CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s opposition-led Congress planned a public gathering on Friday to discuss ways to remove leftist President Nicolas Maduro, just a day after his swearing-in to a disputed second term, although the effort looked unlikely to succeed.
FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a ceremony, after his swearing-in for a second presidential term, at Fuerte Tiuna military base in Caracas, Venezuela January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Adriana Loureiro/File Photo
Maduro was re-elected in an election last year that was widely dismissed as fraudulent, and countries around the world called his continued leadership illegitimate. Ruling Socialist Party leaders have described the criticism as colonialist interference led by the United States.
The country’s perennially fractured opposition has made numerous failed attempts over the past 20 years to remove the ruling socialists.
The Supreme Court and an all-powerful legislature called the Constituent Assembly have stripped Congress of its powers, meaning it does not have the capacity to remove the president as would a legislature in many countries.
Nonetheless, the opposition has promised to keep up pressure.
“The transition has begun,” Juan Guaido, head of the opposition-run legislature, via Twitter on Friday.
“Nicolas Maduro is totally illegitimate!”
On Thursday, Guaido called on the country’s military to step forward and disavow Maduro. But Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino and the country’s top military commanders feted Maduro in a ceremony immediately after his swearing-in at which they pledged loyalty.
Maduro’s critics accuse him of creating a dictatorship and destroying the economy. Venezuela is experiencing the worst economic crisis in its history, with inflation headed toward 2 million percent and some three million people having left the country amid chronic shortages of basic food and medicines.
Maduro says the country is victim of an “economic war” led by his political adversaries with the help of Washington.
Opposition efforts to remove Maduro have foundered. The pro-government elections council stymied a 2016 effort to trigger a recall referendum on the president’s rule. More than 120 people were killed in four months of street protests in 2017 that eventually fizzled.
Reporting by Corina Pons and Vivian Sequera; Editing by Frances Kerry