Radio Sputnik has discussed the statement with Temir Porras Ponceleón, a visiting professor at Sciences Po, the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, and who has served as deputy foreign minister of Venezuela, a foreign policy adviser to President Hugo Chávez, and as chief of staff to President Nicolás Maduro.
Sputnik: US National Security Advisor John Bolton has threatened a strong and significant response if Guaido’s return to Venezuela is prevented. What grounds does the official have to make such threats?
Temir Porras Ponceleón: In the first place, the national security advisor, Ambassador John Bolton, has based his plan on the assumption that raising tensions between the opposition, represented by [Juan] Guaido, and the [Nicolas] Maduro government will eventually lead to a regime change, will eventually lead to a collapse of the government of President Maduro, assuming, for instance, that a military rising or a split, if you will, within the Venezuelan military will occur, which has not occurred so far. So, once again, this US strategy in Venezuela of generating a regime change is based on that assumption, which is extremely weak.
So, Mr. Bolton is insisting, if you will, on that strategy that they started on 23rd January, although it has shown [itself] to be ineffective in the country. And now more than ever, we are in a deadlock within this strategy that the US has imposed upon Venezuela. And more than ever, it is obvious that no other way besides a political negotiation, agreement or settlement will, in effect, generate the end of the crisis and the country being able to return to the normal functioning of institutions. So, once again, what Mr Bolton is assuming is that this strategy will deliver a result, although we have seen that it has failed during the last months.
Sputnik: You have said that Guaido’s self-proclaimed presidency could entail catastrophic consequences for Venezuela. What are the consequences and how far-reaching could they be?
Temir Porras Ponceleón: Well, exactly what we are seeing: Mr. Guaido’s self-proclamation and the support of the United States has led to the international recognition of a group of countries — a group of countries, mostly some conservative governments in Latin America and also some governments in the European Union. This is creating practical problems in the country. On the one hand, the US has increased its financial sanctions on the country and again, as the package of sanctions imposed on Venezuela becomes more severe, the conditions of life here in Caracas and in the rest of Venezuela become harsher and harsher for the population. What has been voiced as a potential humanitarian crisis in Venezuela could effectively become real, but as a product or as a result of the sanctions.
Sputnik: You have worked both with President Chávez and President Maduro, and despite all the economic sufferings Venezuela has faced, why has President Maduro maintained his position as the country’s leader? How great is the public support for Maduro in the country? It has to be said that with the technological era that we are living in, we are seeing vast quantities of social media content, with a lot of the population in the country in the streets supporting President Maduro. What can you add?
Temir Porras Ponceleón: Yes, as you can imagine, Venezuela, as any other society, is a society where a diversity of opinions exists. And again Venezuela has had these characteristics of being very polarised since the times of President Hugo Chávez, having, as I said, in the past very strong support for Chavismo in the poorer sectors of Venezuelan society, which are the majority, as in many societies. And on the other hand, you would have the anti-Chavismo supported by the middle classes and the upper classes and the formerly ruling elites. So again, this is a reality that doesn’t change rapidly in time and even if people are struggling to make a living because the economic situation is very bad, there is this sense of belonging, there is loyalty, if you will, because President Chávez’s rule was extremely popular; he was popular for objective reasons.
You know, the people, the poorer sectors of society had access to a wide range of new rights that transformed into better standards of living. So, once again, people are aware of that, and Mr Maduro has benefitted from that capital; that certainly has relatively eroded because of the current crisis, but there is a reason why this loyalty and this awareness of these lower classes explain why Mr Maduro has still, I would say, significant support, which in my opinion, is not a majority of the population in the country. But Chavismo remains probably the most organised [and] the largest organisation within the country and this gives him very strong support among civilians.
The views and opinions expressed by the contributor do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.