Venezuelan opposition leader Leopold Lopez considers that the war in Ukraine shows to what extent the attack by autocracies on liberal democracies is one of the great problems of our time. López, exiled in Spain since October 2020, believes that the Ukrainian conflict places “the problem of Venezuela in the same context and reveals that it is not an isolated problem but part of a global dynamic”. The leader considers that this dichotomy is also present in the Summit of the Americas held in Los Angeles, where the president of Mexico has not wanted to attend in protest at the position of the United States.
In an interview with LA RAZÓN, López is “very concerned” about the reception “at the highest level” of the Spanish government to Venezuelan deputies “who stole control from the opposition parties and who were placed by the Government of Nicholas Maduro at the head of traditional formations in order to create a tailored opposition”. This week several deputies -“usurpers”, says López- of the Venezuelan party Democratic Action have held meetings with the Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Albares as well as with deputies of the PSOE. The Venezuelan exile fears that these meetings are a sign of a change in the position of the Spanish Executive in defense of democracy in Venezuela.
The Venezuelan government imposed related politicians at the head of opposition political formations. Some of them are in Madrid meeting with members of the PSOE and the Government. Do you think that the Executive of Pedro Sánchez wants to change its position on Venezuela?
It is unfortunate that these people, sanctioned by the United States, have been received at the highest level by the Spanish government. I hope it is a confusion and that it can be cleared up. They are representatives of a party that was expropriated, robbed. What Maduro has done is seize the leadership of the opposition parties and hand over the leadership to politicians who are tokens of the dictatorship in order to create a tailored opposition. Now they are parties that respond directly to the interests of Maduro. That is why I find it extremely worrying that this goes unnoticed. It would be very serious for Spain to change its position on Venezuela and begin to relativize and whitewash the tragedy we are experiencing by recognizing parties that have been expropriated and that belong to the orbit of the Nicolás Maduro dictatorship.
The political news of Venezuela has been relegated by the war in Ukraine. How is the conflict in Europe affecting what is happening in your country?
Although they may seem like two different worlds, the truth is that they are fields of the same struggle, autocracy facing democracy. The war in Ukraine, which hopefully the Ukrainians will soon win, will be a victory for all countries subjected to autocracy. What has become evident is that the main problem of the free world is the attack by autocracies on liberal democracies. This places the problem of Venezuela in the same context and reveals that it is not an isolated problem but part of a global dynamic.
The approach of the Biden administration to the Maduro regime, offering to soften the sanctions, in exchange for restoring the flow of oil due to the crisis in Ukraine, would you feel it as a betrayal of the anti-Chavista democratic cause?
There are two elements. The Biden administration has been very clear about the Summit of the Americas by not inviting Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela. This is fine with us because that summit was founded in 1994 as a forum of democratic countries. Regarding the lifting of sanctions, we think that they are a tool to achieve an end, which is the democratization of the country. If the sanctions allow a path to be built towards free elections in Venezuela, welcome are the sanctions. We do not agree with making sanctions more flexible without any compensation. This was stated in the Truth Law promoted by Senators Menéndez and Rubio, which made it clear that the sanctions are intended to achieve an effective negotiation in Venezuela.
Do you think the US will offer Maduro a negotiation?
The US offers the option of relaxing the sanctions if there are significant advances in the negotiation process. In fact, a license was renewed for the North American company Chevron in Venezuela and there was no change. The US stands firm, at least that is what they have transmitted to us in private and what they have raised publicly.
Will the Maduro government give in in a possible negotiation to sell more oil?
Maduro has a political and economic interest in the relaxation of sanctions; the counterpart is us. I cannot vouch for Maduro’s interests but I understand that there is such a scenario to move forward. What we would see with great concern is that the Maduro dictatorship gradually whitens out. Rather, we must take advantage of this global context of Russia’s attack on democracy. There is an awakening of the danger that this network of autocracies that work together represents and it is necessary to make a common position.
The president of Mexico has refused to attend the Summit of the Americas in solidarity with Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. What do you think of this position of López Obrador?
It is evident that Mexico today it is in an authoritarian drift. It has been seen in legal and institutional issues, in respect for human rights and also in the whitewashing of the dictatorship of Venezuela. Mexico’s position of not attending the Summit of the Americas makes it clear that she feels part of the authoritarian club. I believe that it is blackmailing the US and that the US should not fall for that blackmail no matter how important Mexico is for the region. What López Obrador seeks is to relativize the commitment to democracy. But the American continent is called to be a continent of free and democratic countries.