Photos: Gabriel Méndez

At a time when our political leadership is plumbing its lowest approval ratings ever, we often ponder which political leaders could be considered trustworthy now. To me, Juan Pablo Guanipa heads this list: a prudent, mature, no-nonsense leader, who has an interesting message for the country.

Juan Pablo Guanipa talks to Carlos García Soto
Juan Pablo Guanipa talks to Carlos García Soto

Last Tuesday, we sat down for a wideranging talk with him. He defines himself as a husband and a father (he has five children); he’s a lawyer with studies in politics and public management, social communicator, columnist and host in radio and TV shows, university teacher in URBE and LUZ, political leader. He’s also deeply gaitero, like any good maracucho. He was reported to be considering run in presidential elections in 2018, but he’s now focused on the defense of democracy in Venezuela.

“I’ve been involved in politics my entire life”

Juan Pablo Guanipa has more than three decades of experience in Venezuela’s political-partisan stage. Juan Pablo and his brother Tomás Guanipa, both from Primero Justicia, are two of the seven children of Manuel Guanipa Matos, a former lawmaker of the National Congress who worked for the establishment and consolidation of COPEI in Zulia. A few weeks after his death, lawmaker José Rodríguez Iturbe said that Manuel Guanipa Matos was “a man like rock crystal; with the strength and transparency of rock crystal, and he taught us a noble lesson, the lesson of loyalty, of firmness and perseverance.” Juan Pablo Guanipa tells us, with a son’s pride, that his father’s work contributed to COPEI’s considerable popularity in the region. The party was so popular that in presidential elections in 1973, Zulia was the only state where AD’s Carlos Andrés Pérez lost and COPEI’s Lorenzo Fernández won.

Juan Pablo used to accompany his father in tours through various areas of Zulia and he soon started to fall in love with politics. He started working in Caldera’s presidential campaign in 1983, until COPEI’s internal constituent process in 1999. He later joined his current party, Primero Justicia. Halfway through the 90s, he held his first elected public office as lawmaker of Zulia’s Legislative Assembly. Between 2000 and 2005, he was an alternate lawmaker of the National Assembly; between 2005 and 2013, he was a councilman of Maracaibo municipality; and in December 2015, he was elected a lawmaker of the current National Assembly for Zulia.

As, as you might recall, he was elected governor of Zulia on October 10, 2017, but he chose not to be inducted by the ANC and he was barred from taking office. We confess we had our doubts as to which was the right choice for Juan Pablo. Time proved him right.

“If people ask what’s my political experience, I’d have to tell them that it’s essentially the Church’s Social Doctrine. Regarding solutions to society’s problems, I believe that the Church is quite focused and that its Doctrine is very clear. It’s a kind of third way between exaggerated capitalism and absolutely unviable communism.”

“The Dominican Republic was an important effort”

Without saying names, Juan Pablo criticizes opposition leaders who “refuse everything, struggle with everything, never propose anything and then hope for failure just to say ‘I told you so’.”

By contrast, and after reflecting on the country’s severe crisis, he says that he “hoped that we’d triumph in negotiations in the Dominican Republic. What else can we hope for if not the necessary conditions to be able to produce the change that the country needs?”

Juan Pablo points out that in the Dominican Republic, they tried to reach an agreement for a more impartial CNE and a date for presidential elections in the second half of 2018. He also thinks that preparing a presidential campaign would take a minimum of four months.

“We want elections as a means of electing”

On Tuesday, February 20 at noon, Primero Justicia said that they wouldn’t run on presidential elections in April 22.

Juan Pablo remarks: “It’s not that we don’t want to participate. On the contrary, we want to go to elections, we want to choose a new President of the Republic. We think that the vote is the most important tool that a country can have to make its decisions […] But we can’t legitimate a president like Maduro who wants to hold a fake electoral process to try and justify a democracy he doesn’t believe in, to cling to power without votes. That’s unacceptable.”

At the crossroads

Juan Pablo Guanipa knows that the risk of not running in presidential elections in April 22 is the opposition’s paralysis. However, he thinks that the demands presented in the Dominican Republic can’t be forgotten and thus, he says they’re making progress on a plan that includes:

  1. The -already ongoing- creation of the Broad Fighting Front: a project parallel to MUD and formed by MUD parties as well as representatives of all sectors of civil society -universities, unions, business owners, churches, students, among others-.
  2. The creation of an Executive Command to carry out the Front’s decisions, so that the eventual bureaucratic hurdles of such a broad group don’t paralyze action.
  3. Pressure actions advanced by the Front, including assemblies and protests – ”a constitutional right we can’t give up.”

“We have the obligation to find ourselves, to stand next to and motivate the people”

I think Juan Pablo has an interesting message for the country: he’s talking not only to the government, but to the opposition as well. To conclude, Juan Pablo decided to urge the national leadership: “I think that the current leadership must unite, because we’ve made many decisions on our own… we must break that loop. We must tour the country together, we must listen to people’s problems, try to understand them and accompany them to revitalize hope.”

Something Juan Pablo Guanipa has been doing for many years under the scorching Zulian sun.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. To think this guy has been (and continues to be) reviled for being a guabinoso for not coming before the ANC instead of taking a stand like he did, as if principles meant nothing in this day and age. What a toxic political landscape this is.

  2. “I’ve been involved in politics my entire life”

    THAT is a major part of the problem.

    What is needed in politics (not just in Venezuela) are people who haven’t been involved in politics their entire life. People who have created jobs, or better yet, WORKED for a living, paid taxes and had to suffer at the hands of elected elitists who insist that they know what is best for us.

    I know nothing about Juan Pablo Guanipa. He very likely is a great guy and well thought of. But career politicians are why Venezuela is in the middle of this shit-storm.

    Where is Jefferson Smith when you need him?

    • 100% Disagree with you Guapo. i understand that you are frustrated with the political class but like in everything no everyone is politics is corrupted because they have been init for a long time.
      If you want quality and professionalism you need to have people with the RELEVANT EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE.
      Education and EXPERIENCE are essential requirements for hiring qualified personal in any private company. Why that has to be different in Politics?

      There are some exceptions like tech sector jobs where they prefer young PROFESSIONALS with no much experience (legacy baggage) because they are looking for new creative approaches, but experience is and has always been a fundamental part of any job.

      Your anti-politics mindset is what Venezuelans had in mind when they voted for Chavez back in ’98 despite all the red flags around him.

      • You can have all the education and experience in the world, but if it isn’t useful to the job at hand, legislating or governing, you might as well be a bus driver. A PhD founder of a multi-million dollar startup might have a shiny resume, and a great campaign fund, but how does that apply to whipping votes? It doesn’t. And if you can’t whip votes you can’t get stuff done. You might as well be a bus driver. Not that it matters anymore, because the Asamblea is essentially, non-existent anyway.

        Same goes for governing. You could be a Captain of Industry with more degrees than a protractor. If you can’t manage projects because you’re in the influencer side, you suck and are worthless to the Gobernacion you’re in. If you can’t make sit with the other guys to convince them that what you want is what they need, because, who seriously thinks in Venezuela about people after they get elected to office, then you’re also useless and you might as well be a terrapin.

        Venezuelan politicians of all stripes fail because they fail to understand basic management. Lack of management killed la cuarta and is slowly killing la quinta too.

      • Clearly, having an uneducated moron being the head of state isn’t a good idea, but neither is having a career politician who is totally disconnected from the realities of what the rest of us have to endure.

        There has to be a happy medium. An educated and highly respected private citizen who isn’t an ass kissing sycophant or outright fraud.

  3. Is a paragraph/section missing? The only thing I got about his message is more of the same from MUD but to do things as a more united front. How is this considered a message/plan?

  4. “He’s a lawyer with studies in politics and public management”
    “Juan Pablo Guanipa has more than three decades of experience in Venezuela’s political-partisan stage”

    This level of education and experience should be the standard and a constitutional mandate to anyone aspiring for high positions of power and responsibility in any Democracy.

    This little but significant missed detail is what has opened the doors to a destructive circus parade of military coupster, bus drivers, ex-guerrilla fighters, shoe shiners, medicine doctors, TV celebrities, real state moguls and other clowns.

    I’d would fight tooth and nail to make this change happen because this is what got us in the hell we are now.
    Common sense anyone?

    By the way, agree 100% with what Guanipa said in this interview.

    • “This level of education and experience should be the standard and a constitutional mandate to anyone aspiring for high positions of power and responsibility in any Democracy.”

      So in other words, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Leon Gambetta, and Abe Lincoln would be excluded.

      But Antonio Salazar and *motherfarqing Vlad Lenin* would fit perfectly.

      What. The. Heck?!?!

      “This little but significant missed detail is what has opened the doors to a destructive circus parade of military coupster, bus drivers, ex-guerrilla fighters, shoe shiners, medicine doctors, TV celebrities, real state moguls and other clowns.”

      No, it didn’t.

      Hubris from both the voting public and the self appointed elites, the isolation of the representatives from those they are meant to represent, and basic human avarice, incompetence, lust for power, and desire to do good did.

      And those things- if left unmanaged- are MUCH more destructive to a free society than incompetence or buffoonery alone. The idea that you can just wish it away by ramping the term limits so astronomically high does not work.

      “I’d would fight tooth and nail to make this change happen because this is what got us in the hell we are now.”

      Again, no.

      If anything, it’s that sort of elitism and holier-than-thou treatment of the Hoi Polloi that helped get you into the hell you did. Yes, there are plenty of destructive and evil firebrands and insurgent candidates.

      But there’s also plenty of evil that can emerge from within a system of cloistered, neigh-aristocratic leaders. Lest anybody forget, Erdogan and Putin didn’t come to power by coup.

      So what you’re proposing would not actually result in a republic of virtue governed by wise elder statesmen, it would result in a cloistered elite who are closer to political power for mot of their lives than to those they represent. And while many of them MAY be virtuous personally, not all of them will be.

      “Common sense anyone?”

      Sorry, but no.

      I thought it was common sense that it is sensible for a government to receive periodic injections of fresh, tapped in blood who get sent to the capitol from the places that elected them.

      But I guess I’m just a noob.

        • He doesn’t have to believe in universal suffrage; Jefferson and Adams and most of the US Founders didn’t. They tied it to property holdings and income.

          But they did know that limiting officeholding in their newborn republic to only those who had been active for decades was folly. Not just because adult life was so much shorter in their day because of poorer medical care, less tech, and the like. Because they realized that Elites- including educational and social ones- could be corrupt and despotic and that in those contexts it was crucial to have them checked by the hoi poll po.

          And given how much the Founders feared the Mob and what it would or could do, this is no small thing.

          And frankly without universal suffrage the problems I note have an even more profound impact. All but excluding the young, ambitious, energetic young adults (especially those without some arbitrary qualification in educational level or years served) will not make them stop being young, ambitious, or energetic. It’ll merely make them angry and push them to the fringes.

          Consider Chavez’s early career as terrorist, firebrand, and denounced of the republic.

          NOW imagine if his path was chosen not because of his totalitarian views, but because it simply is all but impossible for anybody short of 50 years old to aspire to high office in government. And you could expect to see A LOT more guerillas, revolutionaries, and reformists urging the law to be rolled back along with greater apathy towards it by the national public.

          You’re not going to have many people willing to stand up and defend a state they feel alienated from in a pinch. So the kind of anti-political feelings Toro talks about as helping give power to Chavez would be made worse.

          And frankly even if they weren’t it would still be a bad idea for the same reason the Yangban of Korea were. It is almost custom tailored to be difficult to break into from the ground floor, which will make the situation favorable for the development of a handful of families or organizations and their patronage networks to be devoted to “public service” where they can use their knowledge and connections to put aspiring young heirs in the right classes, universities, or offices to rack up the experience until they can be funneled into high office.

          That is a poor situation for a free society.

          • @Gringo 2 thank you kindly. I’ve been a lurker for little over a year. One of those Yanqui conservative republicans who supported Trump in a clothespin call as the lesser of three evils and has been pleasantly surprised on balance so far.

            I originally meant to weigh in way back when on that article about Cipriano Castro and the Allied blockade back at the dawn of the state army 20th century but did not get around to it until much too late.

            Hope to see you around.

            Ps: I meant “denounced of the republic” derp.

  5. Of all the MUDcrap, this Guanipa guy ain’t that bad. One has to respect that he refused to bow down to Delcy, La Bicha, as I like to call that particular stinking wench.

    But as someone says above, he’s no hot shot either: he’s a freaking career politician in Kleptozuela, and that’s bad, very bad. He thinks the Dominican Republic Fiasco was a good idea.. when it was nothing but a laughable circus from day 1, designed to buy more time for the Genocidal Tyranny, and mascarade the whole ‘election’ charade as democratic.

    This Maracuchito doesn’t have the image, the charisma or the drive, or the education or the vision needed to lead a Revolt in Klepto-Cubazuela. He’s no Leopoldo Lopez. His “democratic” demagogue comments and views are nothing new, in a destroyed country highjacked by Criminals where confrontation is the only way out.

    This is not the right guy to work with my buddy Rex to Strangle the Chavista Thugs out of power after the bogus ‘election’ fraud. But he will be useful one day on a transition platform or as Governor again.

  6. “Juan Pablo Guanipa has more than three decades of experience in Venezuela’s political-partisan stage.” – ex-“COPEI ” – “If people ask what’s my political experience, I’d have to tell them that it’s essentially the Church’s Social Doctrine.”

    Three reasons to never ever trust this guy imho!

  7. A pre-fact: Dialogo that meant to be for a transition.

    A fact: there is no way that in any “fair” election, even with the same conditions before 2016 (conditions which btw were really inclined to the psuv-gang including tiby) that any candidate from the gang (including the driver) can drag enough voters (even adding thousands of fake voters that the gang usually got in every elections from 2000 to 2015, and even adding some thousands that were forced to vote in the same period). It’s impossible even adding those thousand of votes without a voter attached that any member of the gang can touch the 5 M votes.

    Don’t fool yourself: in the three elections of 2017 (ANC, regionales and municipales) the gang (including the cne and the fanb) drastically changed the conditions; they engineered a new level of fraud: the one that added not thousands but millions of votes unattached to real voters. Therefore, getting back the electoral of conditions of 2015 would have meant the end of the invasion.

    A second fact: the poor performance of the opposition leadership as usual. This is really bad for millions of desperate people. Some of those politicians can be dismissed: they are just puppets in the payroll of the gang; others are freelance, they receive bonuses from every where (even from the gang directly or not); and others are to naive or too stupid (well, indeed, giving up the AN in 2015 to HRA is a strong sign of stupidity and for sure this is on LL and HCR); others are too stubborn and simply no dan pie con bola (MCM), and at this rhythm the gang will rule forever.

    Last fact: the fans (the people) are really fed up! So no matter how terrible is the visitor team (the invader gang) with these players in the home team there is no way they feel they have a chance to defeat the island invaders.

  8. “(…)a prudent, mature, no-nonsense leader, who has an interesting message for the country.”

    Kinda sounds like a guy who’s being prepared to run for president.

  9. ” I believe that the Church is quite focused and that its Doctrine is very clear. It’s a kind of third way between exaggerated capitalism and absolutely unviable communism.”

    —————

    Oh, come on. You gotta be kidding.

    What the hell is “exaggerated capitalism?”

    Sounds like a true leftist.

    • “Sounds like a true leftist”
      Sport on Ira and the absolute very last thing Venezuela needs is the continuation of leftists politics. Sadly it’s seems to be what has been ruling that country for decades and probably will continue to do. Socialism is deeply rooted in Venezuela, it will take decades more to get rid of that cancer unfortunately. Way to many poorly educated people that want something for nothing. ¿Maybe in a generation or 2 they’ll see the light?

    • Seriously Ira.. you’re old enuf to remember the land robber barons, railroad barons, Carnegie, antimonopoly laws, the breakup of Standard Oil into The Seven Sisters to create competition. Chavez’s aggressive attacks against “savage capitalism” led to the growth of his popularity. Ignoring this is ignoring the successful history of your own country, and it doesn’t involve socialism. Ignore at your own peril. There is always somewhere in between.

  10. He may well be a great guy but he did not provide even a rough outline for how Venezuela can escape hell but in fairness, and even worse, no one bothered to ask him.

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