Jan 23, 2020

Venezuela's Guaidó seeks support from Europe in Davos address

Guaidó visits the European Parliament. Photo: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

DAVOS — Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó used an address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to demand elections and call for more support from Europe.

Why it matters: Recognized as president by the U.S. but locked out of power for the past year by the regime of Nicolás Maduro, Guaidó is desperate to change an equation that tipped in Maduro's favor after a failed uprising last April.

  • Guaidó defied a travel ban in visiting Europe. He has acknowledged that Maduro could attempt to block his return, and said his presence in Davos puts members of the Venezuelan opposition in danger.
  • Guaidó was added late to the forum's agenda, and news of his impending arrival generated speculation of a meeting with President Trump. Trump left Davos yesterday, apparently without meeting Guaidó.

What he's saying: Guaidó laid out the scale of the crisis — a 75% drop in GDP, a migrant crisis that rivals Syria's as people flee in search of work and health care, and one million orphans left behind.

  • "There is murder, there is torture, but despite all of that we are here — we are united," he said.
  • As for why he had thus far failed to displace Maduro, Guaidó said outside powers were propping him up, and "perhaps we underestimated the capability of the dictatorship to do bad."

Guaidó said he was in Davos to keep the eyes of the world on Venezuela, but also called on Europe in particular for more support, including for Venezuelan refugees.

  • He said the world needed to come together to block the illegal gold trade, which provides critical revenues to the regime.
  • He also called for international backing for elections this year. "Only in a dictatorship do you have to ask for free elections," he said.

The backdrop: Venezuela's economic crisis is almost unfathomable given its vast oil resources and former prosperity. The migration crisis has severely strained the resources of neighbors like Colombia.

  • Colombian President Ivan Duque sat in the front row during Guaidó's speech, and embraced and conferred with him after it concluded.

Driving the news: On Jan. 5, security forces blocked Guaidó from entering the National Assembly, which he leads, and a Maduro loyalist was sworn in to replace him. That move was condemned internationally, and the U.S. continues to consider Guaidó the president of the assembly and the country.

Go deeper: Maduro survives 2019.

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