Juan Guaidó, leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly and until last week a relative unknown, stood in front of hundreds of thousands of opposition protesters Wednesday to swear in Venezuela’s new president: himself.
Mr. Guaidó argues that Venezuela’s presidential election last year wasn’t valid, unrecognized by many nations, so his country is now without a president. It’s the job of the National Assembly to appoint an acting president and hold a new vote when that’s the case, according to the Constitution.
The interim presidency was quickly recognized by the United States, and later backed by a growing list of nations including Canada, Colombia, Brazil, and Chile. Nicolás Maduro, who was sworn in for his second presidential term earlier this month despite his widely disputed May victory, responded by ending diplomatic relations with the US.
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Venezuela has suffered a pile-up of political, economic, and humanitarian crises in recent years, inducing hyperinflation and severe shortages. An estimated 3 million people have fled the country. Guaidó called for nationwide protests Jan. 23, marking the 61st anniversary of Venezuelan democracy. It wasn’t the first time Maduro has faced vocal opposition. Guaidó’s unifying message for the opposition has ushered Venezuela to this moment. But a confluence of events – including citizens’ struggles, protests in former government strongholds, lagging oil production, and increasing international isolation – have laid the groundwork for someone like him to challenge Mr. Maduro’s legitimacy.
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