Borges: We must tear down this wall of fear

The Washington Times Daily - - FROM PAGE ONE - — Frederick Puglie

Since Jan. 5, Julio Borges has served as speaker of the op­po­si­tion-dom­i­nated Na­tional Assem­bly, Venezuela’s uni­cam­eral par­lia­ment. It’s a job that comes with chal­lenges the likes of Rep. Paul D. Ryan usu­ally don’t have to deal with:

Ques­tion: Some 50 law­mak­ers in the Na­tional Assem­bly back Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro’s bloc. Do you ever have a beer with one of them? Can you have a quiet chat?

An­swer: “No, that doesn’t ex­ist. Not be­cause we don’t want to, or be­cause they don’t want to, but be­cause they, too, are trapped by their own regime, just like us. [ ...] Many of them wish they could be sitting here with us. But they are trapped by fear. And in the end we have to tear that down, this wall of fear that the gov­ern­ment built among the Armed Forces, among the peo­ple, among its own of­fi­cials, so that the coun­try no longer fears change, nor the fu­ture.”

Q: Speak­ing about fear: Many op­po­si­tion lead­ers have suf­fered reprisals. In your daily life, do you feel per­se­cuted? And if so, what do you do about it?

A: “You get used to it, you know? You get used to it be­cause it’s been years of this co­ex­is­tence. The fact that they go after your com­mu­ni­ca­tions and your fam­ily is com­mon, too. [We do] very sim­ple things: We never speak on the phone; the phone died here in Venezuela. Here, we all use all these ap­pli­ca­tions — Black­Berry, WeChat, What­sApp, Tele­gram. You use sev­eral to have dif­fer­ent al­ter­na­tives with the gov­ern­ment. The is­sue of hav­ing pri­vate se­cu­rity guards is a dou­ble-edged sword be­cause they in­fil­trate them or they ar­rest them, too. In the end, one needs to have the most el­e­men­tary [so­lu­tion] in that sense.”

Q: What makes you ex­pose your­self to all of this? Why not just go to Panama to­mor­row and say, ‘I’ll be back when things are bet­ter.’

A: “One is born into this fight, into this com­mit­ment. All my life, I’ve never done any­thing but this. And I be­lieve it was a per­sonal de­ci­sion. And a mat­ter of con­vic­tions and of val­ues. To be beaten by fear is much more of a de­feat than to be in this fight to be able to live in a coun­try in lib­erty. Hon­estly, you don’t won­der about those things. The day you won­der about them, you crack your head.”

Q: As a lawyer, how do you feel about Venezuela’s Supreme Tri­bunal, con­sid­ered Mr. Mauro’s most re­li­able rub­ber-stamp?

A: “One feels that what be­fore was an aca­demic prob­lem — when you stud­ied how to bet­ter a democ­racy or feed a democ­racy — turns into what it means [to ex­pe­ri­ence] re­pres­sion, psy­cho­log­i­cal tor­ture, per­se­cu­tion, ar­bi­trary ar­rests, the clo­sure of par­lia­ment in spite of the vote, be­ing de­nied your rights — in other words, to feel, in your own skin, the de­struc­tion of lib­erty. And that’s in­tense. But we have been in this jun­gle for so long that we have be­come strong. But it has been a very trau­matic process of de­struc­tion of val­ues.”

Q: What are your hopes for your quadru­plets? A: “When [for­mer anti-U.S. pop­ulist Pres­i­dent Hugo] Chavez died, I said: ‘Well, at least my chil­dren won’t face the ar­bi­trari­ness of ev­ery­thing re­lated to Chavez.’ But they have it even worse now . ... They are lit­tle kids — they are 9 years old — [and I try] not to poi­son them with the po­lit­i­cal realty, but I do try to make them con­scious of the coun­try they have and they coun­try they will face. And I hope they have the op­por­tu­nity — and I trust they will — of this re­con­struc­tion and to be pro­tag­o­nists in it.”

Q: You are now a ma­jor face of Venezuela’s op­po­si­tion. You al­ready ran for pres­i­dent once. Would you still like to move into the Mi­raflo­res pres­i­den­tial palace?

A: “My big­gest am­bi­tion is to get out of this regime and make things change. I am not ob­sessed with be­ing pres­i­dent, I am not ob­sessed with be­ing in Mi­raflo­res. But I am ob­sessed with achiev­ing change, with build­ing a strong party. And I have never been a per­son who has done all of this around my per­sonal am­bi­tion or per­sonal lead­er­ship.”

Julio Borges

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