Exclusive: Venezuela’s Guaido mum on backing US military action
Self-declared president tells Al Jazeera he will do everything in his power to ‘steer Venezuela towards democracy’.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido says he will do everything in his power to “steer Venezuela towards democracy” while refusing to rule out backing a military intervention by the United States.
In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, the self-declared interim president said establishing democracy is one of the five principles he wants to implement to overcome the crisis Venezuela is facing.
“Governability, stability, the lowest social impact possible, attend to the current humanitarian emergency, reactivate the economy to create jobs for citizens and steer Venezuela towards democracy,” Guaido told Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman during the interview.
Guaido refused to rule out backing a possible US military intervention in the country, which has seen political turmoil for months following economic hardship that has lasted for years.
The opposition leader, who has been recognised as interim president by the US, a dozen Latin American countries, Canada and the European Union, said he rejected an offer from Mexico and Uruguay to mediate talks with President Nicolas Maduro.
Guaido said the standoff is not between two equal sides, but between a small group of leaders that wants to do everything to stay in power and the general populace, who wants a change of government.
“What we have here is an entire country that wants change and a very tiny group that sustains itself with weapons, has stolen from the republic and with constant threats against the republic that sustains them and a citizenship that is massacred,” Guaido said.
“I understand the good intentions by Mexico and Uruguay and I understand the ultimatum the European Union has given Maduro,” he said, referring to the EU’s ultimatum for Maduro to announce fresh election on Saturday at the latest.
Maduro has made clear he will ignore that deadline.
“The opposition has been willing to negotiate. We have tried everything. We have voted, we have abstained. We have gone on hunger strikes. We have protested and they have killed us,” Guaido said.
“The cessation of the regime, a transition government and free elections, everything within that framework can be discussed,” he concluded.
‘All options on the table’
Meanwhile, US Vice President Mike Pence once again threatened Maduro in a speech on Friday, saying it is time for him to step down.
“To be clear, the struggle in Venezuela is between dictatorship and democracy. And freedom has the momentum,” Pence said.
“Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power and Nicolas Maduro must go and those looking on should know this: All options are on the table,” Pence added.
“Nicolas Maduro would do well not to test the resolve of the United States of America.”
On Friday, Maduro’s government announced it would sell 15 tonnes of its gold reserves to Abu Dhabi investment firm Noor Capital in the United Arab Emirates.
According to Vanessa Neumann, a Latin American analyst, the sale of part of its gold reserve is a desperate attempt by the Venezuelan government to stay solvent.
“This is in line with a kleptocratic regime. This is a regime that’s not only a human rights abuser and a drug cartel and a terrorist financier, it’s also a kleptocracy,” Neumann told Al Jazeera.
“It’s estimated to have stolen around $700bn or $800bn, which is more than it would take to rebuild Venezuela and much more than they would ever get from the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund,” she said.
“So there is a looting mentality and the people close to the regime just made it very clear that their intention was to take as much money out of the country as they could,” Neumann said.
She also said that it has become a lot harder for Venezuela to find a way to make money.
“It’s getting more difficult for them because there is greater vigilance, greater surveillance and the sanctions the regimes face is vicious. If it’s going to Iran, it’s busting those sanctions, if it goes to Russia, it’s busting those sanctions,” Neumann said.
“Venezuela is heavily sanctioned so it’s running out of options,” she added.
“The oil production is also way down, not just because of the sanctions but also because they didn’t invest in their capacity, so they couldn’t even produce more if they had financing, the infrastructure is simply not there,” Neumann told Al Jazeera.
“It’s like the thrashings of a drowning person.”
Meanwhile, in Venezuela, people are preparing for another day of protests on Saturday, the day that marks the 20th anniversary of the inauguration of the late President Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s mentor.
Both Maduro supporters and anti-government protesters are expected to come out to voice their support for their side in what Guaido has already called “the biggest march in Venezuela’s history”.