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How Venezuelan opposition envisions ousting Maduro from power

Although anti-Maduro protests exploded on the streets of Caracas Tuesday, by nightfall it was unclear if the Venezuelan military had heeded opposition leader Juan Guaido’s call to abandon President Maduro. William Brangham talks to Carlos Vecchio, U.S. representative of Venezuela’s opposition, about why he believes increasing the pressure on Maduro through a three-pronged approach will succeed.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We return now to the anti-Maduro protests which exploded on the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, today.

    As night fell, it still wasn't clear if the Venezuelan military had heeded opposition leader Juan Guaido's call to abandon President Maduro.

    William Brangham is back, and he talks with the U.S. representative of Venezuela's opposition.

  • William Brangham:

    Thanks, Judy.

    To understand more of what's going on in Venezuela tonight, and how the opposition plans to proceed, I'm joined now by Carlos Vecchio. He is Juan Guaido's representative in Washington, D.C., and he is recognized by the United States as the official Venezuelan ambassador.

    Mr. Vecchio, thanks for being here again on the "NewsHour."

    This morning, Juan Guaido in that video stood with members of the Venezuelan military and said, now is the time.

    Why did he believe that today was the day?

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    Because today he announced the activation of the Operacion Libertad, Freedom Operation, in order to put an end of the usurpation of power of Nicolas Maduro.

    So, as an interim president, he's calling to the Venezuelans to demonstrate peacefully and also has requested that our military forces to support the Venezuelans in order to recover our democracy.

    So that's where we are right now. We will continue on the streets peacefully until we achieve democracy again. This is not a single event. This is a process.

    So you have seen in the last month how the determination of the people of Venezuela is. I mean, we are there. We will continue on the street. And we are fully committed to conquer freedom again.

  • William Brangham:

    But here we are 12 hours later, since he issued that video, saying, I have the support of the military.

    And yet we see tonight we still don't know that the military is truly on Guaido's side. Was this — is there any concern that this was a premature move on his part?

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    Not at all.

    As I said, this is not a single event. This is a process. And we will continue on the streets. And we will continue requesting the support of the military for us.

    The reality is that Maduro — Juan Guaido is free. He's on the streets. Leopoldo Lopez, who was under house arrest, is free. And the reality is that the minister of defense of Maduro, the chief of the Supreme Court of Maduro, and the commander of the presidential guard were negotiating the exit of Maduro.

    So you will see that the reality is there. So the majority of the people of Venezuela and the majority of the military force, they are with us. They are expecting a change. And we will continue to do that until we can conquer freedom.

  • William Brangham:

    As you well know, the Venezuelan military is obviously crucial in all of this.

    But as you also know, the Maduro regime has been funneling a lot of money, state industries, towards the military to keep their support. What will it finally take to get them to change their loyalty?

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    Well, again, we need our determination.

    And we have been putting pressure in three different levels, on the streets with the people. We will continue to do that. And tomorrow we are calling for a massive demonstration across the country. And also we will continue putting pressure through the National Assembly, the only democratically elected institution in our country.

    And, again, the international community will be an important actor to increase that pressure. And in that way, we can force for a peaceful transition in our country.

  • William Brangham:

    The Trump administration again today, several officials, called for that peaceful transition to occur.

    We also had one U.S. senator, Rick Scott of Florida, call for the U.S. to deploy its own military to the Venezuelan border. Would you support that idea?

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    We have a clear instruction from our interim president, Juan Guaido. Just move the people, get the support of the — of our military force, and the pressure from the international communities. That's where we are.

    And I don't have any doubt that we will achieve democracy again.

  • William Brangham:

    There are several other nations that are supporting Maduro and trying to keep him up.

    The Cubans, we know, have something of a paramilitary force. We saw them on the streets today of Caracas. They're supporting him. The Russians are also there. How do you surmount those nations' influence in this whole process?

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    As you have seen, this is not a fight between the Maduro regime and the United States.

    Juan Guaido has been recognized for more than 54 countries. The free world is with us, is supporting the Venezuelan cause. And also the region, the Latin American countries who are within the Lima Group, they are supporting our cause as well.

    So we have the majority of the international community supporting our movement. And I don't have any doubt that this combination, with a domestic force and with pressure from the international community, will conquer our freedom.

  • William Brangham:

    Tomorrow is May Day and, as you said, that there are going to be enormous protests across the country.

    Will Juan Guaido attend those protests? And is there any concern that, if he does show up on the streets and is rallying people, that he might be arrested?

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    He will do it. I mean, he is going to be there tomorrow. He's going to call for this massive demonstration, not only in Caracas, but across the country, as I said.

    And, I mean, they haven't done it in the last three months. And Juan Guaido has been walking on the street, you know, getting in contact with our people. And if they try to arrest Juan Guaido, in my view, that will accelerate the process of change in Venezuela.

  • William Brangham:

    All right.

    Carlos Vecchio, recognized by the U.S. as the Venezuelan ambassador, thank you so much for your time.

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    Thank you for having me.

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