January 27, 2019


Who Is Venezuela's Juan Guaidó? (John Otis, January 27, 2019, NPR)

In what amounted to his inaugural speech, Guaidó called on military officers to withdraw their support from Maduro.

"It has to be the Venezuelan people, the armed forces, and the international community that allow us to assume power, which we will not let slip away," Guaidó told cheering supporters in what amounted to his inaugural address.

At least one high-ranking military official, Col. José Luis Silva, who serves as military attaché at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, has heeded Guaidó's call. "As the Venezuelan defense attaché in the United States, I do not recognize Mr. Nicolás Maduro as president of Venezuela," Silva said in an interview Saturday with el Nuevo Herald.

Guaidó lacks any control over government ministries but he is more than just a figurehead. Analysts say that swelling international support for him, coupled with Maduro's diplomatic isolation, strengthens Guaidó's claim to the presidency.

Frank Mora, who heads the Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University, said Guaidó's swearing-in ceremony could become a watershed moment, similar to the 2010 episode in Tunisia when an angry fruit vender set himself on fire and helped ignite the Arab Spring.

Alternative leadership in Caracas has also opened the door for the Trump administration to squeeze the vital flow of petrodollars to the Maduro government -- which counts on oil for 95 percent of its export earnings.

One option would be to send the proceeds from purchases of Venezuelan oil to foreign accounts that could be set up and controlled by Guaidó's governing team, said Francisco Rodríguez, a former economic advisor to Venezuela's National Assembly. He said that diverting oil funds to Guaidó would have a "huge impact" on the Venezuelan economy and put more pressure on Maduro to leave office.

"The pieces are starting to fit together for a peaceful transition in Venezuela," said Benjamin Scharifker, a leading Venezuelan intellectual and an opposition activist.

Posted by at January 27, 2019 7:39 AM