By Damian Pachter
“It is public knowledge that several members of the military have been arrested after smuggling uranium from Venezuela, and we believe Iran is one of the main destinations,” said would-be Venezuelan leader Juan Guaidó over the weekend.
In an interview with Israel Hayom, Guaidó discussed his fears of being arrested by the regime of President Nicolás Maduro, sounded the alarm over Iran’s infiltration of the South American country and also delivered a message to Jerusalem.
Some two years ago, after being chosen as the president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Guaidó rose to international prominence as the great new hope for his country. The people believed he possessed the key to changing the regime, which arrests, tortures and even executes those who oppose it. The masses answered his call and took to the streets, armed with the expectation and hope that the turning point was just around the corner. Even the international community, including the European Union, United States and Israel, recognized Guaidó as the country’s interim president.
Now, the picture is completely different. The excitement has waned, international support has become ephemeral—even the European Union withdrew its recognition of him as interim president. Only one thing remains constant: Maduro and Chavezism.
“The Maduro regime has become a crime syndicate, while importing oil from Iran. At present, a preliminary investigation exists into uranium stockpiles in Venezuela and the countries to which this material could be sent,” said Guaidó from his residence in the capital, Caracas. “There is a large reservoir of uranium in Venezuela that is smuggled from the country somehow, through illegal channels,” he said.
The South American country has maintained close relations with Iran for years now, amid persisting rumors of cooperation with neighboring countries in the field of nuclear energy.
Describing the early stages of Iran’s foothold in Venezuela, Guaidó said, “The Maduro dictatorship allowed Iran to enter. It started when [former President Hugo] Chavez began welcoming companies under sanctions by the U.S. and other countries.”
In January 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognized Guaidó as the country’s official leader, which remains Israel’s official position to this day.
Chavez severed relations between Israel and Venezuela in 2009 in the wake of the Israel Defense Forces’ “Operation Cast Lead” in the Gaza Strip.
Today, Guaidó is grateful and has a message for Jerusalem: “The government of Israel provides important diplomatic support in the war against the dictatorship,” he said.
Opposition members in Venezuela are in constant danger. Their lives are at the mercy of the “dictator,” as Guaidó refers to Maduro. The United Nations has accused his regime of crimes against humanity. Guaidó, for his part, is making efforts to win back international support.
He recently discussed with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken possible paths to “democracy and holding free elections,” but it still isn’t clear what position the Biden administration will take in terms of the humanitarian problem in Venezuela.
Asked about the looming threat of arrest hanging over his head, Guaidó said he was aware of the peril but continues to be sure of his path and principles.
“The dictatorship’s threats exist, and it operates this way because the people don’t support it and it doesn’t have much support in the international community,” he explained.
“Venezuela’s only alternative is free elections and allowing a process for a legitimate government,” he said.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.