Yesterday, on January 23, 2019, around 100 people gathered at Dam Square in Amsterdam as a sign of support for Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan President of the National Assembly, who is locked in a bitter power struggle against the current reign of Nicolas Maduro. Similar protests were staged in the Hague and more than a hundred other international cities around the world and all across the country in Venezuela, at the same time.
Protesters present at Dam Square gathered with the flags of Venezuela, posters, and candles to demonstrate their support for the international recognition of Juan Guaido as their president. In freezing temperatures, the protesters hopefully chanted “Venezuela Libre”, “Freedom for Venezuela” and sang their national anthem in a bid for support from the community and citizens of Amsterdam. The demonstration was organized by a coalition of non-governmental organizations and the Venezuelan community within Amsterdam.
Virginia Giunta, representing a coalition of NGO’s for Human Rights in Venezuela, claims that Venezuelans “are under a dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro, who […] is not recognized by the people as he was not elected by the people.” Explaining the motives for their protest, she added that “we are supporting Juan Guaidó who was legally elected by the people.” Juan Guaidó is the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, for which the opposition won the majority. According to the constitution, he can be elected as the Interim President. Dam Square seemed the natural choice of location: “there are a lot of people who live in Amsterdam and around who come here to make a claim for Venezuela.” She also added that “we also want to call attention to all the civil society in the Netherlands, or every city we are protesting [in] – and also the government – so they can recognize our legally elected government, not Maduro.”
The date was highly symbolic for the protesters. They hoped to echo the overthrowing of strongman Marcos Pérez Jiménez January 23, 1958, 61 years ago to the day, drawing parallels between him and Maduro.
Another protestor, Cory Farina, described how “a lot of people in Venezuela are suffering from hunger and lack of medication and this dictatorship has been going on for 20 years.” For him, the power of the protests was enhanced by their scale; she claimed “there are millions of people right now at this very moment demonstrating in Venezuela all over the country […] and in Holland, Germany, Spain, France all over the world.” She felt hopeful that this day would be marked in history in a similar manner as 61 years ago. Like her, many other protesters were born in Venezuela but currently living and working in Amsterdam, with their friends and family living under tumult in Venezuela.
Eduardo Hernandes, a resident of Amsterdam for the last eight years, explained that they gathered in Dam Square to fight since they cannot do it in their home country. He wanted to give support to the people back in Venezuela, adding that “we are always going to stand by them.”
Protest in The Hague
About 200 people gathered in The Hague on Wednesday afternoon to join the international manifestation in support for Juan Guaidó. The demonstration was organized by the Multicultureel Viva Venezuela association. Three songs echoed the main square during the three-hour protest: the national anthem alongside the patriotic tunes Alma Llanera and Canción Venezuela.
The situation in Venezuela
Later in the evening, Guaidó sworn in by the National Assembly as acting President of Venezuela, though Maduro and his supporters contest his legitimacy. Guaidó’s leadership has been recognized by many major Latin American powers apart from Mexico, which still recognizes Nicolas Maduro alongside China, Russia and South Africa. The United States and Canada also considered Juan Guaidó as the president and confirmed the supremacy of the National Assembly over Maduro’s claim.
The U.S. Vice President, Mike Pence, also tweeted in support, alongside his publication of an official Press Release:
“Today @POTUS announced the U.S. officially recognizes Juan Guaidó as the Interim President of Venezuela. To @JGuaido & the people of Venezuela: America stands with you & we will continue to stand with you until #Libertad is restored!”