Juan Guaidó is the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly.
CARACAS — We are living a crisis without precedent in Venezuela. We have a government that has dismantled the state and kidnapped all institutions to manipulate them at will.
They have attacked the foundations of a democratic system that has refused to die completely, and today we are left with a usurper occupying the presidency. We say “usurper” because Nicolás Maduro has already ended his constitutional term — a term never recognized by Venezuelans because we didn’t have an election. What took place last May 20 was a farce that our people and the world rejected. Now Maduro is a de facto ruler.
But Venezuela’s is not your typical dictatorship. The regime may have ties to drug trafficking and guerrilla groups, but we also have a functioning, democratically elected parliament, the National Assembly. Despite the attacks on our legitimacy by the Maduro-controlled Supreme Court and the loyalist Constituent Assembly, the National Assembly continues to do its work and has the backing of the international community and the majority of Venezuelans.
Since 2007, we’ve mobilized — then as university students — to become staunch defenders of our Constitution, which has been violated and disrespected by the regime amid several attempts to modify it. This Constitution has three fundamental articles that will allow us to resolve the current political crisis and restore the democratic order:
The first is Article 233, which establishes that in the absolute absence of the president of the republic — which is the situation we’re in now since there’s no legitimately elected president — the leader of the National Assembly must occupy the office and call for presidential elections. This would be a simple procedure in a democratic country, since it’s clearly in the Constitution, but in Venezuela it isn’t.
The second is Article 333, which calls on all citizens to restore and enforce the Constitution if it’s not followed. Maduro has placed himself above the Constitution, but only the Venezuelan people can be above it. All representatives in public office, as well as the armed forces, have a duty to restore the constitutional order — a duty shared by all Venezuelans.
Third, there’s Article 350, which calls on the Venezuelan people to reject any regime that violates democratic values and human rights. We are invoking this article to ask Venezuelans to reject, along with the international community, Maduro’s usurpation of the presidency.
As president of the National Assembly, I am fully able and willing to assume the office of the presidency on an interim basis to call for free and fair elections. With a united National Assembly, along with the military, the people and even those who still support this regime, we can materialize the mandate the Constitution endows on us, as our national anthem says: “Let’s scream bravely death to oppression/Loyal compatriots, our strength is our unity.”
Of course, we can’t ignore a key ally: the international community, which has denounced the dictatorship, its human rights violations and the misery it has created. Maduro’s lack of legitimacy among world leaders, the international sanctions and the recognition of the National Assembly as the only legitimate representative of the state are crucial at this moment.
Our road map is clear: stop the usurpation with national unity and through external and internal pressure; form a transitional government to open channels for humanitarian assistance; restore the rule of law and the separation of powers; and call for free elections so all Venezuelans can decide their future.
We want to send a message to the military, a key actor in this process: The chain of command has been broken, and there’s no commander in chief — it’s time to get on the right side of history. Venezuela and the world will thank you; success will depend on each one of us doing our part in this difficult hour for the country.
We call for action, without doubt or infighting. Let’s be faithful heirs to the freedom that is inscribed in our blood.