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As Venezuela Crumbles, Opposition Led by Juan Guaidó Sees an Opportunity

It’s also possible Venezuelans, still soured on opposition leaders or simply fearing a government crackdown, do not rise in large numbers to Mr. Guaidó’s call to protest.

With a tall, wiry frame and a penchant for dancing in public and speaking outdoors, Mr. Guaidó became politically active as a student leader in Caracas. There he headed protests against then-president Hugo Chávez after Venezuela’s oldest broadcaster was closed, part of broader efforts to muzzle the press.

After college, Mr. Guaidó, who had studied engineering, was offered a job in the private sector that would have taken him to Mexico, said Juan Carlos Michinel, a friend. He didn’t accept the position.

“He wanted to start change here,” said Mr. Michinel. “He decided to stay here in Venezuela.”

Voluntad Popular, Mr. Guaidó’s party, is one of the more hard-line of the opposition’s parties, favoring marches against Mr. Maduro in the streets. Mr. López, the jailed mentor of Mr. Guaidó, was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison after leading street protests in 2014 to challenge Mr. Maduro.

Mr. Guaidó’s ascendance as the face of the opposition could herald a new, more confrontational stance with the government, where the military will be actively courted as allies, said Ms. Tintori.

“We don’t have arms so we need the military,” she said.

Reached after Mr. Guaidó’s brief detention by the government last week, Norka del Valle Márquez, Mr. Guaidó’s mother, said her son’s entry into politics at such a critical juncture in the country’s history has left her nervous about his well being and that of his opposition colleagues.

“Do you ask me if I’m scared? Of course,” she said. But she added that he has worked hard for this moment.

“It’s been years of struggle for Juan,” she said. “He’s never wanted to leave this country. He is rooted to his land.”

Source: NYT > World

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