor Romero Meléndez supported Guaidó and called upon the Armed Forces to "support the people and the constitution". Retired air force major general Jorge Oropeza recognized Guaidó as interim president, as did lieutenant colonel Andrés Eloy Volcán. During an opposition protest in Barquisimeto, Lara state, officers of the Bolivarian National Police withdrew after they were asked by protesters to leave. One of the policemen said "I prefer to withdraw my men than to repress the people." In San Cristóbal, Táchira state, National Guardsmen withdrew from a protest meeting point to allow the installation of a scaffold. The next day, the police chief of Valera, Trujillo state, Raúl Eliezer Álvarez, and five other officers disavowed Maduro's government as a "narcodictator regime". Carlos Guyon Celis, a former captain who participated in the first 1992 coup d'état attempt, expressed support for Juan Guaidó on the anniversary of the 4 February coup attempt, and called upon the Armed Forces to "cut the chains that oppress the people since 20 years". Venepress published an alleged audio of an aviation officer who said that the Armed Forces are weakened and that officers would not defend Maduro. The top Venezuelan military representative to the United States, Colonel José Luis Silva, recognized Guaidó as his president.
In early 2019, with Cuban and Russian-backed security forces in the country, potential United States military involvement was reported. According to professor Erick Langer of Georgetown University, "Cuba and Russia have already intervened".
Reuters reported that Russian mercenaries associated with the Wagner Group were in Venezuela to defend Maduro's government. Professor Robert Ellis of the United States Army War College described 400 Wagner Group mercenaries provided by Russia as the "palace guard of Nicolás Maduro". Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the deployment of Russian mercenaries, calling it "fake news". A Cuban military presence of at least 15,000 personnel was in Venezuela in early 2018, while estimates ranging from hundreds to thousands of Cuban security forces were reported in 2019. Colombian guerrillas from National Liberation Army (ELN) have also vowed to defend Maduro, with ELN leaders in Cuba stating that they are drafting plans to provide military assistance to Maduro. The Redes Foundation denounced in the Colombian Public Ministry that armed groups made up of National Liberation Army members and FARC dissidents, supported by the Bolivarian National Police and FAES officials, murdered two Venezuelans, Eduardo José Marrero and Luigi Ángel Guerrero, during a protest in the frontier city of San Cristóbal, on Táchira state. Other protesters were injured during the shooting.
According to Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank, "a military action of the United States against Venezuela would be contrary to the movements of the Trump administration to retire troops from Syria or Afghanistan." John Bolton has declared that "all options are on the table", but has also said that "our objective is a peaceful transfer of power".
Maduro announced that state funds would be used to purchase new military equipment, saying "we are going to make enough investment so that Venezuela has all the anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems ... even the most modern in the world, Venezuela will have them because Venezuela wants peace".
According to France 24, Guaidó has made bringing humanitarian aid to the "hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who could die if aid does not arrive" a priority, and a test of the military's allegiance. The day after assuming the interim presidency, Guaidó requested humanitarian aid for Venezuela from the US, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged to offer $20 million. He also requested aid from the United Nations, which was denied because the UN says the request must come from Maduro.
Guaidó said Venezuela's neighbors, in a "global coalition to send aid to Venezuela", will help get humanitarian aid and medicine into the country; products will be shipped to neighboring ports and brought overland via convoys. He called it a test of the military: "In a few weeks they will have to choose if they let much needed aid into the country, or if they side with Nicolas Maduro." The US pledged $20 million, and Canada pledged $53 million Canadian dollars in humanitarian aid, saying most of it would go to Venezuela's neighbors and trusted partners. Germany, Sweden, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and the European Commission have also pledged aid.
Guaidó stated that the Maduro administration had plans to "steal the products for humanitarian purposes that entered the country". This included plans to distribute these products through the government's food distribution program CLAP—a program from which, according to the 2017 Venezuelan Attorney General, Maduro profits.
Maduro is determined to prevent aid from entering, calling it a "precursor to a US-led invasion". Shortly after the announcement that international humanitarian aid would enter via the Colombian–Venezuelan border, PSUV politician and former elite policeman Freddy Bernal appeared at the border with members of the armed forces and the FAES. Miguel Pizarro warned the military not to cross a red line and deny entry to humanitarian aid. The Tienditas Bridge linking Colombia and Venezuela at the border was blocked by the Venezuelan National Guard, using shipping containers and tanker truck; the completed bridge has not been officially used since it was constructed in 2016 due to the Venezuela–Colombia migrant crisis. Diosdado Cabello threatened that any planes that tried to bring aid into the country would be shot down. Maduro denied that Venezuela needs aid, saying "We are not beggars". As the first trucks with aid, escorted by Colombian police, approached the blocked bridge on 7 February, human rights activists received them, and Venezuela's communications minister, Jorge Rodriguez said there was a plot between Colombia, the CIA and exiled Venezuelan politician Julio Borges to oust Maduro. During a speech on 8 February, Maduro voiced his opinions on why he had denied international aid and after stating "With humanitarian aid they want to treat us like beggars ... in Venezuela we have the capacity to take care of our children and women. There is no humanitarian crisis here".
The United Nations has stated that "[v]ast numbers of Venezuelans are starving, deprived of essential medicines, and trying to survive in a situation that is spiraling downwards with no end in sight". It has recommended increased humanitarian funding for Venezuelans and cautioned not to politicize the aid. The UN said that "humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military or other objectives". The International Committee of the Red Cross "warned the United States about the risks of delivering humanitarian aid to Venezuela without the approval of security forces loyal to President Nicolas Maduro". It also said its ability to work in the current environment in Venezuela was limited". Having worked with local authorities inside Venezuela for a long time delivering relief, in February 2019 the organization had talks with the Venezuelan Ministry of Health about increasing its budget. Later in the month it doubled its Venezuela budget to 15.8 million euros (US$17.9 million). Carlos Holmes Trujillo, Colombia's foreign minister, said that blocking aid was a crime that "would give even more reason ... to ask the International Criminal Court to investigate Maduro". While Guaidó attempted to secure international aid, Maduro shipped over 100 tons of aid to Cuba following a tornado that devastated Havana. Carlos Vecchio, designated by the National Assembly as Venezuela's ambassador to the US, announced a conference to coordinate humanitarian aid to Venezuela, to be held on 14 February 2019 at the OAS headquarters in Washington, DC.
During an 11 February BBC interview, Maduro said, "[t]he Ku Klux Klan that governs the White House today wants to seize Venezuela" and that "Venezuela is not a country of famine. It has very high levels of nutrients and access to food." Guaidó issued an 11-day ultimatum to the Venezuelan Armed Forces on 12 February, stating that humanitarian aid will enter Venezuela on 23 February and that the armed forces "will have to decide if it will be on the side of the Venezuelans and the Constitution or the usurper".
On 13 February, Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez warned its citizens that humanitarian aid provided by the US was considered "carcinogenic" and part of a plot to kill them. She also claimed that "this so-called food from the United States aims to poison our population with chemicals" and described it as "biological weapons". Deputy and medic José Manuel Olivares [es] dismissed her claims, clarifying that "the aid has quality control and sanitary registry of Colombia, Brazil and the United States." Delcy's remarks were also dismissed by the United States, saying that the Maduro government "would go to any length to lie and deny reality".
At the 14 February Conference on Humanitarian Assistance in Support of Venezuela hosted by the OAS in Washington, D.C., John Bolton announced that 25 countries pledged US$100 million for humanitarian aid to be delivered to Venezuela via centers in Curacao, Colombia and Brazil.
Several sources reported that starting 11 January 2019, internet access to Wikipedia (in all languages) was blocked in Venezuela after Guaidó's page on the Spanish Wikipedia was edited to show him as president. The block mainly affected the users of the state-run CANTV, the national telecommunications company and largest provider of the country. Several media outlets have suggested that Wikipedia directly or indirectly was taking sides with either group.
Later on 21 January, the day of a National Guard mutiny in Cotiza, internet access to some social media like Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube was reported blocked for CANTV users. The Venezuelan government denied it had engaged in blocking. In the late evening of 22 January, it was reported that Twitter and Instagram were completely blocked in the country, possibly to suppress the organization of the protests happening the next day.
During 23 January protests, widespread internet outages for CANTV users were reported, with Wikipedia, Google Search, Facebook, Instagram, and many other social media platforms affected. The widespread regional internet blackouts occurred again on 26 to 27 January. Live streams of the National Assembly sessions and Guaidó's speeches have been disrupted for CANTV users, mainly affecting access to streaming platforms like Periscope, YouTube, and other Google services. Canal 24 Horas, a news channel owned by Chile's public broadcaster, Televisión Nacional, was removed from Venezuela's cable and satellite television operators by the state-run National Commission of Telecommunications (Conatel) on 24 January.
Since 22 January, Conatel has repeatedly advised against the promotion of violence and the disavowing of institutional authorities, according to the Law on Social Responsibility on Radio and Television imposed in 2004. Some radio programs have been ordered off air, including Cesar Miguel Rondón's radio program, one of the most listened-to programs in the country. Other programs have been temporarily canceled or received censorship warnings, including a threat to close private television and radio stations if they recognize Guaidó as acting president or interim president of Venezuela.
Between 29 and 30 January, at least eleven press personnel were arrested. On the evening of 29 January, four journalists were arrested by the Maduro government while reporting near the Miraflores presidential palace—Venezuelan journalists Ana Rodríguez of VPI TV and Maiker Yriarte of TV Venezuela, and Chilean journalists Rodrigo Pérez and Gonzalo Barahona of TVN Chile. The two Venezuelan journalists were released; the Chilean journalists were deported.
Two French journalists from French TV show, Quotidien, and their Venezuelan producer were detained for two days at El Helicoide on 30 January. Three press workers of EFE were also arrested by SEBIN and DGCIM—a Colombian photographer, a Colombian companion, and a Spanish companion.
Jorge Arreaza, Venezuelan Minister for Foreign Affairs, defended the detentions, stating that press workers were part "of the media operation against the country" that wanted "to create a media scandal" by not "complying with the minimum prerequisites required by Venezuelan law". Press organizations stated that they complied with the migration laws of Venezuela. Maduro denied that journalists were detained by authorities.
The website "Voluntarios X Venezuela" was promoted by Guaidó and the National Assembly to gather volunteers for humanitarian aid; as of 16 February, Guaidó said 600,000 people had signed up. Between 12 and 13 February, CANTV users that tried to access were redirected to a mirror site with a different URL address. The mirror site asked for personal information: names, ID, address and telephone numbers. The fake site also hosted other phishing websites with the aim of obtaining email addresses, usernames and passwords. All the phishing websites used the .ve domain controlled by Conatel. This manipulation was denounced as a technique to identify dissidents to the government.
Several nations called specifically for non-intervention and, without supporting either side, asked for diplomatic discussions to be held to move forward.
On 15 January, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Maduro "an illegitimate dictator", with United States National Security Adviser John R. Bolton and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also using the same term.
International demonstrations occurred on both sides, with massive gatherings in more than 70 cities worldwide supporting Guaidó, and others supporting Maduro.
An open letter by over 70 scholars, including Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, demanded the United States "cease interfering in Venezuela’s internal politics, especially for the purpose of overthrowing the country’s government".
Mexico and Uruguay announced an international conference for countries with a neutral position in Montevideo on 7 February. Uruguay has since recognized Maduro as president, with foreign minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa comparing the worsening situation to the United States' rationale for the Iraq War.
The organizations supporting the National Assembly include the Venezuela Creditors Committee, a fund bank that can give loans to the ailing nation and which could not finalize an agreement with Maduro in 2017, and all of the other businesses represented by the OFAC union. These include Electricidad de Caracas, providing electrical power to the capital and surrounding areas. PDVSA, the nation's largest oil and gas company, was initially reported as supporting Guaidó, but later pledged loyalty to Maduro.
The Catholic Church in Venezuela, organized by the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela, released a statement by Monsignor Ovidio Pérez Morales on 15 January 2019 saying "The Church in Venezuela, united to its Bishops in communion with the Pope, declare the socialist-communist regime illegitimate and stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan people to rescue democracy, freedom, and justice. Trusting in God, they support the National Assembly".
Despite internet blocks in Venezuela, by midday local time, the Twitter hashtag "#23Ene"—shorthand for "23 de Enero", Spanish for 23 January—was trending worldwide. Later in the day, five of the top ten trends were protest-related: "Venezuela", "Juan Guaidó", "#23Ene", "#GritemosConBrio", and "#Guaido". With protests continuing to the next day, "#24Ene" also trended.
It was reported in the late evening that Instagram had removed the "Verified" label from Maduro's account, instead placing one on Guaidó's account; this was denied by Instagram. Guaidó's description had also been updated to include "President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela". The following day, Facebook un-verified Maduro.
In January 2019, the Associated Press said that Maduro's administration and Venezuela's state-run media sought to discredit Guaidó with video footage "to paint [him] as a liar and a fraud". Venezuela's Communications Minister, Jorge Rodríguez, claimed to have proof of a meeting between Guaidó and United Socialist Party of Venezuela members, Diosdado Cabello and Freddy Bernal, in which Guaidó allegedly said he was under pressure from the United States. According to Guaidó, the meeting never happened. Rodríguez' proof came as collated short video clips. One clip shows Cabello walking through a hotel lobby, then cuts to show a man in a hooded sweatshirt (alleged to be Guaidó) entering and crossing the hall in the same direction as Cabello. The hooded man is heavily obscured and blurry, and it is impossible to identify the person.
Within minutes of Venezuela's state-run media posting the video, the hashtag #GuaidoChallenge went viral, trending worldwide. The hashtag made fun of the video posted by Rodríguez as supposed proof of this meeting. On 27 January, Guaidó held a public assembly and again challenged the Maduro administration to produce evidence of the alleged meeting. According to a translation on Caracas Chronicles, he said, "Show whatever you want, fabrications, with hoodie, without hoodie, audios. You confuse nobody here, the people see clearly."
As a protest about what they called foreign intervention, pro-Maduro social-media users used the hashtag '#HandsOffVenezuela' to share videos, pictures, and comments. China, a supporter of Maduro, has censored information about the crisis according to Radio Free Asia. Reports from China state that Chinese citizens who criticize Maduro on social media are punished or fined, with economist He Jiangbing saying that the Chinese government is "trying to prevent another color revolution ... because Venezuela and China are very similar".
Reuters has described previous polls in Venezuela as being "notoriously controversial and divergent". Stratfor says Maduro lost support of working-class Venezuelans as government handouts subsided; the opposition to Maduro has proposed plans to end the economic crisis, resulting in increased support for them.
Surveys between 30 January and 1 February by Meganálisis recorded that 84.6% of respondents recognized Guaidó as interim president, 11.2% were undecided and 4.1% believe that Maduro was president. The study of 1,030 Venezuelans was conducted in 16 states and 32 cities.
A telephone survey of 999 Venezuelans by Hercon between 25 and 30 January showed that 81.9% of respondents recognized Guaidó as president, 13.4% said Maduro was president and 4.6% were undecided. A Meganálisis survey of 870 Venezuelans between 24 and 25 January reported that 83.7% of respondents recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president, 11.4% could not decide who was president and 4.8% recognized Maduro as president.
A pre-23 January 2019 poll by Hinterlaces, a pollster headed by Constituent National Assembly member Oscar Schemel [es] and described as pro-Maduro, reported that 86% of Venezuelans would oppose a military intervention, that 81% oppose US sanctions, and that 84% support dialogue to end the crisis.
Surveys of 900 people between 19 and 20 January by Meganálisis reported that 81.4% hoped that Guaidó would be sworn in on 23 January while 84.2% supported a transitional government to replace Maduro's government. A telephone survey of 1,000 registered voters by Venezuelan pollster Hercon, conducted from 15 to 19 January 2019, reported 79.9% of respondents agreeing with Maduro leaving the presidency. Regarding the National Assembly, 68.8% of respondents rated their work as being positive while 15.6% rated their actions as negative. When asked if they agreed with the National Assembly swearing in Guaidó as interim president, 68.6% agreed and 19.4% disagreed.
President Nicolás Maduro was inaugurated for a second term after an election last year that was widely considered illegitimate — and despite a plummeting economy and skyrocketing violence, hunger and migration.
... the National Assembly is the only democratically elected institution left in the country ...
No independent government institutions remain today in Venezuela to act as a check on executive power. A series of measures by the Maduro and Chávez governments stacked the courts with judges who make no pretense of independence. The government has been repressing dissent through often-violent crackdowns on street protests, jailing opponents, and prosecuting civilians in military courts. It has also stripped power from the opposition-led legislature. ...In 2017, President Maduro convened a 'Constituent Assembly' by presidential decree, despite a constitutional requirement that a public referendum be held before any effort to rewrite the Constitution. The assembly is made up exclusively of government supporters chosen through an election that Smartmatic, a British company hired by the government to verify the results, called fraudulent. The Constituent Assembly has, in practice, replaced the opposition-led National Assembly as the country’s legislative branch.
The Venezuelan government has jailed political opponents and disqualified them from running for office. At time of writing, more than 340 political prisoners were languishing in Venezuelan prisons or intelligence services headquarters, according to the Penal Forum, a Venezuelan network of pro-bono criminal defense lawyers. ...In mid-2017, the Supreme Court sentenced five opposition mayors, after summary proceedings that violated international norms of due process, to 15 months in prison and disqualified them from running for office.
The judicial system continued to be used to silence dissidents, including using military jurisdiction to prosecute civilians. The justice system continued to be subject to government interference, especially in cases involving people critical of the government or those who were considered to be acting against the interests of the authorities. The Bolivarian National Intelligence Service continued to ignore court decisions to transfer and release people in its custody.
The arrest of four officials from the opposition in Venezuela, the removal from office of a further 11 and the issuing of arrest warrants against another five, demonstrates the Maduro administration’s tightening stranglehold on any form of dissent, taking repression to a frightening new level, said Amnesty International.
Cuestionó que el 'payaso' que se proclamó presidente no haya convocado elecciones, como dicta la Constitución. ¿Hasta cuándo irá su mandato?, preguntó. '¿Va a continuar en su mandato virtual? ¿Hasta cuándo, hasta el 2025 también? ¿O hasta que termine en la cárcel por mandato del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia? ¿Hasta cuándo?, le advirtió al presidente interino.
El chavismo/madurismo está descontrolado, y este martes 05/02 el presidente de la ilegítima Asamblea Nacional Constituyente (ANC) y número 2 de Venezuela, Diosdado Cabello, lanzó una nueva amenaza al presidente encargado de la República. Mire señor Guaidó usted no ha escuchado el silbido de una bala cerca de usted, no sabe qué se siente cuando una bala pega a tres centímetros o aun cuarto de donde está a usted y se escucha cuando pega, no tiene la más mínima idea de lo que eso significa'. Explicó que 'quien se atreva intentar atropellar a la patria tendrá una respuesta 'contundente'. 'No nos va a importar absolutamente nada', añadió.
... le advirtió que el chavismo estaba dispuesto a todo con tal de defender la “revolución” y su permanencia en el poder. 'Así como el pueblo salió el 2 de febrero a celebrar la revolución, nos van a ver en la calle movilizados, moralizados y listos para el combate', agregó. Le pregunté hasta dónde estaba dispuesto a llegar, porque nosotros sí estamos dispuestos. Le dije ‘señor Guaidó, usted no ha escuchado el silbido de una bala cerca’”, contó Diosdado en su discurso ante la ANC chavista.
Guaidó no dio más detalles de su denuncia pero sí agregó que, además, el chavismo "planea robar" la ayuda humanitaria que está recolectando con colaboración de la comunidad internacional.