Venezuela congress leader challenges Maduro’s presidency

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 Gerardo Guaido Marquez made the announcement at an anti-government rally in the capital, Caracas, on Friday, a day after Maduro was sworn in for a second term, deemed by many as “illegitimate”.

Juan Guaido, a lawmaker from the hard-line Popular Will opposition party who was elected to head the National Assembly on January 5, said he would only take office with the support of the armed forces. He also called for protests on January 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 (U.N.) program office in Caracas.

“I assume the duty imposed by the Constitution and Article 333, which obliges all Venezuelans, vested with authority or not, to fight for the restitution of constitutional order,” the National Assembly quoted Guaido as saying in a series of posts on Twitter.

“The Constitution gives me the legitimacy to exercise the charge of the presidency of the Republic to call elections, but I need the support of the citizens to make it happen,” he said before calling for massive protests on January 23.

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.

Maduro dismissed the National Assembly as a “show of little boys”, telling reporters that while the “crazy and immature minds at the head of the opposition” were holding their demonstration, he was working.

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