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AFP
February 16, 2020

Venezuela’s Guaido looking to reboot Maduro challenge

World

AFP
February 16, 2020

CARACAS: Fresh off a three-week international tour, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is hoping to ramp up pressure against President Nicolas Maduro but must first overcome his supporters’ increasing listlessness.

Having flouted a travel ban imposed by the Maduro regime to shore up support abroad and meet with foreign leaders such as those of Britain, France and the United States, Guaido must now find a way to reinvigorate his base.

The National Assembly speaker rose to prominence in January 2019 when he declared himself the country´s acting president in a direct challenge to Maduro, whom he deems an illegitimate leader due to a 2018 re-election widely derided as rigged.

While Guaido has called for mass mobilization against Maduro, his supporters are suffering from a “collapse of expectations,” said Benigno Alarcon, head of political studies at Andres Bello Catholic University.

The 36-year-old attracted tens of thousands of people to his rallies at the start of 2019 and garnered the support of more than 50 countries, but by the end of the year only a few hundred supporters would turn up.

And his popularity rating dropped from 63 percent to 39 percent, according to pollsters Datanalisis.

That said, his international tour was “a fleeting work of art” considering his failure to deliver on the home front, said Luis Vicente Leon, Datanalisis president.

On Wednesday, Guaido did manage to generate some excitement as university students took part in a demonstration against Maduro in Caracas.

After Guaido´s meeting with US President Donald Trump, Washington expanded its Venezuela sanctions to include state airline Conviasa.

The United States has already sanctioned state oil company PDVSA and imposed a financial blockade that prevents Venezuela from renegotiating its $140 billion debt.

“There will be more sanctions... on everyone who supports the dictatorship,” Guaido warned on Wednesday.

In Brussels, Guaido urged the European Union to block Venezuelan exports of gold, which have already been hit by US sanctions.

Such actions point to “a sanctions scheme with greater international coordination,” Alarcon said.

Guaido was meanwhile given a bipartisan standing ovation at Trump´s State of the Union address, fueling renewed calls from the most radical elements of Venezuela´s opposition for Washington to deliver a military intervention.

While the US government has repeatedly refused to rule out such an option, the American public has shown little interest in a dramatic dislodging of Maduro.

“The Trump administration has few options available to effect a material change,” said Paul Angelo of the US-based Council on Foreign Relations.

Instead, said Alexander Main of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, US policy has “exacerbated Venezuela´s economic crisis, resulting in increased human suffering.”