Inside, confidential and off the record
Transcript: Venezuela's Guaido Interviewed by Bloomberg News
Venezuelan National Assembly Leader Juan Guaido submitted written responses to questions from Bloomberg News. The opposition chief has declared himself president, calling on Nicolas Maduro to step down, raising new doubts about the South American country's commitment to paying back billions of dollars of Chinese loans. Our analysis of the interview can be read here . The complete transcript follows:
BLOOMBERG: China has invested extensively in Venezuela and is a substantial trading partner. What do you think a mutually beneficial relationship looks like in future?
GUAIDO: China is a fundamental global player and we are convinced that we must maintain and strengthen relations with all actors. We want to establish a transparent relationship with China and put an end to the plundering of our resources that has prevailed under Maduro's government, which has ultimately also affected Chinese investors. China's development projects in Venezuela have been falling as they have been affected and destroyed by corruption or debt default.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, China continues to promote trade within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. This initiative gives China a natural space to foster development across the region.
BLOOMBERG: To what extent do you think Venezuela will seek to re-negotiate bilateral agreements and financial deals with China? Would you honor previous contracts with China and continue to pay back old loans with crude shipments?
GUAIDO: Venezuela will have to renegotiate those agreements on the basis of legality. We want to boost our relationship with China and our country's economy. There is a lot of work to do in this regard and we want to continue working closely with China. Our government will act with strict adherence to the laws and its international duties. We are committed to restoring the rule of law to recover the trust of our investors.
I will be very clear: all agreements that have been signed following the law will be respected. If previous agreements were signed by adhering to the due process of approval by the National Assembly, they will be accepted and honored.
BLOOMBERG: What contact has your team had with the Chinese government so far? Are there back-channel talks going on? Do you see China as more willing to engage with your administration than Russia?
GUAIDO: We would like to meet with the authorities of the People's Republic of China in the shortest possible time to relaunch our relationship. We believe that our relationship with China should be sustainable and based on mutual respect.
BLOOMBERG: What privatization plans do you have and would China be invited to take part?
GUAIDO: After the enormous plundering that has been carried out during the last 20 years there are plenty of opportunities for investment in Venezuela. We have to recover several of our industries and China has an extraordinary potential as an investor to contribute to the restoration of many of them, including the oil and mining sector but also the light industry and assembling.
In this transition, we will put an emphasis on promoting sustainable development and we are certain that we will coincide with China in the achievement of those goals, which include institutionalization and inclusion.
BLOOMBERG: How essential will Chinese support be to a post-Maduro Venezuela?
GUAIDO: China's support will be important and very positive to our country. Venezuela needs to reactivate its international relations with different global actors based on a solid spirit of cooperation and the interests of our people.
China, with its companies and its market, is a fundamental global player and we see with absolute optimism the re-launching of our relationship based on respect and cooperation. The Chinese government has witnessed first-hand the plundering of Nicolas Maduro's regime. His irresponsible administration has mismanaged our public resources, and has allowed for an endemic corruption, which has ultimately destroyed any potential development for which it has received economic funds. It is key that China, as a main witness in this process of deterioration, stands by the right side and assumes with absolute responsibility the coherence required during these times.
With the reactivation of our country's productivity we see a cooperation with China as an opportunity, rather than a threat. We are ready to begin a constructive relationship and dialogue with China as soon as possible.
Venezuela will need the support, expertise and specialization of countries around world to recover its potential. China has much to offer, not only to Venezuela, but to the entire world.
BLOOMBERG: How can you reassure China that your administration will be evenhanded after the U.S. has come out strongly in your support? What do you plan on doing concretely with the funds the US and other organizations will make available to you?
GUAIDO: For the legitimate government of Venezuela, it is essential to respect our international relations in accordance with the interests of the Venezuelan people. The United States has been not only a commercial ally, but also an important ally in our struggle for the conquest of freedom. Bilateral relationships are established on the basis of mutual respect and our relationship with the US is historic.
Now, the fact that we have consolidated relationships with other nations does not mean that we cannot open ourselves up to establishing relations with other nations. Global dynamics are complex and increasingly relevant. We live in an interconnected world where all nations have their own potential. Within that space, China has an important role to play because of its capabilities and flexibility as a commercial partner.
Regarding the funds designated to solve the humanitarian crisis, we will manage them in a transparent and lawfully manner. As you know, I have been actively involved in the National Assembly in investigating corruption scandals in our country. These investigations have been corroborated by international examinations. In 2015, for example, the Financial Intelligence Unit of the State Treasury Department drew attention to the Private Banking of Andorra for the money laundering executed by Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).
BLOOMBERG: Have you had approaches from senior military leaders regarding your amnesty offer?
GUAIDO: Certainly. We have had several approaches with military officers since we invited them to adhere to the Amnesty Law that offers guarantees for all those who assume to abide by the Constitution and to those who have not committed crimes against humanity. Every day, new approaches happen and different ranks within the National Armed Forces have reached out to us, but for their personal security I cannot share more information on this issue. We have witnessed how several officers have already come forward, including the military attache at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, Colonel Jose Luis Silva, who broadcasted a video in which he adheres to the constitution, submits to the command of the interim government and invites his military comrades to follow his lead.
However, it is true that there is fear in the barracks as Maduro's government has been threatening and targeting the military. Officials have been forced to record videos swearing allegiance for Maduro. All those who are refusing to do so have been targeted with violence by their superiors. This is yet another desperate measure of a regime that knows it has lost.
The military is part of our society, and 87 percent of the people are currently living below the poverty line in Venezuela. Their wives, their children, their mothers are also suffering from the distressing shortages of food and medicine, and, in addition, violence.
The military is essential in this process, and every day their support for the interim government grows. They know that these living conditions are unsustainable for everyone.
BLOOMBERG: To what extent should the international community and foreign powers be involved in the current crisis?
GUAIDO: There is a shared responsibility to solve the conflict in Venezuela, foremost because the people of Venezuela have decided that they want a change. Our people have shown on countless opportunities that they want Maduro out. This change must be respected, which is why we have proposed a clear road map:
1: Cessation of the usurpation
2: A Transitional government
3: Free elections
Venezuela is going through a devastating reality: 87 percentof our population live in poverty, the inflation rate exceeded the 1.3-million-percent mark in 2018 and it threatens to reach the 10-million-percent mark according to predictions of the International Monetary Fund. Shortages of medicines are at 90 percent and the provision of public goods and services has basically collapsed. In addition, irregular groups such as the Colombian guerrilla group ELN are active in parts of the national territory. We are also suffering from one of the world's worse criminal rates. Our people have been subject to this suffering for a long time, and yet we have seen them on the streets, courageously and determined in their conquest for change. They have risked their lives to defend their freedom in spite of the regime deploying brutal state force to silence their legitimate protest. The international community cannot be indifferent to so much tragedy, there is a legitimate moral reason to support the way out of this crisis.
In addition, there are international legal standards and mandates, for example the Inter-American Democratic Charter, through which states have acquired duties and responsibilities that must be met. Article 1 of the charter stipulates that: The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it. Democracy is essential for the social, political and economic development of the peoples of the Americas. According to this, states have a legal co-responsibility to protect their citizens.
This is why we have seen that the Lima Group, encompassing 14 Latin American countries, has accompanied the people of Venezuela in their recovery of their well-being. The regime has also been flagrantly violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which consecrates the right to life, basic services, freedom of expression, etc.
There is an additional factor for why the international community should participate in solving this crisis, and that is that the Venezuelan crisis is not only affecting our own country, as it is public and notorious. Due to the precarious living conditions at home, millions have been forced to flee causing Latin America's largest exodus in history. Estimates indicate that 5.3 million people would have fled the country by the end of this year. This has been generating a considerable impact in all host countries and in the hemisphere more generally.
For all these reasons, the support of the international community is essential to ensure that the people of Venezuela can regain their freedom and take their path towards progress and well-being.
— With assistance by Karen Leigh