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Wednesday, 22 May 2024
  • Overstaying his welcome? Trump spotlights Venezuela’s Guaido in cringeworthy reminder of year-long ‘interim presidency’

Overstaying his welcome? Trump spotlights Venezuela’s Guaido in cringeworthy reminder of year-long ‘interim presidency’
Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido gestures during President Donald Trump's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington, DC, February 4, 2020.

US President Donald Trump shone an awkward spotlight on self-styled Venezuelan ‘interim president’ Juan Guaido sitting in his SOTU audience over a year of daydreaming about replacing Nicolas Maduro as the only ‘legitimate leader.’

Trump introduced an embarrassed-looking Guaido to the SOTU audience as “a very brave man who carries with him the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of all Venezuelans.” Declaring him the “true and legitimate president of Venezuela,” Trump contrasted the fidgety self-appointed statesman to “socialist dictator” President Nicolas Maduro – currently in Caracas running his US sanctions-hit country.


Asking the US-backed and thrice-failed coup leader to take a message back to “his” country, Trump informed Guaido that “all Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom.”Freedom doesn’t seem to be unifying the Venezuelan opposition, however. Guaido was ousted as head of the National Assembly last month, replaced with fellow opposition lawmaker Luis Parra. He now claims to be president of an alternate national assembly, which is somehow fitting in light of his 13-months-and-counting as “interim” head of a Venezuelan government that exists largely as a shared fantasy between himself, the Trump administration, and a handful of right-wing allies in Latin America. Just 7 percent of supporters of the Venezuelan opposition is “very confident” in his leadership abilities, according to one recent poll.

It was Trump’s second SOTU speech to include a mention of the young politician, who had appointed himself to lead Venezuela only two weeks before the US president spoke in 2019. However, the impotent opposition leader’s international standing has fallen significantly. In the intervening year, Guaido has been caught up in corruption and embezzlement scandals – often involving US funds supposedly earmarked for humanitarian relief – and after repeated attempts at calling his supporters into the street to overthrow Maduro fizzled deplorably, he can no longer muster the crowds that at least kept up the appearance of a strong opposition movement. News that possible surrogates for the Trump administration, such as Blackwater founder Erik Prince, are quietly meeting with agents of the Maduro government could spell the end of his career at the helm of an imaginary neoliberalized Venezuela.

However, Trump’s Tuesday audience was more forgiving than Guaido’s countrymen, offering him a standing ovation as Trump reminded them that socialism was still evil and not coming to America any time soon.

source: Reuters