The U.S. and about a dozen other countries recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela on Wednesday, even as President Nicolás Maduro maintained his grip on the office.
But is that even a thing? Under ordinary principles of constitutional and international law, can one country simply declare that someone who manifestly isn’t the president of the country actually is, and act accordingly?
Well, no. Not really. Maduro is a terrible president who has not only broken the Venezuelan economy but also repeatedly broken the Venezuelan constitution himself. His re-election in 2018 by a reported 67.8 percent wasn’t free or fair. It’s defensible as a matter of foreign policy for the U.S. to seek his ouster.
But the constitutional argument that Maduro isn’t really president is nothing more than a fig leaf for regime change. Even as fig leaves go, it’s particularly wispy and minimal. The U.S. policy is, in practice, to seek regime change in Venezuela. It would be better to say so directly. [Continue reading…]