Who Is Juan
Venezuela’s National Assembly head Juan Guaido speaks to the crowd during a mass opposition rally against leader Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Jan. 23.
Juan Guaido has declared himself president of Venezuela — a move quickly endorsed by several Latin American countries, as well as Canada and the United States. Just two months ago, many people around the world, and even inside Venezuela, may not have known Guaido’s name.
The 35-year-old engineer was a member of Venezuela’s Congress, elected to the National Assembly in 2015. He had long been an activist, organizing demonstrations against former president Hugo Chavez as part of a student-led movement. He took part in the 2017 protests across Venezuela after several opposition leaders were arrested.
Guaido became leader of the opposition in the legislature last year, and was sworn in as president of the National Assembly, somewhat equivalent to a Speaker’s position, just last month, one week before Nicolas Maduro was sworn in again as president.
Almost immediately, Guaido began urging the Venezuelan military and people to recognize him rather than Maduro as president. He was detained on his way to a political rally Jan. 13 but released after about an hour.
He spoke to supporters a short time later, declaring, “The game has changed.”
“Here we are!” he said. “We are not afraid!”
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Guaido’s party, Voluntad Popular (Popular Will or Will of the People) is a centrist social-democratic party. It holds just 14 of the national assembly’s 167 seats, but is a member of the Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition, which holds a super majority in the assembly.
According to the party’s website, its origins date back to 2004. It was formed to “promote social action and social leadership,” and it was officially recognized as a party in 2011.
Its manifesto states that it seeks to “bring together Venezuelans to work toward peace, freedom and democracy” and to “build a more secure, united and prosperous country where everyone will be entitled to all rights.”