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Why Guaido official believes regime change in Venezuela is non-negotiable

The governance of Venezuela appears to be in a deadlock. Opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom the U.S. recognizes as president, has been unable to oust President Nicolas Maduro. The two sides were negotiating until recently, when Maduro, who is supported by the military, left discussions in protest of new U.S. sanctions. Amna Nawaz talks to Amb. Carlos Vecchio, who represents Guaido in Washington.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Both the leadership and the future of Venezuela are in deadlock. Opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom the U.S. recognizes as president, has so far been unable to oust the sitting president, Nicolas Maduro. Maduro retains support within the all-powerful Venezuelan military. The two sides were at the negotiating table until earlier this month, when Maduro left in protest of new U.S. sanctions.

    Joining me now is Ambassador Carlos Vecchio, who represents the Guaido government in Washington.

    Ambassador Vecchio, welcome back to the "NewsHour".

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    Thank you for having me.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, last week, the Trump administration introduced tougher sanctions. I have to ask you, Maduro has survived previous sanctions, protest, international pressure, even internal attempts to oust him.

    Do you think these new sanctions will have any effect?

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    Absolutely. I don't have any doubt that these will put more pressure inside of the Maduro regime and will help to force Maduro to further negotiation to facilitate a transition in our country.

    So, it is important to highlight that these sanctions or this executive order is targeting the Maduro regime, is targeting the inner circle of Maduro and the people who are helping Maduro to stay in power. It's not against Venezuelans.

    The second point that is important in my view, this executive order is protecting the Venezuelan assets here to avoid the looting of our nation, to preserve those assets in favor of Venezuela. And also, it is important to mention that this executive order allows transactions, you know, related to food and medicines, and humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people. So, it's putting, you know, the pressure where it should be.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    At the same time, though, sanctions were what forced Maduro to say enough and walk away from those talks. Those talks offered some chance for a path forward. Is that path now gone?

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    I mean, if you put this in context. I mean, Maduro has always used negotiations as a way to manipulate the international community. They have not agreed to anything on those negotiations.

    So, the important things in my view is that to increase the pressure, not internationally, internally, inside of Venezuela. We have the majority of Venezuelans looking for a change. More than 85 percent of the people of Venezuela are looking for a change.

    We have a legitimate president in Venezuela, Juan Guaido. Juan Guaido has become the most important person and popular in Venezuela in the last 20 years, without (ph) appearing in the national television. So, we have the support.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But let me ask you about those talks. They are ongoing. Do you think they will lead anywhere? Even though Maduro has left?

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    We need to force them. We need to force them. We need to conquer the power.

    They won't give you the power, because we are dealing with a criminal state. We are dealing with a criminal organization. That is posh to keep in mind. That's why it's important to put more pressure on the Maduro regime.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let me ask you about the military support that Maduro currently has. Last month, my colleague Nick Schifrin actually spoke with Maduro's former intelligence chief —

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    Uh-huh.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    — General Figuera, who has since rather defected to the U.S.

    I want you to take a listen to what he told my colleague Nick Schifrin then.

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    OK. Great.

  • Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera (through translator):

    Having worked firsthand with Nicolas Maduro, after telling him about all the eruption I saw, I realized there was no will, too much evil, and too much desire for power.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Is there any way you think to take away some of that military support toe eventually further weaken Maduro?

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    Well, Figuera is one example.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But he is just one.

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    A clear example. But they have detained 200 military officers in Venezuela. They have been detained. They have been tortured.

    And we have been having contacts with many middle and lower ranks of the military institution. And they are Venezuelans. They are suffering the same thing that ordinary people are suffering.

    And at the end of the day, they will support the people of Venezuela who are looking for a change. It is important to mention also that we cannot evaluate this as a single event. This is an ongoing process.

    We have been climbing a mountain every single day, moving forward. We're very close to the peak. I don't have any doubt that we'll conquer freedom again.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, to that point, it's been going on for so long. The talks do continue.

    Are you concerned that the longer this goes on, Maduro can just run out the clock until maybe regime change as an interest goes away in the international community.

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    We need to keep, you know, our determination internally and also outside of Venezuela with the coalition that we have created.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But do you think you can keep that up?

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    Absolutely, because when you're fighting for freedom — I mean, you never lose momentum. You know, freedom is there and we will prevail.

    You know, I'm fully confident, because the majority of Venezuela right now are looking for a change. In my view, we are in an irreversible process of change that. And that change will come. And so, I don't have any doubt and I'm fully confident that we will prevail.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Is full regime change the only acceptable outcome? Would you accept any — a new election, say, in which Maduro is also allowed to stay?

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    So, what we want to do is resolve the political crisis, which has been created by Maduro. And —

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Does that include Maduro?

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    And the only way to resolve this is putting an end of the dictatorship. It's the only way to resolve that.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, that's a no.

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    Otherwise — otherwise, the humanitarian crisis will stay in Venezuela.

    So, we need the take Maduro out of power. We need to set a transitional government. And we need to call for a free and fair election in Venezuela.

    That's the agenda to resolve the political crisis in our country. And this is our proposal. And that's why we have been asking for the support of the international community.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    In the meantime, I have to ask you, I have been on the border between Venezuela and Brazil. I have met some of those families —

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    Uh-huh.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    — who traveled days without eating, carrying their children and whatever else they can. Their children, many of them have only ever lived in this state as it is right now. They're malnourished. They're going to suffer for the rest of their lives. What is your message to them the longer this takes to unfold?

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    Well, this is a man-made disaster. They have more than four million Venezuelans to get out of our country looking far better future. Maduro has created the largest refugee crisis in this continent, and if Maduro continues in power, will be the first one in the world. You know, it will be even more important than the Syrian refugee crisis.

    So we need to stop this. My message to them is that we are looking for a change in Venezuela, that we'll want to set a transitional government in Venezuela, and we would like to restore a democratic system so that we will have the conditions for the return of all Venezuelans to recover our country. That's my main message.

    And also, we need to understand that Maduro is a threat not only against Venezuelans, is against the entire region. And if we want to have political stability in the region, we need to conquer freedom again.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Ambassador Carlos Vecchio, thank you very much for being here.

  • Carlos Vecchio:

    Thank you, Amna.

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