Leader of Venezuela Congress says he is prepared to assume presidency

Juan Guaido, President of the Venezuelan National Assembly and lawmaker of the opposition party Popular Will (Voluntad Popular), speaks during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela January 10, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Leader of Venezuela Congress says he is prepared to assume presidency

  • The country’s constitution says a presidential vacancy can be filled by the head of the legislature, and some opposition activists have called on Guaido to assume the presidency

CARACAS: 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 Guaido, a lawmaker from the hard-line Popular Will opposition party who was elected to head the National Assembly on Jan. 5, said he would only take office with support of the armed forces. He also called for protests on Jan. 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 (UN) program office in Caracas.
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.
The Supreme Court and an all-powerful legislature called the Constituent Assembly have stripped Congress of its powers, meaning it does not have the capacity to remove the president as would a legislature in many countries.
Guaido’s comments, however, caused some confusion.
Luis Almagro, head of regional diplomatic group the Organization of American States, tweeted that Guaido had assumed the interim presidency of Venezuela. Guaido did not respond to a message seeking clarification.
The country’s perennially fractured opposition has made numerous failed attempts over the past 20 years to remove the ruling socialists. Now, opposition leaders have disavowed Maduro’s second term as illegitimate, and have called for the National Assembly to declare the presidency vacant.
The country’s constitution says a presidential vacancy can be filled by the head of the legislature, and some opposition activists have called on Guaido to assume the presidency.
Maduro’s allies were quick to denounce Guaido. Prisons Minister Iris Varela appeared to threaten to jail him, although she has previously threatened other opposition members who remain free. “Guaido, I already got your cell ready, with your uniform,” Varela wrote on Twitter.
The opposition has promised to keep up the pressure. Some 2,000 people gathered outside the UN site listening to opposition lawmakers and civil society leaders denounce Maduro as a “usurper.”
” is the only legitimate power that we have,” said Servando Valecillos, a 67-year-old salesman and one of the protesters.
Maduro’s critics accuse him of creating a dictatorship and destroying the OPEC nation’s economy.
Venezuela is experiencing the worst economic crisis in its history, with inflation headed toward 2 million percent. Some three million people have left the country amid chronic shortages of food and medicine.
Maduro says the country is victim of an “economic war” led by his political adversaries with the help of Washington.


India’s Supreme Court chief justice denies sexually harassing assistant

Updated 20 April 2019
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India’s Supreme Court chief justice denies sexually harassing assistant

  • “This is unbelievable,” Gogoi, India’s most powerful judge said
  • The allegations, dating from October, were carried in full by a number of major Indian online publications

MUMBAI: The chief justice of India’s Supreme Court, Ranjan Gogoi, on Saturday denied allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward a junior court assistant who worked in an office at his home and that she was subsequently victimized.
“This is unbelievable,” Gogoi, India’s most powerful judge, told a special hearing of the court he called on Saturday so that the allegations could be addressed. “I should not stoop low even in denying it.”
Gogoi said the events showed that India’s judiciary was under “serious threat” and was being destabilized by a larger conspiracy, without elaborating.
“There is some bigger force behind the woman,” he said.
The allegations, dating from October, were carried in full by a number of major Indian online publications on Saturday.
The 35-year-old woman, whose identity has not been publicly disclosed, wrote a letter to all 22 of the Supreme Court judges along with an affidavit detailing her allegations on Friday.
Those included a series of allegations that the woman and her family were victimized by a series of related actions by the authorities, including the termination of her employment, and the suspension of her husband and his brother, who worked in the Delhi police force.
She also says another brother of her husband’s had his Supreme Court job terminated and she also faced a “false and frivolous” bribery complaint, leading to her arrest and subsequent bail.
“Me and my family’s victimization is a consequence of my not agreeing to the sexual advances made by the Chief Justice of India, Justice Rangan Gogoi,” she said in the letter to the judges.
Justice Arun Mishra, who joined Gogoi on the bench for the special hearing, said the allegations were “wild and baseless.”
The court asked the media to show restraint in covering the case to avoid undermining the reputation and independence of the judiciary, though it decided not to issue a gag order.