INTERVIEW: Recently twenty years have passed since the first electoral victory of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. That event inaugurated the process of the Bolivarian Revolution, and also opened the doors to one of the greatest sieges that any political project has faced.
At the gates of 2019, we wanted to hear the opinion of Elías Jaua, a representative leader of that Revolution, to make a balance of these two decades and evaluate the great challenges that the South American nation will face in the immediate future.
Jaua has been Vice President of Venezuela, the Chancellor, Secretary of the Office of the President [equivalent to Chief of Staff] and has held head positions in various ministries such as Agriculture and Lands, Popular Economy and Education. He was a close collaborator of President Chávez and also of President Nicolás Maduro.-
A few days ago he published a tweet, in which he said that he was reading Comandante Chávez about the victorious campaign on December 6, of that year 1998. He recommends to “return to the spirit and mystique that led us to the victory” of 1998. How does that spirit and that mystique translate into concrete political actions?
- The Venezuelan society of the 90s, wanted an independent country with social equality, with less corruption, an honest society, a country with justice, with a democracy where the people really decided. I believe that at this moment that spirit should be expressed in a solid national united front against foreign aggression. I believe that now it is necessary to unite all those who deeply love Venezuela and do not want to see us as victims of the aggression to which they are being subjected, that implies a great effort to rebuild alliances, to summon the Venezuelan patriots, as it happened in 1998.
Chávez did not win only with the MVR [his political party at that moment], Chávez won in 98, with a great patriotic and popular alliance. That would be the first element, we must meet the people at the base, and we must call a great alliance of all social and economic factors that oppose the aggression we are experiencing.
I believe that regarding social equality, it is fundamental to advance in the gap that the economic war has caused. Once again, we can see an elite with a high purchasing power and an immense majority impacted in their daily lives, in their food, in the services, product of these five years of total war. And this can be done through a progressive taxation strategy, effectively implemented and with laws developed to punish the accumulation of wealth and to ensure equal distribution as we had achieved, until all this conflict [economic war] was generated.
It is also essential to summarize the spirit and desire for a more honest society. Today, more than ever, Venezuela requires the dismantling of all the mafias that, as part of the destabilization, have occupied the economic life and a good part of the institutional life of the country. I think that would express the spirit of the year, 1998.
– An article of opinion of your authorship titled “Inversiones Sí, Despojo No” [Investment Yes, Spoliation No], has been widely commented on. One of the points, perhaps the most controversial, is where you will resolve the issue of the functioning of the National Assembly (Legislative Branch), taking as reference the mechanism agreed upon at the dialogue and negotiation table, earlier this year in the Dominican Republic negotiations, or through the call for popular sovereignty for the election of a new Parliament.” Could you elaborate?
- You have to contextualize that proposal I raised. Venezuela has been subjected in this last stage to an economic and financial siege, aggravated by deviations in matters of administrative ethics that occurred in the main Venezuelan oil company, PDVSA. Therefore, this situation – the financial blockade – has led to Venezuela not having enough income to raise its productive capacity, and on the other hand, having a National Assembly, a legislature in contempt, for two years, and something else, we can hardly access sources of financing without renegotiating the debt, and it will not be possible to renegotiate the debt, especially in the West, in Western capitalism, if there is no legal guarantee of the institution that the Constitution foresees to do this kind of operations, which is the national legislative power. I believe that the National Constituent Assembly, as the original power has the capacity to do so, but a good part of the governments of Europe, the government of the United States, do not recognize the National Constituent Assembly. Then, the game is locked. We have a National Assembly in contempt, and we have a National Constituent Assembly arbitrarily not recognized by these governments. Therefore, it is necessary to reconstitute the Parliament in order to begin a process of renegotiation of the debt, and therefore of access to the sources of financing required by the country to raise its national production.
– Do you think that there is political will from both the Government and the opposition to advance an agreement of this type?
- Beyond the will, I think it is a necessity. That is why in the article I wrote, I appeal to the Homeland to be first. And over our political differences is the preservation of our independence of the economic sovereignty of our country, and therefore of the economic and social stability of the Venezuelan people. As political leaders of the Nation, there must be a provision for the year, 2019, instead of a year of hecatomb, as predicted, we can effectively find the mechanisms that allow us to embark on the path of economic growth with overcoming poverty, with social inclusion, as we had been achieving during the Bolivarian Revolution.
– A few hours ago a private meeting of the so-called Boston Group was held in a well-known capital hotel, which is defined as “a friendship group that was born from the Interparliamentary Commission between Venezuela and the United States in the years 2000-2005”. It is considered that in this meeting different strategies of rapprochement with the national government were debated in order to reestablish the political dialogue with factors of the opposition. Do you think that the conditions are in place for 2019 to be marked by a deep dialogue and not by confrontation?
- You have to create those conditions because the other scenario, the one that worries me, is the one in which Venezuela is the victim of a looting, of a dispossession, which is what the most irrational, more vulture capitalism – as it is usually called in the financial world- takes us, if necessary, to a civil war or external intervention, with which they can occupy our recourses. Therefore, I insist that it is time to raise the stature and consciousness of the entire political leadership, both of us revolutionaries, and of the opposition. We must all preserve the independence, dignity, and sovereignty of Venezuela.
– The economist Luis Enrique Gavazut, in an article called “The first victim of economic war can not be the truth” writes the following: “There can be no democracy or freedoms if there is no truthful information, if there is no transparency before the entire Nation. If there is not enough public dissemination of that information, nobody defends what he does not know … and nobody opposes it either “. What is your opinion of this reflection?
- The institutional reality and how it has been developing, must be seen in a context. Venezuela was subjected to a total war, we are a sanctioned country, a country de facto blocked, a country financially surrounded, and therefore, if I share that premise of the transparency of the information that the State must give, I also demand an opposition that is respectful of the rules of the democratic game, that really discards the mechanisms of violence, destabilization and foreign aggression, to normalize the institutional life of the country. And for that reason, there is the important thing to create a dialogue and a political agreement that allows us to recover the democratic life, within the framework of the institutions that the 1999 Constitution has established.
– Just before arriving at this interview, I read that the leader of the Primero Justicia Party, Julio Borges, had sent a letter to the Bank of England asking them not to deliver the gold reserves that belong to the Venezuelan people. These actions do not seem to pave the way for a political dialogue. Are there within the opposition factors that can and are willing to contribute to a true national dialogue?
- In front of such attitudes as the fugitive Julio Borges, accused of a very serious fact as was the attack to the President of the Republic and senior officials of the State and the military high command, is that I reaffirm the importance of a great patriotic alliance, of a national unity that prevents that policy and those actions that people like Borges have been developing, end up affecting economic sovereignty of our country. So that every chavista, revolutionary, opposisionist that loves this country, we must unite to face that situation in which foreign governments or banks of the international capitalist system size the resources that belong to the Venezuelan people.
– In different public addresses you have declared that the call for the conformation of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) was made to stop the possibility of a civil war in Venezuela. When more than a year has passed since the Assembly was installed, what is the balance you are making?
- I believe that the National Constituent Assembly fulfilled its central objective for which it was convened by President Nicolás Maduro: stop the violence. And it did it since July 30, the same they it was voted. It allowed to normalize the institutional life of the country, with the exception of the legislative power. In the first place, the Prosecutor’s Office was reconstituted, which had been placed at the service of the plan to take the country to civil war, guaranteeing impunity for terrorism. The Rule of Law and the Office of the Prosecutor were restored as an instrument that guarantees to Venezuelan the right to live in peace. Then they called for elections that had been postponed, as a result of the entire situation of destabilization, elections of governors, mayors, and finally managed to go, despite the boycott of one sector of the opposition, to the presidential elections of 20 May that allowed the re-election by vote, secret, direct and universal by more than six million Venezuelan, of President Nicolás Maduro. And now, we are a few days away from completing the normalization of institutional life and compliance with the electoral timetable, with municipal elections. So, if you asked me, I believe that the ANC already fulfilled its main objective, guarantee the peace of the country, and restore the institutional life that had been altered.
– Some hours ago, Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero, declared that several countries of the region “intend to break relations” with the next government of Nicolás Maduro that would start a new period on January 10, 2019. In addition, he said he had “the impression” that the pressures against Venezuela were going to increase. What do you think about the media trend that is beginning to be formed around that day?
- I start from a fundamental fact, it is that here we had an expression of popular sovereignty on May 20, and there is a President-elect in office. That must be respected by the international community. In those countries like Chile, electoral participation levels are very low, but they also have a plutocratic electoral system, and a political system oriented to the benefit of the elite. The presidents are chosen under the rules of a Constitution founded by one of the most atrocious dictatorships that this continent has known. So that neither the Chilean Foreign Minister nor any other government in the world has the right to disregard the will of Venezuelan popular sovereignty expressed through free, secret, direct and universal elections. But in the face of that which is coming – because that is not only the opinion of the Chilean foreign minister, but that of the whole system that has been mounted to attack Venezuela in its sovereignty – it is where I return and reaffirm the need to put the national interest first, beyond the political differences that we will continue to have because they are two antagonistic projects, the Bolivarian and revolutionary project, and the project of the counterrevolution. But I do assume that within the opposition there are patriotic sectors that should add to the Government’s effort to avoid this type of aggression and interference.
– What do you say to those governments that have been sworn in against Venezuela?
- To the outsiders, in Venezuela they will not find either slaves or beggars. Venezuela has a history of struggle for freedom, for independence, for dignity. Those who rub their hands, believing that they are coming because of the absolute dispossession of Venezuela, will face stiff resistance. I’m convinced of that. We are not going to let our country be plunder. And I say to the country, that we build the minimum consensus to confront that intention to plunder Venezuela. It is not only because military intervention comes, this is a scenario that we have to avoid, but it is also that the occupation of our resources can take place through economic, financial, drowning to despair, to pragmatism, and it ends up stripping Venezuela of its resources without firing a shot.
– Are you afraid that the economic crisis could give rise to an effect like the one that led Bolsonaro to the Presidency of Brazil?
- It is always possible, but Venezuela does not have the cultural conditions for a phenomenon like this to arise. This is a very plural, very secular country. Even when all religions exist and have their influence, the Venezuelan is characterized in the case of politics, for being absolutely secular. He does not vote for artists, religious or athletes, we have a lot of political conscience. And that is more than proven. As I say, there is always a danger, especially through a “de facto” solution, I do not see it as much by the electoral route. This installation of a racist, classist, totalitarian elite is a scenario that must be avoided, and I believe that even in this there is awareness in the opposition factors, which, even though their own opposition alliance, have been victims of these fascist and racist elites, and they even publicly declare that they can no longer tolerate the attitudes of certain leaders and groups within the opposition. That is Venezuela, a dry leather [Venezuelan colloquialism: you step on it from one side and the other side stand up], and even within the opposition that dry leather is raised to the elitists, to the excluding, to the supremacists.
– You were Vice President and Chancellor, you have had the opportunity to make great strategic views around the country. What are the major challenges that the government of Nicolás Maduro will face in 2019?
- First, the ignorance of a set of governments of the existence of institutionality in Venezuela. This will multiply what Mr. Julio Borges already promotes, which can effectively be the sequestration of assets and financial assets of the nation abroad. This is going to be a complex battle that we have to wage in defense of our gold reserves, of our oil assets in the world. Secondly, in the framework of that financial siege, if the situation of the National Assembly could not be resolved, I propose two mechanisms: one, the one agreed in the Dominican Republic, which was the compliance of the opposition majority with the decision of the Electoral Chamber, and therefore the disincorporation of a formal way to the three deputies elected fraudulently in the state of Amazonas. This done, the Supreme Court would urge the National Electoral Council to call new elections in Amazonas. With which transparent elections would be made, and that state would have its three deputies. And, with this, the National Assembly would come into operation, renouncing, however, any unconstitutional form of ignorance of the President of the Republic or another State institution. That was the agreement in the Dominican Republic, which was sabotaged by Julio Borges. The other option is that the National Constituent Assembly convokes elections for a new Parliament, with all the guarantees of the law, with international accompaniment, in order to resolve the legal issue that has us trapped in regards to accessing financial sources .
– During the Congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) that ended a few months ago, you publicly advocated that the party’s authorities be chosen by the rank and file. However, that did not happen. How do you perceive the future of this organization?
- In a political party there are always debates. Sometimes you lost, sometimes you win, sometimes the conditions are not given for a discussion as it was in that case. It was considered that it was not a topic to discuss within the congress, and therefore those of us who made the proposal accepted that decision. Now, the party is involved in a great electoral battle at this time, but let us remember the origin of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, as heir of the Fifth Republic Movement, of the great patriotic alliance that in 1998 allowed the victory of Commander Chávez.
The PSUV must advance from being a party for electoral purposes and become an organic party for the Revolution, and that requires to have the ability to create a system for training its cadres in the Bolivarian Socialism. A party that is capable of promoting the emergence of leadership from the grassroots, gradually occupying the functions that we the old cadres have occupied over these twenty years. A party, as Commander Chávez said, to accompany the people in their daily battle, a party that is in the struggle of the workers, that is in the struggle of the communities for the preservation of the environment, a party that is in battle against the remnants of capitalism that still persist in Venezuela, latifundia, speculation, the exploitation of the workers, in short, a revolutionary party linked to the struggles for the transformation of society, and linked to the struggles , the demands and aspirations of the Venezuelan people. That is the great challenge of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, if it wants to become a revolutionary party for the future.
-During the interview, the words alliance, articulation of forces, reunification have emerged. Do you think that the different people who accompanied then President Chávez, can contribute with their experience in the Administration of President Nicolás Maduro?
- I’ll answer you with a well-known historical example. The “Mocho Hernandez” was the most ferocious enemy of Cipriano Castro [a former Venezuelan President], but when in 1902 Venezuela was blocked and attacked by all the European powers to try to collect an illegal debt, Cipriano Castro released the “Mocho Hernández” and together they fought and established an alliance against those European powers. I am not saying that we are going to fight alongside those who have done us so much harm, but I believe that those of us who were partners with Chávez in the construction of this road, we can perfectly meet and reunify. I believe in that. Except for those who have committed serious betrayals, such as those who have gone to sell themselves to US imperialism, to sell the Homeland, for them there is no return. But there are comrades who have been relegated or have decider to stay in the rearguard l, others who had a difference, and at a time perhaps of incomprehension of what we lived after the death of Commander Chávez, were put aside. Duels are assume in different ways. There were people who exploded because of the pain and absence of Commander Chávez and they confronted President Nicolás Maduro, but they did not end up being traitors. I think it is a moment of a great reunification of the Bolivarian forces, of the Chavez forces to face the challenges that we will have as of January 10, 2019, and especially to defend national independence, national sovereignty. It is a minimum point of union that must exist between the Chavistas, and many beyond, of the patriots, regardless of whether they are Chavistas or not.
– The exercise of power and compliance from the different bureaucratic positions always generate their affections, but they also give origin to detractors. You were Minister of Agriculture and Lands. What do you have to say to those who criticize your management within that sector? What do you think was done well? What was left to do?
- Look, a policy is measured by the results, and it was not the policy of Elías Jaua was the policy of the Bolivarian revolution, it was the policy of the commander Hugo Chávez. And that policy was successful. Between 2006 and 2012, which also coincided with being the year of the recovery of lands that were in the hands of the latifundio and the nationalization of companies, not only in the agro-industrial area. It was one of the periods of greatest growth of the Venezuelan Gross Domestic Product. Not because the oil was at 150 dollars, because that only happened in the years 2010-2011. That GDP growth occurred with a barrel of oil with an average price of 60 dollars, so there was record agricultural production, and not just me say it, it was said also by opponents guilds such as FEDEAGRO.
In Venezuela we came to produce 3 million tons of cereals, when in the last years of the fourth republic, that amount had never been produced. So the agrarian policy of Comandante Chávez, which I had to execute and for which I assume responsibility for the good and the mistakes that could have been made, was successful. In terms of food production there is no way to lie, there is or there is no food, and here from 2008 to 2012, there was no type of food shortage. There was national production with self-supply in rice, corn, and coffee, and all the items were grown and strictly necessary imports were made. That was a key element for the success of Comandante Chávez’s agrarian policy, importing only what is needed. In Venezuela, historically, importation has been the way oligarchy and corrupt bureaucracies have appropriated the oil rent, therefore it was a great battle. I had to fight that battle, not only against the latifundio, but against the import oligarchy, and that was the hardest. And maybe, those are the ones that generate the matrix of the failure of the agrarian policy, because we hit them where it hurts.
– Are you still in contact with President Maduro?
- I keep communicating. I recognize President Maduro as the political leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, the only political leader. And that is because Commander Chávez said so and because this has been ratified through the popular vote.
– Could you trust us with something that President Chávez told him and that would help him to face the years after his physical departure?
- These days we have been full of many memories, of what we lived. I started working with Chávez since 1996. There are so many things from that first stage, from the victory of 98, from the first years of government, but I would say, if something I rescue from Comandante Chávez is his permanent connection with reality. A leadership built on the basis of truth, transparency. To the recognition of errors or problems when there were. To not let others ingratiate you or to ingratiate oneself, but on the contrary, to see each victory as another challenge. Hearing the audios of his speech on December 6, 1998, I remember that we were all euphoric for the victory, and Chavez arrives and says, “Here there is nothing to celebrate, here at this moment there are children in the street, there are people who are not eating, what are we going to celebrate, here what is needed is work.” That was Chavez. That permanent connection with reality, and with what the people thought and what the people felt. Recently I was listening in the street someone saying, “It is that what one thought, Chávez said it.” I think that is what cultivate the most Commander Chávez. Always put himself in the shoes of the other, of the man and the suffering woman. Do not be afraid to recognize that there is a people that suffers, because that is the reason for our struggle, if there were no problems for what we are fighting? If the world were all happiness, revolutionaries would have no task or objectives. We have to recognize that there is a harsh reality, and much more after five years of total war against the people, which has affected their daily lives, how not to tell the people that we know what is happening and what is their suffering and what is happening And how they are resisting, and recognize the people in their heroic resistance and understand it, and be there. The people can understand that there are problems, they can understand that there are no immediate solutions, but what hurts the people most is orphanhood, feeling orphans.
Maybe people do not even ask that leaders live what they live, but they do ask us to know what they are experiencing right now. That I think is the greatest teaching of Hugo Chavez: Always put yourself in the place of the people, not in our own perspective, or in what we believe, or in self-satisfaction, but in what our people aspire, dream and build.
– Any message for Venezuela?
- For the revolutionary forces, reaffirm our principles and our banners. Today more than ever the speech of the Liberator Simón Bolívar in the Patriotic Society of 1811 is valid “To doubt is to get lost.” Today to hesitate is to lose ourselves, to doubt what we have built, to doubt the historical flags that we have raised and for which we won in 1998, would be to lose ourselves. On the contrary, this is the moment of the reaffirmation of the patriotic, popular, revolutionary current that has been fighting for 200 years in Venezuela. And far beyond chavism, the revolutionary forces, the entire people of Venezuela, let’s not let the harsh of the situation we live, away from the political, because precisely when a people away from politics, then comes the danger of the occupation of the dispossession of our resources, of the insurgency of fascist political phenomena. It is the moment of politics, contrary to what many believe. This is the moment in which there is more to participate, where there is more to strengthen the democracy, in the elections, but also in the assemblies of the neighborhoods, of the workers, of the buildings, in the workers’ movements, only with a broad participation of the people in the struggle for their rights, in the struggle for their right to live in peace, with that we will be able to overcome this complex situation as a result of the continued attack from abroad.
Translated by JRE