CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — In a crisp black suit with a bright blue tie, Juan Guaidó pushed and shoved his way through rows of helmet-clad national guardsmen, cursing and scolding them like schoolchildren for blocking him from entering Venezuela's congress.
"You don’t get to decide who gets in!" he yelled, inching his face up close to the young man impeding his access to the legislature’s ornate halls.
In recent days, the opposition leader who drew thousands of Venezuelans to the streets last year only to see his momentum steadily fizzle as President Nicolás Maduro remains firmly in power appears to have gotten his mojo back.
Images of the man recognized by the United States and more than 50 other nations as Venezuela's rightful president scaling the National Assembly's spiked iron fence, tussling with national guardsmen and taking a spirited oath, shouted into a darkened congress operating without electricity, seem to have riled up his base once more.
"Today he's the star once again," said Luis Vicente León, president of Datanalisis, a Caracas-based polling company. But, the analyst added: "It won't be enough. He needs to convert his potential energy into kinetic energy."
Much is resting on the 36-year-old lawmaker’s shoulders: Whether he can capitalize on the new momentum could determine whether the opposition's flagging movement reinvents itself or drifts into the sidelines of history.
A significant test will come this week when Venezuelans decide whether to heed his call for a new round of protests. Many are skeptical that Guaidó can still mobilize large numbers. An estimated 4.5 million people have fled the country, many of them young people most likely to protest. Countless others are too preoccupied trying to meet basic needs like finding food and medicine to turn out for a demonstration that might not change anything.
Guaidó will have to rally disparate opposition factions that united to re-elect him as head of the National Assembly over whether to participate in this year's legislative elections. Thus far, the opposition hasn't articulated a joint strategy. Many are weary of participating in a vote with Maduro still in power, pointing out that the National Electoral Council is stacked heavily in the president's favor.
Others note that if they don't run, Maduro's government could gain control of what many see as Venezuela's last democratic institution.
At the center of it all is Guaidó, who in his new fighting stance appears to be drawing a page from the epic, age-old David and Goliath narrative of the virtuous underdog rushing to the rescue.
"Regaining momentum is important," said Maryhen Jiménez, a Venezuelan-born lecturer in politics at Oxford University. "But then there is the other side of the story, which is the passion of Venezuelans for a hero."
Guaidó leaped into the international limelight nearly one year ago when he climbed up on a stage before thousands of Venezuelans filling densely packed city blocks to declare himself the beleaguered nation's interim president on grounds that it was his constitutional right to step in because Maduro's reelection was not legitimate.
The previously unknown backbencher was immediately recognized by President Donald Trump and dozens of other nations, from Ecuador to Estonia.
He led a forceful street campaign, but a series of missteps proved costly.