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Who is Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela?

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Who is Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela?
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Reuters
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For a man noted for his private personality, and not for great speeches, Juan Guaidó has certainly made a turnaround this week.

On Wednesday, the 35-year-old was declared interim president of Venezuela by the National Assembly with the support of Donald Trump's US administration — a move that sparked an international reaction.

Nicolás Maduro may have previously called him "a boy playing politics," but, in truth, Guaidó had just served the biggest blow to Maduro's political career.

And he didn't stop at assuming Venezuela's leadership.

Speaking in Caracas on Friday, Guaidó promised to reverse several of Maduro's policies and decisions, which included the reopening of Radio Caracas Television network and allowing humanitarian aid into the country to alleviate the ongoing economic crisis.

"Venezuela suffered through the nightmare and anguish of a country that was forced to live in submission," he said.

Appealing to Venezuela's military and the international community, Guaidó asked for recognition as president.

"This must be recognised by the military forces, this must be recognised by the international community," he said.

"I want to insist in this message to the armed forces, the time has come to put oneself on the side of the constitution, to put oneself on the side of Venezuela."

"In the next few days, you will have some important tests: the first with your conscience and your family, the second with all those who suffer from hunger. Are you going to allow the passage of humanitarian aid?"

But who is he?

A 35-year-old industrial engineer and native of northern Venezuela's Vargas state, Guaidó was, until January 23, unknown in the United States, the European Union, and a dozen Latin American countries.

He reached his first political milestone just a few weeks before this when he became the youngest president of the country's National Assembly, a legislative body consisting of an overwhelming oppositional majority, and which is not respected by Maduro's government.

With short black hair peppered with grey, he had never one for these big public speeches, but Guaidó pushed himself to become the leader of a divided and unstructured opposition, whose biggest leaders were imprisoned, exiled or out of action.

In fact, that is the fate of the current heads of his party Voluntad Popular (VP): Leopoldo López was imprisoned, Carlos Vecchio exiled and Freddy Guevara has sought asylum.

His supporters highlight his want for privacy and the troubled tale of his adolescence when he survived one of the worst natural disasters in Venezuelan history. The Vargas tragedy consisted of a series of landslides and floods that devastated the country's Caribbean coast in December 1999. The death toll is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands.

"Guaidó is a fresh young man, and educated — he looks like the people, he talks like the people, he is a survivor and a family man, and also had prospects in big-league baseball," José Manuel Bolívar, one of his party directors said.

"I swear to formally assume the powers of the national executive as the president of Venezuela," Guaidó said on Wednesday as hundreds of thousands of people thronged the streets of Venezuela.

Following such a statement, Guaidó forever abandoned international anonymity.