Juan Guaido, the interim president named by Venezuela's National Assembly, told Euronews he is ready to give his life to overthrow rival, Nicolas Maduro.
Guaido has been in a standoff with Maduro since the National Assembly ruled the latter's election victory void last month. He has won international support from Europe and the US but so far failed to convince Venezuela's powerful army chiefs to back him.
"I am not worried about this costing my life or my freedom. If I give my life to serve the people. We know the risks we face. Our biggest fear is that what’s happening in Venezuela becomes normal," Guaido told Euronews' Anelise Borges.
Nevertheless he promised that it was only a matter of time before an "isolated" Maduro was removed from power.
"The good news is that the future today is guaranteed for Venezuela and that Maduro is becoming more and more isolated," he said.
In the interview he also:
- Denied claims that he was conducting a coup, declaring his movement was made up of peaceful volunteers
- Insisted his standoff with Maduro won't end in a civil war because Venezuelans would not risk their lives to defend a ruler who had brought nothing but misery
- Said he was working to convince China and Russia that it was in their economic interest to withdraw support from Maduro
- Highlighted the situation in Venezuela's hospitals where he said children were dying due to malnutrition and even basic medical supplies were lacking
- Refused to say whether he would stand for president permanently when elections take place
A key flashpoint in the standoff is over a shipment of humanitarian aid, being held up by the army at the border. Guaido said the convoy, sent by the US, must enter the country by Saturday but Maduro claims it is not needed and accepting it would be a humiliation.
"It will help us to contain the emergency," Guaido told Euronews. "With this, we are also testing the armed forces to see whose side they are on: Are they on the side of citizens, the Constitution, or someone who today usurps functions and who even keeps the professional troops of the armed forces and middle managers hungry."
On Russia and China
While Guaido has won support from many European nations, the US and South American neighbours, both Russia and China, who have close economic ties to Maduro's government, have refused to switch sides.
Asked whether he had spoken directly to either, Guaido said he was making sure that they received his message that the collapse of Venezuela's economy under Maduro had to end.
"Pragmatically, logically, economically, financially... is it good for Russia a country that is a business partner goes from three million to one million barrels [of oil output]? I believe the answer is obvious. Is it good for China that 90% of what it invested in construction work in Venezuela is paralyzed? I think the answer is obvious."
Guaido and his supporters reject the label of self-proclaimed president, claiming that according to the constitution he can be the only legitimate ruler of the country until new elections are held.
"There are no[t] two presidents, there is a cruel dictator, very cruel in Venezuela, and we are exercising functions to have a really free election that is the constitutional mandate that I have. That is the important thing that the world also knows at this moment."
Guaido said he and his allies would name their candidate to take over power as full president only once elections had been called.