Leader of Venezuela Congress says he is prepared to assume presidency

Juan Guaido, President of the Venezuelan National Assembly and lawmaker of the opposition party Popular Will (Voluntad Popular), speaks during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela January 10, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Leader of Venezuela Congress says he is prepared to assume presidency

  • The country’s constitution says a presidential vacancy can be filled by the head of the legislature, and some opposition activists have called on Guaido to assume the presidency

CARACAS: The leader of Venezuela’s opposition-led congress said on Friday he was prepared to assume the country’s presidency on an interim basis and call elections, just one day after leftist President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a disputed second term.
Juan Guaido, a lawmaker from the hard-line Popular Will opposition party who was elected to head the National Assembly on Jan. 5, said he would only take office with support of the armed forces. He also called for protests on Jan. 23, the anniversary of the fall of a military dictatorship in 1958.
“It should be the people of Venezuela, the armed forces, and the international community that give us a clear mandate to assume” the presidency, Guaido said in a speech to supporters outside the United Nations (UN) program office in Caracas.
Maduro was re-elected last year in a vote that was widely dismissed as fraudulent, and countries around the world have called his continued leadership illegitimate. Ruling Socialist Party leaders have described the criticism as colonialist interference led by the United States.
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.
Guaido’s comments, however, caused some confusion.
Luis Almagro, head of regional diplomatic group the Organization of American States, tweeted that Guaido had assumed the interim presidency of Venezuela. Guaido did not respond to a message seeking clarification.
The country’s perennially fractured opposition has made numerous failed attempts over the past 20 years to remove the ruling socialists. Now, opposition leaders have disavowed Maduro’s second term as illegitimate, and have called for the National Assembly to declare the presidency vacant.
The country’s constitution says a presidential vacancy can be filled by the head of the legislature, and some opposition activists have called on Guaido to assume the presidency.
Maduro’s allies were quick to denounce Guaido. Prisons Minister Iris Varela appeared to threaten to jail him, although she has previously threatened other opposition members who remain free. “Guaido, I already got your cell ready, with your uniform,” Varela wrote on Twitter.
The opposition has promised to keep up the pressure. Some 2,000 people gathered outside the UN site listening to opposition lawmakers and civil society leaders denounce Maduro as a “usurper.”
” is the only legitimate power that we have,” said Servando Valecillos, a 67-year-old salesman and one of the protesters.
Maduro’s critics accuse him of creating a dictatorship and destroying the OPEC nation’s economy.
Venezuela is experiencing the worst economic crisis in its history, with inflation headed toward 2 million percent. Some three million people have left the country amid chronic shortages of food and medicine.
Maduro says the country is victim of an “economic war” led by his political adversaries with the help of Washington.


US urges coalitions against Iran’s ‘malign meddling’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US is committed to helping the Middle East be secure and stable. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2019
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US urges coalitions against Iran’s ‘malign meddling’

  • Iran is threat to regional stability, Pompeo tells WEF
  • Pompeo also expressed optimism about an end to the conflict in Yemen

DAVOS: The US wants to build more coalitions in the Middle East to counter the “very real” threat of Iran’s malign meddling in the region, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday.

Speaking via video link, Pompeo said the US was committed to a “secure and stable” Middle East and had assembled a “global coalition of nations to confront Iran and support the aspirations of the Iranian people.”

Pompeo said: “America is committed to helping the Middle East be secure and stable. We are a force for good in the region, and we have been for an awfully long time.”

He said the biggest threat to regional stability was Iran, especially in crisis zones such as Yemen, Syria and Iraq, and in its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“Those are places where Iran is truly the malign actor, and that is why we are so happy with the coalition we have built,” he said.

“It is so central to creating the stability the people of the Middle East so richly deserve.

“There are political and diplomatic solutions to all of these problems, and we need all our diplomats, from all across the region, working to solve them.”

Pompeo also expressed optimism about an end to the conflict in Yemen, where a Saudi-led military coalition is supporting the legitimate government against Iran-backed Houthi militias.

 “I am very hopeful we can make progress there,” he said. “We made a big step forward with the agreement surrounding the port of Hodeidah; we got real commitment from all the parties. 

“It was most unfortunate that the Houthis made a major break on Jan. 10 to that cease-fire by using an Iranian-designed instrument of war to kill people after those agreements were reached back in December.

“I know that the Gulf states are committed to achieving that outcome; we are committed here in the United States.”

Pompeo also spoke briefly about peace between Israel and Palestine, and said talks would not be “driven by the US” but by the Israelis and Palestinians themselves.

Globally, Pompeo praised a wave of “disruption” in world politics, including the election of Donald Trump, the UK vote to leave the European Union and elections in France and Malaysia.

He renewed Trump’s criticism of international institutions and the US president’s calls for “strong borders” to protect national sovereignty. “New winds are blowing across the world,” he said. “I’d argue that this disruption is a positive development.”

Pompeo acknowledged that Trump’s criticism of international institutions had ruffled feathers. “Sometimes leadership and asking hard questions drives others to be a little concerned. Perhaps they’re not quite ready to stare these problems in the face. But we are — President Trump is.”