Court orders ban on leaving the country, bank accounts frozen, immunity lifted
The man who has become the arch enemy of Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro (56), and who is at risk of being arrested at any time in his own country, knows no fear.
Late Tuesday evening (local time), Venezuela’s supreme court ordered a ban on his leaving the country. Moreover, his bank accounts have been frozen, and his immunity as parliament leader has been lifted …
“If I thought of fear all the time, I couldn’t be here,” says Juan Guaidó (35) when we meet in his office in parliament in Caracas on Tuesday. Our meeting with the man who has declared himself to be the acting president was planned for three days.
But again and again, there are “security situations”, and Guaidó had to be brought to a different location than originally scheduled. Communication is difficult because everything is monitored.
His handshake is gentle, he laughs a lot, he seems surprisingly relaxed. But the situation is dramatic. Guaidó: “During the past few weeks alone, 700 people were arrested at protests. 300 political prisoners have been incarcerated. We are all living on the edge of imprisonment, or even murder. However, this hasn’t stopped us from taking up our responsibility.”
Guaidó became a member of parliament only three years ago. Until a few weeks ago, he was completely unknown. But as a charismatic president of parliament, he managed to unite the opposition and has received international support like nobody before him.
Guaidó’s best protection is probably the public – especially the support of US President Trump. The US is threatening to react with severe consequences should Guaidó be arrested.
It’s 25 degrees outside. Venezuela’s National Assembly may be the most beautiful parliament in the world. There are palm trees in the courtyard, at the center of which lies a small well. Politicians are taking selfies in front of it. But appearances are deceptive: since last year, President Maduro hasn’t acknowledged parliament, and ever since only opposition politicians remain.
There continue to be attacks by groups of thugs (“collectivos”) after parliamentary sessions. Paramilitary followers of President Maduro are pursuing supporters of the opposition, politicians, and journalists. They beat and kick them until they bleed. These days, they are particularly aggressive. The acknowledgement of parliament leader Guaidó as acting president by the US and Canada has put pressure on Maduro.
With the military at his side, Maduro has taken a tough stance. The solicitor general demanded a ban on leaving the country for Maduro’s opponent and wanted to freeze accounts.
Guaidó tells BILD: “Maduro is occupying the country because there was no election in 2018. That’s why he is a dictator. If you have to go to a hospital in Venezuela, you might die, because people do not get sufficient treatment. There is no medicine. In the military, the situation is just like elsewhere in the country: people are hungry. The soldiers know it can’t continue like this.”
Guaidó comes from Venezuela’s middle class. He has three brothers. Many members of his family once served in the military – back then, under Hugo Chavez. Juan Guaidó also wanted to become a soldier, but was unable to do so because he had asthma. Instead, he became an engineer. Guaidó’s father – who was a pilot – now lives on Tenerife, as a taxi driver.
“I have regular exchanges with my father,” he says. “We share the same family values and the same ideas about society.” His mother still lives in Venezuela.
On Monday, new US sanctions against the state oil company in Venezuela were announced. There could also be further sanctions from Europe. Guaidó says: “We need sanctions from the EU. More and more people are being murdered. It is also obvious that the regime is completely corrupt.”
Guaidó continues: “We would like to thank Germany and Europe for supporting the activists who had to flee. We are counting on the EU to follow through with its ultimatum against Maduro and to take appropriate steps.”
The EU has given Maduro until Sunday to announce a new election.