Being Juan Guaidó

Juan Guaidó has revealed an amazing gift for connecting with his audience. He may be young, but Guaidó is no rookie. He’s been a politician his entire adult life. And he learns fast.

Photo: El Litoral, retrieved.

“¡Papi, papi!”

“Yes, Miranda, they’re measuring our ability to react. And I’d like to seize this moment, to talk about amnesty and guarantees…”

Last week, Juan Guaidó spoke to the media right after FAES officers snooped around his house. He held his baby in arms while answering questions, and Fabiana Rosales stood right next to him.

My ovaries exploded. I’ve never seen a president be a family man; I mean, Maduro’s nephews are in jail. I didn’t even know it was important to me, as a citizen, to have a president truly caring about his own. Is he going to protect the Venezuelan people like he’s protecting his wife and kid? Guaidó finished his Plan País presentation after he learned about the FAES were at his home, he rushed to his kid only when he was done telling us how they’ll rebuild the country.

There’s no coaching that can turn one guy into a phenomenon of this proportion.

I know Juan from the 2007 student movement. We weren’t close, but I remember him as an easygoing, polite guy; a mutual friend was really close to him all through the movimiento, and then as activists in Voluntad Popular, and she says Juan makes everyone love Tiburones de La Guaira, even during the longest losing streak of Venezuelan baseball history. So, the man is loyal.

There’s no coaching that can turn one guy into a phenomenon of this proportion.

“He can’t talk about the Vargas tragedy without getting upset,” she tells me. The place where he grew, where he lost everything, defines him. “Becoming a father changed him like Leopoldo changed when Manuela was born: it gave them more reasons to work harder, to give their best.”

She’s seen him relentlessly work in a disciplined, structured manner (must be the engineer in him). She also says he’s the best salsa and merengue dancer in the world.

“I just want to highlight,” says another friend, “that Juan watches and listens. The day I met the man who’d be my husband, Juan started making fun of me because he said I’d been actively flirting with the guy. He was right, I was.”

I consulted several advisors in political communications, and the first thing they all mention is how Juan Guaidó’s message is positive, optimistic, the exact opposite of chavismo. He talks about hope, change and building the future, while Maduro can’t even pronounce the s in “construcción.

“The greatest challenge that Caretaker President Guaidó faces is moderating expectations. We all want immediate results, so it’s key for him to keep communicating every step and talking about every result.”

Dariela Sosa, who worked with Guaidó as student leaders in UCAB and co-founders of NGO Futuro Presente, says “He’s not new to politics. He wasn’t famous, but he’s been in politics for 12 years, and he’s been a public servant for nine. I think that lack of visibility allowed him to get here, because he wasn’t identified by Cuban intelligence as a leader to annihilate politically, as others from his generation like Goicochea, Guevara and Smolansky. I also think that he made it all the way because he’s been very disciplined and focused, yet flexible enough to change course or improvise.”

I think that lack of visibility allowed him to get here, because he wasn’t identified by Cuban intelligence as a leader to annihilate politically.

“The opposition has been policatilly orphaned for a couple of years,” says a specialist in political communications who preferred to remain anonymous. “Can you imagine Barboza leading this movement, this year? Would everyone feel as hopeful or as identified with a guy as gray as Omar Barboza, who pulverized the efforts of 2017?”

“Guaidó is authentic. Most consultants will tell you the same, we can turn a candidate into a president but we need the fertile ground to sow. We identify advantages and features and we build from there, but if someone lacks charisma, no coaching can help. Guaidó is candid, honest and real. No disrespect to his team, but nobody coached him to go from leader to father and back in front of those cameras, he did that on his own, because that’s who he is. Nobody told him to fix that kid’s tie in the AN, nobody told him to help the reporter who tripped on his way in. That’s all him and it’s communicational gold.”

It’s like watching the stars align, basically.

“The guy has a particular communicational talent that helps him think fast,” another anonymous expert chimes in. “His election as president of the AN is genius stuff, because it takes advantage of his previous lack of fame: people couldn’t have preconceived notions about him, and now he’s known for being young, wearing a suit, smiling, being brave.”

“He most likely has coaches telling him how to look better in public, but that episode of his baby interrupting him with ‘daddy, daddy!’ in front of the press, you can’t plan ahead for that.”

Guaidó rose up to the occasion and filled a leadership void with ease and honesty. A country that wanted to fall in love, to trust again, to be told what had to be done and to be willing to do it is now hanging on to his words. He’s not a savior, he’s not messianic, he’s a decent man with a plan we can rally behind.

It’s how chavismo had to end, with this new, different man giving us hope.

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.