On January 30, the Russian state-owned media outlet RIA Novosti reported that Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the International Affairs Committee of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house of parliament), said Russia does not recognize Venezuelan opposition leader and National Assembly President Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.
That same article quotes Kosachev as saying, that no foreign country including the United States has a right to “determine” who is Venezuelan president, labeling an act of recognition as an attempt to interfere with the nation’s domestic affairs and impose the Venezuelan people’s choice of a leader. If that is true, then Russia is doing the same by declaring it does not recognize Guaido’s status.
On January 10, Venezuela’s opposition-backed National Assembly declared its president, Juan Guaido, to be the country’s acting president. That same day, de facto Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s original six-year term was set to expire. Maduro won another presidential term in May 2018 in an election heavily criticized both inside and outside of Venezuela for its restrictions on opposition parties as well as low turnout (around 20 percent). Because the National Assembly does not recognize the legitimacy of Maduro’s reelection, the body asserts that, according to the Venezuelan constitution, it is empowered to appoint the Assembly president as the country’s interim acting president. For his part, Guaido is calling for new elections to choose a president.
Since Guaido was declared interim president, numerous countries, including the United States, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Australia and most European Union countries, have recognized the National Assembly’s decision as legitimate and thereby recognize Guaido as interim president. Russia, China, Iran, Nicaragua, Cuba and Turkey, among others, back Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate president. More countries have recognized Guaido’s claim than have backed Maduro, but international recognition, while boosting legitimacy, is not the same as choosing the country’s president.
On Monday, February 4, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted that because Maduro had failed to call for new presidential elections, Britain would no longer recognize him as the legitimate president of Venezuela and instead recognize Juan Guaido as interim president. The Russian Embassy in Great Britain’s official Twitter account responded by claiming that this constituted a violation of international law. It does not, as states are allowed to recognize or refuse to recognize other states or governments at their own discretion.
There has been criticism of the Trump administration’s rhetoric on Venezuela since the crisis began. While many nations recognize Guaido as interim president, including Spain and Ecuador, which are led by left-leaning social democrats, others have criticized what they see as Washington’s more belligerent tone toward the Maduro government, saying it could backfire. Fears of U.S. military intervention were raised when U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton was photographed at a press briefing holding a legal pad with the note “5,000 troops to Colombia” written on it. Bolton later told the press that “all options are on the table” but denied any military action was being planned.
While many Venezuelans -- including those who once supported Maduro’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez -- have taken to the streets to protest the regime, reports say most of the Venezuelan military appears to be sticking with Maduro. Guaido has offered an amnesty to military officers and other regime officials in hopes of averting violence.