On April 7, María Corina Machado, founder of Vente Venezuela, spoke with the Princeton community about the Venezuelan crisis and her journey to becoming one of Venezuela’s most vocal opposition leaders.
“Venezuela is not only my country; Venezuela is my passion. I have been banned by the regime from leaving my country for almost eight years, so I have come to know the monster from within,” Machado said.
Since the election of Hugo Chavez in 1999, Venezuela has been in the midst of an economic crisis that has increased socioeconomic inequalities and caused nearly all of its citizens to live in poverty. As a result, the country has seen a mass exodus of citizens to neighboring countries.
“The situation in Venezuela represents a threat to all neighboring countries,” Machado said. “This is a human tragedy. Every day that it continues is not counted in hours, minutes, or seconds, but in deaths.”
The Venezuelan crisis has only continued under the presidency of Nicolás Maduro, a member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, and Machado has emerged as one of his most ardent opponents. She said it was the visible effects of mismanagement in government that spurred her to action.
“I never thought that I would get involved in politics,” Machado said. “I said it would be the last thing I do in my life, and I think that is a huge mistake. There’s no higher possibility to impact the lives of millions of people [than through] public service.”
“Some people said ‘you have to understand [in politics] everybody robs, everybody lies. You have to resign to what you get.’ That’s absolutely something I will never cope with,” she continued.
Machado served as a member of the National Assembly of Venezuela from 2011 to 2014, receiving the highest number of votes in the 2011 election cycle. She was awarded the Prize for Freedom by Liberal International in 2019 for her defense of human rights and freedom.
For students in the audience studying foreign affairs and public policy, Machado advised, “Venezuela [today] is a rich experience to learn what not to do. Socialism doesn’t work, period. It brings violence, division, darkness, misery, and pain. We need to promote values in which every individual trusts himself and thrives. We need to promote solidarity and cooperation.”
In response to an audience member’s question, Machado commented on the challenges of being a female politician in Venezuela. She said she doesn’t often feel overlooked by fellow politicians, but when she is, she “couldn’t care less.”
Machado commended Venezuelan women for their resilience during the crisis.
“I think Venezuelan women have been crucial to being able to come so far,” she said. “I think other societies might have just [given] up a long time ago, and we don’t, because we understand this fight is for our family and kids, for a nation they can feel proud of.”
Near the end of the webinar, Machado expressly stated her vision for Venezuela that has guided her work: “I do not want an ordinary country. I want an extraordinary nation to which Venezuelans can dream high and be able to build the best and strongest nation we can.”
The conversation with Machado was hosted by Princeton’s chapter of the Alexander Hamilton Society and had over 100 attendees. It occurred via Zoom at 6 p.m. EDT.