End of an era as Venezuela’s opposition moves to end Guaidó experiment

   < < Go Back
from The Washington Post,

At the start of 2019, as President Nicolás Maduro was claiming reelection in a vote widely condemned as fraudulent, the head of the country’s legislature stood before an electric crowd of thousands in John Paul II Plaza here in the Venezuelan capital and presented himself as the country’s rightful leader.

“We will stay on the street,” Juan Guaidó vowed, “until Venezuela is liberated!”

The then-35-year-old head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly was swiftly backed by the Trump administration and governments around the world on the reasoning that he was now the highest-ranking democratically elected official in the country.

A rare unifying figure among the historically fractious opposition, Guaidó said he would serve as the country’s “interim president” until Maduro stepped down — or, at least, agreed to hold free and fair elections.

But nearly four years later and with little to show for the effort, the experiment appears to be coming to an end. Next week, the opposition lawmakers who once rallied behind Guaidó are expected to end his mandate and eliminate his interim government. They approved those moves in a 72-23 preliminary vote last week.

At stake is not only the prospect of competitive elections under Maduro’s authoritarian socialist state and U.S. engagement with the country but also the control of key government assets abroad. Under U.S. and other sanctions, the interim government has administered Houston-based Citgo Petroleum Corp. and gold stored at the Bank of England.

Lawmakers who support removing Guaidó say they would establish a committee to protect those assets and manage expenses. The National Assembly, elected in 2015, would continue through 2023, but only to legislate on issues related to the assets.

Guaidó, now 39, told The Post last year he would remain interim president “until there is a free and fair presidential election. … That is my constitutional mandate.”

More From The Washington Post (subscription required):