Members of Venezuela’s civilian militia with Venezuelan flag themed face paint stand during a military parade at a “Day Of National Dignity” rally with Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s president, not pictured, in Caracas, Venezuela. (Photographer: Wil Riera/Bloomberg)

Why China Should Switch Sides in Venezuela

(Bloomberg Opinion) --

China is the world's largest oil importer and Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. For those two reasons alone, the economic relationship between our nations will inevitably grow. In fact, we hope for even more. There are many areas besides oil in which we can mutually benefit from trade and cooperation in the future.

For that relationship to blossom, however, Venezuela has to change and abandon a model of governance that’s ruined us economically. The country is suffering a devastating humanitarian crisis: At least 87 percent of Venezuelans live in poverty, subject to 90 percent shortages in food and medical supplies. Basic services such as electricity and water have collapsed. The inflation rate exceeded 2.6 million percent in January 2019 and threatens to reach 10 million percent by the end of this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

In addition, Venezuela has become one of the most dangerous and corrupt nations in the world. The state no longer controls its territory: Irregular groups, such as the Colombian National Liberation Army, are operating in at least 12 states. Consequently, millions of Venezuelans have fled in what’s become Latin America’s largest mass migration, surpassing in numbers the Syrian refugee crisis. International bodies such as the Organization of American States, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch have corroborated our suffering on multiple occasions.

Even our oil production has drastically shrunk; we are now producing barely one-third what we did in 1999. Our refineries have been destroyed, as has much of our basic infrastructure. For our country to recover, we will require many investments and we are open to receiving them.

I trust that China, whose leaders know exactly what’s happening here, will contribute as the great power that it is and help facilitate the political transition that we so urgently need. Nicolas Maduro has lost his popular support and we want to see a peaceful transition as soon as possible. We have already been in contact with Chinese authorities who know our position and disposition to work together in the future.

Our goal is for Venezuela to be a stable nation once again, a source of prosperity that ensures security to investors and that fulfills its commitments. We envision a country where legitimate foreign investments are honored and protected according to our legal framework and also international agreements to which we have committed.

Venezuelans want a peaceful political transition without external military interference. As one of the two great economic powers in the world, China can contribute constructively to that cause.

China is a fundamental global actor and we are convinced that we must maintain and strengthen relationships with all actors. Chinese development projects in Venezuela have shrunk as they’ve been subject to corruption or defaults in recent years. We want to put an end to the looting that Chinese investors have suffered.

To launch the economic reconstruction of Venezuela, it is first essential to reestablish the rule of law. For that purpose, we have proposed a clear roadmap: First, the end of Maduro’s usurpation, followed by a transitional government and free and fair elections.

Europe, Canada, the U.S. and most of our neighboring countries in Latin America have supported us in our effort to reestablish institutions in our country. They fervently wish for the normalization and democratization of Venezuela.

The moment has come for Beijing to add its voice to this chorus. China’s influence in our region has grown tremendously over the past few years. It’s in its own interest to help bring about the climate of peace, stability and well-being to which we all aspire. If it does so, it will find a willing, open and more reliable partner in Caracas.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Juan Guaido is the president of Venezuela's National Assembly and the interim president of Venezuela as of January 2019. He has been recognized by the United States and some 50 other nations.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.