In a bid to solidify his legitimacy, Venezuela's self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido has claimed in a New York Times Op-Ed that he and his advisers have "had clandestine meetings with members of the armed forces and the security forces" in Venezuela, offering amnesty to all who are not found guilty of crimes against humanity.
Guaido declared himself interim president of Venezuela last week. Backed by the United States and most of Latin America - and with US-based Venezuelan bank accounts turned over to him, the 35-year-old opposition leader writes that "Maduro no longer has support of the people," and that his "time is running out."
"In order to manage his exit with the minimum of bloodshed, all of Venezuela must unite in pushing for a definitive end to his regime."
Read Guaido's Op-Ed below:
Juan Guaidó Via the New York Times
Juan Guaidó: Venezuelans, Strength Is in Unity
To end the Maduro regime with the minimum of bloodshed, we need the support of pro-democratic governments, institutions and individuals the world over.
CARACAS, Venezuela — On Jan. 23, 61 years after the vicious dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez was ousted, Venezuelans once again gathered for a day of democratic celebration.
Pérez Jiménez was fraudulently elected by a Constituent Assembly in 1953. His term of office was scheduled to expire in 1958. But rather than calling for free and transparent presidential elections, he was undemocratically re-elected after holding a plebiscite on his administration late in 1957. Following widespread protests and a rupture within the military establishment, the dictator left the country and Venezuela regained its freedom on Jan. 23, 1958.
Once again we face the challenge of restoring our democracy and rebuilding the country, this time amid a humanitarian crisis and the illegal retention of the presidency by Nicolás Maduro. There are severe medicine and food shortages, essential infrastructure and health systems have collapsed, a growing number of children are suffering from malnutrition, and previously eradicated illnesses have re-emerged.
We have one of the highest homicide rates in the world, which is aggravated by the government's brutal crackdown on protesters. This tragedy has prompted the largest exodus in Latin American history, with three million Venezuelans now living abroad.
I would like to be clear about the situation in Venezuela: Mr. Maduro's re-election on May 20, 2018, was illegitimate, as has since been acknowledged by a large part of the international community. His original six-year term was set to end on Jan. 10. By continuing to stay in office, Nicolás Maduro is usurping the presidency.
My ascension as interim president is based on Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution, according to which, if at the outset of a new term there is no elected head of state, power is vested in the president of the National Assembly until free and transparent elections take place. This is why the oath I took on Jan. 23 cannot be considered a "self-proclamation." It was not of my own accord that I assumed the function of president that day, but in adherence to the Constitution.
I was 15 when Hugo Chávez came to power in 1998. At the time I lived in Vargas State, which borders the Caribbean. In 1999 torrential rains caused flash floods that left thousands of people dead. I lost several friends, and my school was buried in the mudslide.
The importance of resilience has been etched into my soul ever since. Both of my grandfathers served in the armed forces and they instilled a strong work ethic in their children that helped my family recover from those devastating floods. I saw that if I wanted a better future for my country I had to roll up my sleeves and give my life to public service.