President-elect Joe Biden has invited Carlos Vecchio, the Venezuelan ambassador to the United States representing President Juan Guaidó, to his inauguration, Vecchio confirmed Monday.
Guaidó has been the legal president of Venezuela since January 2019, but has failed to exercise any executive power save for appointing ambassadors to countries that recognize his legitimacy. Socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro retained control of the military and all government infrastructure after the National Assembly, the federal legislature, voted to appoint Guaidó to replace him following the May 2018 presidential election, in which Maduro banned opposition candidates and intimidated voters. Maduro has since staged another fraudulent election to replace the members of the National Assembly with trusted socialists, a takeover he cemented in early January.
Biden’s olive branch to the powerless Guaidó government is a sign he will maintain President Donald Trump’s longstanding policies towards Venezuela. Trump immediately recognized Guaidó as the rightful president of Venezuela in 2019 and hosted him as a special guest during his 2020 State of the Union address. Trump has since publicly soured on his support for Guaidó, noting his inability to act against Maduro.
“This Wednesday [January 20] we will be representing the people of Venezuela and the legitimate government of Interim President Juan Guaidó at the inauguration of President of the U.S. Joe Biden,” Vecchio, Guaidó’s U.S. envoy, wrote on Twitter on Monday, “with the energy to keep working with our top ally for a free Venezuela.”
Vecchio posted a video of himself receiving a Chinese coronavirus test, a prerequisite to attending the event.
Este miércoles #20Ene estaremos representando al pueblo de #Venezuela y al legítimo Gobierno Interino del Presidente @jguaido en la toma de posesión del Presidente de EEUU @JoeBiden, con el ánimo de seguir trabajando junto a nuestro principal aliado por una #VenezuelaLibre.🇻🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/OM6WHSSIo8
— CARLOS VECCHIO (@carlosvecchio) January 18, 2021
On Tuesday, the State Department confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a departing phone call with Guaidó.
“The Secretary expressed his personal respect and appreciation for Interim President Guaido’s [sic] commitment to the cause of freedom and his inspiring leadership to millions of Venezuelans yearning for a brighter future,” the State Department said. “Secretary Pompeo reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the Venezuelan people as they continue to face one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis created by the illegitimate Maduro regime.”
Experts do not expect any significant changes to American policy regarding Venezuela under Biden, despite the fact that the former vice president met with Maduro in 2015 — at the height of violent repression of dissidents in Venezuela — in a friendly exchange at the inauguration of Brazilian socialist President Dilma Rousseff.
“If I had your hair, I’d be president of the United States,” Biden reportedly joked at the time.
In commentary in September, Bloomberg’s Eli Lake wrote Biden had “come close to endorsing the concept” of regime change in Venezuela, likely keeping his policy in a similar realm to Trump’s. More recently, Elliot Abrams, a staunch opponent of President Donald Trump’s who he nonetheless appointed to run his Venezuela policy, told the Miami Herald last week that he expects Biden will not change gears on Venezuela.
“I don’t think we will see major changes in U.S. policy. And I think that they understand that the face of the opposition, the opposition’s leader, is Juan Guaidó,” Abrams said. Abrams reportedly gleaned this from a meeting with Biden’s top minds on Latin America, including Roberta Jacobson, a diplomat highly involved in President Barack Obama’s failed policy to enrich communist Cuba, which has largely colonized Venezuela, in an attempt to democratize it.
In addition to supporting Guaidó — who, prior to his presidency, was a member of a political party affiliated with the Socialist International and has aggressively pushed socialist policies — Abrams used his post at the State Department to denigrate conservative members of the Venezuelan opposition, accusing them of stoking division by challenging Guaidó’s ideology and its proximity to Maduro’s.
As a candidate, Biden also emphasized his support for Guaidó.
“As Juan Guaidó speaks about the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis and the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Maduro, I reaffirm my commitment to stand with the Venezuelan people,” Biden’s Twitter account stated in September. “A Biden-Harris administration will always champion democracy and human rights around the world.”
Biden did not note that this presented no contrast with his opponent’s policy.
As Juan Guaidó speaks about the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis and the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Maduro, I reaffirm my commitment to stand with the Venezuelan people.
A Biden-Harris administration will always champion democracy and human rights around the world. https://t.co/N2uhrYOBcx
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 24, 2020
Guaidó is extremely unpopular in Venezuela, polling shows, largely because of his inability to exert any authority. The Venezuelan polling firm Meganálisis found in a survey taken in July that nearly 80 percent of Venezuelans would prefer if Trump stopped supporting Guaidó. In August, 82.4 percent answered “yes” when Meganálisis asked, “Do you believe that Juan Guaidó, the politicians who represent him, and the opposition National Assembly have deceived President Donald Trump?”
These polls also found extremely low levels of support for Nicolás Maduro, who has been in power since 2013.
In November, Maduro blamed “imbecile” Guaidó for Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election.
“Trump’s failure in Venezuela cost him the election. The man guilty of the defeat of Donald Trump has a first name and last name in Venezuela — his name is Juan Guaidó,” Maduro said.