Who is Juan Guaidó? The Young Engineer Leading Venezuela’s Opposition
Who is Juan Guaidó and how did he rise to the head of a movement to end Nicolas Maduro’s reign in Venezuela?
Juan Guaidó, a relatively unheard of 35-year-old Venezuelan politician, has suddenly taken Venezuela and the world by storm and is pitting world powers at odds with each other over politics in Venezuela. Guaidó declared himself as the interim president of the economic ravished Latin American nation barely three weeks into taking over as the leader of the opposition and head of the National Assembly.
His rise from obscurity has not only caught the world by surprise but also triggered a stand-off with President Nicolas Maduro that threatens to oust Maduro. After declaring himself as the interim-president to thousands of cheering supporters in Venezuela’s capital, Guaidó has taken the fight to the current president urging him to step down.
So Who is Juan Guaidó?
Born 28 July 1983, Guaidó is an engineer by profession. Raised in a middle-class home in the coastal town La Guairá, Guaidó went on to study engineering at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. He also completed two post-graduate programs in public administration at George Washington University in the U.S.
Guaidó is not new to the political stage. He first took an interest in politics while in college where he joined others in protesting against the then President Hugo Chavez over what they termed was a push to control the press. In 2009 he and opposition magnet Leopold Lopez founded a new political party called the Popular Will that sought to oppose the regime of the time.
The self-proclaimed interim president was first elected into the National Assembly in 2015 and named as its leader early this year. Guaidó assumed the reigns as the opposition leader as Lopez remained a political prisoner under house arrest.
Juan Guaidó’s Rise to Power
Timing and strategy have helped Guaidó’s rise to a position of influence in Venezuela and draw the attention and support of world powers. Deepening economic sanctions on the back of runaway inflation presented a perfect opportunity for the relatively unknown charismatic personality to venture deeper into politics all in the hopes of being the savior.
As the Venezuelan economy continues to worsen and show no signs of improvement the push for political change has continued to gain momentum and placed Maduro at increasing risk of an outside takeover. With Leopold unable to carry out his duties as the opposition leader, the opposition has slowly turned to Guaidó for guidance.
In his relatively short career as a politician, Guaidó has built unity among fellow opposition legislators. As the leader of the National Assembly, he vowed to oppose Maduro and announced an eight-point plan to take on Maduro which was approved by his fellow legislators in the National Assembly.
However, his biggest challenge is right in front of him as the country is in dire need of change but the country is still in the hands of Maduro who is ready to do anything to suppress any form of dissent.
The constitution of Venezuela stipulates that the President of the National Assembly can serve as the interim president pending a new election. However, that can only happen if the office of the president of the Republic is vacant.
US Support for Juan Guaidó
The backing of multiple international superpowers and most recently, the European Parliament, has played a significant part in boosting and legitimizing Guaidó’s controversial claim as Venezuela’s interim president. The U.S. is one of the key countries that is pushing for regime change in Venezuela, having already acknowledged Guaidó as the president of the Republic and given him $20 million in humanitarian aid, all to the outcry of Russia and China.
President Donald Trump has reiterated his total support for the self-proclaimed president, a move that has angered the current president Maduro. Washington has made it clear that all options are on the table as it seeks to ensure a return to democracy, which they believe can only happen with Maduro out of the picture.
The White House has made it clear that it will continue to maintain direct contact with Guaidó even as Venezuelan authorities open investigations into him that could lead to his arrest. The Maduro administration has even imposed a travel ban on Guaidó and frozen his assets as it seeks to curtail his ever-growing popularity.
The U.S. in response has imposed economic sanctions on Venezuela all in the effort of piling pressure on the Maduro administration.
However, Maduro has continued to remain firm at the helm of Venezuela, a move that has triggered protests in opposition strongholds.
Tensions have reached peak levels not only in Venezuela but also on the global scene. Russia, which is a strong supporter of the Maduro administration given its investment in the country, has reportedly sent mercenaries to protect Maduro.
Maduro has accused Trump of plotting to assassinate him – claims which have gained some weight in recent days after media captured a notepad of U.S. Nationa Security Advisor John Bolton containing the words “5,000 troops to Colombia” on it.
“Donald Trump has without a doubt given an order to kill me and has told the government of Colombia and the Colombian mafia to kill me,” Maduro said in an interview with Moscow’s RIA news agency, reprising an accusation that he and Chavez have often made over the years.
The Venezuela crisis has drawn in world powers all of which have an interest in the country and the country’s huge oil reserves. The United States, which is the country’s largest crude importer behind India and China, is pushing for regime change having backed Guaidó. Russia and China, on the other hand, are supporting Maduro given the billions of dollars’ worth of investments they have made.
What’s Next For Juan Guaidó?
Guaidó faces bigger tests and mounting pressure as he continues to push for the removal of Maduro. The country’s intelligence police SEBIN is believed to be on his neck fuelling rumors he could be arrested at any time. The rival constitutional assembly formed in 2017 and controlled by Maduro’s allies is also piling pressure on the self-proclaimed president and has made it clear that he and others face investigation for treason.
In the meantime, Guaidó can heave a sigh of relief given the amount of support he continues to receive in the country as people have become frustrated by the harsh economic times.
If Guaidó is not arrested, Maduro’s days at the helm could be numbered. The international pressure is mounting on Maduro as more nations move to recognize Guaidó as the interim Venezuelan President.