Diego Arria: “Elliott Abrams’ Comments Were Rude and Untimely”
In an interview with the PanAm Post, Diego Arria said he was surprised by the "different opinions that emerge from the U.S. government about Venezuela."
Spanish – We are approaching December 6, the day set by Nicolás Maduro’s regime for an electoral fraud with which Chavismo intends to usurp the legitimate Venezuelan National Assembly. This situation will lead the country to a political crossroads with Juan Guaidó as interim president and/or as president of the parliament that ends his administration.
Amid this situation, the different political factions of the opposition (some with very little prestige, and others with a better reputation) have put their road maps on the table. The most recent expression was that of Henrique Capriles, a former opposition leader, who expressed his willingness to participate in the upcoming electoral fraud. On the other hand, Vente Venezuela leader María Corina Machado, in a strongly-worded letter, criticized Guaidó’s administration, made clear her support, but stressed that he has days to do what he has not done in months. Machado’s proposal to the interim president is based on the realization of a Peace and Stabilization Operation in Venezuela that includes the military or deterrent power of the countries allied to the cause of freedom in Venezuela.
One of the reactions to Machado’s position was that of the U.S. envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, who called the proposal “magic realism.” The PanAm Post interviewed Diego Arria, former president of the United Nations Security Council, diplomat, and former governor of Caracas, to talk about the latest events. Arria condemned Abrams’ statements and stressed that although interim President Juan Guaidó is the only remaining link of legitimacy in the country, his leadership has been regrettable.
Elliott Abrams sneered at María Corina Machado about a military option to get rid of the tyrannical regime in Venezuela. What do you think about it?
I have known Abrams for a long time. I appreciate his efforts for the cause of Venezuela. But when there are internal discussions in a country between different groups, as was the case between President Guaidó and María Corina Machado, it didn’t seem right to me that he should express his opinion in this way.
For Abrams to scoff at Machado’s statements, saying that it reminded him of García Márquez’s “magical realism,” seemed rude and inappropriate.
He spoke of magical realism, but President Trump has said that all the options on the table. What would be the consequences if Abrams decided to end one of those options?
I am increasingly surprised by the different opinions coming from our main ally, the United States.
I think all signs point to trying to preserve the figure of Juan Guaidó as interim president. I agree with that because Juan Guaidó is the only institutional link we have with the world as president in charge.
But it is one thing that Guaidó is the institutional link. Apart from it, we can assess the management of the responsibility that the Constitution itself has given to Guaidó. Well, he has not fulfilled that responsibility satisfactorily.
When President Guaidó said that he had consulted all the sectors and that he was calling for unity, the question came up whether he also approached you. Have you had any contact?
No, I have never, never had the opportunity to talk to him. In these years, he has sent me two messages with a “hello friend,” and I have responded in the same way on two occasions.
I think it was only when I met him in Cúcuta on February 23 that he gave me a hug and said, “Ambassador, I need help.” I told him to count on me.
But it is a curious thing, what he (Guaidó) is trying to do now. He is 19 months late. This should have been the first move of his interim government: to tell the Venezuelans that he is calling for unity so that together we can achieve independence.
But they (Guaidó and the G4) arrogantly thought that they alone could design the liberation of Venezuela, and they summarized it in the famous mantra: “Cessation of usurpation, transitional government, and free elections.”
I said that was the equivalent of “rock, paper, scissors,” and I publicly advised him not to wear that straitjacket with that mantra. That he should say that he is committed to the rescue of Venezuela’s freedom to design a plan by talking to all sectors and not only to the members of the G4. But he never did that, and today, he can see how a new consultation is a kind of a lifesaver.
The problem is not that they grab the life jacket, so they don’t drown. The problem is that they try to keep the life jacket.
Basically, if Venezuelans could do a consultation on how they see the handling of the interim government, the G4, and the National Assembly itself, I think they would do very badly.
There is a very discouraging outlook for Venezuela: we have a new consultation that Guaidó would like to do, there is now the Capriles and Stalin González plan that seeks to legitimize elections, and a fraudulent election is approaching. How do you perceive the political landscape?
Longstanding problems among these groups that have not yet surfaced in the public eye are being reflected upon. For example, the confrontation between Capriles and Julio Borges within Justice First; the differences between Justice First and the Popular Will. The country has been the victim.
It seemed incoherent to me to talk about unity when the first thing they did when we voted for unity, the leaders of the four parties took a pair of scissors and split the card in four, where they assigned each one a quota. Who authorized them to do that? No one.
For them, unity was not important. They preferred the quotas of influence that each of these groups could have in a National Assembly. The victim: Venezuela.
You know Henrique Capriles Radonski closely. He was a candidate for the presidency in races against Chávez and Maduro. According to his advisor (J. J. Rendón), Capriles was the one who let Maduro steal the elections that he would have won. What do you think is the gamble that the former governor of Miranda now wants to achieve?
For a long time, I have been reluctant to give my opinion about Capriles. The only time I had a very brief communication with him was when he came to my house to ask me if I could support him in the legislative elections.
However, I voted for him twice as governor of Miranda and twice as a candidate for president of the Republic. Because of course, the option was not Capriles himself, but to defeat Chávez and Maduro.
I find the situation with Turkey somewhat alarming. For me, the lack of transparency on the part of these political leaders has become the determining factor in the deterioration of confidence in political leaders, including the interim president himself.
It’s not that he should say what he’s doing every day, but that he should act independently. And it’s not going to happen.
So what do you think is in store for Venezuela?
I believe, without the slightest doubt, that these maneuvers of Stalin González, Capriles Radonski, and another group of Venezuelans, who are essentially assisting the regime in this process, contribute to the weakening of our image abroad. Nor do I believe that this means a change in international recognition for the figure of Guaidó.
What do you think should be Guaidó’s steps to achieve the cessation of the usurpation that has not yet been fulfilled?
The first thing he would do is not these bilateral talks, where he meets privately. I think he should have met with all sectors simultaneously, not one by one. The only way to find a true path is for everyone to be together.
Guaidó was supposed to put himself above his party, but unfortunately, I think he is still a victim kidnapped mainly by his own party and the other G4 members, who have him tied up.
Each act of government requires “a thousand” authorizations from the parties. Guaidó has been unable to do anything on its own. If he had accepted this and informed the country, he would have generated confidence in the people, confidence that, unfortunately, has been lost.
The fact that Guaidó has put Leopoldo López as coordinator of the central government is like appointing him as the executive vice president or prime minister. If he leaves all the work of the central government to one person who is precisely from his party, he closes the door to maneuvers.
That one makes a mistake does not make change impossible, but to change, one must recognize it.
They have abandoned the only constitution, which is that of the democratic transition. If there had been a consultation on what the people think of their administration, it would have gone very badly for them.
Guaidó is indebted to the National Assembly. He never disassociated himself from the G4, and the parliament is the only legitimate power in Venezuela and in the eyes of the world. How would Guaidó have disassociated himself from the institution that gave him “the power?”
The separation of powers is something that Guaidó should have done from the beginning. He should not have continued running the Assembly, and the Vice President of the parliament should have been in charge of assuming the presidency of Congress.
In this confusion of roles, Guaidó and the country have both suffered. There has not been the slightest separation between the two powers.
Being president in charge, as well as the president of a session of parliament, is a very painful situation.
What do you think should be the way to oust Maduro’s regime?
The dictatorship will not leave if there is not a strong and sustained reaction from the Venezuelan people, and that will not happen until the Venezuelans decide that a price must be paid for the rescue of freedom. Failing that, see if they are willing to leave it that way or wait for someone to come tomorrow or the next day to help us.
To achieve this reaction, people need to be inspired. And whatever is happening, the least it does is inspire Venezuelan society, and less, if the ambition for freedom is turned into an element of hope.
The country does not feel it has the right leaders to get Venezuela out of this situation. We cannot let the world shape how we should behave, as if we had no history.
And how would the leaders earn that trust?
For me, it will not be one person. It will be a kind of governing council that is very transparent and representative of the country.