After Four Years of Hugely Costly Tragicomic Farce, the Jig Is Surely Up for Juan Guaidó

After pulling off one last stunt, resulting in his expulsion from Colombia, Gauidó has not only outlived his political usefulness but has become a source of embarrassment to his erstwhile handlers (primarily the US).  

How fortunes have changed for Juan Guaidó, until recently Venezuela’s US-appointed “interim” president. Almost all of the 60 countries that once supported him have abandoned his “presidency” and interim government. In Latin America, all left-leaning governments, including neighbouring Colombia and Brazil, have reestablished ties with Nicolás Maduro’s administration and roundly condemned Guaidó’s attempt to bring it down by using foreign pressure to spark a military uprising.

In what seems like one last attempt to garner international attention, Guaidó began this week by furtively crossing the border from Venezuela into Colombia with the apparent intention of gatecrashing a one-day conference hosted by the Colombian President Gustavo Petro to discuss the fragile political situation in Venezuela. Representatives from 19 countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, and the EU had been invited to the San Carlos Palace on Tuesday. Guaído claims he had also received an invite from Colombia’s Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva, an allegation that Leyva strenuously denies.

On Monday afternoon, Guaído announced on social media that he had crossed into Colombia on foot to evade Maduro’s “persecution.” Spain’s El País reported on the same day that Gauído’s unexpected chess move had put Petro “en jaque” (in check) by causing a diplomatic crisis that threatened to disrupt the Colombian president’s one-day conference, which he had spent months preparing:

Juan Guaidó has become the protagonist of a party to which he was not invited and has sent the president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, into an unexpected diplomatic scramble. This is a key week for Petro and his role in the Venezuelan crisis. Representatives from 20 countries will meet this Tuesday at a summit in Bogotá to try to reactivate the dialogue between Maduro’s government and the opposition that has been paralyzed for months. Neither of the two parties will participate in the meeting, but both the government of Nicolás Maduro and the opposition delegation… have given their support to the meeting. However, the presence of Guaidó in Colombia… has become a powder keg that threatens to spoil the conference.

“Juan Guaidó does not exist here or in Venezuela.”

Of course, Guaído’s claim that he had been invited to the conference is risible. Why would the foreign minister of a government that has treated Guaidó as a political non-entity since taking office last June invite him to a conference aimed at helping to resolve the political crisis in Venezuela — a crisis that Guaidó has done nothing but fuel and profit from? In September last year, Colombia’s Ambassador to Venezuela, Armando Benedetti, told the Colombian newspaper Semana: “Juan Guaidó does not exist here or in Venezuela.”

It’s arguable whether Guaidó, as a political figure, exists anywhere anymore, apart from in the hearts and minds of certain demented US politicians. In late December, Venezuela’s opposition parties delivered the killer blow by voting to oust him as “interim president” and dissolve his parallel government.

In a statement Leyva said Guaidó was not welcome at the summit — as, indeed, was no other member of Venezuela’s opposition or government. Guaidó had apparently crossed the broader into Colombia in an “irregular” way (i.e., at a location that is not a designated point of entry), opening the door to possible deportation back to Venezuela. His goal, according to Leyva, was to “make noise” at the conference.

This is where it gets really interesting: according to Leyva, Colombia’s immigration authorities were apparently able to track Guaidó down thanks to a tip off from a senior US government official. Guaidó was then told that he had to leave the country as soon as possible and was accompanied by US agents all the way to Bogota’s El Dorado airport. At the airport a one-way ticket to Miami was paid for by the United States. In fact, according to Levya, all of the steps taken to remove Guaidó from Colombia were green lighted by US authorities.

On his arrival at Miami airport, Guaidó was seemingly met by no one but a few journalists:

Guaidó’s treatment at the hands of Petro’s government could not contrast more starkly with the VIP treatment he received from Petro’s predecessor Ivan Duque four years ago. In early 2019, during the first few months of Guaido’s “interim presidency”, both Duque and Brazil’s then President Jair Bolsonaro lent out planes belonging to their respective presidential fleets for Guaidó’s tour of South America, which included stops in Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Paraguay. On his arrival in Bogota, on February 24, Guadó was given the full red carpet treatment, including full military honours, by the Duque government:

Of course, Duque was not the only head of state to give Guaidó such special treatment. For the first two years of his “interim” presidency, the governments of dozens of countries around the world — many of them the same NATO members or allies that now support sanctions on Russia as well as a broad smattering of South American nations, then under the control of US-aligned governments — recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. Ambassadors were appointed in his name, assets were seized (stolen), and military interventions were requested.

As the Argentinean journalist Bruno Sgarzini notes, the Guaidó story could have been lifted straight out of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. But it is now in the final chapter.

As I reported in my November 1 post, Is Venezuela’s US-Appointed “Interim” President Juan Guaidó On His Way Out?, Guaidó and the parallel government he fronts have been an obstacle in the way of the gradual re-normalising of economic relations between the US and Venezuela and the reopening of Venezuela’s vast oil reserves — the largest oil reserves on the planet, estimated at more than 300 billion barrels, as well as 201 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven gas reserves — to US oil majors. That is what matters to the Biden administration right now.

That said, there are still certain factions within Washington that continue to support Guaidó despite the fact that Venezuela’s own opposition parties have discarded him. They include the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

All the same, Guaidó’s expulsion from Colombia is almost certainly the final nail in his and his parallel government’s coffin. Completely abandoned by his former allies at home, without even a political party to back him up and shorn of the support of Washington, the man who once proclaimed himself president of Venezuela from a city square in downtown Caracas, with absolutely zero democratic legitimacy, has not only outlived his political usefulness but has become an embarrassment to his erstwhile handlers (primarily the US, UK and Spain).

Even the article in El País admits that Guaidó is by now completely alone. Not even the United States or the bulk of the Venezuelan opposition support his latest political stunt.

Venezuelan Assets Still in Limbo

Despite Guaidó’s fall from grace, many of Venezuela’s assets held abroad still remain in limbo,  thanks primarily to the US sanctions. Unlike the EU, the UK government continued to formally recognize Guaidó as interim president until the bitter end. Even after Venezuela’s leading opposition parties voted to oust Guaidó, the UK continues to hold on to Venezuela’s roughly $2 billion of gold deposits stored at the Bank of England, which have been frozen since 2018, as Declassified UK recently reported:

Now that Guaidó has been ousted, the legal argument for transferring the gold to the Venezuelan opposition has effectively disintegrated. Despite this, the gold remains frozen in the Bank of England, with no clear resolution in sight.

Whatever happens next, this case sets a precedent which could have far-reaching consequences: the UK’s coup weapons now include asset stripping a foreign state, and transferring those assets to political actors engaged in regime change.

This will surely serve as a warning to any state which plans to store its gold in the Bank of England.

While the then-UK Foreign Secretary (and now Chancellor of Exchequer) Jeremy Hunt was — in the words of John Bolton — “delighted” to help with the Trump administration’s destabilisation campaign in Venezuela, by, among things, “freezing Venezuelan gold deposits in the Bank of England,” the Bank of England had concerns about the potential legal ramifications. Declassified UK:

The Foreign Office worked to ease their nerves. On 25 January 2019, Alan Duncan, the minister of state for Europe and the Americas, wrote in his diary that he held a phone call with Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, about Venezuela’s gold. He wrote:

“I tell Carney that I fully appreciate that, although it’s a decision for the Bank, he needs a measure of political air cover from us. I tell him I will write him the most robust letter I can get through the FCO lawyers, and it will outline the growing doubts over Maduro’s legitimacy and explain that many countries no longer consider him to be the country’s President”.

In other words, the Bank of England required a robust legal rationale for keeping Venezuela’s gold frozen, and the Foreign Office was happy to provide it with one.

Since then, the question of who actually owns Venezuela’s gold reserves has been the focus of several high-profile court cases in the UK, with the result that both the UK government and Guaidó’s parallel government have incurred significant legal costs. The UK government refuses to disclose just how much in public funds it has spent defending the rights of Guaidó’s parallel government to Venezuela’s gold. Recently published accounts suggest that Guaidó’s team spent over $8.5m on legal fees, which, astoundingly, were paid with money originally appropriated from the Venezuelan state in the US.

Despite all the money lavished on top UK lawyers, Gauidó and his parallel government were unable to get their grubby hands on Venezuela’s gold:

In the most recent hearing, in October 2022, judge Justice Cockerill granted the Maduro board permission to appeal, declaring that the issues at stake were “effectively unprecedented”, and that “the consequences of the decision have the potential to affect all the citizens of Venezuela”.

Indeed, the freezing of Venezuela’s gold has served as a form of collective punishment.

In 2021, United Nations special rapporteur on sanctions, Alena Douhan, urged the UK “and corresponding banks to unfreeze assets of the Venezuela Central Bank to purchase medicine, vaccines, food, medical and other equipment, spare parts and other essential goods to guarantee humanitarian needs of the people of Venezuela”…

Since the dissolution of Guaidó’s interim government, in December, there is no legal basis for the UK’s freezing of Venezuela’s gold. But the UK government continues to refuse to accept the legitimacy of Maduro’s government, and Venezuela’s gold remains in limbo.

There are only two ways out of the current impasse: either the courts rule that the legal basis for the freezing of the gold has disintegrated or the UK government decides to normalise relations with the Maduro government. But as UK Disclassified notes, “this would entail an embarrassing climb-down and would have to be worked out alongside Washington.”

For the moment there are few signs of the UK doing that or of Washington making meaningful concessions on sanctions against Venezuela. After all, why should the Biden administration make concessions when the US is already receiving 100,000 barrels a day of Venezuelan oil without barely lifting a single sanction?

The only points on which the delegates at Tuesday’s conference could agree on were: free and transparent elections; that the movement toward elections goes hand in hand with the gradual lifting of sanctions; and that the negotiations between the Venezuelan government and opposition parties recommence in Mexico as soon as possible.

These points fall well short of Nicolás Maduro’s latest demands, which include the immediate lifting of all sanctions on Venezuela* and that the US government return $3.2 billion of the money seized from overseas bank accounts (according to Maduro, as much as $30 billion of overseas funds have been blocked by US sanctions). The president of Venezuela’s national assembly, Jorge Fernández, added a couple of other demands: the full repatriation of Venezuela’s gold, and the release of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab from US prison.

It is hard to see the Biden administration acceding to these demands any time soon, if ever, especially with US presidential elections looming. As such, although the tragi-farcical Juan Guaidó era may finally, thankfully, be over, the chances of Venezuela and the US restoring relations remain painfully slim.


* In 2019, the Centre for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) published a report alleging that U.S. sanctions on Venezuela had killed tens of thousands of people by crippling its ability to produce its number-one export commodity, oil, or import basic goods.

A more recent paper in the George Town Security Review cites reports from the Washington Office on Latin America, the UN Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures and human rights, the Fourth Freedom Forum, and the United States Government Accountability Office, all of which argue that sanctions are exacerbating pre-existing economic difficulties (in Venezuela) by lowering oil production (Venezuela’s main revenue stream), reducing access to key goods and services such as electricity, water, fuel, gas, food, and medicine and reducing the availability of foreign currency needed to import goods.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. zagonostra

    I’ll never forget one of Trump’s State-of-the-Union Speech pointing to Guaidó’s on the balcony to receive a roaring standing ovation from the both Dems/Repubs Congress. What a tragic comedy this country has become.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      I am glad to see though that Guy-Doe has gone from receiving uproarious applause from the corrupt US Congress to being reduced to clandestinely traveling around looking for an audience and getting only Jeb!-esque “Please clap” moments.

  2. John R Moffett

    The US government acts much more like an organized crime family than anything else. I am amazed that any country would want to park any gold or cash in a US or UK bank after all of the “asset seizure” that has been going on (Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, Venezuela, etc.). The US has overplayed its hand exorbitantly, and is going to drive more countries to look for other alternatives, including Russia and China, as safe places to store their state funds.

    1. Carolinian

      The above comprehensive and welcome piece is all the evidence you need that Trump was a bad president. Unfortunately Biden is an even worse president and continued the same policies until he decided he needed Venezuelan oil to get re-elected and then did yet another Emily Litella “never mind.”

      If we get Trump/Biden 2024 it will be Tina out the wazoo. But at least Trump wasn’t nutty enough to start a war with Russia. He just liked to pick on the little, in his words, “shithole countries.”

      Maybe Tucker Carlson should run. Of course he apparently wants to start a war with China. Yeargh…..

      1. NarrativeMassagerInc

        “RFK Jr, you’re our only hope.” Will they kill him too or just shutdown every internet site that reports the fact of his existence?

      2. JonnyJames

        Looking to celebrities and saviors aint gonna do any good. Trump wants war on China too. Carlson is just as much of a pro-oligarchy warmonger as any. As you say, war with China. Nuclear Winter can mitigate global warming! Horray! (sarcasm)

    2. JonnyJames

      I was going to say the same. Follow the money. Now, the US/UK imperialists don’t even pretend to follow the law, or try and do things covertly. They openly steal billions from poor countries. As you say, they looted the poorest country in the world after a brutal military occupation and war (Afghanistan). The legal shenanigans to try and legitimize the theft is just PR cover and makes a mockery of the law.

      The Mafia is more honest and has more integrity

      1. digi_owl

        What law? /s

        Note how they have completely stopped talking about international law these days, and instead is all about “rules based order”. And guess who gets to write, never mind enforce, said rules.

        We are right back to the kinds of arbitrary rulings by kings that the age of enlightenment rebelled against…

        1. Polar Socialist

          That is the original meaning of the word sovereign, which gets thrown around a lot these days.

  3. The Rev Kev

    In years to come it may be that the effort to coup the Venezuelan government will be seen as a sort of high water mark for the reach of the US. When they tried to foist Juan Greedo on that country, there were 60 countries around the world that said oh yeah, that guy is totally the real President of Venezuela. It was almost embarrassing. If they tried that again, the only countries that would sign up for that would be those of the Collective West – the NATO/EU ones – which numbers only about 30 countries. It was bizarre how he smuggled himself across the border in order to gatecrash that Conference and humiliate the Colombians. I guess that the US decided to get him into the US before he got himself arrested like happened to ex-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and maybe forced to give testimony that would embarrass the US itself. So they threw his a** aboard a plane so that he can join his mother and brother in Miami. Readers in Miami are advised to watch for him in any late-night bars. He will be the goofy looking guy trying to pick up girls by saying ‘Hey babe. I used to be the President of a country.’

  4. TomDority

    “We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
    They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs.

    We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

    Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.”
    Election eve speech at Madison Square Garden (October 31, 1936)
    Franklin Delano Roosevelt

  5. Bart Hansen

    “this would entail an embarrassing climb-down and would have to be worked out alongside Washington.”

    Mad dogs like Senator Menendez will not allow this.

  6. Gregorio

    Maybe Guido will end up being Zelensky’s neighbor in Florida. He can probably provide him with some good tips on running a government in exile.

    1. digi_owl

      Florida is truly turning into USA’s infected appendage. I can see why the Bushs set up political camp there.

    2. truly

      My bet is that he gets a teaching position at Yale or Harvard. That will leave him enough time to sit on an energy board in a country that is transitioning into a rump.

      In the mean time Alex Saab has now been held over 1000 days. Denied proper medical treatment despite. being a cancer survivor.

      1. Carla

        So, I had to look up Alex Saab, and found this recent piece:

        In addition to learning about Saab and his illegal extradition and imprisonment by the U.S., I was interested to learn of the source: “Zenger is the world’s first digitally native newswire. We are restoring the public’s trust in news media by strictly prohibiting the use of anonymous sources and by verifying everything that’s verifiable in the stories we distribute. America’s newsrooms are shrinking, but Zenger is putting jobless journalists back to work, providing wire stories to news outlets with no up-front cost and sharing advertising revenue with both. Our reporters, editors, photojournalists and videographers work in more than 110 countries—and we’re always searching for new talent.”

        Here’s some more:

  7. tevhatch

    Guido is similar in function to Petro Poroshenko / Zelenskyi and Ashraf Ghani / Ahmed Karzai, but with an interesting twist. While the latter served as vessels of war to mostly to wash the money out of the USA Treasury Department & US Taxpayers through their countries interests and back into the hands of the MIC and then onto Wall Street, Guido was the vehicle that washed Citgo, gold, and other overseas reserves of Venezuela directly into the hands of Wall Street. He’ll be discarded as soon as he becomes a barrier to better scams than he can act as a vehicle for.

  8. NarrativeMassagerInc

    It feels like we’re living a slightly altered “Our Man in Havana” moment but in this universe its not a sweet, doting father irresponsibly inducted into a ham fisted spy ring, but an idiot son of wealth and privilege. And instead of sweeping the embarrassing episode quietly under the rug, its all out in the open. But then the US and UK establishments are quite beyond shame or embarrassment these days with no apparent sense of what a bunch of clowns they are. It would be a supremely humorous ironic moment but the laughing face turns to stone at what we’ve become… or what we always were.

  9. ChrisPacific

    He needed to deliver, and he couldn’t do it.

    By now, Venezuela ought to have been prostrating itself to the IMF, dismantling social programs, privatizing state run enterprises, taking out big foreign currency loans, and selling off all the oil to US companies on the cheap for kickbacks.

  10. Dida

    This will surely serve as a warning to any state which plans to store its gold in the Bank of England.

    I don’t think that states in the Global South store gold in Western banks because they want to. My understanding is that it is a condition to qualify for loans. Maybe Yves can clarify this, if it isn’t too bold of me to ask.

Comments are closed.