For the new generations of Venezuelans, 1999 may be the most important year in the recent history of the country. Not only was the official start of the first government of Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, of a new constitution, of a new nation and a turn in Latin America on the left, known as the powerful "Pink Tide".
In December of that year, the Tragedy of Vargas took place, a natural disaster that is considered the worst that Venezuela has struck since the great earthquake of 1812, namely that the most Catholics who fell on a holy Thursday considered it a "divine punishment". described. Heavy rainfall in the Vargas state caused massive flooding and landslides. For that moment, at that point in the direction of the Caribbean coast, Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez lived at his 15 years, today President of the Venezuelan National Assembly and the latest face of the opposition against the ruling party.
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Vargas, before the disaster and before belonging to Venezuela, was a municipality with a high population density and a high level of economic and intellectual development. But on December 15, 1999, known as "the day the mountain has progressed to the sea," the progress of its population has declined. Without official data, the victims of the tragedy vary between 1,000 and 30,000. Some villages disappeared completely and the human and material losses forced the movement in the area. Juan Guaidó was a boy when he had to survive this tragedy. He lived with his mother and five younger brothers. He and his family are left homeless and without communication after the landslides. "I know what it's like to be hungry," he acknowledges today after the events of his injured adolescence. And while confronted with the plagues of nature, Chávez established his revolution. When the tragedy took place, the exmandatario rejected US aid. That decision was the first sign of his wayward way of governing. That is why the opposition denounced management during that crisis.
Twenty years have passed since then, and now Guaidó has emerged as a powerful public figure, the ruling party still believes that it is still a child. "He is a boy who plays politics," said President Nicolás Maduro. But Juan Guaidó has shown maturity and came out of the shadows to represent the new big challenge for the Chavez government.
From Guaidó little or nothing was known until this year. He was born on July 28, 1983. An important date in Venezuela, since the birth of Hugo Chávez, is celebrated. After the tragedy he graduated from the Los Corales Institute's secondary school in 2000 and started studying at the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas, where he received the title of industrial engineer in 2007. Perhaps it was his personal experience that motivated him to make contact to actively participate in the community. Guaidó was a member of the student center of his faculty, for which he received major academic and extracurricular honors. In the same year he finished his bachelor's program, he joined the 2007 student movement, also known as the "Generation of 2007" of which Yon Goichochea, Juan Equesens, Stalin González, Miguel Pizarro and Freddy Guevara were participants. They, and thousands of students, are reminded of the courage to face the injustice of the Chavez government, which was looking for a constitutional referendum.
After his connection with this social movement, Guaidó decided to return to his roots, where he had to spend some of the most bitter nights of his life. In 2008 he became involved in the regional campaign in the state of Vargas, becoming a deputy deputy in 2010 and later a deputy in 2015. But Guaidó had something bigger in mind than a public office. In 2009 his dream developed when he, together with a group of young people and Leopoldo López, founded his own party: Voluntad Popular (VP).
"One of the most important virtues is to put teams together, understand the different positions and do everything to be one," said Juan Andrés Mejía, vice-vice president.
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Guaidó made way for denunciations about the corruption of the country, while the crisis was beginning to clear. Some of his most special interventions are those of one of his greatest personal passions: baseball. Guaidó has indicted the eclipse in the construction of stadiums, disorder in the national league and its sponsorship. But despite the game, Guaidó was absent on the front page of news. "Really, I did not know who he was and hopefully we will not be disappointed," acknowledged José Hernández, a manager of one of the political support events, the AFP.
But on January 5 he revealed himself to the world. The National Assembly elected him president of the organization, the youngest in history to take the position. And suddenly, on January 11, his name became world famous. That afternoon, Guaidó said he had the opportunity to assume the presidency of the country on an interim basis and the presiding legislative body confirmed him in that position, although the decision was not supported by the official line of justice. By his vote, the opposition majority of Parliament declared Nicolás Maduro usurper, who a day ago had taken the reins of the country for a new period.
Voices of support came from outside, such as the secretary general of the OAS, Luis Almagro, who asked him to take power. Guaidó also found powerful allies in Brazil and the United States. US Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged his "courageous leadership" and told him he had the support of Washington. "The widespread and sustained international recognition and support of Parliament for Guaidó can also make the opposition a more relevant act in a political transition, yet it remains deeply divided, with little power to influence political change," warned the Eurasia Group Center. for risk analysis.
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Of the oficialismo they only teased as was to be expected, "president of Wikipedia", the convicted Maduro. But as soon as his political rise was the time it took for the threats to come to him. The Minister of Penitentiary Service, Iris Varela, insinuated against Guaidó that her cell was ready as soon as she was declared interim president. And in less than 48 hours that intimidating scenario seemed to become a reality.
On Sunday, January 13, the intelligence service stopped him for less than an hour. Again there was a panic in the opposition, because their leaders usually have a horrible destination: Henry Ramos Allup, Julio Borges and Omar Barboza, who have also been in charge of the legislature since 2016 when they have delivered the worst defeat in Chavismo history. and consolidated as the majority in Parliament, were prosecuted.
"This is a complicated game, it is a country that is used to personalism and caudillismo, and there is a big burden over Juan, the change does not depend on him, but on everyone," says deputy Mejía.
Although Guaidó has passed his first test against the ruling party, the real challenge, as analysts say, comes from his side. The chairman of the constituent assembly, Diosdado Cabello, assured that Guaidó is only the stronghold of the hyena of his party, and within that remark there is a touch of truth. At the worst moments, the opposition has been shattered by the lack of unity. The opposition is not only broken by the disappearance of its leaders who are in exile or imprisoned today, but by the dissatisfaction that is being born in some of their followers.
"It's easy for the opposition to communicate in the neighborhood of Maduro's exit requirements, but the real challenge is to unite around a real strategy, an action plan and a unique leadership," says analyst Luis Vicente León. .
Everything indicates that Guaidó has a strategy in mind to lead. The main points are to achieve the breakdown of military support, decisive for the support of Maduro, to reactivate the protests and to carry out a diplomatic economic siege against the government, using support from abroad. "The key is the armed forces, led by a leadership that is afraid of losing its political and economic influence, and a change of government.The opposition has re-launched its strategy, but much more than a constitutional basis for achieving change is missing. more determined support from the international community and that the protests require the armed forces and the repressive apparatus to admit, "says Diego Moya-Ocampos of the IHS Markit in London.
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The president of the AN has already anticipated these aspects. After Parliament had communicated an amnesty project for those working together to change Venezuela, Juan Guaidó received support from a group of soldiers in exile. The legislator has asked the international community to freeze assets and accounts of government officials and the new leader of the opposition called for a major mobilization on 23 January. It will be the first pulse between the government and the opposition since the violent protests of August 2017, which ended with 125 deaths, but also the first thermometer to know the influence of Guaidó on the people.
"The regime tried to stop me, but nothing and no one will stop us, we will continue for our Venezuela We are survivors and we will survive because we believe and we are convinced that Venezuela should be better … if they were Juan Guaidó catch, another will arise because this generation will not rest and will not rest, "said the young opposition.