Juan Guaidó Is Voted Out as Leader of Venezuela’s Opposition
CARACAS, Venezuela — The opposition legislature in Venezuela voted on Friday to terminate its interim government, ending the leadership of Juan Guaidó, who for years had served as the face of resistance to the country’s authoritarian government.
The vote was a blow to the United States, which had steadfastly backed Mr. Guaidó. It was the second and final vote this month to determine the fate of the interim government, whose influence has waned in recent years as President Nicolás Maduro has held onto power, Mr. Guaidó failed to cement his popular support and the opposition fractured.
The decision made clear that members of the opposition had lost faith in Mr. Guaidó’s ability to achieve their goals — the ouster of Mr. Maduro’s authoritarian government and the restoration of democracy — and that they aimed to pursue a different strategy.
With 72 votes in favor, 29 against and eight abstentions, the lawmakers moved to end Mr. Guaidó’s interim presidency as of Jan. 4.
“Everything we are doing has to do with laying the foundations for a new stage of a more effective democratic struggle,” said Juan Miguel Matheus, a representative of the Primero Justicia party. He said that the decision had “as its supreme objective to defeat Maduro as soon as possible.”
Venezuela has been in the grips of an economic, political and humanitarian crisis since 2014, as a government claiming socialist ideals has gutted the country’s democratic institutions and left much of the populace impoverished. Seven million people, a quarter of the population, have fled abroad in recent years, with a growing number headed toward the United States.
Mr. Guaidó, 39, a student activist turned legislator, took the helm of the country’s legislature in 2019, when it was the last major institution in the country controlled by the opposition. Amid large-scale protests against the Maduro government, he invoked an article of the Constitution that transfers power to the head of the National Assembly if the presidency becomes vacant. He declared Mr. Maduro an illegitimate ruler and appointed himself the country’s interim leader.
The bold move was backed by the United States and dozens of other nations, and he soon drew an outpouring of support from Venezuelans, bringing a sliver of hope to a nation crushed by repression and the collapse of the economy.
On Thursday, in a last call for reconciliation, Mr. Guaidó proposed that the National Assembly, instead of dissolving the body completely, appoint a new president to head the interim government.
“Let’s defend institutionality, the Constitution and the country above names or personal interests,” Mr. Guaidó said on Twitter.
But the other three political parties achieved the necessary majority to ratify their decision to eliminate the parallel government.
During the vote on Friday, some lawmakers voiced their opposition to the decision, claiming it could put the country’s economic assets at risk of falling into the hands of Mr. Maduro’s government.
“This is shameful,” said Freddy Guevara, a representative of the Voluntad Popular party, who argued that the measure would strengthen Mr. Maduro. “I cannot understand how we are committing this suicide.”
Mr. Guaidó’s strength was tied to his international diplomatic recognition, but American sanctions designed to assist him gutted government revenues and forced Venezuelans to focus on daily survival, not political mobilization. And his attempts to spur a military uprising ended up consolidating the control of Mr. Maduro, 60, control over the armed forces.
The United States has continued to refer to Mr. Guaidó as the country’s interim president, even as other nations have backed away from that recognition, relations have begun to thaw with the Maduro government, and the administrations of several new leftist governments in South America have begun to soften their approach toward Mr. Maduro.
In the past few years, the Venezuelan opposition has succeeded in getting Mr. Maduro to agree to a political dialogue, which is set to continue next month in Mexico after being stalled for more than a year. As a part of those talks, Mr. Maduro has agreed to allow some Venezuelan funds frozen abroad to be used as humanitarian aid to help alleviate hunger and other problems facing the country.
Opposition leaders are also pushing him to allow free and fair conditions for a presidential election scheduled for 2024.
Isayen Herrera reported from Caracas, Venezuela, and Genevieve Glatsky from Philadelphia.