By Sean Orr | January 8, 2020
Chicago, IL – Juan Guaidó is not that smart of a politician. He never seems to care much about strategy, or coalition building, or putting forward a serious political platform. The only political talent Guaidó seems to have is in front of the cameras. He knows how to put on a good show for the audience he wants to please.
While that could be seen throughout the past year, as Guaidó and his allies bumbled their way through one of the worst coup attempts in recent memory, it is the best way to understand what has happened in Venezuela these past few days.
On Sunday, January 5, Guaidó’s support among opposition lawmakers fell apart. A vote was scheduled to elect the president of the National Assembly, the position that Guaidó held and that he used to justify his attempt to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Nicolás Maduro.
There was no change in the composition of the National Assembly within the year since Guaidó’s election, save for the fact that 49 PSUV and allied deputies had retaken their seats. Yet, where there had been unanimity among the right-wing majority for Guaidó a year ago, there was now great division.
On Sunday, several parties of the right-wing opposition broke from Guaidó, declared him to be a political disaster, and nominated in his place Luis Parra to be the president of the National Assembly. Guaidó, who purposefully showed up late to a vote he knew about well in advance, tried to climb a fence outside as the majority of the National Assembly removed him and put Parra, himself a right-winger, in his place.
All of the usual U.S. media outlets, inexperienced in journalism, repeat Guaidó’s line that “Maduro has taken over the National Assembly.” The only reason Guaidó is out is because the majority of his supporters could no longer stand his growing list of astounding political failures.
2019: The year of Guaidó’s failure
One year ago, Juan Guaidó, as leader of the far-right Popular Will party, was elected president of the National Assembly of Venezuela. Upon taking office, he declared himself the “legitimate president of Venezuela,” launching a campaign to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Nicolás Maduro. Guaidó was backed by a coalition of opposition parties and the Trump administration, and over the course of the next few months he took the nation to the brink of civil war and foreign invasion.
Guaidó showed total unrestraint at the use of thug violence to meet his political goals. Before 2019, the only knowledge that the Venezuelan public had of him, outside of his constituency, was that he was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the violent roadblocks that took the country to the brink of civil war in 2017. Numerous photos showed Guaidó, grinning ear to ear, alongside armed fascists who were responsible for the deaths of over a hundred people.
Somehow, Guaidó had convinced himself (or been convinced by U.S. advisors) that threats of military intervention would succeed where the democratic process had failed. They were wrong.
Guaidó promised U.S. Vice President Mike Pence that half of the armed forces would defect to him. Barely 100 did. He promised them that millions would fill the streets to join the coup. Instead, the opposition’s public support shrank the longer that the crisis wore on, and by the time that he made his foolhardy coup attempt on April 30, demonstrations in his favor were few and scattered.
Meanwhile, over a million marched in support of the Bolivarian Revolution that following day. Throughout the months-long crisis, poll after poll showed that the vast majority of Venezuelans wanted peace and wanted the opposition to abandon their treasonous path.
If the year played out the way that U.S. politicians like John Bolton, Marco Rubio and Pete Buttigieg wanted, then Guaidó would be sitting in the Miraflores presidential palace. From there, he would oversee the destruction of the Bolivarian Revolution, and the return of Venezuela to the fold of the United States.
Instead, one year later, Guaidó is putting on another performance for his fans, showing up late to a legislative meeting and trying to climb a fence as his former supporters vote to remove him as president of the National Assembly. In typical fashion, he brings with him several deputies who have been barred from entry over charges of treason and corruption. A political farce if there ever was one.
The final nail in Guaidó’s career?
Juan Guaidó must have known for some time that this was going to happen. When his coup attempt on April 30 turned into a political fiasco, his support among the political opposition broke. Dozens of opposition lawmakers signed an open letter condemning Guaidó’s adventure for the violent terror that it was and called for opponents to the Bolivarian Revolution to return to the democratic path.
A few months later, several top opposition figures, against the explicit demands of Guaidó, met with representatives of the Venezuelan government and agreed to a peace deal. Pro-government deputies would be allowed to retake their seats in the National Assembly, and in return the government would be willing to negotiate through some of the opposition’s demands, including appointing a new National Electoral Commission and releasing some right-wing prisoners.
In the months since then, the bloc of socialist deputies, referred to as the Bloc of the Homeland, have used their position to their advantage, exposing Guaidó’s connections to Colombian gangs along with his crimes of treason and embezzlement. Soon, the Bloc of the Homeland began to be joined by opposition politicians in these accusations, as it became evident that the right wing had given up any hope that Guaidó would know how to lead them going forward.
In one final attempt to hold on to power, Guaidó tried to pass a law through the National Assembly that would allow deputies to vote online for the leadership election – so many of his die-hard supporters have fled the country over charges of treason that he knew he would not have the votes in Venezuela to stay on.
Where to go from here
Guaidó, despite what he might have thought, was not playing a game. When he launched his months-long coup attempt, there was genuine fear in the South American nation of 30 million people of a total war. Guaidó knew that the only way he could take power was in the wake of U.S. air strikes, and he welcomed it. Time and time again, Guaidó called for the U.S. and its allies to intervene in Venezuela. This, because the Venezuelan people had the audacity to re-elect Nicolás Maduro in internationally observed elections with nearly 86% of the vote. Untold lives were put at risk because of his actions.
The Venezuelan people want, and deserve, peace and self-determination, two notions that Guaidó put himself against.
In the end, Juan Guaidó proved himself to be an enemy his nation – just not a very good one.