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Guaido envoy: Venezuelans want out of 'drug cartel regime'

Alan MacKenzie
May 21, 2019

Even with support in the international community, self-appointed Venezuelan leader Juan Guaido has failed to oust President Maduro. Has Guaido's movement given false hope to Venezuelans? DW meets his envoy to the UK.

Vanessa Neumann spricht für Juan Guaido
Image: DW

Vanessa Neumann on Conflict Zone

Every party in the Venezuelan parliament supports self-declared president Juan Guaido, his envoy to the UK has said, rejecting criticism that the opposition against President Nicolas Maduro is divided.

On DW's flagship interview show Conflict Zone, Vanessa Neumann instead criticised the lack of international unity over the situation in Venezuela.

Venezuela Caracas - Juan Guaido bei Pressekonferenz
Guaido has said he will not rule out authorizing US military intervention in VenezuelaImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/F Llano

"After many years of the international community blaming us, saying you can't get your act together," said Neumann, it was now behaving "like a bunch of squabbling children at the time when we have our act together."

"That is a betrayal of my people," she said.

The Venezuelan National Assembly voted in March to back Neumann's appointment as a representative of Juan Guaido, the president of the assembly, who appointed himself interim president of Venezuela weeks after declaring Maduro's inauguration as president on January 10 illegitimate.

Guaido and his supporters say as leader of the assembly he has a constitutional mandate to act as interim president until new elections. 

Dozens of nations have supported his leadership, including the US, Canada, most of the European Union and all but a few of the Latin American countries in the Lima Group. But Russia and China continue to support Maduro – who has taken billions of dollars in loans from them – and warn against interference from abroad, though Russia itself says it has soldiers in Venezuela cooperating with the military.

Beziehungen zwischen Russland und Venezuela
"Putin is giving us support on all levels and we have received it with much pleasure and gratitude," Maduro told Russian media in JanuaryImage: Reuters/M. Shemetov

'Final phase'?

Despite gaining some vital international legitimacy for his movement, Guaido has been unable to dislodge Maduro from the presidential palace.

On April 30, Guaido said the "final phase" of the campaign to oust Nicolas Maduro had begun and urged Venezuelans via Twitter to "take to the streets to support democratic forces and recover our freedom."

But Neumann disputed that the revolt had failed to convince enough of the military to desert Maduro, who said after the opposition action that "loyal and obedient" troops had stopped the "coup-mongering far right."

"The problem is that we have Cuban intelligence officers … following their children and preventing them from rising up," said Neumann. "Before Juan Guaido took office there were over 12 military uprising attempts by the military spontaneously."

The failure to remove Maduro following the push in April led the International Crisis Group to assess in the following days that it had raised "the likelihood of domestic or international escalation" and appeared "to have been an easily subdued, poorly conceived revolt."

International escalation

Guaido has since instructed Carlos Vecchio, his representative in Washington, to meet for talks with U.S. military officials on "strategic and operational planning."

U.S. President Donald Trump has failed to rule out military action in Venezuela, a move warned against by the Lima Group and which the EU's chief diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said would be "unacceptable."

Is Guaido's opposition movement going ahead with discussions on military action without caring what the international community think?

"We are looking at all the options. We're also involved in conversations and negotiations to find a peaceful solution," Neumann said.

Amnesty before justice?

"The offer is now and has always been on the table for them [the Maduro regime] to leave the country peacefully," Neumann continued, "on a plane, get out … take their ill-gotten $500 to $800 billion that they have stolen … and leave and let us get back to democracy."

So was there to be no accountability for offenders in the regime?

"We have a plan for transitional justice. It's in our governance plan for transitional justice and the truth and reconciliation commission, which happens after you have regime change … We will follow the international standard on this."

In January,Human Rights Watch said that any "amnesty that guarantees impunity by absolving government and military officials responsible for the most serious human rights violations is incompatible with Venezuela's international obligations."

"[Juan Guaido] has clearly stated … that anybody who is not guilty of crimes against humanity can be offered amnesty. Those who are guilty of crimes against humanity do not get amnesty. Period," said Neumann.