Trump officially recognizes Venezuela’s Guaido as Interim President of Venezuela
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
(23 Jan. 2019) — U.S. President Donald Trump issued a statement Wednesday officially recognizing the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela. President Trump announced his decision in a tweet in which he said: “The citizens of Venezuela have suffered for too long at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime. Today, I have officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela.” This was followed by a tweet from Vice President Mike Spence in a message to @JGuaido and the people of Venezuela in which he said: “America stands with you & we will continue to stand with you until #Libertad is restored!”
In his statement president Trump said Venezuelan National Assembly, “In its role as the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people …invoked the country’s constitution to declare Nicolas Maduro illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant.” Trump said he “will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy.” He stated further that his administration continues “to hold the illegitimate Maduro regime directly responsible for any threats it may pose to the safety of the Venezuelan people.” He also urged other Western Hemisphere governments to recognize Guaido as the Interim President of Venezuela.
In a statement following Trump’s announcement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Maduro “to step aside in favor of a legitimate leader reflecting the will of the Venezuelan people,” and stressed that the U.S. supports “President Guaido as he establishes a transitional government, and leads Venezuela, as the country prepares for free and fair elections.”
Following President Trump’s announcement, Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, issued a statement in which he said he stands “with the people of Venezuela who have taken to the streets today to exercise their democratic rights and reject Nicolas Maduro’s authoritarian rule.” He further stated that: “The most fundamental characteristic of any democracy is allowing one’s citizens to choose their own leaders, and the Venezuelan people deserve the right to do just this.” Representative Engel also “urged the Venezuelan security forces to exercise the utmost restraint and respect the rights of all of their fellow citizens.” He also encouraged “the Trump Administration to work with our friends and allies in the region and take all necessary steps to protect our diplomats in Caracas at this critical moment.” Representative Engel made no mention of President Trump’s recognition of Guaido as Interim President of Venezuela.
Trump’s decision to recognize Guaido as Interim President of Venezuela is in keeping with the decision taken by the Organization of American States (OAS) not to recognize Nicolás Maduro as the legitimate President of Venezuela. It marks the first significant action taken by the Trump administration since adoption of the U.S.-backed OAS resolution on January 10, 2019. The U.S. action follows on the heels of the decision announced, two days before the OAS resolution, by the Jamaican government to take legislative action to expropriate the Venezuelan government’s 49% ownership of the Jamaican-based Petrojam oil refinery. (Jamaica, Expropriation by any Means is an Absolute Last Resort.)
The OAS resolution, while deciding not to recognize the legitimacy of Maduro’s presidency of Venezuela, urged all OAS Member States “in accordance with international law and their national legislation, diplomatic, economic and financial measures that they consider appropriate, to contribute to the prompt restoration of the democratic order of Venezuela.” This action by the United States to recognize Guaido as Interim President of Venezuela is expected to be followed by other countries in the Hemisphere, in particular members of the Lima Group which have consistently condemned the Maduro regime. The U.S. can be expected to take further action against Venezuela, but what’s next from the Trump administration will be anybody’s guess.
© 2019 Curtis A. Ward/The Ward Post