Venezuelan political figures in exile held a discussion panel in Coral Gables last week to support interim President Juan Guaidó and speak about the ongoing crisis in the country.
In May 2018, President Nicolas Maduro was reelected, an election many regarded as fraudulent. On Jan. 23, Guaidó, the president of the National Assembly, named himself interim head of state and called for new elections.
Antonio Ledezma, a former mayor of Caracas who said he was illegitimately removed from office by Maduro’s government, spoke at the Jan. 25 event. He said he was arrested on a charge of supporting an attempted coup in 2015 and was held under house arrest without a trial. He escaped in 2017, and has been raising awareness from exile ever since.
“Guaidó did not proclaim himself president; he was proclaimed by millions of Venezuelans,” Ledezma said in Spanish. “The one who did proclaim himself, violating the national constitution, was Nicolas Maduro after President Chavez died.”
He said the time for dialogue with Maduro is over.
“We have tried to negotiate with Maduro’s mafia enough times and learned that mafias do not comply,” said Ledezma. “The only negotiation process is to define the terms for Maduro to grab his bags and vacate the Miraflores Palace.”
David Smolansky, a former mayor of El Hatillo and head of an Organization of American States working group, said opposition leaders are working with the Venezuelan military, urging them to drop their support of Maduro.
In a speech given to the Venezuelan people and shown live during the panel, Guaidó praised the United States and President Donald Trump for recognizing him as the county’s leader.
“This is not a symbolic recognition” said Guaidó, “Thanks to their trust, we have achieved what they did not achieve in six years: authorize the entry of humanitarian aid in Venezuela.”
The following day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the international community to support Guaidó at the 15-member U.N Security Council. Britain, Spain, Germany and France are among the list of countries that now support Venezuela’s transition government.
Pompeo called Maduro’s government an “illegitimate mafia state” and said, “no more delays, no more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem.”
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin declared sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. at a White House briefing on Monday.
“PdVSA has long been a vehicle for embezzlement, for corruption for Venezuelan officials and businessmen,” said Mnuchin. “Today’s designation of PdVSA will help prevent further diversion of Venezuelan assets by Maduro, and will preserve these assets for the people of Venezuela where they belong.”
On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department granted Guaidó certification to control assets and property held by the Venezuelan government in U.S. bank accounts.
Maduro responded to the international community during a broadcast with, “hands off Venezuela immediately.”
The political, economic and humanitarian crisis of Venezuela has pushed the worldwide diaspora of Venezuelan migrants and refugees to more than three million people, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
“We miss you so much, and prepare to come back very soon,” said Guaidó to Venezuelan refugees abroad, “Venezuela woke up from a nightmare.”