Juan Guaidó’s visit to the White House last week has given renewed encouragement to opponents of the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela, many of whom live in the United States. A year ago, Guaidó had just sworn in as president and it seemed that the fall of the regime was imminent, given repeated warnings by the US. of the use of force. Last year, however, it ended with the divided opposition and the risk of losing control of the National Assembly for a bribe campaign orchestrated by Maduro. Despite this, the opposition resisted and is now united again after the figure of Guaidó, which has culminated a visit to Europe and North America where he has been received as head of state of his country by all the leaders except Pedro Sánchez in Spain. The representative of Venezuela elected by Guaido and the National Assembly in the US is Carlos Vecchio (Caripe, 1969), a veteran politician who fled the persecution of the regime in 2014 and who in a year has woven a network of contacts and support in the US presidency, diplomacy and intelligence. It was he who organized the visit of Guaidó to Washington, and who accompanied him on his visit to the Oval Office.
What is your assessment of the visit of the president in charge Juan Guaidó to Washington?
Juan’s leadership as a legitimate interim president of Venezuela is reaffirmed and the free world commitment to pressure to get out of the dictatorship is reaffirmed. When Maduro gives an interview to
In which he asks for mediation and negotiation, what is the narrative that he tried to sell to his intimate group, to the members of the Armed Forces and to the Russians? That this Guaidó project has failed, that it is the past, that it is a puppet, that this did not work, that he, Maduro, controls the country, and who they have to understand is with him. That is why he asks the US for a dialogue. That interview coincides with the appearance of interim president Guaidó in Colombia and his first meetings with President Iván Duque, the foreign ministers of the region, and the secretary [de Estado norteamericano Mike] Pompeo Then follow the tour of Europe and Canada and the USA. That dismantles the manipulation that Maduro had wanted to sell to the world, to the Russians, to his inner circle and to the Armed Forces.
The regime tried to hire a lobby here in Washington to circumvent sanctions.
And notice that to sign that contract the regime was using the attorney [Reinaldo Muñoz], which is the person who has not yet been sanctioned. Maduro set up a narrative that falls with the visit of Guaidó and which had its first episode first internally. Maduro promised the Russians that he was going to have control of the Venezuelan Parliament. He came to offer some deputies more than one million dollars as a bribe so they would not vote for Guaidó. He promised Russia that he would control the Parliament and thus he would control the oil contracts in order to assign them.
Why didn’t they do it?
They could not for the audacity, courage and courage of the interim president, along with the other deputies who avoided the assault on Parliament. He only managed to unify us and be able to re-elect President Juan Guaidó. He was finally sworn in and that gives us that internal legitimacy and makes us win the initiative again.
Organizing the Guaidó international tour must have been complicated.
We needed to be sure that the president could leave Venezuela safely, something that is not an easy operation. Once we were sure that the president was in the safe place in Colombia, we started confirming everything.
The visit to the White House was managed with great secrecy …
We had the opportunity to build this for at least two weeks and it was kept secret. I think we generated the effect that we were looking for from a political and communicational point of view, the surprise factor. It culminated with a historical episode, which is the presence of interim president Juan Guaidó in the State of the Union address. I don’t think it happened with a Latin American president in history. And then President Trump’s support, with the words he uses, that are very powerful, that sends a very clear message to the world, to the coalition, to those who are supporting Maduro.
Yes there was an applause from both parties, Republican and Democrat, to those words of Trump.
It is a support that not only comes from the executive branch and the leadership, of course, from the president, but also the Congress, the legislative branch, supporting a cause. But it is also a clear message that this is serious, that this is a state policy and that the US It will exert the greatest possible pressure for us to have a region in peace and without dictatorship. And I think it is a recognition, not only to the interim president, but also to those who have been fighting within Venezuela, who have seen their relatives die, political prisoners, who have been forced to leave Venezuela because of the crisis . It is a recognition of that and that ovation of the two parties is towards the people of Venezuela, to send a message to their people that we are with you.
During Guaidó’s visit, “Trump sent a very clear message to the world”
You were visiting Trump at the Oval Office. What did the president tell them not to know?
I can’t tell everything logically. But the meeting lasted an hour and was scheduled to last less than an hour. A meeting with a one-hour president is not a meeting for a photo, it is a work meeting. After that, President Trump asked us to complete some details with his team in the cabinet room. He asked us to meet with the Minister of Defense [Mark Esper], your National Security secretary [Robert O’Brien] and Mauricio Claver [que es el mayor asesor de Trump para América Latina]. In all its dimension I can say the president is five steps ahead of the rest of the administration, it is true.
Do you see a genuine commitment from President Trump to seek a prompt and urgent solution to the crisis in Venezuela?
I am talking about my perception and my reading of what the meeting was. I feel that there is a firm commitment of the president with Venezuelans, with democracy in Venezuela and with giving political stability to this region, understanding that there is a regime that puts the security of the entire area at risk.
What can the US do now? and the international community so that Russia and Iran stop supporting the Maduro regime?
Russia has become the mainstay of the worst dictatorship the region has had in its recent history. Today Russia takes advantage of our chaos to make money and to play geopolitics, to confront its main enemy, USA. Take advantage of the chaos, because our oil production fell by three and a half million [por día] to about 600,000. Part of that market was taken by Russia, because Russia is our competitor. And now no change suits him. It is not convenient for him to increase production because we would take away the market. Russia benefits because it has become the intermediary to place our crude oil internationally. He buys it at a discount, charges a commission and places it where he wants and in the best way to his benefit, earning money without investing anything. And then payments are made through the Russian financial system. That is, Russia is making money from chaos, exploiting our wealth without investing anything and at the same time playing geopolitics.
«Russia has become the main support of the worst dictatorship in the region in its recent history»
Does this know the international community?
We have told this to those with whom we have met internationally: alone we cannot. We have put everything and President Guaidó has risked his life in the service of this cause. And I think he has shown it, jumping fences, facing military pickets. Before leaving he received 15 shots in his van of the armed groups. If the international community wants to put pressure, it has to hold Cuba and Russia responsible for what is happening, mainly Russia. Russia is supporting the suffering of Venezuelans by supporting the Maduro regime. It supports the suffering of Venezuelans and supports the worst tyranny that has caused the greatest damage to the region, both politically and economically and socially, in modern history. There has not been a regime in Latin America that has done as much damage as this. The international community must also put pressure on actors like these if they want to build a serious exit to the transition in Venezuela. We have also told the world, and in particular the US, that Venezuela is its enemies. There is Russia, Cuba and Iran. It is not a small thing.
What does Spain ask?
We have told Europe that the Maduro regime has bypassed the US sanctions across Europe, has washed money across Europe, has created an informal economy with the exploitation of blood gold, money laundering, drug trafficking, everything That is being conducted around and that the only way we can face this is with greater European pressure. Therefore we have requested that this illegal activity be sanctioned, companies, individuals and that all persons who have been linked to human rights abuses, who have been torturers, who have lent themselves to that, have to be sanctioned. The list is not enough [de sancionados] that Europe has had. That pressure has slowed down from Europe. So, the request not only to Spain but to all of Europe, is to increase that pressure.
«We ask Spain to take into account that Rodríguez is a torturer and human rights violator»
What is your opinion that the Spanish Government received the vice president of Maduro, Delcy Rodríguez?
The call that I make is that they understand that this person is a violator of human rights, that he has been part of a regime that has tortured, that has imprisoned, that has persecuted Venezuelans simply for thinking differently, and that that European sanction has that to be respected by all Europeans, and that Europeans, and particularly Spain, have a common commitment to Venezuela, to human rights and to democracy, and that rather it has to become the hinge of increasing that pressure to effectively We Venezuelans can find what we also want for Spain, which is democracy. In the Delcy episode, keep in mind that she is a torturer and a human rights violator, that she is sanctioned. We ask not only Spain, but all of Europe, to comply with the sanctions it has imposed, and to increase the sanctions to prevent these violators from continuing to go to Europe, to prevent corruption and money laundering from being carried out across Europe. and of the European financial system.
What are the steps to follow as of now?
First, what we have talked with all countries is the urgency, the need to stop the suffering of Venezuelans, this cannot last indefinitely in time. Second, more than 80% of Venezuelans want a change, they want to leave Maduro, they express their rejection. There is a clear leadership, reflected in the interim president Juan Guaidó, and there is a National Assembly that accompanies him in that leadership as legislative power, both become a strong base for a stable transition in Venezuela. So there is a great opportunity. And third, we are facing not a classical dictatorship, but a dictatorship that is linked to criminal terrorist activities, that we cannot face alone and that has the support, as I said, of countries like Cuba and Russia.
What have you achieved from within?
While we have politically and popularly defeated the Maduro regime, these criminal forces and the Cuban and Russian presence mean that we cannot alone. We have committed ourselves to that internal pressure on our part, risking our lives. Every day in Venezuela is a risk to life. I insist, before leaving, President Guaidó was shot 15 times in his car. We are going to have that pressure and internal mobilization, but we need more international pressure, which has to be coordinated, simultaneous and permanent. Just that pressure for Canada, USA. Latin America and Europe will lead to an outcome, and we will see from now on some commitments that countries made to increase that pressure. In the coming days and weeks there will be a set of actions that aim to increase that pressure at different levels.
Can you advance those measures?
Do you think the regime is aware of that pressure increase?
Maduro was selling before he already had control and that he was the interlocutor with Venezuela, which had everything under control. All that falls, that is false, here is a commitment from us and the interim president to leave his life to rescue democracy. But there is also a commitment from all countries to increase that pressure and that is isolation they gave. The Delcy case is an example for the regime. Is that what you want for your future? Be isolated, because that is what will come. Mature is the past. Maduro is not able to solve any problem of Venezuelans. Maduro does not represent the future of Venezuela, that the people of Venezuela know and the free world knows. And my message to the armed force and to that internal group is that they put themselves aside, that they facilitate this transition process that will be inevitable and that it will be less painful for our people who have suffered enough. Let them stand aside and facilitate the transition, because this is inevitable and that they know which side they want to be on.
Do you think then that the Delcy case is an example of the effect of sanctions?
Yes, an example, the best publicity that has been given to sanctions and that shows exactly what Maduro is today, a person toxic to the world and particularly to the region. And it is the isolation of repudiation given to those who have been human rights violators, torturers, murderers, who have imprisoned people simply for thinking differently. .