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  • FILE PHOTO: US diplomat Elliott Abrams during a UNSC meeting for vote on a U.S. draft resolution on Venezuela, February 28, 2019. REUTERS

    FILE PHOTO: US diplomat Elliott Abrams during a UNSC meeting for vote on a U.S. draft resolution on Venezuela, February 28, 2019. REUTERS | Photo: REUTERS

Published 19 March 2019

A press conference with U.S. special envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams, regarding Juan Guaido seems to have produced more questions than answers. 

Elliot Abrams went on record to say the Venezuelan National Assembly passed a resolution that essentially goes against the country’s constitution. During a White House press conference, Abrams, who is now head of the U.S. special envoy to Venezuela, said the national assembly voted for the 30-day term of the self-declared interim president, opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido to start once President Nicolas Maduro steps down.

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In a press conference that had reporters scratching their heads, Abrams told journalists that Guaido’s 30-day interim presidency that Guiado himself had said began Jan. 23, hadn’t actually begun and won’t until President Nicolas Maduro is out of office.

“The 30-day end to his interim presidency starts counting, uhm, because he’s not in power, that’s the problem. Maduro is still there,” said Abrams to reporters at the White House, effectively admitting that Guido has zero de jure or de facto authority in Venezuela.

The U.S.-backed Guiado declared himself interim president Jan. 23 with the expectation that he’d be able to call snap elections within 30 days by invoking Article 233 of Venezuela’s constitution. However, the plan was foiled. Guiado was not able to muster an overthrow of democratically elected Maduro within that 30-day time frame. With that, he and opposition allies in the National Assembly, an institution that has been in contempt of the Venezuelan Supreme Court for two years, have passed a resolution saying that his interim status won’t start until Maduro is removed.    

“The (Venezuelan) National Assembly has passed a resolution that states that the 30-day period of interim presidency will not start ending, or counting, until the day Maduro leaves power. So the 30 days doesn't start now it starts after Maduro leaves. That’s a resolution of the Venezuelan assembly,” said Abrams to the gathered journalists.

A reporter challenged Abrams and the National Assembly’s constitutional jurisdiction to change the rules of the game midway.

“When did they do that?” asked a journalist.

“Ahh about, they did that roughly a month ago,” responded Abrams, somewhat confounded.

“So when he was took the mantle of the presidency that (resolution) wasn't there, so that’s ex post facto," said one journalist to Abrams.

"That’s like saying I was elected president for four years and two years into it you change the rules so that your term hasn't even started yet,” said the same reporter.

Abrams retorted laughing, "well, you don't get to vote because you’re not in the (Venezuelan) national assembly.”

The U.S. official said that the assembly found the move “constitutional” and called the presidency “vacant” until “Maduro goes.”

A journalist continued to question Abrams, “so he (Guido) isn’t interim president?”  

“He is interim president but he’s not able to exercise the powers of the office because Maduro is still there,” responded Abrams. “I think it’s logical.”

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