JUAN GUAIDO is still battling the Maduro regime and things have gotten worse
The charismatic young politician who declared himself President of Venezuela made a new risky move by calling on the country’s opposition to once again unite to end the regime of Nicolas Maduro.
Juan Guaido has the backing of 60 countries including the United States. Maduro has Venezuela’s military and security forces. That has enabled the socialist heir of Hugo Chavez to suppress the opposition, blocking them from mass media, even sending some into hiding or exile.
“It’s been two years now that I haven’t been allowed to go on television, not even radio, because they shut down the radio!” Guaido told CIJN from an undisclosed location in Caracas.
For the past two years, Guaido hoped massive street demonstrations and international pressure would force Maduro out. It hasn’t worked.
Guaido told CIJN that sixteen of his immediate advisors are in exile, hiding or under arrest. His first press officer has been imprisoned for 500 days. The government shut down electricity and water in Guaido’s neighborhood forcing him out of his home. Maduro’s security tracks all of his movements. Guaido managed to sneak out of the country last February to appear at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Maduro retaliated by arresting his uncle.
Today, Guaido and his team are forced to move from place to place to hold their meetings. Everyday is a logistical nightmare for his security detail.
Juan Guaido told CIJN his main political tool is mobilizing the population into mass demonstrations.
“We have a very clear mandate, according to the Constitution. That is to have free, fair and verifiable elections, presidential and, parliamentary, that will allow us to overcome the crisis and tragedy that Venezuela is living today,” told CIJN.
That mandate is dependent on a U.S. plan for a transitional government in Venezuela that would oversee the vote. But that plan has failed to gain any traction inside Venezuela. Instead, Maduro has entrenched himself, even using the coronavirus pandemic to further tighten his grip over a population struggling to survive.
The currency is worthless. The healthcare system has collapsed. Citizens of the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves wait in line for as many as four days to get gas.
“There is an entire country fighting to gain back its dignity,” says Guaido, “we are all suffering. 93% of households don’t have drinking water, 93%.” Guaido says it’s been going on for two years. “That’s absurd!”
Venezuela’s coronavirus pandemic has only compounded Guaido’s frustration trying to bring political change. Since the first cases of COVID19 surfaced in Venezuela, Maduro has seized on the pandemic to clamp down on his opponents, issuing draconian measures that prevent group gatherings. He has criminalized COVID19 victims and locked them away. Doctors who criticize Maduro have been arrested.
Maduro’s strategy has shut down Guaido’s most powerful tool: mass demonstrations.
“The pandemic has setback the entire world. In that sense, it has principally redefined our political set of tools, the exercise of political leadership, which is mobilization, which is protest, the will of the majority,” admits Guaido, “so in effect it has complicated things, made it difficult to conduct our political leadership.”
Without that tool, Guaido must work harder to keep the opposition alive. Guaido is in Caracas dodging the ever-present security forces to meet opposition party leaders and international envoys.
The transition plan itself has just about withered away. There is no momentum, but Guaido remains guardedly optimistic.
“There’s one thing. Maduro continues to usurp his functions in the Miraflores palace. It is a tragedy for everyone. But there is one thing, that we continue to receive the largest support in Venezuela, we continue to receive the international support.”
For his part, Maduro remains overtly defiant. U.S. sanctions continue to strangle his economy, especially his main source of funds, the national petroleum company PDVSA. In his own fight for survival, Maduro is forging desperate alliances.
“Maduro has lost, politically, diplomatically. That’s why he is trying to create an alliance with Iran, which is only a provider of gasoline. It’s not ideological, it’s got nothing to do with ideology,” says Guaido.
Saving Venezuela is the immediate challenge, says Guaido. Maduro’s regime has scheduled elections for December 6th and the opposition has already declared they will boycott the vote. It is a race against time.
Juan Guaido’s plan to unite all the opposition parties only goes so far. He is aware he must somehow win over Venezuela’s military. That’s a tall order. Thus far, the armed forces remain firmly entrenched in Maduro’s camp.
“We have made a huge effort to try to intersect with the armed forces, face to face, to generate guarantees for the Armed Forces, that they are aware that there is room including the groundwork, that we will work together,” says Guaido “And we’re going to insist, and continue to insist in our exchange with the Armed Forces to achieve the transition and maintain governance in the country.”
Guaido told CIJN he hopes his new plan will lead to a national consensus. He calls it a “consultora”, a direct appeal to the Venezuelan people to voice their opinion.
But how Guaido’s “consultora” will take place? Guaido says he trying set the stage.
“There’s a lot of things going on right now in Venezuela. But we’re in a dictatorship and we have to find ways to communicate to move the transition. What I can tell you is that there are things going on in Venezuela right now, moving the people and the transition.”
Maduro is Guaido’s main obstacle, but not his only one. The Venezuelan people themselves are exhausted by the endless stalemate. They’ve lost confidence in the politicians.
Guaido says it’s a matter of determination. “We have to win again on the street, mobilize the majority, achieve the transition and save Venezuela.”