Venezuela : Who is Juan Guaido and what is the “Popular Will” Party?

With the upheaval in progress in the Nation of Venezuela there are many questions that spectators, along with those who’ve been extremely concerned about the wellbeing of the citizens of this collapsed state, should be asking themselves. If Nicolas Maduro is ousted, what replaces his authoritative regime? Better than Satan isn’t much of a jump, but a change toward some semblance of Individual rights is better than the current situation. But, before we begin cheering the sea change that is causing the citizenry to take to the streets to reject the illegitimate reelection and second six year term of a despotic authoritarian regime, we need to be honest about who will fill the void.

Who is Juan Guaido? He is a 35 year old engineer and politician. He Serves as President of the National Assembly of Venezuela since 1/5/2019. This is an entity that has a storied past with the current regime. Maduro stripped that legislative body of its powers in 2017, it still meets and is recognized by most countries. He is a member of the Popular Will Party. As of January 23rd, he has been sworn in as interim President of Venezuela. “The relationship between Venezuela and its state today is one of terror,” Guaidó said in an interview. “When this happens, the voices and hopes of the world, their messages, are the encouragement for the daily struggle to resist — to dream of democracy, and for a better country.” Guaido has also offered an amnesty to any members of the military — whose loyalty is key to the government retaining power — who rebel against Maduro. The United States has recognized Guiado as the new President. The White House is mulling an oil import ban that would quickly affect Venezuela’s finances and further hasten the decline in its oil production.

Nicolas Maduro is railing against all of this. “Who elects the president of Venezuela? Mike Pence?” Mr. Maduro asked during a live address on state television. María Iris Varela Rangel, a top politician in Maduro’s party wrote, “Guaidó: I have already gotten your jail cell ready with the right uniform, and I hope you name your cabinet quickly to know who will keep you company, you stupid kid.” Government officials often describe Popular Will as a terrorist organization, which the party dismisses as an intimidation tactic .

Since 2017, the National Assembly has been effectively sidelined by a new legislative body created under Mr. Maduro and packed with his supporters. Last year the opposition was so divided over how to confront the president that two parties broke with a boycott to participate in the elections while the rest sat it out.

What we also need to wrap our heads around is the question, “What is the Popular Will Party” and to what effect will it have on the future of Venezuela?

The Popular Will Party was created in 2009. The party has nine political leaders in jail, four with outstanding arrest warrants and four who have gone into exile amid threats. One of which, Leopold Lopez, is currently under house arrest. He was sentenced to 13 years for conspiracy, arson and inciting violence. Lopez is the national Coordinator. The Popular Will Party is also known as “Voluntad Popular”.

The party’s roots can be traced to student protests in 2007 against the closing of RCTV television station. Those marches helped forge a new batch of student leaders who have risen through the political ranks, including Goicoechea and Smolansky. Yon Goicoechea is a U.S. trained lawyer and prominent student activist who was arrested on charges of possessing bomb-making material. David Smolansky is a 31-year-old mayor of El Hatillo, which is a part of greater Caracas. He was summoned to the headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, or SEBIN, after he allegedly lied on social media about the conditions of Goicoechea’s detention. He claims he has been briefly kidnapped and seen his social media accounts hacked seven times by suspected government operatives. He also has been accused of being a terrorist and arms-dealer, and even has seen his Jewish ancestry attacked by public officials.

The Popular Will Party formed in reaction to infringement of human rights and individual freedom by Hugo Chavez. They Identify as a “pluralist and democratic movement” that is committed to “progress.” They believe in the realization of “the social, economic, political, and human rights of every Venezuelan”. They support LGBT rights. In fact, they have 2 LGBT members of the Venezuelan Legislature, Tamar Adrian and Rosmit Mantilla. The pillars of their party are: Progress, Democracy, and Social Action. They call for an open and transparent government as well as the punishment of abuses of power by politicians.

The Popular Will Party is a Democratic Socialist Party, which is recognized as a member of Socialist International. Socialist International is a worldwide association of political parties which seek to establish Democratic Socialism. They are considered “center-left”, with socialist and progressive tendencies. They seek to make Venezuela the world’s largest producer and exporter of oil. They don’t want to nationalize the oil industry, but they do want to use the income from the oil revenue in a “Solidarity Fund.” This fund would be established to help alleviate poverty and to finance an efficient system of social security. They also want to diversify the non-oil sectors of the economy. They oppose price controls, but they favor subsiding domestic production. They support a market economy and oppose “state capitalism.”

We have to be aware that the nation’s citizens are going to support whatever their values are in regards to who they decide to support from a grassroots effort. Oddly enough, the critics of this uprising in America, like the organization Code Pink and selfavowed Democratic Socialist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are calling this change illegitimate. They even elude to this being an American Effort to overthrow the Maduro Regime. Based upon the opposition party’s platform, one would assume that this would be a welcome change. They continually claim that Venezuela isn’t a true socialist nation. If this it truly the case, then wouldn’t the establishment of their governmental model being established in a failed state be a laudatory effort?  Regardless, those who support democracy in a republic form, should temper their excitement with this change. It may be better than the Chavez/Maduro brand of authoritarianism, it is still rooted in a failed design at its core.

 

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