When Guaidó Talks

There's a thing that happens when Guaidó talks. A quiet energy, that moves his long-suffering audience like a jolt. Listen to Guaidó among a group of Venezuelans abroad, and you can't miss it.

Photo: Venezuelanalysis, retrieved.

The first thing that strikes me is, he treats me with respect. Like a citizen.

It’s a shock, actually.

A president treating me with respect is something I have no experience of. I’ve always been the enemy, the traitor, the golpista, the escuálida, I’ve always been in the group of people that they insult, crush, mock and ridicule from the seat of power.

When I was a teenager it hurt but, like with tapara showers, you get used to it.

A president treating me with respect is something I have no experience of.

I’m listening to him on a screen while at a public forum here in Miami. Around 60 people came to this hotel-lobby-turned-press-room to listen to Antonio Ledezma, David Smolansky and Gustavo Tarre Briceño talk about what comes next. There’s one other millennial journalist in my row — she’s pretty, and wears a simple skirt and a flowy top that made me feel underdressed when I walked in.  She meets my eye and asks: “Is it just me, or is he really something?”

“I thought it was only me, because I tend to want to believe, but, no… I think he’s really something, too.”

Guaidó doesn’t yell into the microphone. He doesn’t insult anyone. He talks about the future, not the past. He’s excised the vocabulary of conflict from his lexicon — words like war, enemy, defeat, vanquish, crush, destroy, treason, poehblo are not in his discourse. He prefers words like future, project, hope, aid, rescue, build, construction, society, plan, action, idea, reencuentro, forgiveness, citizens.

“Keep it together, coño,” I think to myself. “Don’t cry.”

Everyone listens, smiles, laughs at Guaidó’s jokes, claps and chants back “claro que sí, así es, vale.”

Nobody insults the president, because the president isn’t insulting anyone.

Nobody frowns, grunts, growls or says  “shut up, you fat communist dictator.”

He reads a list of countries that recognize him as president. When he mentions the USA, a woman in the second row holding a Prada bag and wearing a MAGA hat yells “¡Viva Trump!” Thankfully, nobody joins her.

It’s only been a few minutes, but Guaidó isn’t intending to speak for hours. “And now, to wrap this up,” he says. Can presidents even be brief? Another first for me. No four-hour speech about mango trees and imperialism? It feels impossible.

But he’s not done quite yet.

“To those of you who are abroad,” he says, “we miss you. We miss you. We miss you a lot. Get ready, you’ll be home soon.”

Is this real life? The cheers and applause are so loud, we don’t hear what he says next. The silence and attention (like the chavista curse) are broken. It’s happening for all of us. Nobody doubts or hesitates.

“To those of you who are abroad,” he says, “we miss you. We miss you. We miss you a lot.

I picture the movies of the future each person here is playing out in their heads. The flights they’ll catch, the reunions, the plans to surprise family members, where they’ll work, where they’ll teach, what they’ll have to take home and what can be left behind, how to use all they’ve learned and put it in service of the nation we’ll rebuild, together.

I think about the bad times. The cold and the hunger, the worst of times, when I lived in Bogotá. I think about my own struggle and how I’m trying to make it valuable. I think about the woman I’ve become, the one my country needs.

The woman with the MAGA hat dries her face, I stop hating her because there’s no place for hate in the country Guaidó is starting to build with his discourse.

The country of our future suddenly feels real and I can’t hide my excitement. It feels real, ¿no te das cuenta?

The photographer looks up to the ceiling, mouthing something I can’t quite decipher. I hear someone yell “at last”. Two seconds go by and I hear a chorus of actual sniffs, gracias-a-dioses and ohmygods from the Ladies from Doral bit of the room.

The other millennial journo and I stare at one another, this time we don’t avert our gazes. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, my eyes are red already, and she says “now we’re not alone.”

No, we are not alone anymore.

Nina Rancel

Nina is an actress and comedian living in Bogotá. She loves reading and correcting people when they screw up, which is perfect for working as a copy editor at Caracas Chronicles, because she gets to do both.