VENEZUELA: GUAIDÓ RETURNS TO VENEZUELA FULL OF FIGHT

Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader recognized as Venezuela's interim president by more than 50 countries, is willing to go as far as it takes to bring "freedom" to his country. That's what Guaidó told a GZERO correspondent at Caracas' Simón Bolívar Airport, moments after he rushed into a wildly cheering crowd of supporters. See the full video here.

Guaidó's return after nearly two weeks abroad reignites the contest for power between him and President Nicolás Maduro, who still controls much of the government and the military despite plummeting popularity and a deepening humanitarian crisis.


Looking ahead: Guaidó has tremendous popular momentum – enjoying a 61 percent approval rating, compared to just 14 percent for Maduro – but to sustain support he'll need to show his supporters that he can make progress towards alleviating Venezuela's humanitarian crisis and achieving a political transition.

President Maduro, meanwhile, continues to cling to power with the allegiance of senior military figures as well as massive backing from the government and intelligence services of Cuba. But the cash flow that underpins the generals' loyalty to Maduro is drying up fast under harsher US sanctions. Guaidó's best hope for a quick transition is to convince some of the key brass to break with the regime.

Over all of this drama hangs the prospect of outside military intervention – an option that US policymakers and even some of Guaidó's advisers have hinted is still on the table. But none of Venezuela's neighbors support the idea of a fresh yanqui invasion in the region, and the risks associated might be too high even for the most hawkish Washington interventionists.

That said, the Trump administration has staked itself to a policy of regime change in Venezuela, and no one hates looking like a loser more than Donald Trump.

The bottom line: There have been many moments at which the Venezuela crisis seemed like it was coming to a head – Guaidó's return to his home soil makes the next few days critical to watch.

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This Saturday, July 20, will mark the 50-year anniversary of the day a human being first stepped onto another world. A moment born out of Cold War political pressures, it's easy to forget a half century later how much bitter controversy the project provoked at home and the intensity of the worldwide fanfare that followed its success.

The moon mission's primary purpose was to defeat the Soviet Union. By the time John Kennedy became president in 1961, the Soviet Union had advanced far ahead of the United States in the race for achievement in space. In October 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite. A month later, a dog named Laika became the first living creature to travel beyond Earth's atmosphere. In April 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth, the first human to do so.

In early May, Alan Shepard became the first American in space, spurring Kennedy to announce a far more ambitious plan. On May 25, Kennedy famously pledged that by the end of the decade Americans would go to the moon and return safely to the Earth.

Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, but new President Lyndon Johnson quickly signaled his intention to see the promise kept. The Soviets held their space lead through 1965, by landing an unmanned craft on the Moon.

The moon mission stoked controversy in the United States. A review of polls reveals that only in 1969 did a majority of Americans support the project. Many people argued that the billions spent on a moonshot should go toward the war in Vietnam or to fight poverty in America's inner cities. "No hot water, no toilets, no lights. But Whitey's on the moon," sang musician and activist Gil Scott Heron. It didn't help when a fire during the Apollo 1 mission killed three astronauts and destroyed their space module.

But when Neil Armstrong became the first person to step onto the moon on July 20, 1969, the event took on a life of its own. It was a decade framed by two images of respected TV anchorman Walter Cronkite—shaken to the core on air by the 1963 murder of President Kennedy and then speechless with awe as Americans bounded across the surface of the moon.

A decade that included confrontation with the Soviets in Cuba, the assassinations of John Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy, a failing war in Vietnam, race riots in American cities, and violent chaos at the 1968 Democratic Party convention ended with an accomplishment a quarter million miles away, that was watched live by 94 percent of Americans who owned a TV.

Americans weren't the only ones watching. About 650 million people around the world watched the moon landing live on TV, making the event the first truly global televised event. Nine weeks later, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins began a world tour.

Concerns that planting an American flag on the moon's surface would seem an act of obnoxious nationalism faded as the three men were greeted by overflow crowds in 27 cities in 24 countries over 39 days. An estimated one million people greeted them in Dhaka (then Pakistan) and some 1.5 million turned out in Mumbai (then Bombay).

Fifty years later, moon missions are still a mark of national prestige. Russia, China, India, the EU, Japan, and Israel have all sent probes to orbit the Moon or landed vehicles on its surface. But none of them matches that first "giant leap for mankind."

Next up: Mars? For thoughts on the next space race, click here.

Bonus fact: An iPhone has more than 100,000 times the processing power of the computer that landed Apollo 11 on the moon.