Photo: El Pitazo retrieved

Thinking back to the first few days of 2019, the change in the opposition’s mood is striking. In a short time, we have gotten a glimpse of how people’s faith in the country and its future can renew itself in the most unexpected of ways.

The first ten days of January of 2019 offered an explosive cocktail for Venezuelan political life. After two long years of gloom, the young new National Assembly Speaker, Juan Guaidó, lifted the mood of the immense majority of the population that wants a political change in the country practically overnight. He did it with a simple but effective proposal, and with a firm attitude, emphasized by the youth of its bearer.

Here’s the situation, in brief: on January 5, the National Assembly elected its new Board; January 10 marked the end of the constitutional period for which Nicolás Maduro was elected in 2013.

The new leadership of the National Assembly, and particularly its Speaker, was to play a crucial and delicate role, as he’d be responsible for showing the path to follow for the Venezuelan opposition. The name that would fill the post belonged to a young VP lawmaker, who exercised the party’s spokesmanship in the National Assembly from time to time. He didn’t do it poorly, we seem to remember, but he wasn’t particularly brilliant either. Juan Guaidó.

After two long years of gloom, the young new AN Speaker, Juan Guaidó, lifted the mood of the immense majority that wants a political change in the country practically overnight.

The government had—seemingly—neutralized Leopoldo López, Carlos Vecchio, Freddy Guevara. Yet, suddenly “this” Guaidó comes out of nowhere, despite everything the regime has done to silence, intimidate, control and repress.

The five days that followed his appointment, on January 5, were fraught with the expectation of what would happen on January 10, the day of Maduro’s “swearing-in ceremony,” and what the National Assembly, and especially its Speaker, would do about it. No one knew what to expect, and many expected nothing.  

Let’s not talk about how poor the ceremony was, the scarce international representation, the deafening absences, the low level of the representatives sent by the countries that did decide to attend the event, Maikel Moreno’s messy “performance” when taking Maduro’s oath, which was only too appropriate for the level of instruction generally attributed to “justice” Moreno.

Let’s ignore all of that, because what matters is what Guaidó did.

What he did was present the country with a simple proposal: there’s no legitimate president in Venezuela; Maduro is an usurper; the only legitimate institution in the country is the National Assembly; the AN Speaker must now assume the representation for all state powers, in accordance with the Constitution; and in order to enforce that constitutional prerogative, he needed the support of three actors: the people, the Armed Forces and the international community.

So the idea is to promote that support and call on those responsible for offering it. Otherwise, the Constitution would remain invalid, victim of yet another violation and Maduro’s usurpation would continue humiliating our country’s democratic dignity.

Without that accumulation of forces, the only thing we’ll get is a series of irrelevant judicial discussions and stentorian and ineffective “decisions”.

We don’t need to remark which of these three actors Guaidó is directly addressing.

What matters is the process of accumulating those forces and everything that will make it possible to uphold the Constitution and produce a regime change, in the most judicially and politically appropriate way possible.

But without that accumulation of forces, the only thing we’ll get is a series of irrelevant judicial discussions and stentorian and ineffective “decisions”. On the other hand, insofar as that process advances, it will allow bolder and faster steps toward enforcing the Constitution and creating a new government.

So the idea is to gather all of those supports and give them to Guaidó with as much generosity as we can. That’s what we have to do, that’s what we’re doing. Each at their own level, each at their own measure. The international community has done it and continues to do it. The Venezuelan people is willing to do it. I can smell it, I can feel it. We’ll do it with full hands. It’s not going to be for lack of popular support that this enterprise proposed by Guaidó will fail. Again: the mood of the opposition has been lifted overnight.

That’s another aspect of those democratic reserves I mentioned, which can be rekindled in moments as soon as a catalyst for that democratic energy appears.

We don’t know whether Juan Guaidó is set to be a great leader in the years to come. For now, we know that he’s willing to serve the country, here and now, a frontline service to accomplish the recovery of democracy.

More than enough to make it to the history books with honors.

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Lawyer and political scientist. Founder of the School of Political Studies of the UCV, where he taught History of Political Ideas and the Venezuelan Political System. Individual of number of Venezuela's National Academy of History. Visiting Professor at St. Antony's College, Oxford University. Since 2000, he has been conducting the radio program La Linterna at RCR. He was Director of El Diario de Caracas and Deputy to the National Congress. He has published several books on Venezuelan political history, oil history, analysis of the Venezuelan political system.