By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Defying all odds, pleas, threats and entreaties, embattled Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a polemical second six year term Thursday, pushing Paraguay to break off diplomatic relationships with Venezuela, the opposition-held National Assembly to hold its next session in the streets of Caracas and even prompting a vote in the Organization of American States (OAS) where the OAS Permanent Council voted "to not recognize the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro's new term."
Maikel Moreno, the Supreme Court chief justice, (trying to replace National Assembly President Juan Guaido, whom the constitution delegates), gave Maduro the oath of office.
In a 20 second clip that has since gone viral, Moreno faced Maduro, his left hand in the air -“chavistas” don’t swear with their right hands -- waiting for the chief justice to read the oath that never quite came, as the magistrate stuttered, grasped for words, stopped several times, choked on two lines of text and, ultimately, did not make any sense when he read:
“Verifying the, the, the, the…”, Moreno stopped, read again. “Verifying, the…(long pause) procuring in every moment any threat or agrasion (sic) to the guarantee to the rights and freedoms of all Venezuelans…”
Maduro was elected in early May 2018, after a contest that, according to the US, the European Union and others in the international community, was neither free nor fair, with opposition political parties banned from the election, dozens of opposition leaders barred through administrative decisions from competing, and hundreds of political prisoners in jail.
However, neither a non-viable oath, nor a diplomatic crisis or the prospect of the Assembly taking the Presidential mantle away from him stopped Maduro from being sworn in. Rejection was patent as demonstrators tried to get close the Supreme Court to stop, or at least denounce, the ceremony, but riot police stopped them blocks away.
At a public session to be held Friday, National Assembly President Juan Guaido is expected to challenge Maduro for the mantle of President. Many were disappointed in Caracas Thursday when Guaido did not assume that post Thursday, given that the 1999 Venezuelan opposition dictates that in the event of a serious crisis involving the President (usurpation or absolute absence to name just two), the President of the Assembly has to take over and immediately call for new Presidential elections.
Guaido promised to keep up the fight.
“We are calling on the armed forces, on the dissidents of chavismo, in order to generate hope inside the country,” he told assembled media at the Assembly’s downtown Caracas headquarters, not far from where Maduro was being sworn in by a hesitant justice. "We need you, tomorrow on the street and accompany us, please, we are asking you.”