Though a growing number of countries recognize the legitimacy of Venezuela’s interim President Juan Guaidó, the socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro has yet to relinquish power.

Maduro ignored the rule of law and violated the Venezuelan Constitution in fraudulent attempts to hold onto power. After a farcical “election” process in 2018, which had been stacked in Maduro’s favor, the legitimately elected National Assembly President Guaidó declared himself interim president, in keeping with provisions of the country’s constitution.

Protesters in the street holding signs (© Ariana Cubillos/AP Images)
Holding signs that read in Spanish “No more dictatorship,” Venezuelans protest Maduro on January 30, 2019. (© Ariana Cubillos/AP Images)

Maduro usurps presidency 

Maduro’s corruption, illegal actions and oppression of the Venezuelan people are well documented. Beyond his exploitation of Venezuela’s resources and disregard for the rule of law, it is specific measures taken in the lead-up to the highly contested and irrevocably flawed snap presidential election in 2018 that violate the Venezuelan Constitution and nullify Maduro’s claim to victory:

— May 2017: Maduro convenes an unconstitutional National Constituent Assembly (NCA), packed with loyalists, supposedly tasked with drafting a new constitution. Instead, Maduro begins to use the NCA to rule by decree, usurping the powers of the constitutionally elected National Assembly (Venezuela’s legitimate legislature). By creating the NCA without holding a popular referendum, Maduro violates Article 347 of the constitution. The NCA’s usurpation of National Assembly authority violates Articles 187 and 296 of the constitution.

— January 2018: The illegitimate National Electoral Council moves the date of the presidential election from December to May, violating Article 298 of the constitution, which requires that elections occur at least six months after the date is changed or announced.

Yellow tape strung between two school desks (© Ariana Cubillos/AP Images)
Desks block a polling station during the 2018 election (© Ariana Cubillos/AP Images)

The 2018 election itself was fraudulent. Opposition candidates were banned from running. Media were only allowed to report Maduro propaganda. The regime used food to bribe hungry Venezuelans for their votes. For these reasons, many democratic nations declared the election result illegitimate.

Beyond these specific constitutional violations concerning the 2018 election, the Maduro regime unconstitutionally arrested and assaulted democratic protesters (violating Articles 52 and 68). It imprisoned opposition figures and banned political parties (violating Article 67). It jailed journalists and shuttered media outlets (violating Articles 57 and 58). And it tortured prisoners (violating Article 60).

Guaidó’s interim presidency

In accordance with Article 350 of the constitution, which says that “the people of Venezuela, true to their republican tradition and their struggle for independence, peace and freedom, shall disown any regime, legislation or authority that violates democratic values, principles and guarantees or encroaches upon human rights,” the National Assembly declared Maduro’s claim to a second term illegitimate.

Juan Guaidó talking to members of the media (© Rodrigo Abd/AP Images)
Interim President Juan Guaidó speaking with reporters in Caracas, Venezuela (© Rodrigo Abd/AP Images)

Maduro’s usurpation of presidential authority left no legitimate executive in Venezuela. In response, the National Assembly invoked Article 233 of the constitution, which states: “When an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve … Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the President of the National Assembly shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.” Maduro’s election was invalidated, and National Assembly President Guaidó was named interim president.

On January 23, 2019, Guaidó took the oath of office and promised to hold national elections — and to thereby restore democracy to Venezuela.