Interviewer: Cesar Batiz, chief editor of El Pitazo
Written by: Lewin Granados

Almost a week has passed since the surprise return of the DirecTV signal to Venezuela. After an intricate three-way negotiation process, with the participation of the Nicolas Maduro government, more than 2.5 million Venezuelans are again enjoying satellite television service. The US Ambassador to Venezuela, James Story, is emphatic in saying that, although the talks with the company Scale Capital have obtained results, that does not mean new negotiation avenues are establishing with the Maduro regime.

In an interview with El Pitazo, Story told that what calls his attention is that the Maduro regime using “hostages and kidnapped people” to force the parties involved in the power conflict to take action. That was the case with the restitution of the DirecTV satellite TV service.

“It could be the 850 Americans who are in Venezuela with no way out. It could be six Citgo executives. It could be the imprisoned directors of DirecTV. I believe that this negotiation with Scale Capital does not indicate meaningful signals at this time,” Story said.

The ambassador Story also supported the roadmap proposed on August 19 by the Venezuelan interim President Juan Guaido, when he called all Venezuelan political opposing forces to take actions to prevent a polemical vote in December. The United States, and a big part of the international community spurn that electoral process, alleging is neither free nor fair, and the Maduro regime is pushing. Opposing such a vote is a “fair and correct” step, Story said.

It has been 20 months since Juan Guaido began as president in charge of Venezuela. What has been missing to achieve the political transition in Venezuela?

– On the cessation of the usurpation and free and fair presidential elections, it is an important thing to say that we never thought, and neither did the interim government of President Guaido, that it would be easy. We are talking about a dictatorship that undermines all democratic institutions and is now trying to steal the National Assembly. They stoled political parties like Accion Democrática, Voluntad Popular, and Primero Justicia, and now because they disagreed with them, they are stealing the Tupamaro party, which is on the left. It is obvious when Maduro says that he is the one who makes all the decisions that Venezuela is not a democracy but an autocracy. But we have made achievements, working together with the people of Venezuela. I am sure that Venezuelans will achieve their freedom.

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On Wednesday, August 19, Juan Guaido called on the leaders of the opposition to unite to prevent a parliamentary electoral process. Other positions are more frontal and say that people have to do everything possible so that this parliamentary election does not take place. Do you think that this is the path that must be following, and is it possible that the Venezuelan opposition forces will achieve this?

– We fully support interim President Juan Guaido, the National Assembly, and the democratic forces. The call is not only for politicians but also for civil society. If there were elections for a new Pope and the college of cardinals were chosen by Methodists – I am a Methodist – I imagine that Catholics around the world would not accept the results. That is what is happening in Venezuela. There are no minimum conditions. The United States has just supported an international statement, as well as other 33 countries, saying that there are no minimum conditions for elections. The decisions of the CNE, TSJ, what happens with political parties, the coronavirus, repression, and censorship. There are 30 members of the NA in exile, others like Juan Requesens in jail. Conditions exist or not, but what President Guaidó does seems to me to be the right and just thing to do. He is calling on civil society, civic organizations, politics to weave a path that says no to fraud, no to repression and no to dictatorship.

According to information from Washington and published by the Argus agency and Bloomberg, in the journalistic world is considering the possibility that the United States also sanctions those operations that include the exchange of Venezuelan oil for diesel. Is this being considered? What do you know about it?

– I should not speculate on the actions we are about to take. What I can say is that on March 21, we introduced the framework for democratic transition in Venezuela, which indicates how we can lift sanctions. What we want is for there to be dignified, correct, and transparent talks within Venezuela, leading to a transitional government and fair, free, and verifiable presidential elections. That is the most important thing. The pressure will continue. Not only from the United States but also the European Union, the Lima Group. The future of the regime in Venezuela gets shown by those who stand beside it: Iran, Russia, Turkey, China, and Cuba. So, the future of Venezuela looks very bad at the moment. We are preparing to open up a space for lifting sanctions, but the path must be for free and fair presidential elections.

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In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, there was a capture of a plane coming to Venezuela, piloted by Venezuelans. The owner or ex-owner of the aircraft got linked as a pilot to businessmen Alex Saab and Alvaro Pulido. What information do you have about this case that shocked public opinion?

– Unfortunately, I can not go into detail about the investigations we are handling. Right now, the Justice Department is doing its job. But we do have concerns about money, weapons, and other items on planes coming into and out of the United States. We are going to be conducting investigations. This is something that should concern not only Venezuelans and Americans but the whole world.

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