U.S. embassy staff in Venezuela are required to leave the country on Saturday – the deadline imposed by President Nicolás Maduro.
This week, the U.S. recognized a different leader Juan Guiadó, the leader of the National Assembly, which holds no power under Maduro.
Guaidó made his first public appearance Friday morning, giving a speech to urge the military to abandon the Maduro regime.
The South Florida Roundup discussed the Venezuelan power struggle happening amid the country’s humanitarian and economic crisis. Host Tom Hudson was joined by WLRN’s Americas correspondent Tim Padgett; Laura Weffer, co-founder of Efecto Cocuyo, an independent digital news outlet based in Caracas; Julett Pineda, a contributor for Efecto Cocuyo based in Caracas; and Mario Di Giovanni, director of Red Democrática Internacional, a pro-democracy NGO.
Here’s an excerpt of that conversation.
WLRN: Talk to us about the historic nature of this.
TIM PADGETT: Guaidó does not come from the elite in Venezuela. He’s from a fairly working middle-class city. His family in 1999, during huge floods and mudslides there, their home was destroyed, that doesn’t happen to elites in Venezuela.
I was going back and looking at conversations Mario and I had back in 2014, and we both agreed that unless the opposition in Venezuela started reaching out more effectively to the poor and working class – meaning the political base of the socialist regime – it was not going to get very far. It is only recently that it has begun doing that. And Guaidó is kind of a very strong manifestation of that trend – that the opposition realizing that it’s got to reach out to the poor in Venezuela.
How is that message being received in Caracas and in some of those neighborhoods that Tim spoke about?
JULETT PINEDA: People feel this is a leader much closer to the people. He’s a young person. Guaidó comes from a generation, from students who were adverse to the regime of President Hugo Chávez. He doesn’t have a record of corruption behind him. He doesn’t have this record you know a staying by previous negotiations with the government and they see he puts out that future.
What about the diaspora reaction to Guaidó? Not to his swearing himself in but to him as the face of the opposition now?
MARIO DI GIOVANNI: Many of the typical leaders that we have seen in the past few years had so much baggage. Each one had their own stain, if you may. But once this young guy comes up and suddenly starts without fear because that’s what many people have said. You feel that he’s talking calmly; he’s talking with confidence. He assumes this responsibility, this big challenge that nobody thought anybody would assume. Many people have changed their minds about what’s going to happen in Venezuela. The hope is really there right now.
And Venezuelans are waiting to see what happens in helping or trying to with other countries. We need their support and we need for them to understand that this is not one half against the other half. This is the vast majority of Venezuelans trying to overcome a dictatorship.