Last Sunday, masked men intercepted a white van carrying Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to a political meeting outside Caracas. They shoved Guaido into an SUV and sped away, taking into custody the man spearheading a bold and risky new strategy to try and reverse the country’s calamitous decline under President Nicolas Maduro.
Authorities freed Guaido after a short detention, perhaps because the incident was only meant to intimidate him, or maybe because the government is still unsure about how to deal with Guaido, who is raising the stakes in a way Maduro has not seen until now.
A week ago, the Venezuelan leader was sworn in for a new six-year term. The ceremony might have seemed like a pro-forma event in a presidency that began in 2013, continuing the country’s sharp left turn taken two decades ago by Maduro’s mentor, the late President Hugo Chavez. But Maduro’s second inauguration marks the beginning of a new phase of conflict in Venezuela, with the opposition launching a bold campaign whose international support is without precedent since the rise of Chavismo.