CARACAS, Venezuela – Juan Guaidó rose to international prominence in 2019 during an exhilarating anti-government protest when he declared Venezuela’s authoritarian president an illegitimate leader and himself interim leader.
It is a big and bold move that is supported by the United States and dozens of other countries and represents the most serious threat to the authoritarian government of President Nicolás Maduro.
But on Thursday, with Mr. Maduro still in office, it looked as if Mr. Guaidó’s term was coming to an end.
In a vote organized by the opposition legislature that exists parallel to Mr. Maduro’s government, Mr. Guaidó’s colleagues voted overwhelmingly to end his provisional government.
The decision is not final: A second session scheduled for December 29 will have to confirm that, although analysts believe the initial vote is likely to go into effect. . But it is the clearest sign yet that most of the Venezuelan opposition believes Mr Guaidó cannot achieve his stated goal – topple Mr. Maduro and restore democracy – and that they must pursue a strategy. is different.
It is also a blow to the United States, which has steadfastly backed Mr Guaidó and continues to call him the country’s interim president, even as other countries have rejected that recognition.
A representative for the US Embassy in Venezuela did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A total of 72 representatives voted Thursday to remove the interim government, while 24 voted in place and nine abstained.
In a message to the public, the three opposition political parties supporting the end of the interim government said the “political process” that began four years ago with the recognition of Mr Guaidó as president “wasn’t allowed” as an option for real politics”. change.”
The strategy adopted under Mr. Guaidó “has failed to achieve the goals of liberation as expected and the country demands new paths that will lead us to democracy,” the message continued.
Venezuela has been mired in economic, political and humanitarian crisis since 2014, led by a government that claims socialist ideals have undermined the country’s democratic institutions and left much of the country in disarray. become poor. Seven million people, a quarter of the population, have fled in recent years, with increasing numbers heading for the United States.
In 2019, Mr. Guaidó, a student activist turned lawmaker, took the helm of the country’s legislature, then the country’s last major body controlled by the opposition.
Amid large-scale protests against the Maduro government, he invoked a provisions of the Constitution transfer of power to the head of the National Assembly if the presidency is vacant.
The 2018 election that Mr. Maduro won was declared a sham by the United States, the European Union, the Organization of American States and others, and Mr. Guaidó used that to declared that the duties of the president were illegal.
Mr. Guaidó quickly won the support of the Venezuelan people, diplomatic recognition of about 60 countries and strong US support – and could temporarily unite the country’s fracturing opposition. In a moment, a country crushed by repression and economic collapse saw hope.
Since then, the opposition has succeeded in getting Mr. Maduro to agree to a political dialogue in Mexico, which is expected to resume next month after more than a year of stagnation.
As part of those negotiations, Mr. Maduro agreed to allow some Venezuelan funds frozen abroad to be used as humanitarian aid to help alleviate hunger and other hardships the country faces. must face to face.
While this is seen as a concession, the opposition is still far from their ultimate goal: to depose Mr. Maduro. Opposition leaders are pushing him towards allowing free and fair conditions for a presidential election already scheduled for 2024.
In an interview with The New York Times At his home in the capital Caracas, Mr. Guaidó said last year that the government’s relentless crackdown had dismembered his entourage and targeted his family. His chief of staff and his uncle have both been detained for months. Most of his advisers and relatives have fled the country.
“The worst thing,” he added, thinking of his toddler daughter, “is having to explain to a child why the police are after her.”
“This is a huge sacrifice, but I will repeat it a thousand times,” he continued.
Isayen Herrera reports from Caracas, Venezuela, and Julie Turkewitz from Bogotá, Colombia.