Guaidó’s freezing momentum puts his opposition in the shadow

  • + Looming Parliamentary elections on December 6th 2020.  
  • + Opposition members holding secretive talks with Maduro’s government. 
  • + Will December elections result in the same outcome as Belarus in June 2020?
Juan Guaido
Financial Times

Why is Guaidó’s heat level hot? 

Answer: Guaidó’s authority is diminishing as Parliamentary elections approach. 

Twenty years of socialist misrule have destroyed most of the economy, forced one-sixth of the population into exile and transposed the once-wealthy oil producer to subsistence status. The opposition leader, Juan Guaidó attempted to re-energise Venezuela and take away the control of this land from Chavez’s successor. Unluckily, despite Guaidó being backed by around 60 nations and displaying a high level of personal bravery, he still has not been able to dislodge Maduro from Presidency, which was his aim since he assumed the role of interim President of Venezuela in January 2019. 

The United States continues to reiterate its commitment to oust Maduro from power. Both Trump and John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, claimed their commitment to continue a hard line against Maduro. However, how come that even with the U.S’s commitment the opposition leader has been unable to oust Maduro from power? 

Venezuela’s growing humanitarian crisis, an exodus of one-sixth of the population and several rounds of US sanctions, have still been insufficient to split the military from the government. But, the additional key problem to the situation is that Guaidó’s authority is consistently being diminished. A failed uprising he led last year, followed by a disastrous attempt at a military invasion of Venezuela by American mercenaries in May, has fostered the evaporation of his supporters. Recent polls have given Guaidó an approval of 17% against 13% for Maduro, a close difference in comparison with the leaders’ diverging opinions. 

These results have put Guaidó in the spotlight given the looming Parliamentary elections scheduled to take place on December 6th 2020. 

Who is changing Guaidó’s temperature? 

Answer: Guaidó’s own party members are going behind his back 

Even though the aforementioned elements seem sufficient to understand why Guaidó is being unable to go forward and pursue its aims, we should analyse the latest blow that took place the past June 12th 2020. Again, this day confirmed the overwhelming power that the government of Maduro holds in this country. The Supreme Court, which is basically controlled by the central government, granted leadership to the two largest democratic parties to politicians that were utterly loyal to the government and threatened to declare Guaidó’s party as a terrorist organisation. Leaving, Venezuela’s opposition completely impotent and battered over again by Venezuela’s dictatorship. 

Unfortunately, there is more to add to this bitter cocktail…

Guaidó has in a way been betrayed by members within his coalition. Turkey, which is a close ally of Maduro, disclosed last month that Henrique Capriles and Stalin Gonzalez had secretly been meeting with Maduro’s government secretly. These two personalities expressed to Maduro their intention to favourably participate in December’s elections. Whereas Guaidó already publicly claimed that his opposition will not take part in a vote, which can only be classified as being fraudulent. This move has shattered the unity of the opposition that has been untouched for the past two years.

On the one hand, Guaidó claims that participating in a political farce, basically repeating the elections of 2018 will only deepen the crisis and the suffering of the people of Venezuela. On the other hand, Capriles claimed that the non-participation in these elections would only leave Venezuelan’s without any option, left out in the lurch. What it is clear is that Maduro’s government is clearly winning, as they have been way more proactive whilst the opposition is as we can see seriously divided. 

What is driving Guaidó? 

Answer: Possible aim to achieve the same outcome as in Belarus 

Guaidó now faces an impossible dilemma. He either participates in elections that most certainly he is going to lose or he goes forward with these elections and insists on an increasingly unpopular boycott that will only continue to divide his coalition. 

It can be argued that Guaidó’s determined position regarding the elections in December, is heavily based on the recent protests that took place in Belarus, in June 2020 against Lukashenko. Taking Belarus as a case scenario, the attempt to rig the elections and secure continued legitimacy for an authoritarian ruler, was the last straw that sparked large protests that threatened the regime. There is no concrete prediction that a similar result would occur in Venezuela.

But what it is completely certain, is that if the opposition decides to participate in the December election, it would only be on Maduro’s terms. However, examples such as Belarus teaches us that disputed elections have the great potential to energise the opposition and threaten long-lasting dictators such as Maduro or if we want to go even further the Chavista legacy. 

Venezuelan or not, what does this mean for you? 

Answer: Difficult to pinpoint a possible hopeful near future…

As usual, Venezuela’s future hangs in the balance. Unlike in Belarus, we cannot confirm or even get close to the fact that Venezuela’s dictatorship will come to an end. Maduro has been increasing his support and his reputation remains intact, as opposed to that of Guaidó. Moreover, a weakened opposition can result to be quite harmful to Venezuelans as many of them could feel left out to find a compromise with any political party. 

Even though Guaidó’s position aims to make the population aware of the fraudulent elections that are about to take place. There is no guarantee that events in December will ignite mass mobilisations, that will inevitably result in regime change. There have already been many protests, especially those in 2017, that continuously have failed to oust Maduro from power. Therefore, the fact of Guaidó losing control over the situation can only bring further tensions within the diplomatic arena and could even bring hostility towards the US, due to their inability to bring Maduro down.

Berta Pereda Asencio

Research & Analysis Intern