Caracas — In an interview for el Nuevo Herald and Diálogo — initially published in el Nuevo Herald — Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaidó addresses the talks in Norway that ended without agreement, the role of the military in rebuilding the country, and Cuban interference, among other topics.
Diálogo: How would you describe what happened in Norway?
Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaidó: As one more initiative. We are facing a dictatorship that for years has shown itself to use this type of initiative to delay, to gain time, to confuse public opinion, and to make us look weak. In this case it didn't work for them.
Venezuela is out of time, the children of [pediatric hospital] J.M. de Los Ríos [in Caracas] are out of time, the person without food in Maracaibo is out of time; we are going through the worst humanitarian emergency in the history of this continent. And it was created by human factors, bad policies, corruption, and incompetence. The agenda is very clear: the cessation of usurpation, transition process, and free elections.
The approximation to this [talk in Norway] would be to equate [Nicolás] Maduro's government with the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia], if we want to compare it with any process, the mediation of a country like Norway; and 90 percent of the population [of Venezuela] wants change and has been taken hostage by a small group in power. How do I see Norway? As one more initiative. I'm not in love with the means; I'm in love with Venezuela. We are not going to confuse means with objectives; Norway was going to be a means to facilitate the objective.
Diálogo: On June 3, the European Union’s International Contact Group on Venezuela will meet with the Lima Group. What do you hope will come of this process?
Guaidó: What I would like? What I would have wanted from Norway, an end to usurpation, a transitional government, and free elections. But we Venezuelans have learned that there haven’t been any magic solutions. We would be bringing together the efforts of Europe and Latin America, understanding that the crisis is escalating.
Diálogo: Is the crisis escalating?
Guaidó: Six children died in Venezuela's main pediatric hospital [J.M. de Los Ríos] in a week. As we speak, there is no electricity in Maracaibo today [May 29]. We are on the verge of a catastrophe.
Diálogo: The National Assembly approved re-entry into the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance or TIAR. What are your thoughts on this?
Guaidó: For us the inter-American system is key. Dialogue with countries around the world and recognition from the OAS [Organization of American States] is key. It’s important in the face of the humanitarian emergency we are experiencing.
Diálogo: What role will the military in Colombia and Brazil play to end the usurpation?
Guaidó: They are giving the crisis more visibility, the unrest that exists within the Armed Forces, exerting pressure on the regime, on their brothers, on their colleagues in arms, who must do the right thing, who must be on the side of the Constitution. And they will have a role in the reconstruction of Venezuela; they will keep their ranks and their positions according to the amnesty law. Both my grandparents were service members. And they will have a key role in exercising sovereignty. The ELN [National Liberation Army] is on the Venezuelan border and there are already 11 states where paramilitaries and guerrillas are present. The Armed Force is essential for the stability of the country.
Diálogo: What is the ELN role in the Venezuelan crisis?
Guaidó: I don't know about its specific political participation, but it seems that Maduro's government allows it to participate in Venezuela. It seems that there is explicit complicity; this is very serious because it would make Maduro a dictator who sponsors terrorism. Colombian intelligence has already said that an ELN member, who was in Venezuela for a long time, allegedly perpetrated the attack on the police academy in Bogotá.
Diálogo: Can we talk about Cuban interference or that of other countries in Venezuela's internal affairs?
Guaidó: Mainly from Cuba, I don't see other countries with such intensity, I see Cuba, Cuba does [interfere], clearly. It’s involved in decision-making, it’s the inner security ring; Maduro relies so little on the Armed Forces that his closest security ring is Cuban. That's the way it is. The service members who sided with the Constitution said that Maduro’s inner security ring is Cuban. Cuba leads intelligence and counter-intelligence to terrorize and frighten; Cuban officials carry out part of the torture on Venezuelan service members, which upsets the Armed Forces a lot. Cuban interference and intervention in Venezuela is very serious.
Diálogo: After the departure of General Cristopher Figuera, how is the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service [SEBIN], how is Maduro's intelligence and security apparatus today?
Guaidó: Imagine that in another country, in the United States or Colombia, the head of intelligence makes a stand against the current president. And not only that, Cristopher's assistant was assassinated, which Gen. Cristopher himself denounced. Imagine that the head of intelligence of a country X accuses the president of murdering his assistant, because of political retaliation. Imagine how serious this is, so much so that he [Maduro] had to bring back a general who was removed for not trusting him [Gustavo González, former head of SEBIN, who was removed after the death in custody of Councilman Fernando Albán, was reinstated in early May]. So how serious is it [the SEBIN]? Very serious.
Diálogo: After Norway, how is the relationship with the United States, with the rest of the international community?
Guaidó: Very positive, productive in the face of the cessation of usurpation. I just spoke with [U.S.] Vice President Mike Pence, he is very concerned about the humanitarian crisis and we spoke for several minutes. They are also very worried about the persecution of 15 deputies whose immunity was violated, who were persecuted and abducted, such as Édgar Zambrano, vice president of the parliament.
Diálogo: This doesn’t stop; the government continues to act against the Assembly...
Guaidó: The regime has been acting since 2015 to weaken the power, and only the regime was weakened. Although it operationally hits and tries to generate fear, since the attack on the parliament began, it’s a minority, fewer people worldwide recognize them; they have fewer loans; they have sanctions. They hit very hard extrajudicially, but don’t have judicial backing.
Diálogo: What did Vice President Pence say to you when you told him that Norway didn’t bear fruit?
Guaidó: The international community no longer believes in this regime. A few who in good faith are still trying to mediate persevere, but we are very much aligned with our U.S. allies and the Lima Group. Many things brought us to this point. Operation Liberty must continue in the streets and with the Armed Forces, to stir awareness and souls.
Diálogo: The J.M. [de Los Ríos hospital] situation has been devastating...
Guaidó: That happens every day in [the states of] Portuguesa and Táchira. Those little babies put a face to the tragedy we are living in Venezuela. That’s the face of 7 million Venezuelans today.
Diálogo: Canada approached Cuba about the Venezuelan crisis...
Guaidó: Yes, I spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau two weeks ago. It’s not like we believe in the good faith of the Cuban regime, which helped build this and maintains part of the intelligence and counterintelligence apparatus. Yet again, we will exhaust all efforts. We have international support.
Diálogo: Will oil production continue to fall with the regime and what can be done to recover it?
Guaidó: Unfortunately, production will continue to fall, first because they are incompetent, and then because they mortgaged the state-owned oil company at an all-time high. They mortgaged it. They indebted Citgo, our grandchildren’s interests. When Venezuela changes, which won't be long, Venezuela's economic potential is very high, not only because of the oil reserves, but also because of its geographical location and the labor force.
The recovery is going to be very, very quick. With the political change, benchmark changes will be very fast. I am sure that many would like to come and interfere with a stable country.
Diálogo: How do you counter Cuba's influence on intelligence?
Guaidó: The way we’ve been doing it. The intelligence network has diminished in a way, as the supply of oil to Cuba was cut off with the support of our allies, leaving those networks without funding. Through these actions, that network is weaker than it was a year ago. For example, when they had Cuban doctors present, which is no longer the case due to the crisis, they had an intelligence network as well. It continues to be a fear factor, but it’s weaker.
Diálogo: What would a military intervention in Venezuela look like?
Guaidó: We wouldn't be able to talk about military intervention in the case of Venezuela, should we request cooperation. The parliament is the only one that could authorize foreign military missions in the national territory, which already exist with the Cubans and the ELN, and with Russian military planes. Those are illegal and illegitimate and should be an outrage. The best solution is the one with the lowest social cost. The best solution is for Maduro to leave today, but that’s not going to happen voluntarily. We will be on the streets again [...]. We're deciding our fate.