CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — When Venezuelans rang in the new year, few in the crisis-wracked nation had even heard of Juan Guaido.
Two weeks later, the young backbench lawmaker has emerged as a key power broker as he leads the opposition-controlled congress in a high-stakes standoff with socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who is increasingly seen as a dictator both at home and abroad.
“Guaido for president!” people shouted Friday at the largest street rally in over a year to take on Maduro, eagerly waiting for the fresh-faced 35-year-old to speak. “Out with Maduro!”
As Venezuela’s economic crisis deepens, with masses fleeing the country to escape runaway inflation on pace to surpass 23 million percent, many are desperate for a new leader to rescue the once-wealthy oil nation from two decades of socialist rule.