One of Nicolás Maduro’s most radical opponents, María Corina Machado, 54, says the Venezuelan regime shouldn’t even be seen as a dictatorship: for her, it’s tyranny, “a criminal network that is turning the country into Somalia , in which states and regions are fractured”.
A former congressman and leader of the Vente Venezuela party, Corina also says that Juan Guaidó’s time in charge of the opposition has ended and that it is now time for social and union leaders to take the reins of the camp against the Chavistas. Two years ago, she had already broken up with the former leader of the National Assembly.
By videoconference, from Caracas, Corina told the sheet that “the farce of this regional election brings benefits” to Maduro and that the opponents who agreed to participate in the election, scheduled for the next 21st, “are hostages and are seeking quotas for them, not what the country needs.”
Without relieving the former allies, he also stated that the extradition of businessman Alex Saab, considered a figurehead of the Venezuelan dictator, could bring evidence of links between Chavismo and parts of the opposition.
What did you think of the opposition sector led by Juan Guaidó having agreed to participate in the elections? No wonder there are political actors who pose as opposition in Venezuela today. The regime blackmails, extorts, threatens, and they have turned themselves into hostages. It’s a shame, because the movement led by Guaidó was a good opportunity wasted. For Nicolás Maduro’s regime, the farce of this regional election brings benefits, as it shows itself democratic and washes its face, while this part of the opposition seeks to be recognized as a legitimate opposition.
The fact is, what they are actually proposing is a surrender, a cohabitation with the regime, and we are not going to support that. These opponents are seeking quotas for them, not what the country needs.
You supported Guaidó when he proclaimed himself interim president in 2019. I was the first person in the opposition to support Guaidó, even at a time when many of his own party did not want this proclamation. There was a sector that preferred the National Assembly as a whole to occupy the power vacuum created by Maduro’s illegitimate possession [o argumento dos opositores é o de que o cargo de presidente teria ficado vago em 10 de janeiro de 2019, quando o chavista iniciou um novo mandato depois de vencer eleições contestadas]. My argument was that the mandate could not be assumed by a group of people, it had to be one, and the Constitution indicated that it was him.
But he told Guaidó not to condition his actions on the four parties that support him, not to surround himself with these leaders and to prefer the support of the people, the population and the international community. What happened is that he resigned himself to the demands of these parties, which involved him, with the aim of sharing power between them. And people know that, there is a great distrust of Venezuelan society towards him.
Do you not believe that this election will bring any benefit? What can they actually achieve? Some municipalities and regional governments will win, which the regime will grant, because the idea of an election helps them outside Venezuela, but in practice the opponents will not be able to fulfill their mandates. It was like that in the previous election. Opposition governors had to govern answering to an interventor.
I believe that the 21st of November will mark a change: we will see more clearly who are those who are making agreements with the regime or who have already changed sides. Those who have decided to be part of this farce are becoming more exposed. It is a process of debugging the opposition. There are no electoral conditions in Venezuela today, just as there is no rule of law and no national sovereignty. So what are you talking about? It’s not elections, it’s a game for agreements and for sharing power.
What can the arrest of Alex Saab, considered Maduro’s figurehead, and the possible extradition of Hugo Carvajal, a former Chavismo ally, to the US mean? It is essential that they are being brought to justice. First of all, because this core of power was untouchable. Saab has very valuable information. It was the intermediary between various fields of action of Chavismo, the financial, the criminal and the military. I know that there is even evidence that shows links between Chavismo and sectors of the opposition. Carvajal, on the other hand, has historical information, because he was in Chavismo from the beginning.
I also believe that Claudia Días Guillén’s extradition from Spain will be very important in the quest for justice. She was a nurse and later Chávez’s treasurer, a very strange thing that she occupied two such different roles, but what is certain is that she had a profound knowledge of the backstage of power at that time.
There are those who do not recognize the Venezuelan regime as a dictatorship. what do you think of this? To speak only of dictatorship is not to understand the criminal networks and dynamics that are developing in Venezuela and that go beyond its borders. A few years ago, when we were talking about the Russian, Iranian and Cuban influence in Venezuela, they called us extremists. Today, no one doubts the economic, commercial, criminal and military presence of these countries. Unfortunately, many fall in front of the ideological facade behind the Foro de São Paulo, of the Grupo de Puebla.
What keeps this tyranny in power is a criminal structure in which international organized crime and terrorism have been crossing over, in a territory where they find a number of logistical services that the State itself provides. They’re all here, from the Colombian guerrillas to the drug cartels and international criminal and terrorist networks, which are dedicated to illicit mineral extraction, drug trafficking and child prostitution. It is unfortunate that there are international political actors who still support or minimize this regime, because they know what is happening.
What can the international community do in addition to what it is doing? We know that the most efficient way to defeat a hijacker is to isolate him. It is necessary to isolate Venezuela, to prevent Iran’s weapons, Cuba’s intelligence, from arriving here. Until the regime comes to a surrender, we won’t have what we need. It will simulate dialogues, in which all it will do is buy time. That’s what happened to all the ones we’ve had until today. What is there to dialogue with Maduro at this point?
Is it time to stop recognizing Guaidó as president? USA, Colombia and Brazil still the do. One shouldn’t recognize Maduro, that’s clear. But then the question remains. If it’s not Maduro, if it’s not Guaidó, then who? I defend the support to the leaders that are emerging in society. There are peasant, teacher and student associations that are emerging and organizing themselves. We are seeing a mobilization that goes beyond politics, because we have already seen that with this political class, nothing is achieved. The purpose should no longer be to win an electoral race, but to dismantle a mafia scheme.
But where are these people and why aren’t there more demonstrations? There is a process of “somalization” of the country, in which we see states and regions fracturing. I, who travel by car to various regions, am constantly stopped by police, soldiers and citizens who say to me: “Corina, don’t continue your journey, this region is taken.” In other words, there are parts of the country completely under the control of mafia groups.
And the regime has also entered the poor areas, where it carries out brutal blackmail. They condition the delivery of food and medicine to support, to attending acts, not to go out to complain. The population does not have water, electricity, food, gasoline or transport. In this context, it is a survival situation in which it is very difficult to resume street protests as was done a few years ago. People think that it is not worth going out to protest if, tomorrow, the current so-called opponents win and share power between them.
X-RAY | MARÍA CORINA MACHADO, 54
Born in 1967 in Caracas, she studied industrial engineering at the Andrés Bello Catholic University and Public Policy at Yale University (USA). She was elected a deputy in September 2010 and, at the time, criticized the expropriations of the Hugo Chávez regime. Since then, he has been one of the leaders of the opposition to the Venezuelan dictatorship.