Venezuela: Year of hope, political defeats with Guaido
Opposition leader goes from disputing legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro to disputing presidency of National Assembly
On Jan. 23, 2019, Juan Guaido declared himself president of Venezuela in a square in Caracas in front of hundreds of followers.
In that moment he began to become a surprising hope for those who were looking for a change in the South American country.
The opposition apparently joined a figure that suddenly began to add support and international recognition.
In this context added to the sanctions of the United States and its threat of the use force, the actions of the Lima Group, the activation of the TIAR (Inter‑American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance), opposition demonstrations and a hypothetical rebellion inside the Armed Forces should have led to the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro.
However, over the course of a year, Guaido went from disputing the legitimacy of Maduro to disputing the legitimacy as president of the National Assembly, the position he needs to be able to continue with his strategy of being the self-proclaimed interim president of the country.
The failure to deliver the so-called ‘humanitarian aid’
On Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, one month after Guaido’s self-proclamation, it seemed to be the day Maduro would fall.
Tons of food and medicine would enter the country in 20 trucks to "alleviate" the "humanitarian crisis" in Venezuela, and for that reason, Guaido called on the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) to "side with the people."
He asked them (FANB) to ignore Maduro and let in aid that did not comply with the requirements of the UN and the Red Cross to be considered "humanitarian."
But neither the trucks could enter, nor the FANB did not know Maduro as a president and he did not resign his position.
Some accused the Venezuelan government of burning the "aid," but there were videos that showed those who burned the load were vandals who threw Molotov cocktail from the Colombian side of the border.
In November, two days after being dismissed from his position, Humberto Calderon Berti, who was a Guaido representative in Colombia since Jan. 29, accused people from the circle near the self-proclaimed president of corruption in the money management of humanitarian aid.
He states that those close to Guaido manage funds of unknown origin and destination, and his "embassy" staff discovered "double billing" cases.
Leopoldo Lopez's release
On Tuesday, April 30, 2019, Guaido achieved the release of Leopoldo Lopez and next to him he announced the “Final Phase of Operation Freedom,” which he explained, consists of three stages: “end of usurpation, transition period and free elections.”
That same day he called on his followers and the military to “take the streets of Venezuela,” however, the call did not have the expected results.
Despite the release of Lopez had a high symbolic content in implying that Guaido could achieve things that seemed impossible but in the medium- long term the release has not contributed anything objective to getting Maduro out of power.
Political failures have generated pessimism and skepticism in opposition supporters.
Photos with Colombia’s paramilitaries
On Sept. 3, a scandal broke out in Venezuela and Colombia that directly involves Guaido.
The Chavistas, who have always pointed to the right-wing and Colombian paramilitaries to conspire against the Venezuelan government, seemed to be right: Diosdado Cabello, president of the country's Constituent Assembly, showed pictures of Guaido with two Colombia’s paramilitaries.
According to Semana magazine, the photos would have been taken Feb. 22, a day before the delivery of the “humanitarian aid” when Guaido appeared unexpectedly at a concert on the border city of Cucuta, Colombia.
On Sept. 13, Guaido said he did not ask for a background to take a picture and that “the regime” sought to “distract attention from the central crisis” which he says is “the protection of narco-military, paramilitary and narco-terrorist” in Venezuela.
The dissolution of the threat of military intervention
The hypothetical military intervention was one of the threats of the Venezuelan opposition and the Lima Group to get Maduro out of power.
This option, difficult but not impossible, gained credibility when the White House National Security Aadviser was John Bolton.
Bolton, who was one of the promoters of the Iraq War in 2003, was dismissed Sept. 10, and was replaced by Robert O'Brien, with whom sanctions against Venezuela will increase but without the use of strength.
Division inside the Venezuelan opposition
The division in the Venezuelan opposition is something that comes from the time of Hugo Chavez -- not something that is limited only to a current dispute over the control of the National Assembly.
In the beginning, it was relative unity inside the opposition when Guaido appeared with a hypothetical strategy to get Maduro out of power.
But things have changed during the year. The self-proclaimed president has deflated, he no longer manages to convene mass demonstrations and that has made it difficult to keep opposition sectors together.
In addition, in 2020 there will be legislative elections and it is expected that the radical sectors of the opposition will not participate and discredit the elections, while moderates will surely try to obtain seats to make an opposition in an institutional and national way.
If elections are held and Guaido does not participate, it will be even more difficult to maintain his strategy of being “interim president” because he needs to be president of the National Assembly to do so; but if he participates, he would be legitimizing an electoral process organized by the government that he says he does not know.
In either case his position will continue to weaken, for that reason his new challenge, from the point of view of his interests, is to reinvent his political leadership.
At this time it is not even clear that if Guaido is the president of the National Assembly because of the legitimacy of the position is being disputed with Luis Parra, an opposition deputy of a moderate sector, who was elected to lead the legislature with the support of the ruling party Jan. 5.
Guaido, who accuses Parra of bbeing "Chavista," was "elected" again by his allies as "president" of the National Assembly in an impromptu session at the headquarters of the newspaper El Nacional.
* The author is a political scientist from the National University of Colombia with a master's degree in Theory and Criticism of Culture from the Carlos III University of Madrid, Spain.
*Juan Felipe Velez Rojas from Colombia contributed to the story
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