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‘We Are Going to Continue to Fight’

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Juan Guaidó may face his biggest challenge yet as he sits down with members of the Nicolás Maduro government for the latest round of negotiations in Barbados this week in an attempt to break the political stalemate in Venezuela. When I last talked with Guaidó, who proclaimed himself acting president of the country in January but has failed to take power, he had just announced that he and fellow members of the National Assembly would go to the border on Feb. 23 and welcome the entry of much-needed humanitarian aid arriving from Colombia. Since then, the Guaidó-led opposition has suffered repeatedly from internal strife and dashed hopes—never more so than after April 30, when the former opposition leader Leopoldo López escaped from house arrest and showed up outside the La Carlota military base with Guaidó. López declared that the military forces were switching sides, encouraging supporters to take to the streets and fight for freedom. The supporters responded en masse, and the result was once again violent clashes between government forces and civilians, 48 hours of riots, violence, and uncertainty ending in disappointment for opposition supporters who had thought that this would be the final push.

While the opposition struggles with regaining the trust of its supporters, the Maduro government is maintaining the status quo, keeping its stronghold on the Venezuelan people. Since the start of the political turmoil in January, Venezuelans have seen no change to speak of. There have been repeated and extended electrical blackouts, many areas around the country are either partially or totally without access to clean water, and rampant inflation and a critical lack of medicine and health services have resulted in a state of hopelessness with no clear end in sight. Most recently, Rafael Acosta Arévalo, a military captain who had sided with Guaidó during the dramatic events of Feb. 23 and who was subsequently arrested by military intelligence, died after allegedly having been tortured for months. His death didn’t lead to massive protests and riots against the Maduro government, as one might have expected, but seems to have functioned as an effective warning to anyone contemplating a similar move.

I met with Guaidó in his office in the National Assembly building, just before he was set to start the July 9 session, and spoke with him through a translator. What follows has been edited for length and clarity.

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein: What do you say to those who feel let down by you and by the opposition? And why should they trust you, going forward?

Juan Guaidó: Well, a few things. First, the change in Venezuela, the momentum we have built, that we have achieved today, even........

© Foreign Policy