A year ago, on January 23, Juan Guaido, just elected at the head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, relied on an article of the Constitution which designated him as interim president in the event of a vacancy of power. Following a presidential election in May 2018 considered as fraudulent and illegitimate by the opposition and a large part of the international community, the Chavista Nicolas Maduro was re-elected. In the process, Guaido was recognized as president by fifty countries, including France among the first.
A year later, his record is meager : he failed to dislodge Maduro from power, and on January 5, he tried to prevent his re-election as head of the Assembly by simply blocking him, like him and his supporters, the access to Parliament. He was still re-elected, but the repression is fierce. Braving the ban on leaving the country applied to him, he went out through Colombia earlier this week to visit Ivan Duque, president of the country which receives the majority of Venezuelan refugees.
He then joined Europe, where he spoke, in Davos, in front of a sparse room, and was received, among others, by Boris Johnson. Friday evening, he met Emmanuel Macron. The result of his European tour seems weak, the leaders having not decided on concrete measures to help him. Is the cycle of regular revolts which, in Venezuela, trying unsuccessfully to remove Chavista power, is it happening again? Does Juan Guaido still have a chance of achieving his goals? Interview in Paris.
Le Point: What was the result of your conversation with Emmanuel Macron?
Juan Guaido: The first was to build closer relationships, which is important in this context. Taking stock of the Venezuelan tragedy is not easy, if one does not see it. The fact that we have no water every day, no electricity, no rule of law … What is happening in Venezuela is almost incredible. It was about giving him first-hand information about the situation and the urgency for us to find other solutions, to obtain free elections, to open the door to change. We talked about what we can do. President Macron said it in a tweet: it’s about putting more pressure on the dictatorship, and responding to humanitarian emergencies. Not only in Venezuela, but also in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, in the countries that have received the largest share of the diaspora, refugees, who are 5 million, according to the Organization of American States. It was about thinking about how to apply pressure to the government in the best way.
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You spoke, Friday evening, at the House of Latin America, blood gold, illegally extracted from Venezuela …
A few years ago, we were talking about blood diamonds. In Venezuela, gold can be described as such. In addition, the indigenous populations are displaced, there is an ecocide underway in the Amazon, the largest on the planet, we discussed this with President Macron. We talked about the reduction in CO emissions2, but in the case of Venezuela, it is much more basic than that: we talk about deforestation, harmful and irreversible techniques for mines. In the Amazon, rivers are poisoned, our aboriginal peoples are killed. We also talked about the need to preserve human dignity in Venezuela, and France can play a very important role in this area.
European leaders have decided not to apply further sanctions. Finally, what is the concrete result of this visit to Europe?
We talked about sanctions against criminals (power in place, note), individual. And also, information sharing. As, in France, there is a rule of law, we will better communicate on the identity of those who violate human rights, the corrupt who embezzle Venezuelan money and get rich thanks to the gold of blood, to finance irregular groups and the para-state. The proceeds from the sale of this gold enter Venezuela in cash, in euros. This also generates a huge inequality between Venezuelans. Because the economy has become dollarized, in fact, and we also use gold. In the state of Bolivar, we pay in gold and in Caracas, in dollars. What is happening is very primitive, it does not respond to any political logic. Those who have a source of currency can survive. But more than 75-80% of the population does not have access to hard currencies. They make a living in bolivars and earn the equivalent of $ 3.5 per month for a teacher. Twenty years ago, the Chavist government spoke of social justice. But it is a criminal government, which uses the people. He is trying to divide it, for international opinion, when it is no longer a question of ideology, but of fundamental rights, the right to life.
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We met on February 8, 2019, almost a year ago, at the Central University of Venezuela. The girls were yelling at you, “Juan, I love you! In the auditorium, you had a 61% popularity rating, it went down to 38%. What happened ? Have people got tired? Have they lost hope?
It would rather be 39-41% today … What to see is that January 4 (2019, editor’s note), I was 0.3%. We have garnered significant support from the ground up. I still have a solid majority. It’s very frustrating, we face the ELN, dissidents of the FARC, groups of armed civilians, an unscrupulous regime … And we underestimated the capacity of the regime to do harm, it s approach to fascism, extremism. But today, in addition to the political parties, we have integrated the unions, the churches which play an important role in Venezuela. Knowing who we are facing. On January 15, to gain access to Parliament, we had to confront, not the army, but paramilitaries who shot my car. The day we demonstrate with the teachers. As if that was not enough, they threw us excrement. The dictatorship is in a logic of mafias, criminals. These difficulties give us a second chance to continue the process. As for the figures you are referring to, they are always eight to ten times higher than those of the dictator. We want it to change now.
But last year, you said that the fall of Maduro was a matter of days and, today, not only is he still there, but in addition, you are struggling to fulfill your legal function as President of the Assembly national. Maduro looks more solid than ever. What are the next steps ?
Maduro is little more than the mayor of Fuerte Tiuna (military city of Caracas, note). What was his last act of government? He does not govern, he exercises power like a dictator. He is locked up between his palace in Miraflores and Fuerte Tiuna. Sometimes he has official ceremonies behind closed doors, to give himself the image of a leader. I don’t know if he opened a school recently, or renovations … But he doesn’t control the economy. He talks about his strength, but he essentially has it to try to kill me and put in prison those who fight without arms, by non-violence. It is his only strength. For the rest, he admits that he does not control the economy, it is not as if he had said: “We are going to dollarize the economy. ” It was a factual situation which imposed itself on him. Imagine the President of France saying: “From now on, we will use the dollar because the economy has escaped us” ! There is no control. And at the border, which zone does he control? Any. So I don’t see him in power, but entrenched.
It is all the same that it occupies the capacity, which allots the visas of entry in the country, for example, not you!
He exercises it, sadistically. But he doesn’t control anything. So much so that he is forced to use paramilitary groups. On January 5 and 7, we managed to get into Parliament and that is why he sent them. I do not think he has any power whatsoever, apart from that, in fact, of any criminal who enters your home with a weapon. This is why we are asking the world’s help. We have the majority, we are continuing our struggle, which is not a question of ideology, but of fundamental rights. Today, Venezuela no longer resembles Cuba as much as Syria, with 5 million refugees, a contraction of 25% of GDP, 7 million people in humanitarian emergency, 3.5 dollars per month, no access to basic services, 83% of homes without running water regularly … This is the urgency in which we find ourselves and for which we ask for the support of France and the world.
Your program has always been “end of usurpation, transitional government, free elections”. Finally, today, you are asking for elections, which become the first step. By negotiating?
Without the end of usurpation, there can be no free elections. We negotiated in the Dominican Republic in 2018, then in 2019, the dictatorship blocked this possibility. But for free elections, we need certain conditions. The idea is to get them by restoring the institutions, a transparent national electoral council … but with Maduro, it would be almost impossible.
How do you get them?
By pressure. They’re not going to have enlightenment. This power which went so far as to kill Fernando Alban (MP whose government says he threw himself through a window of the intelligence services prison, in October 2018, note), to persecute us, to take parliament through the army, is not going to do it voluntarily. So it’s important that the world puts pressure.
There have been cases of corruption in your ranks, of the deputies you have dismissed. How do you communicate with your base to reassure them? How do you make sure it doesn’t happen again?
It is interesting, because these cases, which we have denounced, are precisely those which are accomplices of the dictatorship today (Luis Parra, one of the deputies dismissed, is the one who was elected head of Parliament thanks to the Chavist voices, note). It is clear that there was an intention. We have a very clear line of struggle for transparency, for accountability. The level of corruption in power has been enormous, $ 300 billion that has disappeared (since 1999, according to figures from the National Opposition Assembly, editor’s note), but the difference is that we reacted quickly. And we will not tolerate this kind of behavior.