In January 2019, Juan Guaido, the almost unknown president of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled national assembly took his country and the world by surprise: Guaido declared himself interim president of Venezuela.
The justification was that President Nicolas Maduro was not a legitimately elected leader but an usurpator and dictator.
Venezuelans, desperate for economic and political change, rushed to show their support. And with the US leading the charge, nearly 60 countries followed suit.
But 12 months later, the promise of political change seems to have evaporated.
With help from China, Russia, Iran and others Maduro has circumvented harsh economic sanctions meant to force him out. Negotiations to allow new presidential elections have failed miserably, as has Guaido’s appeal to the army to support regime change.
Maduro has retaliated by arresting or exiling scores of opponents.
Driven by worsening poverty and hyperinflation, disheartened Venezuelans have joined the unprecedented exodus of millions of their compatriots to neighbouring countries.
On January 5, soldiers surrounded parliament to block Guaido’s reelection as speaker of the house while the pro-government minority named someone of its choosing.
While much of the international community calls the latest conflict escalation a sham, and continues to recognise Guaido as the leader of Venezuela’s only independent institution, the crisis seems to be reaching a new tipping point. And the possibility of regime change seems like a very distant possibility.
So, what is next for Guaido and Venezuela? Has Guaido underestimated Maduro’s resilience? And how can Guaido stop the military-based government from consolidating its power?