This is Not About Trump, Maduro or Me—This is About the People of Venezuela
Maduro’s dictatorship has been a tragedy for Venezuela. Since 2014 the country's GDP has contracted by 50 percent. For several years we’ve had the highest inflation in the world and last year we fell into hyperinflation. Several million Venezuelans have left the country. Poverty has increased to 90 percent and more than 65 percent habitually go hungry—the highest level since records began. Tens of thousands of children and elderly people have died from malnutrition or preventable diseases.
Over the last several years, Venezuela has also become one of the most violent places in the world. In the last 15 years more than 250,000 Venezuelans have died due to violence. These figures are similar to Mexico’s in the same period, but Mexico has more than 120 million inhabitants, while we Venzuelans are 31 million. In other words, we have the highest homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants in America. We are being warned of a bloodbath, but the bloodbath has already been going on for years in our country.
And to this tragic ledger of lives lost to social collapse and criminality we must add the victims of deliberate political repression perpetrated by organizations like the Special Actions Force (FAES) that have committed numerous Human Rights violations—including almost 9,000 extrajudicial executions, three times more than the number of disappeared during the military dictatorship of Pinochet.
This terrifying picture is completed by the presence of hundreds of Cuban nationals in the Venezuelan Armed Forces, as well as members of Colombia’s ELN and the FARC in vast areas of our country.
At the heart of this is the clinging to power by Nicolás Maduro who has been blatantly usurping the presidency since January 10 of this year. But even before that, he ignored the will of the voters expressed in the 2015 parliamentary elections, and in 2017 he staged a coup, violating the current Constitution by promoting a crony, fascist and illegal Constituent Assembly stacked by his acolytes.
Meanwhile, the four main democratic political parties in Venezuela are banned. The same goes for its main leaders. Since last January 23, more than 800 Venezuelans have been arrested, including 84 minors, and more than 40 murders have been committed by the repressive bodies loyal to the dictatorship.
To overcome this situation we have proposed a three-step political plan aimed at restoring political institutions in Venezuela: an end to the usurpation of the presidency; the constitution of a transitional government; and the calling of free, fair and transparent elections. These elections must guarantee the participation of all Venezuelans without exception—including Maduro’s own Chavistas—if we are to bring about a political reality where every party can assume its legitimate place, reflective of the will of the people.
At the same time, given the desperate situation of millions of Venezuelans, we are agitating for admitting humanitarian aid into the country, to ensure access to medicines and food and help those in our population who suffered the most in whatever way is necessary.
In this endeavour, we have had the support of the majority of American and European democracies. Indeed, In August 2017, most of the Latin American countries with which we share historical and cultural ties formed the Lima Group to support the effort to re-democratize Venezuela. We owe great gratitude to them and to all those who have given us support from abroad and welcomed our diaspora and forcefully displaced Venezuelans.
The same is true for the Administration and the Congress of the United States, whose support has been truly heartening. We are especially encouraged by the fact that this policy of diplomatic and economic pressure on Maduro’s dictatorship is bipartisan, bringing together Republicans and Democrats alike.
I’ve played a leading role in this collective effort as president of the National Assembly of Venezuela since, in strict accordance to the process prescribed by our Constitution, I assumed executive powers. That has involved risks to the physical safety and freedom of my family, my collaborators and myself. Indeed, just last night Maduro’s rigged Constituent Assembly voted to strip me from my immunity, in what many fear might be the final step before my own arrest.
But the vote, the potential arrest, and whatever might follow are not my greatest fear. My fear is that we Venezuelans will continue to suffer without medicines for our children. My fear is that our elderly will continue to die from malnutrition and preventable diseases. My greatest fear is that the dictatorship is allowed to continue, and with it hunger and hardships endured by millions of Venezuelans.
As ever, we continue to absolutely reject a violent resolution to this situation. But as Nelson Mandela said, “it is always the oppressor, not the oppressed, who dictates the form of the struggle.”
Juan Guaidó is the interim president of Venezuela and the President of the National Assembly. His interim presidency, which began in 2019, he has been recognized by almost 60 states