Juan Guaidó, the 35-year-old opposition leader in Venezuela, has been on the move since he declared himself interim president last week, defying President Nicolas Maduro and thrusting the country into a power struggle.
Despite facing mounting threats, Guaidó hasn’t been afraid to hold events in public, popping up here and there in opposition strongholds where he’s certain he won’t be arrested.
After giving a speech Thursday on his future plans for the country, he made a quick exit to rush home — where he says Maduro’s Special Actions Force (or FAES) had shown up at the front gate, asking questions about his family.
"Today we saw how the FAE threatened my wife, asking for her,” Guaidó told VICE News.
Up until now, Maduro has only targeted Guaidó directly, freezing his assets and blocking him from leaving the country. But Guaidó sees this visit from police as a new form of intimidation.
“Even in war, and the mafia, there is a respect and a code. And the family is sacred,” said Guaidó. “This has not been preserved. They must have consequences."
Guaidó has support from powerful backers outside the country who may feel similarly. On Tuesday, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton warned that there would be “serious consequences” for those who attempted to harm Guaidó. And key players in the international community, including Canada and leading countries in Europe, have already put their support behind the young opposition leader until free and fair elections are held. Maduro won a second term last May in elections marred by boycotts and allegations of corruption and widespread fraud.
Guaidó will need to win the backing of the military if he wants a real shot at taking control of the country. And since his surprise announcement, he’s been trying to do just that, appealing to the armed forces publicly and privately, as he makes the case that he’s best positioned to solve his country’s spiraling economic crisis.
“The armed forces want change,” Guaidó told VICE News. “We have offered them a guaranteed amnesty, which is a determinant factor and different from previous years. We are speaking to them directly.”
But it’s unclear if such promises are working, and thus far the military appears to be sticking with Maduro.
This segment originally aired Jan. 31, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.