Juan Guaido’s Straitjacket

They are not the same ones who continue clinging to the route proposed by Guaido in January. The three-step agenda is now uncomfortable for those who took it up.

President Juan Guaido will hold a press conference on Monday in Caracas (Venezuela). EFE/ Maria Gabriela Angarita

Spanish – “In the presence of Almighty God, Venezuela, I swear to formally assume the duties of the national executive as president in charge of achieving the end of the usurpation, a transitional government, and free elections.”

It happened on 23rd January earlier this year. If I recall correctly, this was the first time Guaido pronounced the string of words that would soon become a mantra.

Millions of Venezuelans celebrated what we had been demanding for a long time. Guaido’s oath as president was a sign of incredible bravery, and the whole country was enthusiastic. People were confident that the man who dared to call himself the president (legitimately) in a country without any liberties would commit to change the system. The logic was relatively simple: if this unknown parliamentarian had taken the risk of confronting Maduro in this manner, he would have to win; else, he would end up in a deep dungeon of the regime.

But the other thing that so many of us celebrated was witnessing the political leadership don the garment they would wear for the entire duration of the conflict. With each pronouncement, Guaido was putting together the suit. A straitjacket, quite narrow. “Cessation of usurpation,” one sleeve; “Transitional government,” the other; “free elections,” the details. Hundreds of thousands applauded and tightened the belt.

The many unsuccessful attempts have tested the citizens and made them cautious and skeptical of all efforts against Chavismo. Failed dialogues, last-minute deviations, pettiness, and shortcomings that lend themselves to electoral farce. After all, every experience has ended badly. In part, it is true, by licenses granted by citizenship, understandable under this state of panic and despair.

But when millions of people get a surprise, almost like Puccini’s prince, capable of answering all questions, everything changes. Caracas didn’t sleep a wink. Who is Juan Guaido? He came with something no one else could guarantee. “This is my agenda. This is my route. Everyone supports it, and I will stick strictly to it.” He did not have any old commitments or ties to the decadent political class that had plundered the country. Guaido was seen as the “chosen one.” Above all, everyone was sure that the unalterable route was the right one.

“Cessation of usurpation, transition government, and free elections” meant that, first, all efforts would be focused on achieving the end of Chavismo (not only of Maduro but of each and every one of the usurpers); second, once we had attained the end of usurpation, once Chavismo no longer existed in power, a transitional government would be formed, led by Guaido, to prepare and clean up the country for the third and final objective: free elections. Truly free.

The three steps, solid in that order, prevented the repetition of the opposition errors that would up in authoritarianism in Venezuela. If we insisted on keeping the route inflexible, under severe and permanent surveillance, nothing would prevent the triumph — a straitjacket. Moreover, Juan Guaido himself knitted it.

It is now more than eight months since the unknown leader who caught us by surprise was sworn in front of millions and announced these three steps as the unwavering principles of his leadership. Words that clung to him and, after so much, have become annoying. Almost impossible to carry. Very uncomfortable.

Naturally, the straitjacket would be insufferable, and the president, at any moment, would begin to twist and turn to break free. He did. The borders between the steps started to blur. We saw a leadership, degraded and afflicted by the reality of the situation -a fact that considers the economic and financial interests of opposition factors and parties and the complexity of deposing a regime like that of Maduro-, jumping between alternatives that in no way corresponded to the agenda that millions celebrated.

No one ever spoke of negotiations, nor of a pact in which usurpation would cease halfway, or coexistence agreements. To get rid of the attire that he cautiously dotted, and sometimes cast, Guaido had the assistance of those first interested in freeing the president of the country, and the Parliament, from that hindrance that avoided deviations. Millions saw him get dressed, but few, just a handful of corrupt, thieves and criminals, undressed him.

From the promises of 23rd January, Guaido has now signed an “agreement to corroborate the integral political route proposed to the country that allows free and transparent elections.” It is a four-page text with considerations and agreements where the president’s signature is accompanied by that of his vice-president, Edgar Zambrano, who never expressed an affinity for the route proposed in January. “It would be irresponsible for Guaido to take the oath as president,” said Congressman Zambrano a few days before 23rd January.

This text signed on 1st October is seen as a surrender by people who are committed to Venezuela’s cause for freedom like former MEP Beatriz Becerra and the tireless defender of human rights and former Guaido ambassador Tamara Suju. The new plan puts aside the three-step mantra that has been brandished since January and marketed as Guaido’s indispensable agenda.

“Today, Venezuela dawns with a ‘cohabitation agreement,’ and we have compromised the transition steps (cessation of usurpation, transition, and elections). They were reversed, and cohabitation with criminals will be the way to elections. Free?” Tamara Suju asked.

The fact is that the document does not mention the word “usurpation” once, nor does it refer much to the powers inherent to the interim presidency led by Guaido. On the other hand, it is made clear, in every one of the agreements, the commitment of the National Assembly to the resolution of the Venezuelan crisis through an electoral process that is agreed upon in what they call “Integral Political Agreement.” Although presumably, the dialogue sessions hosted by Oslo are over, the four pages show the will to continue negotiating under the same terms and the same mediator.

“Is it seriously a ‘comprehensive political route’ maintaining the usurpation of Maduro and his cohort? Elections, besides being free and transparent, must be credible. I don’t understand this sudden decision to assimilate Chavismo and wind up the roadmap for Venezuela,” former MEP Becerra, a great ally of Venezuelans, said on Twitter.

These are not the same people who continue to cling to the route proposed by President Guaido in January. Those who promoted the three-step agenda are uncomfortable with it today. The truth is that the president is desperate to take off his straitjacket. Maybe he should be honest and say that times have changed. Explain where he’s going now. It’s the least the country deserves.

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