Who is Juan Guaido, Venezuela's self-declared president?

Juan Guaido has declared himself president of Venezuela — a move quickly endorsed by several Latin American countries, as well as Canada and the United States. Just two months ago, most people would not have even known Guaido’s name.

Leader of National Assembly, 35, has long been an anti-government activist

Venezuela's National Assembly head Juan Guaido speaks to the crowd during a mass opposition rally against leader Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Jan. 23. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

Juan Guaido has declared himself president of Venezuela — a move quickly endorsed by several Latin American countries, as well as Canada and the United States. Just two months ago, many people around the world, and even inside Venezuela, may not have known Guaido's name.

The 35-year-old engineer was a member of Venezuela's Congress, elected to the National Assembly in 2015. He had long been an activist, organizing demonstrations against former president Hugo Chavez as part of a student-led movement. He took part in the 2017 protests across Venezuela after several opposition leaders were arrested.

Guaido became leader of the opposition in the legislature last year, and was sworn in as president of the National Assembly, somewhat equivalent to a Speaker's position, just last month, one week before Nicolas Maduro was sworn in again as president.

Almost immediately, Guaido began urging the Venezuelan military and people to recognize him rather than Maduro as president. He was detained on his way to a political rally Jan. 13 but released after about an hour.

Guaido speaks before a crowd of opposition supporters during an open meeting at the Central University of Caracas on Jan. 21. (Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

He spoke to supporters a short time later, declaring, "The game has changed."

"Here we are!" he said. "We are not afraid!"

Guaido's party, Voluntad Popular (Popular Will or Will of the People) is a centrist social-democratic party. It holds just 14 of the national assembly's 167 seats, but is a member of the Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition, which holds a super majority in the assembly.

According to the party's website, its origins date back to 2004. It was formed to "promote social action and social leadership," and it was officially recognized as a party in 2011.

Its manifesto states that it seeks to "bring together Venezuelans to work toward peace, freedom and democracy" and to "build a more secure, united and prosperous country where everyone will be entitled to all rights."

The party was co-founded and is currently led by Leopoldo Lopez, a well-known political prisoner in Venezuela and Guaido's mentor.

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez holds a national flag as he greets supporters outside his house in Caracas after he was released from prison and placed under house arrest for health reasons on July 8, 2017. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

Lopez was recently released from detention after three years in military lockup. He is still under house arrest but has vowed he will go back to prison before he gives up his fight to remove Maduro from office. 

On Wednesday, Guaido invoked an article in Venezuela's constitution that allows the head of the National Assembly to assume power for 30 days if the presidency is vacant — which Guaido and his supporters believe is the case, arguing that Maduro's presidency is invalid because he stole the election.

With files from Reuters