Opposition leader Juan Guaidó was supposed to be the spearhead of a velvet revolution. Now 18 months on, and it looks like Nicolás Maduro's grip on power is as strong as everby Stephen Gibbs / June 8, 2020 / Leave a comment
Shortly after midnight on 18th January, one of the two men who claims to be the president of Venezuela snuck by foot across the little-patrolled border into Colombia. The crossing, most often used by migrants and smugglers, can be made in minutes. At the other side of the frontier, Colombian intelligence officials were waiting for Juan Guaidó. Greeting him formally as “Señor Presidente,” they escorted him on to a government plane for the short flight to Bogotá.
Guaidó, who is banned from travelling by the regime of Venezuela’s other—de facto—president, Nicolas Maduro, was beginning a nine-country visit to the Americas and Europe. It was designed to cement his unusual status as head of state in the eyes of around 60 nations—yet not his own. The following day he was given a televised red-carpet reception by Colombia’s president Ivan Duque. Then he held talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who (not coincidentally) was in Bogotá attending a terrorism conference. Afterwards Guaidó flew overnight by private jet to London, where he held meetings with both foreign secretary Dominic Raab and Boris Johnson. In the following weeks, he went on to meet Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, and Justin Trudeau, before ending his tour as a special guest at President Trump’s State of the Union address in Washington.
He then returned to Venezuela, arriving on a commercial flight at the main international airport of Caracas. The Maduro government sent an angry rent-a-mob to scream insults and jostle him as he emerged from the airport terminal. His ID card was confiscated by a junior immigration official.
Outside Venezuela, Guaidó might be fêted as a head of state, but at home he is subject to the whims of a regime that is convinced that the contest over who rules Venezuela is over.
Office without power
A year and a half after Guaidó launched his bid to topple a regime that has driven a once-rich country to penury, Venezuela’s alternative president finds himself caught somewhere between hope and reality. So too are the governments that support him. If ruling a country is about the levers you control, Maduro still has them all: the army, the judiciary, the electoral authority, even the flailing economy. Guaidó is left with a title, but little else.