A lot of patience and a mobile phone – that’s what’s required to arrange an interview with Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition politician who set the country alight after declaring himself interim president in January.
It wasn’t easy: it took 13 days, 12 phone calls and 40 text messages before he agreed to speak to me. And even then, the 35-year-old only agreed to answer questions sent by e-mail.
But for a chance speak to one of the world’s most sought-after politicians? I couldn’t miss the opportunity.
Because this is a man who is fighting an unprecedented political battle in Venezuela. Guaidó wants to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, claiming his government is illegitimate. He is on a mission to fix the “tragic” conditions plaguing the country, including hyperinflation, unemployment and urgent food and medicine shortages.
He is fighting historic Chavismo – the left-wing ideology based on the ideas of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. And apparently, he does not fear for his own life – despite living in a country where “blood has already been shed” for change.
In turn, Maduro’s government accuses Guaidó and the United States of attempting to stage a coup. But the opposition leader denies this – saying that whoever believes it “either do[es] not know what has happened in Venezuela, or say[s] it in bad faith.” But he has continually refused to sit down for dialogue with Maduro.
According Guaidó, his aspirations are much bigger than removing a single person from power. “We do not seek to put an end to Chavismo or to any politician. We want democracy.”
What is your opinion on those who defend the idea that you are part of a coup d’état?
They either do not know what has happened in Venezuela, or say it in bad faith. Nicolás Maduro is the one who has not listened to the will of the voters as expressed at the 2015 parliamentary elections.
It is him who has staged a coup by violating the constitution in force through the illegal call to a corporate Constituent Assembly in 2017, only composed of his acolytes.
And it is him who has been usurping the office of president of my country since January 10. I have no other intention than to restore democracy and the rule of law, both of which have been violated in Venezuela.
And what about those who say that you are a CIA agent – and even a puppet of the US establishment?
I am the president of the only democratically legitimate institution that is left in Venezuela (the National Assembly of Venezuela).
The representatives who make it up were elected in December 2015 under the framework of my country’s constitution. We haven’t been appointed by Mr Trump, who was not even president at that time. We have been elected by the Venezuelan people, and that must be respected.
Will see bloodshed in Venezuela?
Over the last 15 years, more than 250,000 Venezuelans have died in this country due to violence. Furthermore, the repressive forces which still respond to Maduro have remained active, committing numerous human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions.
Between 2015 and 2017, the number of extrajudicial executions carried out by this repressive machine has risen above 8,200, more than three times the number of missing persons in Chile during Pinochet’s military dictatorship.
There has already been a bloodshed in our country.
Do you fear for your life?
The responsibility I have taken on has involved risks to my family, my collaborators and myself.
However, that is not my greatest fear.
My greatest fear is that the Venezuelans go on without being able to get medications for their children. I fear that our senior citizens continue to die of malnutrition and preventable diseases. I fear the continuation of this dictatorship, which is the cause of the troubles and hunger experienced by the Venezuelans.