Last week, a relatively unknown politician gained the attention of the world in a matter of minutes when he directly challenged President Nicolas Maduro’s governing authority by announcing himself as Venezuela’s president in front of a seemingly endless crowd of Venezuelans. His name is Juan Guaidó.
What right does Guaidó have to declare the presidency? What happens if Venezuelans support him? Why should they? What is at stake? Can Maduro fall?
While it is unclear if Guaidó will succeed in toppling Maduro from power, he has nonetheless highlighted the fragility of Maduro’s hold over the Venezuelan people. Guaidó is well within his rights to declare himself president of the state as he was recently elected as President of the National Assembly. Under Venezuelan law, if the office of the President of Venezuela is vacant, the president of the National Assembly is authorized to occupy the seat until an election can be held.
However, how can Guaidó legally declare to be president if the office is still clearly held by Maduro? The answer lies in legitimacy. Maduro was recently sworn in as president for another term after the “elections” took place last year, yet these elections were by no means free or fair. Opposition leaders were barred from offering their name in the election and a vast number of Venezuelans do not view the election as legitimate. It may then be speculated this gives Guaidó legitimacy to declare himself interim president, adding to the fact that he was elected leader of the National Assembly.
Still, the questions remain: Will Maduro fall? Will Guaidó succeed? If he does, will he bring democracy to Venezuela or will a dictator only replace a dictator?
Although the outcome of this power struggle may be unclear, one aspect that remains clear is the fact that there will be a high price to pay for power. Since Guaidó declared himself interim president at least 40 people have died and CBS News reports over 850 protesters have been detained. The price of freedom in Venezuela is high.
If a Venezuelan citizen protests Maduro’s regime, they may either die or suffer arrest during a protest. But if the protests fail, they become a traitor to the regime. With all this uncertainty ahead, why support Guaidó? Are the costs too high to bear?
But the alternative is the status quo under Maduro. A failing economy, increasing piracy, lack of security, rampant crime, no jobs, no food, barely any hope. People have fled the country. People have been robbed at gunpoint, their babies threatened at gunpoint. Yet after the crime, there is no one to turn to. No one to help them. In my opinion, it is worth the risk. Now, it is easy to sit here and write an editorial saying, “Yes! I support Guaidó!” But it is another thing to be in Venezuela at this moment, watching the confusion in your county. But the reality is I do support Guaidó. At least, I support the hope he gives Venezuela. I support the hope for democracy, for security, for peace and prosperity.
The costs will be high. And more may die. But, if there is a chance for liberation, a chance for democracy and freedom, then I say take it. Under Maduro, there’s only the status quo. And right now, that status quo does not look good. But now, there’s a real challenge to Maduro and right now, Guaidó’s chances look good. There is instability in his hold. This is the chance. I stand with my Venezuelan people.
The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch.