Updated: Feb 12
Juan Guaidó looks set to become the next President of Venezuela. Having risen from obscurity to the upper ranks of the country’s National Assembly and leader of the opposition, he now declares himself to be Venezuela’s interim president, opposing the leadership of the incumbent president, Nicolás Maduro.
Whilst Guaidó appears to be the Obama of South America, with many of his supporters regarding him as a change-maker and hopeful alternative to a corrupt regime in a country facing an economic crisis not much seems to be known about the man himself.
Who is Juan Guaidó, really? An engineer by profession, Guaidó was a vocal opponent of the late Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s socialist president from 1999 until his death in 2013. He is the leader of Voluntad Popular, a centrist social-democratic party. This is probably why many Western nations, in particular, the United States and Canada, have endorsed him.
It must be noted that Venezuela is one of the United States’ main oil suppliers, so ultimately the United States is going to be supportive of any politician in Venezuela that is willing to work to serve US interests. This is something that has been explored by the academic, Doug Stokes, in his ‘blood for oil’ thesis (see the list of sources below).
One can’t help but be suspicious of Guaidó and his rhetoric, promising though he may seem. It may be the case that Maduro is bad news for Venezuela, but the potential leadership offered by Guaidó may not prove to be much better. The fact that he professes to be a leader without having been elected is enough to raise concerns. Nonetheless, it should not be forgotten that the last election was itself dubious, with many believing Maduro to have manipulated the result.
Ultimately if he wants to secure his stronghold on power, Guaidó will need to win the support of Venezuela’s military and show a willingness to work with powerful Western nations. So far, he looks set to succeed in this endeavour. In the meantime, those of us in the West should question if an alliance with the Trump administration is a good sign for Venezuela and its future. It is self-evident that Trump wants to consolidate the oil supply, but will this only benefit the US and a select few in Venezuelan society, whilst leaving the rest of the country in economic disrepair, or will the increase in trade with the US pave the way for a more prosperous nation? Only time will tell.
A big thank you to the following sources:
(2019), ‘Who is Venezuela’s Juan Guaido’, Al Jazeera: https://www.aljazeera.com/podcasts/thetake/2019/02/venezuela-juan-guaido-190208185127129.html
(2019), ‘Venezuela’s self-proclaimed “president” Guaido isn’t ruling out “authorizing” US intervention’, Russia Today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prK-7FtDS2o
(2019), ‘Who is Juan Guaido, Venezuela’s self-declared president?’, CBC: https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/juan-guaido-bio-who-is-he-1.4990248
Doug Stokes, (2007), ‘Blood for oil? Global capital, counter-insurgency and the dual logic of American energy security’, Review of International Studies.
Ciara Nugent, (2019), ‘Who is Juan Guaidó, the Opposition Leader Trump Just Recognized as Venezuela’s President?’, Time.
Featured Image courtesy of France 24