Talk to Al Jazeera

Juan Guaido: ‘Nobody is going to take a risk for Maduro’

Venezuela’s self-declared interim president talks about how he believes the unfolding political crisis will play out.

Venezuela has plunged further into political crisis amid growing tension over President Nicolas Maduro‘s future as the country’s leader.

The oil-rich South American country has been in a downward spiral for years with increasing political discontent, hyperinflation, power cuts and shortages of food and medicine.

More than three million Venezuelans have fled the country in recent years.

On January 23, Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim president and said he would assume the powers of the executive branch from there onwards.

This was a direct attack on the presidency of Maduro, who had been sworn in to a second six-year term in office on January 10, following elections deemed fraudulent by his opponents and much of the international community.

The United States, Canada, 14 Latin American countries and some European nations have recognised Guaido as president, and hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets to show their support for the 35-year-old engineer.

But Maduro is backed by Russia and China and maintains the loyalty of the military. He remains firm that he will not step down or hold new internationally supervised elections. Meanwhile, Washington has tightened the noose, imposing brutal economic sanctions on the impoverished nation meant to hasten the president’s downfall.

In an exclusive interview, Guaido told Al Jazeera that he will do everything in his power to overcome the crisis Venezuela is facing and to build a democracy.

“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 said.

Guaido refused to rule out backing a possible US military intervention in the country. “We will do everything possible, everything there is to achieve freedom in Venezuela.”

Even though the US has intervened in Latin America to bring about regime change more often in the past, Guaido believes that the outcome in Venezuela will be different.

“The Venezuelan process has been totally conducted by Venezuelans. The building of a majority, the building of social pressure, having won a majority in parliament, resisting the crisis. That is the work of Venezuelans,” he said.

He has rejected offers from Mexico, Uruguay, Russia and the EU to bring both sides to the negotiating table, arguing that the standoff was not between two equal sides.

“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.

“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.”

According to Guaido a “massacre” is already happening: “There are 70 murdered minors, all under 25 years old, after peacefully protesting. Killed by a special arm of the military, or by armed paramilitary groups.” 

He’s convinced that the majority of the Venezuelan people wants change.

“Nobody is going to take a risk for Maduro. At this moment in Venezuela, there is no loyalty for Maduro. No one is willing to sacrifice himself for Nicolas Maduro because he has no capacity to protect anyone, or the ability to address the crisis that they have created.”

“Maduro is absolutely responsible for the corruption, current crisis, the mismanagement of public funds, to have been convinced by his advisors or whoever that their ‘model’ was workable. He is responsible that Venezuelans today depend on food subsidies when Venezuela was once self-sufficient in food. Today, 80 percent of the food must be imported despite having 5 million hectares of productive land,” Guaido said.

Even if Maduro would agree to hold new elections, the self-declared interim president takes a clear position on the political future of Venezuela.

“The cessation of the regime, a transition government and free elections, everything within that framework can be discussed.”