EXCLUSIVE – Venezuelan Pollster: U.S. Must Address Juan Guaidó’s ‘Irreparable’ Public Image

FILE - In this Feb. 21, 2020 file photo, opposition leader Juan Guaido meets with union workers and supporters in Caracas, Venezuela. A British judge on Thursday July 2, 2020, refused to give Venezuela control of over $1 billion in gold sitting in a Bank of England vault, ruling that …
Ariana Cubillos/AP Photo

Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó enjoys only about five percent support from a citizenry that also overwhelmingly rejects dictator Nicolás Maduro — a reality that the U.S. should address in its policy towards the country, a senior Venezuelan pollster told Breitbart News this week.

Rubén Chirino Leañez, vice president and CEO of the Venezuela-based polling firm Meganálisis, told Breitbart News in an interview in Spanish on Thursday that regular nationwide polling shows the majority of Venezuelans do not support Guaidó at all and are highly unlikely to do so in any near future. President Donald Trump, like most leaders in the free world, has accepted Guaidó’s legitimacy as president, but has gone a step further in inviting him to the 2020 State of the Union address and having underlings like top Venezuelan diplomat Elliot Abrams publicly insult more conservative members of the Venezuelan opposition to defend Guaidó.

“Based on our history of opinion studies … we can say today that Juan Guaidó’s image is superlatively worn, reaching such low levels that without a doubt we could qualify it as irreparable in the short- or medium-term,” Chirino told Breitbart News, “and this is an overwheming reality that the United States government should address as soon as possible to reconstruct its policy towards Venezuela and generate successes truly recognized as such by the majority of Venezuelans in the country.”

Chirino noted that Guaidó had been at the helm of the opposition for about 18 months and that this was more than any single figure had enjoyed in a leadership position on the opposition without infighting. Guaidó, formerly of the Socialist International member party Popular Will, became president through constitutional means following the expiration of socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro’s last legal term in January 2019.

Guaidó’s support from the Venezuelan public went from 84.6 percent approval in February 2019 to 4.7 percent support in July 2020, according to Meganálisis data — an 80 percent drop in little over a year.

Chirino attributed the high level of unpopularity to a variety of failures and scandals that have plagued the Guaidó era of opposition to Maduro.

“Guaidó’s performance has … been marked by political, ideological, and strategic contradictions; political alliances with figures suffering extremely elevated and historic rates of [popular] rejection; unforgivable communications errors; disasters like the 23-F and 30-A [failed attempts to convince the military to stop supporting Maduro]; bombastic unfulfilled offers; embarrassing million-dollar corruption scandals; and — the most dramatic from a public image standpoint — his marked distance from and lack of empathy for the reality that the majority of Venezuelans suffer daily.”

“The levels of wear and tear on Guaidó’s image are so dramatic that his capacity to attract support from citizens is absolutely null,” Chirino said.

Results in recent Meganálisis polls have been catastrophic for Guaidó. In the July regularly administered national poll, 83.1 percent of respondents agreed that Guaidó was a “weak” politician, an assessment Trump reportedly shared in private. To Chirino’s point about American foreign policy, 78.8 percent of respondents said they would support Trump ceasing to support Guaidó, and 86 percent said Guaidó had squandered American support and resources. Another 90 percent said Guaidó was incapable of governing Venezuela.

In March, when asked simply, “Who is the president of Venezuela?” more respondents told Meganálisis that the president was “nobody” than “Juan Guaidó.”

Meganálisis data indicates that any rejection of Guaidó has not in any way corresponded to support for Maduro, whose seven years in power have been among the most difficult in the history of the country due to his repressive socialist policies and general economic and policy incompetence. In February, 80 percent said they wanted to see an end to Maduro’s regime and chavismo, the socialist ideology spearheaded by late dictator Hugo Chávez, in its entirety.

Last year, a Meganálisis poll found that 90 percent of Venezuelans would support a foreign military invading and ousting Maduro.

Guaidó’s inability to attract popular support appears to have emboldened pretenders to the leadership of the opposition. The president is currently embroiled in two confusing disputes regarding the wisdom of encouraging Venezuelans to vote or boycott the upcoming legislative elections, scheduled for December. Nicolás Maduro called the elections despite his lack of legal power and has placed loyalists at the helm of the National Electoral Commission (CNE), which approves candidates’ appearances on ballots and counts votes. Maduro has organized at least five fraudulent elections during his tenure and no internationally accepted free and fair elections.

In light of Maduro’s poor record of hosting free and fair elections, Guaidó said in August he would call for a national boycott of the elections to avoid legitimizing them. He then abruptly called for mass voter turnout in December and attempted to convince other opposition leaders to join a coalition that vowed to participate. María Corina Machado, the head of the only center-right mainstream party in the country, vocally rejected the plan in a letter published last weekend.

The Trump administration, through a television appearance by Elliot Abrams, dismissed Machado as delusional and lazy for challenging Guaidó and calling for international intervention to oust Maduro, a position 90 percent of Venezuelans support.

In the ensuing political controversy, Henrique Capriles Radonski — a left-wing two-time failed presidential candidate who has not held a formal position in government since Maduro banned him from doing so in 2017 — revealed that he had held private talks with both Maduro and the Islamist government of Turkey, a Maduro ally. It is not clear how he would be legally allowed to conduct foreign policy without authority from any government.

Guaidó said on Thursday that he now once again supports a boycott of elections. Capriles called for massive voter turnout in a Periscope broadcast this week.

The State Department did not respond to Capriles with the same venom as it did towards Machado, but has called the December elections a “farce.”

The current scuffles, Chirino said, are unlikely to change any public support for anyone involved.

“Henrique Capriles is absolutely not popular or supported by Venezuelans, on the contrary, in our history of studies and surveys at Megánalisis the drop in support for this politician is sustained and pronounced since April 2013,” Chirino told Breitbart News. “Capriles today belongs to a group of establishment opposition politicians with the highest rates of rejection and lowest rates of support among Venezuelans. For many months, Capriles’s rate of support has hovered around 1.1 percent.”

Chirino compared Capriles’s popularity to that of Guaidó, but also Maduro, top Maduro henchman Diosdado Cabello, and opposition figures like Henry Ramos Allup, a vice president of the Socialist International.

Polling data regarding Machado’s popularity is harder to come by, Chirino noted, but prior to Guaidó’s ascent as president, she “stood out in a solid way at the national level” in levels of popular trust and credibility compared to other opposition politicians. Her high levels of trust were documented throughout 2018; “a few months after that, Guaidó appeared on the scene, monopolized the starring role in politics, and the rest is a history we all know well.”

Chirino expects extremely low turnout rates for the December elections, but noted that Meganálisis will publish a new poll in mid-September with more definitive responses from the public regarding intent to vote.

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