Venezuela’s U.S.-Backed Opposition Removes Juan Guaidó as Its Leader

Venezuela’s biggest opposition parties voted to remove

Juan Guaidó

as their leader, marking an end to a bold, U.S.-backed political gambit in which he was recognized as the country’s legitimate president as part of an unsuccessful bid to oust authoritarian Nicolás Maduro from power.

Lawmakers, scattered in exile around the world, voted in a Zoom call to restructure their movement, removing Mr. Guaidó and eliminating the so-called interim government he leads. The interim government had been recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate government by more than 60 countries when it was created in early 2019. But now, the U.S. and only a handful of allies continue to recognize the Guaido-led movement, while Mr. Maduro maintains an ironclad grip on the country with support from Russia, Iran and China.

Mr. Guaidó, 39 years, will continue to head both Venezuela’s congress and the interim government until Jan. 5, when his movement’s duties will be divided up. The opposition said it would create a new committee to oversee Venezuelan state assets that came into its control—including U.S. refiner Citgo Petroleum Corp. as well as gold bullion at the Bank of England—and are being targeted by creditors looking to seize them.

Meanwhile, a special panel made up of political representatives will work on negotiations that the opposition is preparing with the Maduro regime, with the hopes of organizing free and fair elections in 2024.

The leadership shake-up comes after four years of unsuccessful efforts to dislodge Mr. Maduro through street demonstrations, international sanctions and a failed military uprising. A majority of lawmakers, who voted 72-29 in favor of removing Mr. Guaidó, said their political coalition needed different strategies to restore democracy in the troubled, oil-rich nation.

“Venezuela needs new machinery in this struggle,” lawmaker Juan Miguel Matheus said, explaining why he no longer supported the Guaidó movement. He said the interim government had deviated from its original goal, which was to fight for fair elections. “It was something that was supposed to be temporary, but it became something perpetual,” he said.

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