For the new generations of Venezuelans, 1999 may be the most significant year in the country's recent history. Not only was the official beginning of the first government of Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, a new constitution, a new nation and a turning point in Latin America on the left, which was known as the powerful "pink tide".
In December of that year the tragedy of Vargas took place, a natural catastrophe considered the worst that has shaken Venezuela since the great earthquake of 1812, that for having fallen on a Holy Thursday the majority of Catholics l & # 39; he called a "divine punishment". Heavy rains in the state of Vargas caused huge flooding and landslides. For that moment, in that place near the Caribbean coast, Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez lived at the age of 15, today president of the Venezuelan National Assembly and the cooler face of opposition to 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 when the mountain advanced towards the sea," all the progress of its population diminished. Without official data, the victims of the tragedy range between 1,000 and 30,000. Some villages have disappeared completely and human and material losses have forced displaced persons into 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 were left homeless and without communication after landslides. "I know what it means to be hungry", recognizes today after the events of his wounded adolescence. And while facing the scourges of nature, Chavez established his revolution. When the tragedy occurred, the ex-buyer rejected the American aid. That decision was the first sign of his stubborn way of governing. Therefore, the opposition denounced its management during that crisis.
Twenty years have passed since then, and now that Guaidó has emerged as a powerful public figure, the ruling party continues to believe that it is still a child. "He's a boy who plays politics," said president Nicolás Maduro. But Juan Guaidó showed maturity and came from the shadows to represent the new big challenge to the Chavez government.
Little or nothing was known of Guaidó 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 in 2000 and began studying at the Catholic University Andrés Bello of Caracas, where in 2007 he obtained the title of industrial engineer. Perhaps it was his personal experience that motivated him to connect to participate actively in the community. Guaidó was a member of the student center of his faculty, for which he received great distinctions both academic and extracurricular. The same year he finished his undergraduate degree, he joined the student movement of 2007, also known as the "Generation of 2007" which featured Yon Goichochea, Juan Equesens, Stalin González, Miguel Pizarro and Freddy Guevara. They, and thousands of students, are remembered for having had the courage to face the injustice of the Chávez government, which was looking for a constitutional referendum.
After his link with this social movement, Guaidó decided to return to his roots, those in which he had to spend some of the most bitter nights of his life. In 2008 he was involved in the regional campaign in the state of Vargas, where he became deputy deputy in 2010 and then deputy in 2015. But Guaidó had in mind something more than holding a public office. In 2009 his dream materialized when he founded, together with a group of young people and Leopoldo López, his party: Voluntad Popular (VP).
"One of its main advantages is to bring teams together, understand the different positions and do everything in their power to be one," said Juan Andrés Mejía, vice president.
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Guaidó was giving way to complaints about corruption in the country as the crisis began to be evident. Some of his most particular interventions are those that come from one of his greatest personal passions: baseball. Guaidó denounced the embezzlement in the construction of stadiums, the disorder in the national championship and its sponsorships. But despite it being at stake, Guaidó was absent from the front pages of any news. "Really, I did not know who he was … I hope we will not be disappointed," acknowledged AFP José Hernández, administrator of one of the political support events.
But on January 5th it was revealed to the world. The National Assembly elected him president of the organization, the youngest in history to occupy the position. And suddenly, on January 11th, his name became famous all over the world. That afternoon, Guaidó said he had the capacity to assume the presidency of the country on a provisional basis and the legislative body that presided him confirmed it in the position, even if the decision was not supported by the official line of justice. Through his voice, the majority of Parliament's opposition declared Nicolás Maduro usurper, who one day ago took the reins of the country for a new period.
Voices of support came from outside, like those of the OAS secretary general, Luis Almagro, who asked him to take power. Guaidó also found powerful allies in Brazil and the United States. The vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, recognized his "courageous leadership" and told him he had the support of Washington. "The widespread and persistent recognition and international support of Parliament in Guaidó could also make the opposition a more important act in a political transition, even so, it remains deeply divided, with little ability to influence political change," he warned. Eurasia Group's risk analysis center.
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Dell 'ontualism was just about teasing as you might expect, "president of Wikipedia", condemning Maduro. But as fast as his political rise was the time it took for the threats to come against him. The prison services minister, Iris Varela, insinuated to Guaidó that his cell was ready as soon as he was declared interim president. And in less than 48 hours, that intimidating scenario seemed to come true.
On Sunday, January 13, the intelligence service stopped him for less than an hour. Again there was panic in the opposition, because their leaders usually have an atrocious destiny: Henry Ramos Allup, Julio Borges and Omar Barboza, who also presided over the Legislature from 2016 when they delivered the worst defeated in the history of Chavismo and consolidated as a majority in Parliament, they were persecuted.
"This is a complicated game: it is a country used to personalism and caudillism, and a big burden hangs over Juan: 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 to his side. The president of the Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, assured that Guaidó is only the stronghold of his party's hyenas, and inside that comment there is a pinch of truth. In the worst moments, the opposition was destroyed by the lack of unity. The opposition is fractured not only by the disappearance of its leaders who remain in exile or imprisoned today, but by the discontent that arises in a part of their followers.
"It's easy to articulate a detailed opposition around Maduro's exit requests, but the real challenge is to unite around a true strategy, an action plan and a unique leadership," says , analyst Luis Vicente León.
Everything indicates that Guaidó has a strategy to drive in mind. The key points are to break the military support, decisive for the support of Maduro, reactivate the protests and put a diplomatic economic siege against the government, taking advantage of the support from abroad. "The key is the Armed Forces, led by a leadership that fears losing its political and economic influence and a change of government." The opposition has re-launched its strategy, but it lacks much more than a constitutional basis to obtain A change We need more determined support from the international community and that the protests force the Armed Forces and the repressive apparatus to cede, "says Diego Moya-Ocampos, of the IHS Markit of London.
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The president of the AN has already advanced in these aspects. After the Parliament announced an amnesty project for those who collaborate in the change in Venezuela, Juan Guaidó received support from a group of soldiers in exile. The legislature called on the international community to freeze assets and accounts of government officials, and the new opposition leader called for a major mobilization for this January 23rd. It will be the first impulse between the government and the opposition after the violent protests of August 2017, which ended with 125 dead, but also the first thermometer to know the influence of Guaido on the people.
"The regime has tried to stop me, but nothing and nobody will stop us and we will continue to advance for Venezuela, we will survive and survive because we believe and believe that Venezuela should be better … if they capture Juan Guaidó, another will emerge because this generation does not rest and does not rest, "said the young opposition.