Last week representatives of Venezuela's socialist regime and its political opposition met for talks in Oslo, Norway. Norway had offered earlier this year to mediate between the two sides – but news of the meetings was a surprise, because less than a month ago opposition leader Juan Guaidó called (unsuccessfully) for an outright military overthrow of authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro.
Venezuelan exile and communications consultant Leonardo Trechi is the South Florida coordinator for Guaidó's political party, Voluntad Popular, or Popular Will. Trechi spoke with WLRN’s Tim Padgett about this new turn in the standoff between Maduro and Guaidó – who is recognized by the U.S. and more than 50 other countries as Venezuela's legitimate president.
WLRN: I know you weren't part of the talks in Norway, Leonardo, but what do you think were the most important topics the regime and the opposition discussed there in terms of solving Venezuela's crisis?
TRECHI: President Juan Guaidó was very clear about the conversations in Norway: the only thing that we are putting on the table is the end of the Maduro regime, and then free elections. If [the Maduro regime is] trying to put other things on the table, we are [walking] out of that conversation. It's not a negotiation; it's a conversation that the Norway government is mediating to try to help the people of Venezuela. But I think that it is not going anywhere – because always Maduro and the regime are using talks just to buy time and not real negotiation.
And Maduro has to leave power because you consider his presidency illegitimate?
Totally illegitimate, because he held an illegitimate election last year, without the participation of the democratic parties. Most of the countries of the world did not recognize that election.
It seemed an unlikely time for negotiations, though, since last month Guaidó tried to get military leaders to topple Maduro, and then Maduro started arresting opposition figures close to Guaidó for treason. What do you think suddenly brought the two sides together in Norway?
Maduro is not confident about the people around him now, and that's the main result that we are trying to produce. For example, Iván Simonovis, one of [the regime’s] political prisoners – 15 years in jail – he just escaped, the SEBIN liberated him [behind Maduro’s back]…
…the SEBIN being the military-run intelligence police.
Yes, they let him out of prison. And for example they also liberated Leopoldo López…
…who is Guaidó's mentor.
And that shows cracks in the military. So you think what Guaidó did last month made Maduro nervous and he wanted to have these talks now in Norway?
But while Guido and the opposition are talking to the regime, they're now expressing a desire for U.S. military intervention in the crisis. In fact, Guaidó had his ambassador in Washington, D.C. meet with the head of the military’s Southern Command here in Doral on Monday to discuss just that. Is that realistic?
Yes. We need support because we haven't got an army. We need the support of the freedom countries to put an end to this.
Even their militaries?
Yeah, could be.
You were a co-founder of Guaidó's political party before you came here five years ago. What forced you into exile?
I was the party’s chief of propaganda, and my life and my freedom were at risk. Leopoldo López, who is our principal leader, the day they ordered his arrest he was in my house. So they put the [regime’s] political police in my house, so I decide to come here. Then my mother and my sister came two years ago because it became very dangerous for them to be there.
You still run an online TV news outlet, VPItv, that broadcasts from inside Venezuela. Do you ever see this crisis ending and you yourself returning to live in Venezuela?
Yes, I'm totally sure that we are putting the end to Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. We are not giving up.