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

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
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, VENEZUELAN AMBASSADOR TO THE
U.S.: 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 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
VENEZUELAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF (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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