(NYTIMES) – It was a daring gambit: Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s opposition leader, stood by a military base alongside dozens of uniformed officers and political allies, calling for a military uprising against President Nicolás Maduro.
Three weeks later, Mr. Guaidó is shuttling among a half-dozen safe houses to escape capture. Most of the men who stood with him by the base that day, and many of the legislators who support him, are in jail or sheltering in foreign embassies. Soldiers routinely shut down the National Assembly that Mr. Guaidó leads.
And the protests that filled the streets with Mr. Guaidó’s supportersare dwindling as Venezuelans, struggling with a crumbling economy and shortages of food, gasoline and medication, return to the business of surviving.
Weakened and unable to bring the political crisis gripping Venezuelato a quick resolution, Mr. Guaidó has been forced to consider negotiations with Mr. Maduro. Both sides have sent representatives to Norway for talks, a concession Mr. Guaidó previously rejected.
This change is a turning point for the opposition, which in January had gathered momentum, attracting broad international backing and huge crowds of supporters. Now, that momentum has nearly dissipated — a testament to Mr. Maduro’s firm hold on power even as the country crumbles around him.
In public, Mr. Guaidó remains upbeat and unwavering. At flash rallies around the capital, Caracas, he implores supporters to keep up the protests. But during an interview, he acknowledged that the opposition’s capacity to operate is hurting.
“The persecution has been savage,” he said in the empty hallway of one of the safe houses he uses.
More than 50 countries — including the United States, Canada and most members of the European Union — recognized Mr. Guaidó as the country’s legitimate president in January, calling Mr. Maduro’s re-election for a second term fraudulent.
Since then, several countries that support Mr. Guaidó have expressed an openness to other approaches to ending the political paralysis in Venezuela — a big shift from the urgent international calls for Mr. Maduro’s removal four months ago.
“They are part of Venezuela’s political scene,” he said. “So we’re just trying to make it clear that we really want a democratic Venezuela. We’re not picking winners.”