The Last Days of Guaido's Interim Government

Tony wrote a frame-by-frame summary of Guaido's downfall for his substack, check it out

Juan Guaidó speaks with the Associated Press in February

Photo: AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

After a little more than 6 hours of debate, the 2015 National Assembly eliminated Juan Guaidó’s interim government and assumed “special powers” to manage the Venezuelan assets abroad that are still in the opposition’s hands.

The Assembly eliminated all governmental structures –including embassies and diplomatic representatives– and only kept the Guaidó-designated boards of PDVSA (which manages Citgo) and the Central Bank of Venezuela as well as the recently-created Council of Assets Administration and Protection and the Council for Expense Management. The opposition-dominated parliamentary body also extended its term for another year, the third time since the 2020 parliamentary elections were denounced as fraudulent by the opposition and foreign democracies. Guaidó was stripped from the title of interim president

72 congressmen from Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT), Primero Justicia (PJ),  Acción Democrática (AD), and Movimiento por Venezuela (MVP) voted in favor of eliminating the almost four-year-long interim government. 29 congressmen from Voluntad Popular (VP), La Causa R, Convergencia, Nuvipa and the July 16th Faction (which includes Vente, Alianza Bravo Pueblo, and others) voted in favor of keeping it. 8 congressmen from Encuentro Ciudadano and Proyecto Venezuela abstained.

Here’s a timeline of Guaido’s last week in office:

December 27th

  • In a communiqué, AD, PJ, MVP and UNT reaffirmed that they would vote for the abolition of the interim government on a second voting round on December 29th (The first session was held on December 22nd). The parties –which previously supported Guaidó and participated in the interim government– said that the interim government “stopped being useful”, did not call for elections and is going through corruption scandals. They also assured that the assets abroad “will not reach the hands of the regime” of Maduro, which they will continue to consider “illegitimate.”
  • The proposal ushered a heated debate in Venezuelan civil society. Following the communiqué, the Andrés Bello Catholic University’s Center for Political and Government Studies rejected the elimination of Guaidó’s interim government: such a move “attacks the possibility of change”, establishes an ‘unconstitutional’ parliamentary government, and puts assets abroad at risk. Historian Elias Pino Iturrieta and Crisis Group’s consultant Phil Gunson criticized the communiqué, ending up in heated Twitter debates with the Center’s director Benigno Alarcón. The university’s Dean of Economy and its Guayana subdivision vice-president clarified that the communiqué didn’t represent the position of the university. The university’s thought “is plural”, the vice-president said.
  • The Center’s communique followed one by the Constitutional Block –a group that includes some of Venezuela’s most renowned jurists– which described the abolition proposal as an “unconstitutional pretension.” Allan Brewer-Carias, another renowned anti-Chavista jurist, published a 31-pages document arguing that the proposal is “a great and unconstitutional folly.”

December 28th

  • Juan Pablo Guanipa, from Primero Justicia, said that the “fracture” and “division” of the opposition favors Maduro: he stressed that it is necessary to listen to the voices of academics, lawyers and others and proposed talks to achieve an opposition consensus – even if that meant postponing the December 29th session. Following Guanipa’s proposal, congresswoman Delsa Solorzano -alongside Encuentro Ciudadano, Proyecto Venezuela and Nuvipa- also proposed that the session be postponed until efforts for an opposition consensus on the interim government’s fate are exhausted.
  • Guanipa’s and Delsa’s proposals faltered that night when Juan Guaidó unilaterally moved the session to January 3rd (a move that is legally permitted to the Assembly’s president). Afterwards, PJ, AD, UNT and MPV posted a communiqué saying that the session had not been suspended and they would carry on with it the next day.

December 29th 

  • On Thursday, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice in exile -appointed by the National Assembly in 2017- urged the Assembly to maintain the institution of the Interim Government even if this implies replacing Guaidó with a new president.
  • Meanwhile, the congressmen called for a meeting that morning to “establish a position on issues related to the Reform of the Transition Statute” that created the interim government. The three “rebel” parties then issued a request to Juan Guaidó to meet that afternoon to define a session before December 31st, when the interim government was expected to expire.
  • Surprisingly, the hardliner parties of the 16J Faction -which includes María Corina Machado and Antonia Ledezma sympathizers and were against extending the interim government on 2021- supported Guaidó and described the “rebel” parties’ proposal as “a coup d’état”.
  • Meanwhile, the Biden administration said it planned to recognize whatever body the opposition comes up with, according to a senior administration official who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to share internal policy discussions. The official said the US would still call the opposition “the interim government” for the purpose of promoting talks with the Maduro government while also keeping sanctions in place as leverage for negotiations over new elections.
  • That night, Juan Guaidó proposed to step aside and let the congressmen appoint a new interim president: preserving -instead of eliminating- the interim government.

December 30th 

  • The Assembly finally met -via Zoom- on the afternoon of December 30th. With 72 votes from the AD, PJ, MPV and UNT fractions, the 2015 National Assembly approved the elimination of Juan Guaidó’s interim government. Congressmen Juan Miguel Matheus (PJ) and Freddy Guevara (VP) were the most prominent voices of each side. Matheus said that if assets abroad were returned to Maduro’s government, the British, American and Portuguese governments would “have to give answers for returning the power of the assets to a human rights violator.” Guevara replied: “If the gold is lost, it is because of the [lack of] responsibility of not building an agreed solution. Fuck off, that is not the responsibility of England. Those responsible for losing the gold are those who voted to dissolve the interim government”.
  • The diplomatic functions of Guaidó’s ambassadors -including those in the OAS and the United States- were immediately stripped off.

Some Takes:

  • David Placer, a Venezuelan journalist and author: “A virtual parliament meets on Zoom to eliminate a non-existent government. Behind, the wars of a handful of politicians that have interposed their personal agendas over the country’s interests for twenty years. The interim government dies by suicide. Another one of Chavismo’s great achievements.”
  • María Veronica Torres Gianvittorio, a Venezuelan political scientist: The congressmen “guillotine Juan Guaidó and Voluntad Popular that, although they are guilty of the accusations, share the responsibilities with judges and executioners. Repartitions of all types are documented. I’m not defending anyone. But there were more honest ways. Especially facing the citizenry, which is not dumb.”
  • Miguel Angel Santos, a Venezuelan economist at Harvard: “I think of an idea by Jose Ignacio Cabrujas that it’s still current nowadays: in Venezuela the law is only a subterfuge to give free rein to ‘what I, who has the majority, feels like doing at this moment.’”
  • Luis González, a Venezuelan political analyst who blogs at Caracas Chronicles: “Maduro never arrested Guaidó (despite the calls by sectors of Chavismo) because he was not willing to pay the international and domestic price of that decision. Now he needs not to think about that.”
  • Eugenio Martínez, a Venezuelan electoral journalist: “The form in which the interim government acted and its academic supporters to silence its critiques + the form in which the G3 [UNT, AD and PJ] decided to discover illegal practiques which they endorsed or silenced in the past, etc. Venezuelans don’t deserve this opposition and, worst of all, it’s the only one they have.”

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Tony Frangie Mawad

Tony (1997) is one of Caracas Chronicles' editors, where he writes since 2016. He graduated in Journalism and Political Science from Boston University in 2021. Since then, he has written at Bloomberg, The Economist, Politico and others.