On 5 January 2019, Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez became the President of the National Assembly of Venezuela. Just 18 days later and with the support of the National Assembly, Guaidó declared the 2018 Venezuelan Presidential election illegitimate and refused to recognise Nicolas Maduro as President of Venezuela.
Under the Venezuelan Constitution, this meant Guaidó would assume the role of interim President until free elections could be held. Guaidó rapidly received the recognition of 60 countries including the US, UK and many Latin American and European countries but China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Cuba and other continued to recognise Maduro.
Two years later, it seems that Maduro has consolidated his position as Guaidó’s influence has waned. On 5 January 2021, the government-controlled National Assembly assumed its mandate after elections which “failed to comply with international standards”, according to the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who also described Guaidó as a “representative of the outgoing Assembly”.
A constitutional lawyer at a Venezuelan law firm told us, “Borrell’s words clearly undermined Guaidó, but some members of the European Parliament have already expressed disagreement with his statement. Also, his statement is so contradictory that it implies Venezuela currently has no National Assembly in the eyes of the EU!”
“Borrell’s words clearly undermined Guaidó, […] his statement is so contradictory that it implies Venezuela currently has no National Assembly in the eyes of the EU.”
Constitutional lawyer, Venezuela
Guaidó lost his political immunity of 5 January 2021 and Iris Varela, Vice President of the National Assembly, has announced a special commission to investigate some members of the commission during the period of 2016 – 2021. This could signal an impending clampdown on Guaidó and his advisors who are already under increasing pressure.
Our constitutional expert in Caracas looked at where Guaidó has gone wrong, “When Guaidó assumed the Presidency he should have stepped down from the National Assembly, you can’t be head of the legislative and executive powers!”
Looking forward, he sees Guaidó’s power and influence receding, “Internationally, Guaidó’s legitimacy was linked to his Presidency of the National Assembly. The period of the National Assembly expired on 5 January so it will be hard for some countries to continue to recognise Guaidó.”
The constitutional lawyer agrees, “Locally Guaidó has little support left due to his failure to unseat Maduro and various corruption scandals in the interim government. This has also diluted the power of Leopoldo Lopez, so today there is no opposition leader that could bring even 10,000 people to protest. Internationally, as long as the US continues to recognise Guaidó, he will continue to have a place in Venezuelan politics.”
“Internationally, as long as the US continues to recognise Guaidó, he will continue to have a place in Venezuelan politics.”
Constitutional lawyer, Venezuela
Commenting on the threat to Guaidó and his allies the lawyer continues, “It is likely that the people around Guaidó will continue to be persecuted and harassed – they detained Guaidó’s uncle – but they won’t formally arrest people without evidence and their lives are not in danger. Maduro and his allies are angry but not stupid. They won’t touch Guaidó either unless they find something concrete against him.”