Juan Guaidó

Juan Guaidó
Juan Guaidó in Group of Lima 2019 cropped.jpg
Acting President of Venezuela
Assumed office
23 January 2019
Disputed with Nicolás Maduro
Preceded by Nicolás Maduro
10th President of the National Assembly of Venezuela
Assumed office
5 January 2019
Preceded by Omar Barboza
Federal Deputy for Vargas
Assumed office
5 January 2016
Personal details
Born
Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez

(1983-07-28) 28 July 1983 (age 35)
La Guaira, Venezuela
Political party Voluntad Popular
(Popular Will)
Spouse(s) Fabiana Rosales[1]
Children 1 daughter (Miranda Guaidó)
Education Andrés Bello Catholic University
George Washington University
Profession Engineer
Signature

Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez (Venezuelan Spanish pronunciation: [hwaŋ heˈɾaɾðo ɣwai̯ˈðo ˈmaɾ.kes] (About this soundlisten); born 28 July 1983)[2] is a Venezuelan politician who has been serving as President of the National Assembly of Venezuela and as the partially recognized acting President of Venezuela since January 2019. He is a member of the centrist social-democratic Popular Will party, and serves as a federal deputy to the National Assembly, representing the state of Vargas.

During the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis, Guaidó took a public oath to serve as acting President of Venezuela, contesting the leadership of Nicolás Maduro. As of February 2019, his position on holding the acting presidency, based on an interpretation of Article 233 of the Constitution of Venezuela, has been recognized by more than 50 governments.[3][4] The Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) rejected the National Assembly decisions[5] while the Supreme Tribunal of Justice of Venezuela in exile welcomed him as acting president.[6]

Shortly after Guaidó became President of the National Assembly, he was briefly detained by authorities.[7] He has also been prohibited from leaving the country, has had his assets frozen, is the subject of a probe into accusations that he helped foreign countries interfere in internal matters,[8] and faces threats and intimidation from government officials in Venezuela.

Early life and education

Part of a large family,[a] and of modest origins,[1] Guaidó was raised in a middle-class home by his parents, Wilmer and Norka.[11] His father was an airline pilot[b] and his mother, a teacher.[9] One grandfather was a sergeant of the Venezuelan National Guard while another grandfather was a captain in the Venezuelan Navy.[12]

Guaidó lived through the 1999 Vargas tragedy which left his family temporarily homeless;[2] he lost friends and his school.[13] The tragedy, according to his colleagues, influenced his political views after the then-new government of Hugo Chávez allegedly provided ineffective response to the disaster.[14] He said, "I saw that if I wanted a better future for my country I had to roll up my sleeves and give my life to public service."[13] He earned his high school diploma in 2000[15] and earned his undergraduate degree in 2007 in industrial engineering from Andrés Bello Catholic University. He also completed two postgraduate programs in public administration at George Washington University in the United States and at the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración in Caracas.[2][15]

He is married to Fabiana Rosales, a journalist,[16] and they have one daughter.[17]

Activism

Guaidó said, after "it became clear that under Chávez the country was drifting toward totalitarianism",[13] he helped found the student-led political movement that protested the Venezuelan government's decision not to renew the broadcasting license of independent television network RCTV[18] with other prominent student leaders when he was 23—the year he graduated from Andrés Bello Catholic University.[19] They also protested broader attempted government reforms by Chávez, including the 2007 constitutional referendum, which Chávez lost.[20]

Together with Leopoldo López and other politicians, Guaidó was a founding member of the Popular Will political party in 2009;[21] the party is affiliated with Socialist International, although his peers characterize Guaidó as a centrist, and Maduro places him on the right of the political spectrum.[22][23]

In 2014, Guaidó was the party's national coordinator.[24] López, one of Venezuela's main opposition politicians and under house arrest as of January 2019, "mentored Guaidó for years" according to CNN,[25] and the two speak several times daily.[1] As Lopez's protegé, Guaidó was well known in his party and the Assembly, but not internationally;[26] López named Guaidó to lead the Popular Will party in 2019.[27]

Venezuelan National Assembly

In the 2010 Venezuelan parliamentary election, Guaidó was elected as an alternate national deputy,[28] and was elected to a full seat in the National Assembly in the 2015 elections with 26% of the vote.[29][30] It is an impoverished area, and a majority of employers in Vargas are government companies; until Guaidó's 2015 election, chavista rule in the state was unchallenged.[14]

Relatively unknown until 2019, Guaidó was one of several politicians who went on a hunger strike to demand elections in 2015.[25] In 2017, he was named head of the Comptroller's Commission of the National Assembly and in 2018, he was named head of the legislature's opposition.[15] He contributed to research at the University of Arizona, giving testimony to analysts on the working conditions of Latin American politicians and, specifically, institutional crisis and political change.[24]

In the National Assembly, Guaidó investigated Maduro administration corruption cases, and worked with independent organizations to recover money stolen from the Venezuelan public.[14] He participated in the 2017 Venezuelan protests and was left scarred on his neck after he was shot with rubber bullets.[27] In January 2018 he was sworn in as the Leader of the Majority in the National Assembly.[31][32] He spoke at the Latin American Peace Summit held in Brazil at the start of August 2018, representing Venezuela. In October 2018, he was a pallbearer for Fernando Albán.[33]

President of the National Assembly

Guaidó in a 1 February Voice of America interview

Guaidó was elected President of the National Assembly of Venezuela in December 2018, and was sworn in on 5 January 2019.[34] Relatives of imprisoned politicians were invited to the inauguration, gathering on the balcony behind the banner of Juan Requesens.[12] He is the youngest to lead the opposition.[10] Shortly after assuming the presidency of the legislature, Guaidó took actions towards forming a transitional government.[35][36]

An often-fragmented opposition unified around Guaidó.[37][38] An article in Spain's El Pais says that two politicians were primarily responsible for the strategy that propelled Guaidó forward—Julio Borges (in exile[39]) and Leopoldo López (under house arrest)—in a plan elaborated after failed negotiations in the Dominican Republic [es] between representatives of chavismo and the opposition, and that took more than a year to come to fruition.[38] Bringing together Venezuelan Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann and politicians from different political parties, Borges led the effort with the Lima Group, while Antonio Ledezma and Carlos Vecchio led in the United States, and María Corina Machado and López kept pressure on in Venezuela.[38] David Smolansky and Freddy Guevara also put their weight behind Guaidó, and Henrique Capriles—initially distant—joined in support.[38]

Javier Corrales, professor and author,[c] adds further support that Guaidó's rise as a presidential figure was started in Venezuela, not by foreign pressure.[41] He said that the Venezuelan opposition had obtained "decisive support from (...) many quarters" for Guaidó, while they had been mostly isolated in the past, and he attributes this to a backlash against the interventionist policies of Chávez. According to Corrales, "Latin American governments are not opposing Venezuela merely because they are on the right; instead, they are now on the right, and criticizing Venezuela, in response to what Venezuela did to their countries."[41] Corrales states that Latin America is "filled with anti-Chavista sentiment" because "Venezuela's foreign policy has exported corruption, poverty and death".[41] Further, Corrales says the opposition mobilized, both nationally and internationally, to combat and denounce Chavism, to gather support for a transition. Corrales concludes that, rather than being the product of foreign forces, "Guaidó created the international response he wanted".[41]

Upon taking office, Guaidó vowed to oppose Maduro, and elaborated an eight-point action plan.[12][42][43] The plan, approved by the National Assembly, envisions three phases (end of usurpation, transitional government, and free elections), with eight key points:[44]

  1. Reaffirm usurpation of presidency [by Maduro]
  2. National Assembly assumes representation of Venezuela in the international community
  3. Create a transitional body to restore constitutional order, coordinated among legitimate authorities of civil society and armed forces
  4. Re-take power of designation from usurpers
  5. Promote recognition among international organizations
  6. Authorize humanitarian aid
  7. Create a fund for recuperating assets lost through corruption
  8. Approve a legislative agenda for the transition

Detention and release

While on his way to a 13 January 2019 public assembly, Guaidó was briefly detained by members of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN),[7] and released 45 minutes later.[9] The Lima Group[45] and the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, condemned the act.[46] The government said the detention was carried out unilaterally by the SEBIN personnel,[47] and twelve SEBIN officials were charged.[48]

Guaidó declared that the events demonstrated that there was a break in the chain of command in the Armed Forces, and that Maduro was not in control.[49]

Acting President of Venezuela

Assumption of presidential powers and duties

Nations recognizing presidential power:
  Venezuela
  Neutral
  No statement
  Recognize Guaidó
  Support National Assembly
  Recognize Maduro

Article 233 of the Constitution of Venezuela provides that, "when the president-elect is absolutely absent before taking office, a new election shall take place [...] and until the president is elected and takes office, the interim president shall be the president of the National Assembly".[50]

After what he and others described as the "illegitimate" inauguration of Maduro on 10 January 2019, Guaidó challenged Maduro's claim to the presidency.[51] The National Assembly declared Guaidó had assumed the powers and duties of president, and continued to plan to remove Maduro.[51][52] They called for demonstrations on 23 January, the 61st anniversary of the overthrow of dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez.[5] Guaidó told the Wall Street Journal that "[i]t's not about twisting arms, breaking kneecaps, but rather holding out a hand" and offered "amnesty to military officers who joined efforts for a transition in power".[10] With massive numbers of demonstrators coming out on 23 January in cities throughout Venezuela and across the world,[53][54] Guaidó swore "before Almighty God ... to formally assume the power of the national executive office as the president of Venezuela".[55]

The US, Canada, Brazil and several Latin American countries supported Guaidó as acting president the same day; Russia, China, and Cuba supported Maduro.[5][56] Maduro accused the US of backing a coup and said he would cut ties with them.[55] Guaidó denies the coup allegations, saying peaceful volunteers back his movement.[57] In December 2018, Guaidó had traveled to Washington D.C. where he met with OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, and then on 14 January to Colombia for a Lima Group meeting, in which Maduro's mandate was rejected.[58] According to an article in El Pais, the January Lima Group meeting and the stance taken by Canada's Chrystia Freeland were key.[58] El Pais describes Trump's election—coinciding with the election of conservative presidents in Colombia and Brazil, along with deteriorating conditions in Venezuela—as "a perfect storm", influenced by hawks in the Trump administration.[58] Venezuelans Carlos Vecchio, Julio Borges and Gustavo Tarre were consulted, and the Trump administration decision to back Guaidó formed on 22 January, according to El Pais.[58]

As of February 2019, Guaidó is recognized as the acting president of Venezuela by more than 50 countries.[3][4] Since assuming the acting presidency on 23 January, Guaidó has used a slogan, "We're doing well, very well, Venezuela!" (Spanish: ¡Vamos bien, muy bien, Venezuela!).[59][60][61]

Intimidation and threats

Guaidó with his wife, Fabiana, and daughter, Miranda, in 2019

On 29 January, the TSJ launched a probe of Guaidó, froze his assets, and prohibited him from leaving the country.[62] The travel ban and freezing of assets was described as unconstitutional by Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers for the United Nations Diego García Sayán.[63]

While announcing the Plan País at the Central University of Venezuela on 31 January, Guaidó said special police had come to his home and asked for Fabiana, his wife. He then gave a general warning, saying that he would hold anyone who threatened his 20-month-old daughter personally accountable for such actions.[64] He was holding his daughter when he gave the announcement, saying that they had "crossed a red line".[65]

Maduro said Guaidó was a clown with a "virtual mandate" who could be imprisoned.[66]

During a speech given at the start of the judicial year, Maduro said, "I was thinking about sending my assistant to the self-proclaimed to end his life"; seconds later Maduro said that "it was a joke" and that "they don't know what humor is".[67] Diosdado Cabello, the president of the 2017 Constituent National Assembly and number two in the country,[68] made another threat against Guaidó on 5 February in a public, videotaped discussion before the Constituent Assembly.[68][69] Multiple news outlets reported that Cabello said that Guaidó had "never heard the whistle of a nearby bullet, you don't know what it feels like when a bullet hits three centimeters from you".[68][69][70] Cabello was reported to have asked Guaidó how far he was willing to go, because they were willing, saying that "We will not care about anything."[69] Guaidó's response was, "Caracas is the most violent capital in the world ... we have had political assassinations ... they have killed more than 40 children. Venezuelans have had to listen already to too many whistling bullets produced by a regime that does not care about the lives, the welfare of Venezuelans ... who need medicine and food ... you will not stop us with veiled threats."[71]

On 10 February, Guaidó said that his wife's grandmother was threatened by colectivos.[72] Guaidó told Euronews: "I am not worried about this costing my life or my freedom. If I give my life to serve the people. We know the risks we face. Our biggest fear is that what’s happening in Venezuela becomes normal."[57]

The Lima Group has stated that Guaidó and his family face "serious and credible threats" in Venezuela. Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said that "any violent actions against Guiado, his wife, or family" would be met by all "legal and political mechanisms."[73]

During the 2019 Venezuelan blackout, Tarek Saab called for an investigation of Guaidó, alleging that he had "sabotaged" the electric sector; Guaidó said that Venezuela's largest-ever power outage was "the product of the inefficiency, the incapability, the corruption of a regime that doesn't care about the lives of Venezuelans".[74]

Roberto Marrero, Guaidó's chief of staff, was arrested by SEBIN during a raid on his home in the early morning hours of 21 March.[75] He was accused of terrorism and involvement in the 2019 Venezuelan blackout.[76] During the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis, the US had repeatedly warned Maduro not to go after Guaidó; Haaretz reported that the arrest of Guaidó's number-two person was a test of the US.[75] A risk consultant for London's IHS Markit, Diego Moya-Ocampos, said to Bloomberg that "the regime is testing the international community and its repeated warnings against laying a hand on Maduro's rival [Guaidó] ... if they can’t touch him, they'll go after those close to him."[77] Nicholas Watson of Teneo Intelligence told The Wall Street Journal that "Marrero's arrest looks like a desperate attempt to break Guaidó's momentum .. The weakness in the regime's position is visible in the fact that arresting Guaidó himself would be seen as a step too far."[78] Guaidó called it a "vile and vulgar kidnapping", adding "Either Nicolas Maduro doesn't dare to arrest me, or he's not the one giving orders."[77] According to The Wall Street Journal, Guaidó said he had received calls from security force officials disclaiming any involvement in the arrest; he replied that they need say no more, per the 2019 Venezuelan Amnesty Law; he said the "incident was indicative of divides within the Maduro regime".[78]

Position on dialogue with Maduro

Guaidó has said that the National Assembly will not participate in dialogue with Maduro. His reasoning is that has already been done, "within and outside of Venezuela, in private and in public, alone and with international companions".[79] He says the result in every instance has been more repression, with Maduro taking advantage of the process to strengthen the dictatorship.[79] Offering as examples Leopoldo López, the detention of Juan Requesens, Julio Borges (in exile) and others, he says if Maduro really wanted dialogue, he would release political prisoners.[79] In an appeal to Uruguay and Mexico, he asked those countries to join him, and said he refused to participate in negotiations whose aim is to maintain in power those who commit human rights violations.[80]

Referencing a letter Maduro wrote asking Pope Francis to assist, Guaidó refused the Vatican's offer to mediate if both parties accepted, calling the attempt a "false dialogue", and saying that the Vatican could assist those who "refused to see the Venezuelan reality".[81] Guaidó said that Maduro did not respect conditions of 2016 negotiations, and suggested the Pope could encourage Maduro to allow an orderly transition of power.[82] Corriere della Sera cited a 7 February 2019 reply from Pope Francis addressed to "Mr. Maduro", in which Pope Francis also stated that what had been agreed in earlier negotiations (open a channel for humanitarian aid, hold free elections, free political prisoners, and re-establish the constitutionally-elected National Assembly[83]) had not been followed.[84][85]

Guaidó characterizes Uruguay as failing to defend democracy, even as he says "[b]etween 2015 and 2017, the number of extrajudicial executions by the repressive machine was more than 9,200, more than three times the number of disappeared in Chile during the Pinochet military dictatorship."[79] He said Uruguay's stance was surprising, considering Venezuela has 300,000 starving people at risk of dying.[79]

Personnel

Mike Pence meets with Carlos Vecchio, Julio Borges, and other Washington-based Venezuelan representatives on 29 January 2019

According to El Pais, Guaidó has had help, along with National Assembly vice-presidents Stalin González and Edgar Zambrano, from young representatives of various political parties: Miguel Pizarro for humanitarian aid, Carlos Paparoni heading a Finance Commission, and Marialbert Barrios working with embassies.[38] Delsa Solórzano worked with Luisa Ortega Díaz on the Amnesty Law.[38] David Smolansky is the OAS coordinator for the Venezuelan Migrant and Refugee crisis.[86]

Carlos Vecchio was accredited by Pompeo as the Guaidó administration's diplomatic envoy to the US.[87] Gustavo Tarre Briceño was named Venezuela's Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States,[88] and ratified by the National Assembly according to the constitution.[89][90] Julio Borges was named to represent Venezuela in the Lima Group.[91] The National Assembly made more than a dozen[92][93][94] other diplomatic appointments, including Elisa Trotta Gamus to Argentina,[95][96] María Teresa Belandria to Brazil,[97] and Humberto Calderón Berti to Colombia.[98][99] Diplomats to Europe and the Dominican Republic were named on 19 February.[100]

The National Assembly authorized Guaidó's appointment of a new ad hoc directors board of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), of Citgo, Pdvsa Holding Inc, Citgo Holding Inc. and Citgo Petroleum Corporation. The appointed members of PDVSA were Simón Antúnez, Gustavo J. Velasquez, Carlos José Balza, Ricardo Prada and David Smolansky. Likewise, the appointed members of Citgo Holding y Citgo Petroleum Corporation were Luisa Palacios, Edgar Rincón, Luis Urdaneta, Ángel Olmeta, Andrés Padilla and Rick Esser.[101] With Citgo under the control of Guaidó's administration, the US Department of Treasury extended its license to operate in spite of US sanctions.[102]

Guaidó named José Ignacio Hernández as special solicitor, making Hernández the first official named with state power.[103] Ricardo Hausmann was named as Venezuela's representative to the Inter-American Development Bank,[104] who recognized Hausmann as a replacement for Maduro's representative.[105]

According to AP News, Tarek William Saab said the "appointments by Guaido and his National Assembly are part of an illegal power grab backed by foreign governments"[106] and opened a probe into the ambassador and oil industry appointees; a magistrate of "Venezuela’s pro-Maduro Supreme Court later read a statement ... nullifying the appointments and accusing the National Assembly of overstepping its constitutional powers".[106]

Domestic affairs

Guaidó at a 2 February demonstration

In a 30 January New York Times editorial, Guaidó said,

"We have one of the highest homicide rates in the world, which is aggravated by the government’s brutal crackdown on protesters. This tragedy has prompted the largest exodus in Latin American history, with three million Venezuelans now living abroad. ... Under Mr. Maduro at least 240 Venezuelans have been murdered at marches, and there are 600 political prisoners."[13]

He said his response to these problems was three-fold: restore the democratic National Assembly, gain international support, and allow for the people's right to self-determination.[13]

Guaidó announced on 31 January, before a packed theatre at the Central University of Venezuela,[107] that the National Assembly had approved a commission to implement a plan for the reconstruction of Venezuela.[108][109] Called Plan País (Plan for the Country), it has been under elaboration for some time, and was initially developed through a series of public and private meetings in the US and Venezuela.[110][111] According to Guaidó, the aims of the plan are to "stabilize the economy, attend to the humanitarian emergency immediately, rescue public services, and overcome poverty".[112] It has provisions to revitalize PDVSA, restore the health sector, and offer assistance to the most poverty-stricken.[107] Implementation of the plan requires Maduro's exit.[110]

Elections

Guaidó told CNN in February 2019 that he would call elections 30 days after Maduro leaves power.[113] He has not stated if he will run for president when elections occur,[57] but said that "talking about a presidential candidacy separates him from his role at this time".[114]

The Statute Governing the Transition to Democracy to Re-establish the Validity of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Spanish: Estatuto que Rige la Transición a la Democracia para Restablecer la Vigencia de la Constitución de la República Bolivariana De Venezuela) was approved on 5 February,[115] and the National Assembly second vice-president Stalin González announced that a commission to set a route towards elections was established on 6 March 2019.[116]

Humanitarian aid

Guaidó and Sebastián Piñera, on 22 February 2019 at Venezuela Aid Live

In a Euronews interview, Guaidó said that hospitals in Venezuela lacked basic supplies and that "children were dying due to malnutrition".[57] He has made bringing humanitarian aid to the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who could die if aid does not arrive a priority, and a test of the military's allegiance.[117] The day after assuming the acting presidency, Guaidó requested humanitarian aid for Venezuela from the US and from the United Nations.

Guaidó said Venezuela's neighbors, in a "global coalition to send aid to Venezuela", will help get humanitarian aid and medicine into the country; products will be shipped to neighboring ports and brought overland via convoys.[118] He said that the 250,000 people whose lives are in danger will be the recipients of the first phase of the humanitarian effort.[119]

Amnesty Law

On 25 January, Guaidó offered an amnesty law, approved by the National Assembly, for military personnel and authorities who help to restore constitutional order.[121] He suggested that if Maduro gives up power, he may receive amnesty.[122] Over his first weekend, he held another public assembly, asking supporters to disseminate the Amnesty Law throughout the country to military, police and other functionaries.[123][124] On 30 January, demonstrators took to the streets across the country to encourage the military to allow humanitarian aid and reject Maduro.[125] Maduro also held meetings with the military; top military command remains loyal to Maduro as of February 2019.[125]

In an editorial published by the New York Times on the evening of 30 January, Guaidó explained that the Amnesty Law would only apply to individuals who were not found to have committed crimes against humanity.[65]

Finance and economy

Guaidó asked the Bank of England and British Prime Minister Theresa May not to return to the Maduro administration the £1.2 billion in gold reserves the UK holds for Venezuela, and to allow the opposition to access it instead.[126][127] In the same week, the US Treasury levied sanctions against PDVSA[128] and transferred control of some Venezuelan assets to Guaidó.[129]

Guaidó said the Maduro administration was attempting to move some of the country's assets to Uruguay, "to keep stealing from the people of Venezuela".[130] On 5 February, Paparoni announced that the transfer from Portugal to Uruguay had been stopped.[131]

Guaidó seeks to open up the economy by allowing foreign, private oil companies greater participation in ventures with PDVSA;[132] the requirement for 51% PDVSA ownership in joint ventures would be dropped.[133] Pledging to honor "legal" and "financial" debt, Carlos Vecchio said that agreements in which Venezuela pays debt with oil (signed by the Maduro administration) may not be honored.[132]

Foreign affairs

Juan Guaidó with Colombian president Ivan Duque and US vice president Mike Pence in February 2019

In an interview with Christiane Amanpour, Guaidó did not rule out accepting support from the US armed forces, but said that pressure was being applied in every other way possible to avoid coming to that.[134]

Guaidó said there is room for long term Chávez/Maduro allies like Russia and China in Venezuela, adding that legal security under a new plan for the country would benefit all businesses, including theirs.[107][135] He has approached China to establish diplomatic ties, stating "China’s support will be very important in boosting our country’s economy and future development."[136] According to Euronews, he says he has been "working to convince China and Russia that it was in their economic interest to withdraw support from Maduro".[57]

According to CNN, following a long history of Fidel Castro's interest in the country, "Venezuelan oil is the lifeblood of Cuban economy, under a barter system where Cuba receives billions of dollars of crude in exchange for Cuban doctors, teachers, sports trainers, and military and intelligence advisers."[137] Guaidó has vowed that Cuban influence in Venezuela will end.[137] Referring to Cubans as "brothers", he said that Cuban individuals are welcome to stay in the country, but not in decision-making positions, and not in the armed forces.[138] Former President Hugo Chávez severed relations with Israel more than ten years ago, favoring support for Palestine during Operation Cast Lead; Guaidó seeks to restore relations with Israel.[139]

Guaidó has supported Venezuela's sovereignty claim of Guayana Esequiba.[140]

Latin American tour 2019

Juan Guaidó with the Vice-president of Brazil, Hamilton Mourão

Guaidó defied the restriction imposed by the Maduro administration on him leaving Venezuela, and attended Richard Branson's February 2019 Venezuela Live Aid concert in Cúcuta, Colombia,[141] whose purpose was to raise funds and awareness for humanitarian aid to Venezuela. In a move that tested Maduro's authority, Guaidó was met by Colombian president Iván Duque, and welcomed by a crowd chanting, "Juan arrived!"[141] Amid continuing tension, and having failed to get humanitarian aid into Venezuela, Guaidó and US vice president Pence attended a 25 February meeting of the Lima Group in Bogotá.[142][143] From there, he embarked on a regional tour to meet with the presidents of Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Ecuador,[144] and discuss ways to rebuild Venezuela and defeat Maduro.[145]

Guaidó's trip was approved by Venezuela's National Assembly, as required by the Constitution of Venezuela.[146] Because he left the country under a travel restriction placed upon him by the Maduro administration, he could face prison upon his return to Venezuela.[144] Maduro said that Guaidó was welcome to return to Venezuela, but would have to face justice in the courts for breaching his travel ban.[147] Guaidó announced that he planned to return to Venezuela despite the threats of imprisonment, and said Maduro's "regime" was "weak, lacking support in Venezuela and international recognition".[148]

Guaidó returned to Caracas from Panama via a commercial flight;[149] the Washington Post described his "triumphant return" to "wild cheers from supporters" at Venezuela's main airport at Maiquetía, Vargas state on 4 March.[150] He proceeded from the airport to an anti-government demonstration—organized in advance on social media—in Las Mercedes, Caracas, where he addressed a crowd of thousands,[149] offered a tribute to people who had lost their lives in the border clashes beginning on 23 February, and said that immigration officials had "greeted him at the airport with the words 'welcome, president'."[151] He added: "It is evident that after the threats, somebody did not follow orders. Many did not follow orders. The chain of command [in the government security forces] is broken", according to the BBC.[151]

Public perception

Argentine writer and journalist Andrés Oppenheimer said that Guaidó is "the most courageous and inspiring political figure that has emerged in Latin America in years".[152] A Time reporter described Guaidó as charismatic, saying that he had "unified a divided opposition".[153] He is known for "building unity among fellow legislators", according to a Bloomberg article.[1] Michael Shifter said that he "has tried to reach out to the military, tried to unify the opposition and tried to reach Chavista folks as well".[10] The Wall Street Journal quoted Father Alfredo Infante, who said that people in the barrios "feel connected to Guaidó in a way they haven't with other opposition leaders. He comes from a poor background, and looks like he belongs in the barrio."[154]

An article in The Nation calls Guaidó a "second-string politician" who "simply declared himself acting president" in a brazen power grab.[155] The Guardian said the UK's Emily Thornberry had raised concerns that among the governments that supported Guaidó were those of far-right leaders; Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro and the United States' Donald Trump.[127]

Venezuelan lawyer and columnist Gustavo Tovar-Arroyo, who was active with Guaidó in the early days of the student protests against Hugo Chávez, described Guaidó and Guevara as the "conciliators" of the student movement, saying that Guaidó had been a force for conciliation in the defeat of Chávez's 2007 Venezuelan constitutional referendum, the 2015 Venezuelan parliamentary election that delivered defeat to Maduro, and that he was named [acting president] at a time when Venezuela needed conciliation.[156]

Vox interviewed Ronal Rodriguez, an expert on Venezuelan politics, who said in January 2019 that Guaidó is perceived in Venezuela as "uncharismatic"; Rodriguez argued that photographs of Guaidó at public addresses made him appear like the former US President Barack Obama.[157] The Guardian noted that Guaidó had used the same "rallying cry" as Obama's "Yes we can": "Sí, se puede!".[107][158]

Polls

Reuters in 2013 described Venezuelan polls as being "notoriously controversial and divergent".[159] The Wall Street Journal described Datanálisis as "a respected pollster in Venezuela" in March 2019.[154]

Polling company Dates Location Number
polled
Results
Meganálisis[160] 11–14 March 2019 16 Venezuelan states,
32 cities
1,100 89% want Maduro to leave the presidency
Datanálisis[161] Published
2 March
Guaidó approval at 61%; Maduro all-time low at 14%
In an election, Guaidó would win 77% to Maduro's 23%
Invamer[162] 7–11 February 2019 20 Colombian cities 1,008 70% of Colombians surveyed had a favorable view of Guaidó, 93% had a negative impression of Maduro
Meganálisis[163][164] 30 January –
1 February 2019
16 Venezuelan states,
32 cities
1,030 84.6% recognized Guaidó as acting president, 11.2% undecided, 4.1% say Maduro is president
Hercon Consultores[165] 25–30 January 2019 999 81.9% recognized Guaidó as president, 13.4% said Maduro was president, 4.6% undecided
Meganálisis[166] 24–25 January 2019 16 Venezuelan states,
32 cities
870 83.7% recognized Guaidó as president, 11.4% undecided, 4.8% recognized Maduro as president
Meganálisis[167] 19–20 January 2019 900 81.4% hoped that Guaidó would be sworn in on 23 January, 84.2% supported a transitional government to replace Maduro's government
Hercon Consultores[168] 15–19 January 2019 1,100 79.9% agreed with Maduro leaving the presidency. To the National Assembly swearing in Guaidó as acting president, 68.6% agreed and 19.4% disagreed.

Electoral history

2010 parliamentary vote

Candidate Party Votes % Result
Oswaldo Vera PSUV 84 241
54.82%
Deputy
Simón Escalona Reserve deputy
Bernardo Guerra MUD 66 553
43.31%
Deputy
Juan Guaidó Reserve deputy
Others 2865
1.81%
Disqualified votes 4352
2.75%
Total valid votes 153 659
63.86%

2012 MUD primary

Candidate Party Votes % Result
José Manuel Olivares PJ 17547
61.1%
Nomination
Juan Guaidó VP 5184
18.1%
Not elected
Salomón Bassim PJ 2280
7.9%
Not elected
Arquímides Rivero GDV 1819
6.3%
Not elected
Ramón Díaz Ind. 1625
5.7%
Not elected
Luis Pino CC 264
0.9%
Not elected
Total valid votes 28 719

2015 parliamentary vote

Candidate Party Votes % Result
Milagros Eulate MUD 98 530
26.29%
Deputy
Juan Guaidó MUD 97 492
26.01%
Deputy
María Carneiro PSUV 84 872
22.64%
Not elected
José Pinto PSUV 83 462
22.27%
Not elected
Jesús Sánchez DR 2098
0.55%
Not elected
Estela Romero DR 1886
0.55%
Not elected
Disqualified votes 35 569
8.66%
Total valid votes 374 773
74.64%