By Sabela Bello
Caracas, Aug 18 (efe-epa).- Juan Guaido, who proclaimed himself to be Venezuela’s rightful interim president early last year and has been recognized as such by the United States and around 60 other countries, said in an interview with Efe that the opposition will not allow Chavism to “usurp” the national legislature in December’s elections.
To that end, the leader of the opposition-led National Assembly – a unicameral body effectively sidelined by the creation of the plenipotentiary National Constituent Assembly in 2017 – said the domestic forces opposed to leftist President Nicolas Maduro, successor to the late Hugo Chavez, must reinvent themselves.
Despite support from the US and its allies in the Americas and Europe, Guaido’s attempts to persuade the military to side with the opposition have thus far been unsuccessful. Guaido, who said Maduro’s 2018 re-election victory was marred by fraud and declared himself to be the nation’s legitimate head of state in January 2019, was barred from holding public office for 15 years in March of last year.
Question: Will there be legislative elections on Dec. 6?
Answer: Well, what’s been proposed is a sham. It doesn’t meet the minimal conditions, and the European Union as a whole has even said that, as did the Lima Group last Friday. What the dictatorship is now proposing once again is the usurping, in this case, of the national legislature … The situation we’re going through now is very complicated, and our banner of struggle is precisely to have the minimal conditions so that an electoral process can be an opportunity for transition and change in Venezuela. What the dictatorship is proposing is simply to usurp … mock the Venezuelan people and also the international community like it did in 2018. But they’re unable now to deal with the pandemic. I question whether they even have the operational capacity to commit fraud … They can try to impose (electoral) fraud, but the result won’t be any different from what happened in 2017 and 2018 (with the presidential election), which was not recognized, which lacked citizen participation.
Q. What will be the impact of the agreement among 28 opposition parties not to participate in the legislative elections?
A. The first and most important element is the union of all the political actors in Venezuela, not including all the actors that the dictatorship has tried to extort or bribe, which are the so-called “alacranes,” referring to the fact that they betrayed those who had been their voters. So the first repercussion is that the 28 parties are united in rejecting fraud and seeking alternatives – amid a pandemic and in a dictatorship – for exercising their majority with a view to presidential and legislative elections with five basic conditions: firstly, the right to elect and be elected, which is essential. In other words, through disqualification, political imprisonment, exile, the dictatorship can’t be the one to determine who the candidates are for an election. There are almost 1.5 million Venezuelan (exiles) abroad who should be able to exercise their right to vote. The second is (that) the parties (should be) in the hands of their legitimate leaders. Imagine if in Spain the (Supreme) Court were to come in and designate the leaders of the PP (Popular Party), PSOE (Socialist Party), Podemos, Vox or any other party. That’s what happening today in Venezuela. The third element is the presidential and legislative election calendar. The fourth element is the arbiter, in that the constitution says the National Electoral Council in Venezuela should be designated by the legislature. And the fifth element is election monitoring. These are basic, fundamental elements.
Q: Don’t you think if you took part in the elections that what’s happened in Belarus could occur and you could take back the street?
A. There’s a key element, which is exercising our majority. We’re doing something along the lines of what’s happening in Belarus. In Venezuela, we’ve taken to the street many times. Four hundred people have been killed in the street exercising our right to protest. I myself still have projectiles in my body from having protested in 2017, in 2018, and much earlier. We have to reclaim that arena. We’ve been there time and again. We’ve mobilized through elections, like we did in 2015 when we won the legislature … What did the dictatorship do? It destroyed the legislature, 96 sentences handed down against the (National) Assembly, 46 lawmakers jailed and exiled, parliamentary immunity removed or violated. So the challenge is to exercise our majority, like they’re doing now in Belarus. We have to reinvent ourselves, but the plan of action is the same – demonstrations, protests, strikes, plebiscites.
Q: What political strategy are you proposing from here to year’s end?
A: First of all, to stake out a political position and not take part in a fraudulent (election). The second step will be to arrange a grand unity pact ahead of the presentation of a road map for the country. Our options aren’t that simple in a country that’s collapsed, with the highest (Covid-19) fatality rate per capita in the health-care sector at 26 percent. One-fourth of the deaths in Venezuela are in the health-care sector because they don’t even have gloves. There’s no water in the hospitals. Our options are complicated, but we have to build majorities. That’s why we’re calling for this national pact, which also includes civil society sectors, to evaluate all the alternatives. There will also be appointments along these lines that stem from the Norway talks (between Venezuela’s government and opposition). There’s a proposal for lifting sanctions (on Maduro’s administration) with a view to a transition, with a national emergency government.
Q: How feasible is that national emergency government in the medium term?
A: It’ll be feasible to the degree we exert pressure. We’re not expecting good faith or for the dictatorship to have an epiphany tomorrow … We’re depending on the variables that we can control: the unity of the political actors; the possibility of mobilizing, even during the pandemic; a proposal for the country’s future; guarantees for the transition.
Q: Your tenure at the head of the National Assembly expires on Jan. 5. Who will take control?
A: The dictatorship will try to usurp state powers. They already have with the executive, the judicial (branches), with the election (authority) … We’re not going to allow them to usurp the legislature, and it’s going to be an institutional, constitutional struggle, but mainly (a struggle) in exercising our majority … Today people are struggling to be able to eat, to have water. It’s an unprecedented tragedy in a country with immense natural resources that are being illegally extracted.
Q: How do you expect the Covid-19 crisis in Venezuela will evolve?
A. There are only two laboratories nationwide that do the (PCR) test, so it’s difficult to monitor the number of cases because the regime doesn’t allow any private laboratory to do the test. If we have a dictatorship here that treats returning citizens like bio-terrorists, what can we say? We’ve managed to get the regime to not block aid from the Red Cross and the Pan American Health Organization, but it’s not enough. A bonus of $300 also will be delivered to health personnel, split into payments of $100 a month, but it’s also not enough. There’s no water. There are no resources. EFE-EPA