President Trump has again called for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to resign and hand over power to Juan Guaido, president of the National Assembly, whom the U.S. and 60 other nations recognize as interim president. Special correspondent Nadja Drost sat down with Guaido to discuss the country’s humanitarian crisis, whether he could negotiate with Maduro and the “decisive” role of the U.S.
As you just heard, President Trump again called for Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro to step down and hand over power to Juan Guaido. He is the 35-year-old head of the National Assembly who the United States and 60 other nations now recognize as the president of Venezuela.
After years of economic catastrophe, the country has reached a new crisis point, with aid shipments waiting at Venezuela's borders to assist millions of people in need.
Shortly before Mr. Trump spoke this afternoon in Miami, and with the support of the Pulitzer Center, special correspondent Nadja Drost sat down with Juan Guaido in Caracas.
What do you plan on doing if Maduro doesn't cede to the building Venezuelan national pressure for him to step out of office?
Venezuela already decided for change.
Venezuela decided for the transition in the majority and supported change. It's undeniable, not just today with the mobilization in the streets, but also in 2015, four years ago, when we won the National Assembly, which set the stage for me to become president of the Assembly and, by constitution, become interim president.
It's important that the world knows this. What we're really debating now in Venezuela is how much more expensive it's going to be for Venezuelans to lose more than 15 children, babies every day to malnutrition and dehydration, to diseases that should have been eradicated, like malaria, dengue fever.
So Venezuela has already decided to have that change. The one deciding now how costly it's going to be and how much pressure we have to exert to achieve Maduro's departure will be Maduro.
You have said that all options are on the table.
And I'm wondering, where are you going to draw the line in the sand if Maduro does not step down from power? Would you think about the possibility of an outside military intervention?
We have been clear in saying that all cards are on the table, the necessary pressure to achieve an end to the usurping, the transitional government and the free elections, with the best social cost as possible, so that it generates governance and stability to the country, and it lets us have elections as soon as possible.
Our constitution is very clear. Venezuelans are the ones to authorize any use of violence. It is Venezuelans who will make the decision. Obviously, no one wants to get to that point. But, again, it is Maduro's choice to refuse something as elemental as humanitarian aid, a free election.
These are the clear demands for the Venezuelans.
But what will you do if Maduro simply doesn't allow for new elections and he is still in power? What is the next step for you and the opposition?
What we have done for years, continue to gather political, social, and international strength.
We have made important strides in this journey to gain trust from the people of Venezuela, to be certain that we can adequately govern a country, that we have the plans to help Venezuela get ahead, and that we have the backing of the international community.
Right now, you and the opposition are organizing to try to bring humanitarian aid over the border into Venezuela.
The International Red Cross and other organizations of a humanitarian nature have decided not to participate in this operation because they criticize it for using humanitarian aid as a tool to achieve a political end. How do you respond to that criticism?
Well, it's a bit of disinformation of what is happening in Venezuela.
In Venezuela, the level of poverty is over 85 percent. They don't live. They barely survive, especially when the health care system is deteriorated. It's in shambles. There's not even alcohol to disinfect a wound or an antibiotic.
In Venezuela, there's not enough food to feed the population; 60 percent of the population eats once a day, of course, because the origin of that problem is political. Wanting to not help, because the one who is usurping the presidency is a dictator and is not allowing people to get help, would be picking the side of the oppressor, would be to take the side of the one who isn't allowing lives to be saved.
If the military doesn't allow the aid to cross over the border, there is a possibility of a violent confrontation.
Is that cost worth it in order to be able to bring some temporary relief to a small number of Venezuelans in proportion to how many Venezuelans need long-term humanitarian aid? Are you willing to take that risk in order to bring humanitarian aid across the border?
It is worth it. It's good for millions of children who are in need.
Besides, we need to muster the strength for this situation to stop. This has been years in the making, years of mobilizations of political persecution of more than 1,000 political prisoners. Persecutions and asylees and the exiled, ask them if their sacrifice has been worth it. It has been worth it.
Right now, there's many options on the table for how Maduro might possibly leave office.
Are you willing — in an effort to reduce the possibility of violent confrontation, is the opposition willing to participate in a model of co-governance for a temporary transition period with Maduro?
The only one suggesting a violent confrontation is Maduro, with his military aggressions, when he threatens us with snipers.
We're going to continue the blueprint we followed for years in a way that's nonviolent, in a way that is peaceful. If they want to slaughter the people, they have the weapons. And they have already done it on some occasions.
So, having some sort of cooperation with Maduro, it seems not to make sense now. For there to be a transitional government, it seems that Maduro would have to be out of the scene.
You have said that there's no possibility of co-governance with Maduro for a temporary period. Would you be willing to negotiate with him for him to leave office or accept elections?
It's absolutely impossible to have a truly free election with someone who for years has kidnapped and killed, who prohibits humanitarian aid.
So it seems, at this moment, that it's not a path toward a free election, so that's not an option.
Everything is moving very quickly, and there's been a lot of advancements.
And I'm curious, how important was the support of the United States for you to be able to stand up and assume the presidency of Venezuela?
I think participation from the United States has been decisive. It has shown clear leadership with regard to our constitution, democracy and freedom. I think that's important for the region, not just for one country.
I think today, in such a globalized world, turning a blind eye to a close neighbor that is in serious trouble has consequences. For us, determined cooperation from the U.S. is important as that from Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, so many countries who have given their backing and cooperation.
Juan Guaido in that interview.
And in coming days, Nadja Drost will report on how Maduro's allies are trying to hold on to power and the vital issue of when or whether humanitarian aid will be allowed into the country.