Venezuela: Now or Never

Caption: Juan Guaidó is part of a brilliant group of self-sacrificing ex-student leaders. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, January 20, 2019 — The destiny of Venezuela is probably in the hands of Juan Guaidó. It involves a young representative of 35, linked to Voluntad Popular (Popular Will), a party founded by Leopoldo López. The presidency of the National Assembly came to him, which is something like winning a tiger in a raffle. As President of the Assembly he has turned into, de facto, the acting president of the country in the face of the total illegitimacy of Nicolás Maduro.

Venezuela, then, has two presidents. One legitimate and constitutional, which is Juan Guaidó, and the other absolutely fraudulent: Nicolás Maduro. In any case, in the fourteenth century the Catholic Church had three popes simultaneously. Two were declared antipopes. By that measure, in the future Maduro will be declared antipresident.

Those who know Guaidó tell me that he has the maturity and the common sense necessary for that job. By means of television he projects a good image. He is endorsed by Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, 13 of the 14 countries of the Lima Group (excepting the ineffable AMLO’s Mexico), María Corina Machado, Antonio Ledezma, and the US State Department. He has his back well covered.

On the table is even the possibility that Donald Trump’s administration continues buying the 500,000 barrels of petroleum daily from Venezuela, the only influx of fresh cash coming into the country, but with the condition that that money be deposited in an escrow account that only the National Assembly can access through its president. What sense would it make to pay it to an illegitimate government?

But who is this young politician? Guaidó is a graduate in industrial engineering from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, with postgraduate studies in public policy at George Washington University and IESA, a management school accredited in several countries.

Engineers have an advantage over lawyers: they’re used to incorporating the factor of time into the work they plan. They’re usually the best in “management by objectives,” something that is urgently needed in a country that has been thrown into such chaos as this one.

Guaidó, in short, has sufficient training and information to straighten out his country. At the end of the day, Venezuela has been devastated by Chavism ($300 billion was stolen) and, recently, by a half-idiot individual who talks to birds and doesn’t know where his right hand is. (Especially the right).

Guaidó is part of a brilliant group of self-sacrificing ex-student leaders that includes Yon Goicoechea, Juan Requesens, a political prisoner, Stalin González, and Freddy Guevara, protected since six months ago in the Chilean embassy in Caracas. They are the new generation. In 2017 the National Guard filled their backs and necks with shot. That is to say: they have risked their lives in the streets, something that is important in a society in which heroic gestures are valued.

Guaidó’s immediate task is about precisely that. He must assume the role of acting president. He must call on the people to demonstrate in the streets. He is also the natural chief of those in uniform. In theory, general Vladimir Padrino López, Minister of Defense, must stand at attention in front of him and accept his orders. Soldiers and minor officials are desperate for this to happen.

According to what viceadmiral Mario Iván Carratú told the Venezuelan journalist Carla Angola, the Armed Forces are demoralized, like the Portuguese army was when the Carnation Revolution happened in 1974. Soldiers are hungry and lacking medicines just like the rest of the country. If Maduro gives the order to attack the demonstrators, Carratú thinks that they wouldn’t comply.

And what would the Cuban Government do? Of course, it would recommend resistance to any change toward democracy and liberty, but the regime of Havana doesn’t have the power to rescue and sustain the dictatorship. It suffers from its own weakness. It would recall its troops and its personnel, much hated in Venezuela, and they would clear off for Cuba, perhaps offering asylum to a handful of their Venezuelan servants.

Can Guaidó promise Chavism something that gets the game unstuck? He cannot promise anything that the Constitution doesn’t allow for. Perhaps a referendum for the country to decide on a law that decrees an amnesty for crimes committed during these years of abuse and vile acts. Only that, but not as his own agreement or that of the National Assembly, but of the whole society.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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