With skill that surprised both his allies and adversaries in equal measure, Guaido appeared in Bogota on Sunday, Jan. 19 of this year. No one knows when or how he crossed the dangerous Venezuela-Colombia border, patrolled not only by military units controlled by Nicolas Maduro, but also paramilitaries, members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) and groups dedicated to kidnapping and smuggling fuel. This led to an unexpected tour which, after his stay in Bogota, took him to various European countries. It was seen as a success in the eyes of many analysts.
From following Guaido’s public activity over the last year, it is possible to infer at least five strategic pillars that have guided his day-to-day activities.
- First, he has never strayed from the dictates of the 39 articles that make up the Statute Governing the Transition to Democracy to Re-establish the Validity of the Constitution in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, as enacted by the National Assembly Jan. 5, 2019.
- Second, he is loyal to the Law of Amnesty and Recognition of all the guarantees of Democratic Reinsertion of Civil Servants and Military Staff who Collaborated in the Constitutional Restoration in Venezuela, enacted Jan. 25, 2019. Guaido has continuously insisted on rejecting revenge and promoting reconciliation.
- Third, he has had, with notable regularity, direct contact with society. Despite the various obstacles (including those of a political or military nature), Guaido has traveled around Venezuela, visiting communities; attending religious festivities; walking the streets of villages and cities; and meeting with workers, students and professional and business trade unions. An analysis of his agenda shows an accessible leader who is especially gifted at getting around.
- One example of this was seen last July, when the authorities prevented Guaido from using a commercial flight to travel to Isla Margarita. Instead of cancelling his trip, he made a 150-kilometer journey in a small fishing boat to cross the turbulent waters of the Caribbean Sea. There are images that show him standing in the small bow of the boat waving a Venezuelan flag as he approached the beach and disembarked.
- His recently completed tour could be considered a major example of his fourth strategic line, the systematic cultivation of international relations. Guaido has succeeded in coordinating his personal endeavors with those of his designated ambassadors in different countries, the deputies and social leaders living in exile. In his speeches, he introduces issues of interest to foreign countries and multilateral organizations, including corruption and money laundering, terrorism, human rights violations, the humanitarian crisis, constitutionalism and the goal of calling for free elections. Guaido has led a foreign policy campaign whose deep purpose has been to keep the Venezuelan crisis on the front pages of international public affairs.
- The fifth and final pillar we can see is both political and personal. Guaido knows where he should be. He does not skip his commitments, always going to where he is expected and overcoming the problems that stand his way. It is likely these demonstrations of courage and responsibility are key reasons behind the political and emotional tie that connects him to his followers.
“It is likely these demonstrations of courage and responsibility are key reasons behind the political and emotional tie that connects him to his followers”
Maduro and the Parliament
The Venezuelan democratic opposition won the parliamentary elections in December 2015. From then on, Maduro has made it a goals to weaken the National Assembly. He has attempted this in various ways.
Despite its supporters’ expectations, Parliament’s supposed “new executive” has not succeeded in gaining recognition, neither in the country nor internationally.
A New Phase?
From December 2015 on, but more intensely since Guaido assumed the presidency of the National Assembly on Jan. 5, 2019, the Venezuelan Parliament has taken centerstage in the fight between Venezuelan democrats and Maduro’s regime.
In his thirst to put a stop to or take control of parliament, Maduro has lost the support and silent neutrality of many political parties and international institutions, who in some way had favored him. His excesses forced many to express their rejection and recognize the legitimacy of the National Assembly and of Juan Guaido as its legitimate president.
As for the question of how it is possible Guaido has been re-elected by his peers after such a tough year, one has to remember that before he was elected president of the Assembly, Guaido led the parliamentary fraction of Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) in 2017, which he recently resigned from to take up broader political representation, and the parliamentary opposition fraction in 2018. In both positions, Guaido always worked toward reconciliation, understanding and agreement. Among deputies, he is recognized for his gift with people, his capacity for listening and his work to find fair solutions acceptable to different political organizations.
All these characteristics (adherence to legality, dedication to reconciliation, direct contact with citizens, coordination of international support and total fulfillment of his responsibilities), in addition to his attributes of being willing and open with the people he speaks to, have made it possible for Guaido to retain his leadership in the face of Maduro’s power. After a tough first year as president of the National Assembly, he succeeded in being reelected.
Guaido’s recent international tour could be interpreted as a turning point, marking the end of an era and the start of the next one. Most Venezuelans (over 85 percent, according to various opinion polls) are involved in an intense undertaking to improve living conditions and restore the validity of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’s Constitution.