Why Juan Guaidó Can’t Become President Right Away

Long-suffering Venezuelans are having a hard time understanding Assembly speaker Guaidó’s reluctance to claim the presidency immediately. Here’s why he can’t.

Photo: Noticias Barquisimeto retrieved

Many Venezuelans are still anguished that the Speaker of the National Assembly hasn’t been sworn in as interim President of the Republic. Some relate this anxiety with the need for a hero, a single leader with name and face. Others speak of the importance of strictly complying with the constitutional text, in order to not expose any vulnerable spots, as if chavismo didn’t break its own rules and its own people in order to hold on to power.

I see it in the context of how past defeats have marked us, of that gaping hole left by distrust. Here I offer my views, based on the opinions of some jurists, on what I think the National Assembly is doing.

Let’s go over this again: since January 10, after his illegitimate and illegal self-proclamation, Nicolás is usurping the Executive Power and imposed a de facto government, which means our current political and judicial thread doesn’t fit the options of vacancy of the legitimately elected President established in Article 233 of the Constitution. There’s no way to strictly apply the Constitution to our situation.

There’s no way to strictly apply the Constitution to our situation.

Appealing to Article 233 doesn’t mend the broken constitutional order nor do away with the collapse of democratic institutionality. Neither does appointing and inducting the Speaker of the National Assembly as interim President. By claiming the office of the Presidency Juan Guaidó would achieve nothing more than ensuring his imprisonment or exile.

The proposition so far is that, if the National Assembly is the only democratically legitimate body, then it’s the duty of the whole institution to take on the process of restoring the Constitution as established in articles 333 and 350, which is why they’ve declared their activation. On that basis, the current proposal is for a parliamentary government (exceptional and transitional) that may exercise both legislative and executive authority; thus, the Parliament represents the Republic and its Board (including its Speakership) represents the National Assembly.

Yesterday, the National Assembly took necessary measures to restore constitutional order: declaring the usurpation of the Presidency; calling on the Armed Forces to be loyal to the Constitution instead of a tyrant; approving the agreement for the Amnesty Law for civilians and military officers who contribute to restoring democracy and advancing on the recovery of the nation’s assets (preventing the usurper from using them).

It’s the duty of the whole institution to take on the process of restoring the Constitution.

Creating the conditions (political pressure, the fracture of the ruling clique, international support and citizen mobilization) we need for this de facto government to abide by agreements that include free elections is an extremely complicated task. This government is the outcome of an imposition —an act of force— and it keeps all the power of coercion under its control; the rest of the country collapses amidst an overwhelming and desperate crisis; consequently, this is an asymmetric confrontation and Guaidó’s swearing-in won’t balance the scales nor magically move key pieces in the Armed Forces in his favor.

To act solely on the basis of constitutional formalisms while living under a dictatorship would be foolish. And, I repeat: we’re in uncharted waters for which the Constitution has no mechanisms, they’re being created at the moment.


Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.