Who is Juan Guaidó?

While the world is consumed with Brexit, Trump’s scandals, and numerous Twitter wars, the political turmoil in Venezuela remains a cogent yet underrepresented issue. Politicians recognisethe situationin Venezuela is “bad”, but the question remains how bad? As of 2019 under Nicolás Maduro’s government, there is 10 million percent inflation, nationwide food and medical shortages, and at least three million Venezuelans have fled the country. However, the future holds promise for Venezuela as a new leader steps into the spotlight: Juan Guaidó.

Juan Guaidó is a new face in the Venezuelan political arena. According to Delphos, a Caracas based polling firm, in mid-December of 2018 97% of Venezuelans had never heard of Juan Guaidó. However, four weeks later 60% of Venezuelans supported Guaidó and backed his attempts to become the new president. While this change in opinion is compelling, the question remains: who is Juan Guaidó?

Image Courtesy of Carlos García Soto via © Wikimedia, 2016, some rights reserved

 

The Makings of Juan Guaidó

 Most Venezuelans see Guaidó as their knight in shining armour, coming to battle to save the honour and integrity of the nation. Born in La Guaira to humble beginning, Guaidó, one of six children learned tragedy at a young age. In 1999 the Vargas Landslide hit his hometown, wiping it completely off the map. Many of his friends and neighbors died in the floods, leaving Guaidó deeply affected. This pivotal moment spurred his interest in politics, with Guaidó critical of former President Hugo Chavez who neglected to give sufficient aid to the people of La Guaira. Joining many activist movements during his time at the Catholic University in Venezuela, Guaidó ran and was elected into the congress in 2015. He began to establish himself as an active Leftist politician, joining a campaign with Leopoldo López, a Harvard-educated former mayor of Venezuela. Leading up to the 2018 political elections, Guaidó and López had openly spoken out against the Maduro administration. However, when elections were inevitably fixed once again, Guaidó and López took a stand, refusing to recognise Maduro as the President. López, and other opposition leaders such as María Corina Machado and Antonio Ledezm declared Juan Guaidó the new acting President of Venezuela. This declaration took the world by a storm, and changed the course of Venezuelan history.

 

How did this happen?

Many Venezuelans found this new declaration a surprise, with many people not even hearing of Guaidóuntil this 2018 January election. However, the opposition Leftist party has been planning this overtake for a year. In the summer of 2018, López began to hold strategy meetings at his home using encrypted channels. The main focus of these sessions were to plan how to refuse Maduro after the upcoming elections, and start to re-implement democratic structure into the Venezuelan government. WithGuaidóbeing relatively new to Venezuelan politics, he seemed almost the perfect candidate. Living a picture perfect life with a beautiful wife, a baby girl, and a handsome build, Guaidóappeared likeable, trustworthy, and a refreshing new face. Guaidóalso has many striking parallels to Barack Obama, causing many U.S politicians be warm to himquicker than expected. For example, Guaidóhas launched a rather western style campaign, with his key slogan being “yes we can.” In a recent CNN article, a rally was reviewed where Guaidóquestioned the crowd, “can we do it?” and the crowd, with fists pumping in the air, passionately screamed back, “yes we can.” This passion, and key slogan of “yes we can” was an essential component in the Obama campaign of 2008. From Guaidó’sloosely buttoned white shirt, to his big broad smile, even his physical mannerisms mimic those of Obama. Equally, Guaidó’s mother has picked up on the resemblances between her son and Obama remarking “he even walks like Obama.”  With these similarities establishing a solid foundation, what was left was to establish a constitutional justification for the presidency. Launching Guaidóas the new President, the plan was to appeal to the Venezuelan constitution, arguing that it was the constitutional right of the legislature to fill this “vacuum of power” left by the fraudulent January elections with a new President, Guaidó.

 

Will a GuaidóPresidency Survive?

While the launch of Guaidóproved successful with big western nations, gaining the backing of the U.S, most of the EU, Canada and 12 Latin nations, backlash from the Maduro administration was coming in fast. As a fear tactic, on the way to a rally in early February, Guaidówas abducted by masked men with assault weapons and taken into a Blue Ford Explorer. He later resurfaced, unharmed, but Guaidóand the Venezuelan public were shaken. This demonstration showed while the majority of the world is ready to help Venezuela make a comeback as a democratic nation, the road to Venezuelan self-sufficiency is one paved entirely of cobblestone: bumpy, uncertain, and easy to lose one’s footing. First and foremost, the major issue currently wracking the mind of Guaidóis how to obtain funds to start rebuilding the country. With Maduro refusing to tighten his iron grip on the Venezuelan oil industry, Guaidóis finding it challenging to make economic strides. Additionally, Maduro has repeatedly turned down foreign aid from other Latin American nations such as Brazil and Colombia. An important step for Guaidówill be re-establishing these humanitarian aid relationships, buildings a more stable and stronger Venezuela.

With all political, economic, and humanitarian outcomes up-in-the-air, the world must wait and see whether this promising shift towards Venezuelan democracy sticks, or whether it is washed away by the dominating and corrup power the nation has endured for far too long. Thus, the question becomes, “who is Juan Guaidó and does he have the power to save Venezuela?”

Banner photo: Image Courtesy of Voice of America via © Wikimedia, 2019, some rights reserved

 

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