CARACAS – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is preparing to take his oath of office on Thursday before the Supreme Court, but not without protest from the opposition-led congress and exiled Venezuelans living in Florida.
As Maduro plans to start his second six-year term, the opposition-led congress opened its session Saturday promising to continue to stand against Maduro's socialist revolution and his congressional assembly.
The opposition-led assembly unanimously designated Juan Guaido as the leader of the legislature. The 35-year-old engineer is a member of the Popular Will, or Voluntad Popular in Spanish, a hardline opposition political party founded by Leopoldo Lopez, a politician who remains under house arrest.
On Monday, Guaido met with student leaders from various universities nationwide and tweeted they discussed different proposals to restore democracy in Venezuela.
"My call is for the Venezuelan people, we have to unite and work together to rescue our country," Guaido tweeted.
While Maduro's administration considers Guaido's role illegitimate, many U.S. allies consider Maduro's May re-election a sham. The single party process prevented opponents from running and ignored widespread accusations of fraud.
Amid the political turmoil, Venezuelan Supreme Court Justice Christian Zerpa, a socialist loyalist and Maduro supporter, fled to South Florida and was in Orlando with his wife and daughter Sunday. During an interview with EVTV, he denounced Maduro's re-election.
"I think the president, Nicolas Maduro, does not deserve a second chance, because the election he supposedly won was not a free election," Zerpa said during the interview in Orlando.
Zerpa said Maduro was incompetent, and blamed him for the poor state of the public companies. He also Maduro had turned the Venezuelan Supreme Court, a group of appointed socialist party members, into a tool that lacked judicial independence.
"Nicolas Maduro doesn't know the constitution, and he doesn't know the laws," Zerpa said. "This has no other name than a dictatorship."
Meanwhile in Venezuela, Maduro's administration claimed Zerpa was facing allegations of sexual harassment. Zerpa denied the claim and said he was running away, because he no longer wanted to support Maduro, a move that could cause him his life.
"I will not be able to return to Venezuela," Zerpa said. "I am a dead man."