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Venezuelan Opposition Leader Machado Rips Socialist Maduro, Sham Elections and Explains Proposal to Free Venezuela

María Corina Machado - El American


Available: Español

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The sham regional elections of last November 21 in Venezuela generated a watershed in the Venezuelan opposition. Those who participated in the process of Nicolás Maduro’s tyranny are internally labeled as accomplices of Chavismo. And one of the voices that have said it most forcefully is María Corina Machado, opposition leader in Venezuela and coordinator of the political party Vente Venezuela.

In this interview with El American, Machado explains her proposal amid the November 21 election and the next steps to be taken. Her proposal is that Venezuelans should vote in an authentic, civic process to elect new leadership within the opposition. In this way, new leadership can emerge in Venezuela that enjoys legitimacy and is not born out of elections manipulated by the same tyranny it’s trying to fight.

After the sham elections of last Sunday, November 21, you launched a proposal to liberate Venezuela and build a new leadership. What is it?

It is a crucial moment. The proposal seeks to listen to what the Venezuelan society said, and very hard, on Sunday, November 21.

We need to measure what it means that more than 70% of the population simply did not fall into that trap and was not subject to the blackmail, terror, and lies that were created around this whole process. It is something admirable and must be read correctly, because that day the regime was trying to whitewash itself after a few years when international justice has been advancing, to the extent that the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, in Maduro’s face, made him sign what I consider to be his own sentence (the opening of the investigation in the International Criminal Court).

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At this moment the regime, desperately, needs to wash its face in order to put aside its illegitimacy and condition of being a criminal state. Nothing was more convenient and effective than an electoral process, and obviously, this was not an election. It had the forms and the facade of an election and the cast members to make believe that it was an election.

But, in addition, they put so much money from both sides—not only from the regime but also from their accomplices—to the whole campaign; that, in spite of the fact that the mission of the European Union in a devastating report said this was not a free and fair process considering the facts. Despite this, they managed, thanks to their alliance with EU’s Josep Borrell, to lend themselves to it.

Additionally, something that is perhaps the least evident, but the most brutal of all, is the whole intimidation apparatus with an enormous capillarity, namely, reaching the streets, marking person by person and telling them “if you do not vote you do not eat”. Facing this system, more than 7 out of 10 Venezuelans said “no”. That is why I think that the reading is that there was a break. I call it a recall of the Venezuelan society to the regime of Nicolás Maduro and with a cohabitating opposition.

Returning to the proposal: the idea is to build a new opposition or perhaps a new leadership within the opposition that would enjoy a legitimacy and approval of the Venezuelan society. That is to say, Venezuelans will be able—I believe that for the first time in these twenty years—in a process that is not endorsed by the tyranny, to elect their leadership. Is that the proposal? What is missing there? How would you structure it?

Yes, as to what I answered before: that was the justification. That is to say, people do not want this anymore and people understood that with that political leadership we are not going to get out of Maduro. So, a new political leadership is needed that has certain characteristics, but, above all, that has an unequivocal purpose. The purpose is not to prepare for elections, or to interact with peers, or to prepare the country’s development for the next 20 or 50 years… No, no. The objective is to get the regime out of power.

So, who chooses that new political leadership? Obviously, Maduro is trying to do it himself. That is what these “elections” were for: to prop emerging individuals with pre-set governorships and mayorships, allowing Maduro to summon them to the Council of State and have them get on their knees; and then Maduro says: “These are the ones who go to Mexico”. That is the plan of Maduro and the tyranny.

Obviously, some economic actors and frontmen have put in an obscene amount of money (you probably have seen the images of the supposed campaign in this country). They want to impose their own, like this political direction. The other option is for the international community and, obviously, the option left to us is for each citizen. The people already said what they do not want on Sunday. Now they must say what they want. Who and for what.

It is, of course, difficult, and not only because of the logistical obstacles (which are many), but above all because of political resistance. Those who do not want this to be done, and you start to see the first reactions. Because of course, the status quo wants to remain the status quo and does not want to be challenged by society.

The probability of this happening will depend on the people, and on the citizens taking ownership of this. That this is no longer a proposal of mine, but of the citizens. The rules and conditions arise from the people’s own debate; that is why I do not want to and will not go into logistical details, because I think it would be inappropriate on my part.

There are many doubts about the proposal, especially in terms of logistics. I have seen comments from people who have criticized you who say: “It seems sensible to me, I understand where it is going, but it seems unfeasible”. I mean, how do you organize this? Because it clearly implies a tremendous logistical process. I understand if you do not want to go into detail on that; but, what I do want to ask you is: this implies a process of agreements, consensus, and of defining structures… Because you talk about building a coalition. How and with whom do you build it? Because you have to add the actors who oppose you, so that it is really a process where all options are considered. You have to agree with all those actors, don’t you?

Well, in the first place, it has nothing to do with whether they want me or not, because this is not a process that I convene, or that I organize, or that is mine. This is a process of society. I simply exposed it because I feel that there are accelerated operations underway by Maduro creating his new pseudo opposition. Some economic actors are doing the same, leaving them in a situation of “where am I left”, “do I not count in this”?

What I did was raise it. Now comes a moment of joint construction.

I want to discard the logistics first, because people stay there a lot. Believe me, that can be solved. We did the Fairmazo in 2003 and everyone told us that it was impossible. Then the referendum in 2017 and they told us we were crazy. It was done, it can be done.

There is all that organizational capacity in society, not to mention everything that can be done from the diaspora.

You have said the fundamental point: it is the political disposition of those involved to understand that the people have the power; that is what is difficult at this moment. Those are the ones who are going to invent all the excuses and all the disqualifications, to try to disqualify the proposal, when deep down what they do not want is to give up power. It is very comfortable when you have been there for 23 years, you have arrogated to yourself the representation of the democratic forces, or you are receiving more resources as an accomplice, and obviously, you want everything to remain the same.

Obviously, we are clear that we are not going to provoke the liberation of the country, and I do believe that this will be viable as soon as the people get hold of it, including the parties–because I am impressed, many people have written to me from the parties whose leadership lent itself to the sham elections. There is enormous discontent in the bases.

Everyone can have the incentives to build something that is much more than the election of a leadership. And, again, I say to you: whether they are alliances, coalitions, or individuals… I believe that I should not be the one to set limits on the design. What I believe is that the next step should be to constitute a promoter council with honorable people from different sectors and to start all these debates.

Many say, “we have to mobilize”, “we have to look for new forms of organization”, and I believe it; but for something that really adds value and brings us closer to liberation, not that distances us. For that reason, I am categorically opposed to the consultative referendum that some people are putting forward, because, excuse me, that is to recognize Nicolás Maduro as president. He is not. I will not recognize him nor do I recognize him since he stole the 2013 election—for which they broke my nose, precisely because I did not recognize him. And even less now, with a controlled structure such as the one represented by this illegitimate CNE, this illegitimate National Assembly, the Armed Forces that turned the voting centers into barracks last Sunday. Whoever raises that does not understand anything and is not listening to what the people said.

In the video you published you used the word “election”. And I think it is natural that many people, even those who have been accompanying you, are very upset by that word. Obviously, because of what these last years have been like, why this election and not the others? Why this time we are talking about a legitimate, shielded, reliable election?

Because in this election your vote would choose. In Sunday’s election, those who went did not choose. By the way, they say that participation levels increased; a claim so crude that nobody believes. And even if they say what they say, those who went know that those voting centers were empty. Basically, they sought a degree of legitimacy that they did not obtain in the least; rather, they delegitimized themselves.

Now, this would be different as long as society organizes itself and, of course, multiple supports must be sought. This is still to be built. And I imagine society organizing itself, civil society structures, trade associations. I imagine individuals converging, neighborhood associations, community organizations; they are being created and there are natural leaders.

All of us who are willing to make a proposal to the country and compete with each other, we can propose names of people who we believe could interact to define those issues that may be complex and delicate, in such a way that trust and transparency to the people always prevails.

Imagine what it would be like if you could go to vote manually in a transparent box, stay there, see how the votes are counted, and then the results of each one of the tables would be published on an Internet page where you could compare… I believe that it would also be a very refreshing and necessary experience because I do believe that it is important to keep alive the love and trust of Venezuelans in this exercise of popular sovereignty, and not in the farces that the regime sets up with its collaborators.

I am going to insist, because I believe that this is part of the uneasiness and doubts that your proposal has awakened in many people. You have accompanied electoral processes in the past. Some of them are the parliamentary elections of 2015 and the referendum of 2017. Both processes in the end were disregarded, swept or even served to favor the collaborationists. People have seen you accompanying processes that did not prosper. Why can those who do not believe in a new call for elections trust you and your proposal?

What I am proposing is that you trust in yourself. The question is: are we going to remain paralyzed so that the political direction that other actors want is imposed? I am not saying that they should put me in. I am saying: you decide.

Indeed, I share the deep disappointment of every Venezuelan citizen who participated in the 2015 election; we saw a National Assembly that in a matter of hours let itself be stripped of its qualified majority. I ask you to check who were the deputies who voted against, when they disincorporated the Amazonas deputies: there are those of Vente, among very few.

And I can also remind you, which was perhaps one of the biggest disappointments, the result of the popular referendum of 2017, to the extent that, when the MUD decided to ignore it and participate in that electoral farce and in the dialogue in the Dominican Republic, even after the company Smartmatic had confessed the mega fraud, Vente Venezuela left the MUD and said so publicly. We said: this is it. We are not part of that.

We are not part of that because the MUD got out of the path of the popular referendum and of the Venezuelan society; we stayed on the side of the people.

Obviously, we feel a great disappointment. And I recognize the mistake of having underestimated what some actors—who today I realize that were captured by the tyranny—were capable of doing; and for having kept quiet about some things I heard and saw, because I allowed the unity to be used as blackmail, in my case. And of things that I should not have kept quiet, because you know, that line or that matrix that if there is a difference, it should be discussed internally, but it cannot be made public, just as corruption denouncements cannot be made public, but there you go! Those who are damaging and dividing are those who grab some reals, or those who betray the popular mandate by getting along with the tyranny. I do believe that there are lessons to be learned and there were undoubtedly mistakes.

Does this have risks? Of course, this is not armored. You used the word “armored”, but not at all. We are in a war, with all that it implies; that is to say, it is a non-conventional war, but it is a war unleashed. We have to realign our people and, as in any war, the first thing is the sense of belonging and the fighting spirit that today has been diluted by the great distrust in the performance of this political leadership. This is a country on a war footing but it demands another General Staff, the one that the people want.

I am not underestimating the complexity or the moment, but neither am I reducing this to an event; I believe that this is a process and I believe that this call can detonate an enormous movement of citizen organization with different forms, because we are in a different moment, and that it has an obviously insurrectional character. Because whoever wants to abide by what the regime says, should see and accept the results of the CNE.

You said at the beginning that you don’t expect people to trust you, but that everyone trusts each other, because this is their moment. And I put a tweet, in these days, regarding several things I read: look, if you don’t like María Corina Machado, join her proposal. This is your moment to reject her, if you don’t like her. And I think that is the opportunity that is being offered right now: the opportunity to reject those we do not like. Now, this brings me to the other question. It is naive, but I have to ask it: are you going to be a candidate, I guess, are you going to be running with a coalition? No?

No doubt. I do not know how, because the conditions are not defined. It is not only to say “what”, but “for what and how”.

Look, Venezuelan society on November 21 said “no” to this. “No to the regime, no to a sham cohabitating opposition”. And I think it is time to say “yes to this, for this and these”. I think that is tremendously mobilizing.

There are a lot of people who, resigning themselves, say, “This is what it is.” “The cage is what it is.” That is the position of the defeated, of the one who threw in the towel -by the way, he must not be very uncomfortable in the cage, if he is not in a hurry. Because what this country is going through every day is devastating. These guys, those of the regime, are disintegrating everything, the nation and the State, the families and their roots.

So, this is the urgency and this is the moment to say to those who propose cohabitation, status quo, cage and “this is what it is”: it is over because that is not what it is.

There is a hard road ahead -yes, it is hard, it is difficult and has many risks and will require a level of work, creativity and ingenuity such as we have never been put to the test, but we have been forging ourselves for this. I trust Venezuelans and I believe that this is the time when we have to shake ourselves up.

Why are the four parties going to define the future of Venezuela and share spaces in exchange for the country’s defeat? No! We have a great desire to fight, good and decent people who want to live in Venezuela, and we want those who have left to come back here, and this is a great call for the reunion of the country.

This is full of obstacles. Obviously, there are a lot of people who do not want this to happen. Ask yourself, who are the first people who do not want this to happen? Obviously the regime, the collaborationists, the frontmen, those who are today that political leadership, which has failed a thousand times.

And you, what do you want? If you do want to decide, and you do want this to change, the people should take ownership of this. Not me, this is no longer my proposal. This is a proposal of the people.

If society elects you, or your coalition, which I imagine you would lead, what’s next? Is it an electoral route?

Look, Orlando, I think I have been clear in terms of what I feel must be done, starting from what I consider to be the situation in Venezuela.

Venezuela is kidnapped by a criminal structure which is a complex system, where there are from ideologically related groups of the Sao Paulo Forum, to global political actors acting against the West – such as Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Cuba, etc. – and criminal actors. All the criminal fauna of the planet. All of them have converged in Venezuela.

So, let’s be realistic: how do you deal with a prolonged kidnapping with hostages, where the kidnappers are killing hostages every day? So, the first thing you do is to surround the regime. Isolate it from the rest of the world. You cut off water, electricity, food, communications, weapons, etcetera. I ask you: how are the kidnappers in Venezuela today? Are they getting weapons? Are they getting money? Are they getting information? For God’s sake! Obviously, these kidnappers are not in a position to give up anything today. How are they closing in? Fundamentally with international justice. Progress has been made, but it has stopped. And I believe that this was stopped mainly because of a problem of local political leadership, which was not committed to this route and which, to a large extent, was co-opted by the tyranny.

I imagine that the new leadership that emerges from this proposal should make it a priority to bring the international community together again, right? Because up to now, and I think it is an irrefutable fact, the interim government enjoys legitimacy before the international community—considering that the international community is reduced mainly to the United States. The proposal seems to seek to supplant that, is that the idea, to enjoy this legitimacy to eventually be an interlocutor before the United States?

Look, the proposal is very clear. As we outlined it in the first instance: to choose a new leadership, through the people’s vote, to liberate Venezuela. Period. The legitimacy obviously comes from the popular support, from the Venezuelans that are here and around the world. How is that going to evolve into more allies? That will be seen later.

Obviously, coordination has to be established. I would say that the main task that political leadership has to do, besides mobilizing, organizing and ensuring that there is energy and effervescence in the country, is to coordinate that force with all the actions that have to be carried out from the international community. There must be actions from within and from outside in the terms we have discussed. For that there has to be trust and to establish that fluid interlocution, but that will be later and everything will depend on how this process goes.

Clearly you aspire to be the leader that emerges from this process; but, what happens if that is not the case? What happens if society opts for, I don’t know, Guaidó or someone terrible like Ramos Allup? Would you comply? Would you submit to the line set by an eventual leadership that we don’t like?

I am convinced that the Venezuelan society will go with someone who is committed to the liberation of the country and who generates confidence because of his commitment, his competence, his clarity. I have no doubt about that. Whoever that person may be. Whether it is me or someone else. And I am never going to leave that path, to work in that direction. I am very calm. Many people ask me: “What if you win? What if you lose?”. Well, if I win, I win and if I lose, I lose. But I am sure that the Venezuelan society will choose a path and a leadership that has nothing in its mind and purpose other than its liberation.

To the Venezuelan who is fed up, who wants freedom, who is outside and wants to visit his family, who is completely disappointed, not only of the whole political class, but of you and Venezuelan politics in general, who simply wants to be left to work, or who wants, as you have said, and it can be very hard, “to be comfortable in the cage”: what would you say to him? How to regain hope and that hope falls on you?

I do not see Venezuelans resigned to live in the cage -perhaps some are very comfortable.

I find great clarity in the people, in the sense that this is a mafia and the mafia is advancing, and even if you don’t want it to, it is getting into your own house. That is to say, the only way to stop this is to defeat them, and to defeat them we have to face them, and to face them we have to assume it.

I do not like the war; they declared it on us. We are not prepared to fight a war, but we have had to learn and at a very high personal cost in many ways for all Venezuelans.

There is not a single family in this country that is not torn apart, separated, far from each other. I can understand that people can’t take it anymore and feel disappointed, that politics is useless; but in the end, politics knocks at your door and that is inexorable.

It is hard, and I have also felt that feeling of nausea when I have seen certain things, because they do not tell me what is happening in the country. I live it every day.

And I was reflecting yesterday: because of this siege that the regime began to impose on me (first, I could not appear in any media, then I was not allowed to leave the country and I am not allowed to buy a plane ticket), because of these restrictions I have been able to really live the country from the inside.

I stop at every roadblock and you don’t know the things they say to me, from a military man who squares up, to a policeman who cries. I know what Venezuela is feeling and I can understand that feeling of orphanhood in leadership, and the answer to that is that we have to build and we have to provoke that many new leaders can show themselves, and the country understands that the fundamental criterion has to do with honor, with integrity; that is to say, here we have to meet. We may have very different ideas, we may have had very conflicting positions in the past, but we have one thing in common and that is that there can be no mafia here, there can be no corruption here, there can be no complicity, and we have only one purpose, which is that we are going to get these people out of power.

We have to do what we have to do; it is hard, it is risky, it implies getting up again and getting our strength back, but the most important thing for me is to believe in each other again. Trust is the first thing that any totalitarianism seeks to destroy because it is what makes possible the social fabric, family closeness, civic coexistence. But that is done by confronting evil, not by coexisting with it. This is done by taking firm positions and not equidistant with those values. That is to say, between good and evil, between justice and corruption, between truth and lies, I do not want to be in the middle and I am sure that Venezuelans do not want to be either.

Orlando Avendaño is the co-editor-in-chief of El American. He is a Venezuelan journalist and has studies in the History of Venezuela. He is the author of the book Days of submission // Orlando Avendaño es el co-editor en Jefe de El American. Es periodista venezolano y cuenta con estudios en Historia de Venezuela. Es autor del libro Días de sumisión.