On Thursday, January 7, the Mexican newspaper La Jornada published an interview with the President of the Republic, Nicolás Maduro, who identified successes and failures of his administration.
The journalist Luis Fernando Navarro conducted this interview, which is presented below in its entirety. In it, you will learn about the work that the Venezuelan President continues during the coup d’état that the United States government executes hand in hand with other nations.
Here is the interview:
In the worst crisis since he assumed the presidency of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro believes that the right’s attempt to form a parallel government in his country is an expression of the conflict between Venezuela’s independence and sovereignty and US imperial intention to recolonize that nation.
In an exclusive interview with La Jornada, the Bolivarian leader rejected (the idea) that Venezuela is a dictatorship, that human rights are violated or that there is a humanitarian crisis. According to him, the politicians who are now imprisoned are the organizers of a violent coup d’état, who murdered, burned many people alive and destroyed property. The vast majority of the media, he says, is in private hands, most of them oppositional. And the so-called humanitarian crisis is a show set up by the Southern Command to justify a military intervention. Present at the inauguration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Venezuelan leader says he did not attend the inauguration ceremony in the Chamber of Deputies to avoid any aggression against himself that would have distracted from the historical character of the Mexican politician’s triumph.
Nicolás Maduro assured that, in the event that the United States bets on intervening militarily in his country, a new Vietnam will be created in Latin America. Venezuela is morally ready to respond to the aggression. His army is united and allied with the people. Trump’s aggressions – he says – seek to appropriate Venezuelan oil.
This is the full version of the interview with Maduro, which La Jornada did at the Miraflores Palace on February 5.
-President, today it was announced that you sent a letter to Pope Francis proposing he play a role in the mediation of the conflict. Can we know what else was said in that letter?
- First, I thanked him for his ongoing prayers for peace in Venezuela and asked him to help us in facilitating a national dialogue. The Vatican already helped us in one phase in 2016. It means that they know the terrain well here in Venezuela. I believe that the moral authority of the Pope can help a lot to (foster) a dialogue that is constructive, with an open agenda. I’m expecting his answer soon.
- However, the National Assembly said that it rejects any dialogue or contact group that extends the suffering of the people. That is, disqualifies any possibility of dialogue.
- Yes, the Venezuelan coup right has rejected the mechanisms of dialogue that the international community is discussing. Two days ago, the US government, the government of Donald Trump, had already said: no to dialogue. And yesterday, the Lima cartel, this group of right-wing intolerant governments, also said no to dialogue. It is an irrational, foolish position. It is an unnatural position, because the natural thing in politics is dialogue, the word, the conversation.
I insist: yes to dialogue, yes to dialogue and yes to dialogue. And sooner rather than later, with the help of the government of Mexico, of Uruguay, of the 14 Caribbean governments in the Caricom, of Bolivia, of the contact group of the European Union – and hopefully also of the Vatican – we are going to sit at a table to dialogue. I’m sure it will be so.
The attitude of Mexico, diplomatically correct
-What is your estimation of the attitude and position of the Mexican government?
-The Mexican government has had a diplomatically correct attitude, which is to respect Venezuela, not meddle in its internal affairs. And, according to President López Obrador, he has redeemed the spirit of the Mexican Constitution and the Mexican diplomatic tradition, so admired in the world, of non-interventionism, of dialogue. I think he’s playing a big role in this historic moment
-You went to the inauguration of President López Obrador, but you did not come to the ceremony in Congress, but only to the dinner. Why was that?
-That was purposeful. We knew that the right wing had prepared a show to attack me, physically even, and that the news would be the physical aggression against Maduro. And if something like that had happened, I would have reacted, because I am a man of the people. If someone physically assaults me, I will respond, I do not care about the surname and the pelucón (the fifí) or that it is from the right. I do not care. I tell you, I have blood from the Caribbean and (they) wanted a show to occlude the historical event of the change that has begun in Mexico with President López Obrador. And since I do not fall into provocations or create provocations, I simply decided to go to the presidential palace directly to greet President López Obrador.
I got a big surprise in the Zócalo. Thousands of people welcomed us with songs, with slogans, with posters, with greetings. I think that the entire campaign against us on the occasion of the inauguration was reversed. It generated an interest and sympathy from the Mexican people that we appreciate.
-As a justification for the offensive against you , it is claimed that in Venezuela human rights are violated, that people are persecuted, that there are political prisoners, that there is no freedom of opinion. There are reports from different international human rights organizations that document some of these signs. Is that right?
-In 20 years of revolution we have been victims of permanent aggression by the United States and its internal oligarchic allies. In particular, in my six years of the first government, I have been the victim of several violent attempts to bring the country into civil war and to overthrow the government. One of them was in 2014. Another was in 2017, with the so-called guarimbas (violent blockades of streets). I have suffered several attacks. On August 4, 2018, they perpetrated a direct attack against me with drones.
Venezuelan justice has acted. Those responsible for the murder of several people, of violence, of the physical destruction of cities, are being detained. Those directly responsible for the attempt to kill me with drones are detained. But the United States and its global manipulation say that those directly responsible for violent crimes who are being prosecuted and are being detained are political prisoners. The truth is that they are individuals who have committed crimes against people, against property, who have tried to overthrow a legitimate government.
Anyway, here in Venezuela there is a Truth and Justice Commission that conducts the investigation of all these crimes, of this whole situation. Recently that commission issued a set of decisions, orders and some of these people involved in these crimes were given procedural benefits. They are free. Perhaps those who are still detained are those who have committed crimes of homicide, they have burned people alive. Perhaps those responsible for the most serious crimes are those who remain in the hands of justice.
-It is also pointed out that Venezuela is a dictatorship, that there are no freedoms, that the press is controlled by the State. Is that true?
- I can give you several details of the broad freedoms that exist in Venezuela. First, the situation of national television stations. Seventy-five percent are private, and I could tell you that all the private television stations in the country are in opposition to the government. Of the written press, 80 percent of national and regional publications are private, and I could tell you that they are all opposing. More than 70 percent of radios in the country are in private hands, and all are opposing.
Social networks are controlled on an international scale. In Venezuela there is Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp. Everyone uses them. And I can tell you that 80 percent of the advertising and information that runs directly on all social networks are open and totally represent the opposition. This is data that is good to specify.
To say that Venezuela is a dictatorship is an offense to the Venezuelan people. Venezuela has an educational, cultural level and sufficient democratic maturity. It is enough to walk around any town or city and see the permanent debate that exists about Venezuela. In any case, the accusation of dictatorship is part of the script that the US empire has always used to label, to stigmatize independent countries, governments that do not obey. It serves to justify anything. Because if in Venezuela, as they say, there is a dictatorship, then anything is possible: a coup d’état, an assassination, an invasion.
Simply, the accusation that Venezuela is a dictatorship is part of the false stigmas with which they have tried to label the Bolivarian revolution.
The humanitarian crisis, a farce
-It is said that in Venezuela there is a humanitarian crisis of great proportions, that there is hunger, that there is a shortage of medicines, that the migration of Venezuelans, not only to Spain or Miami, but to many Latin American countries, is an unstoppable hemorrhage . Is it true that there is such a humanitarian crisis?
-The humanitarian crisis is a sham. Venezuela has problems, like any other country. Moreover, in some cases we do not have some problems that have countries where neoliberalism governs. But all the staging of humanitarian crisis comes from the Southern Command of the United States since 2014.
Why do they attach to us a humanitarian crisis fabricated at the media level? To justify a ‘humanitarian intervention’, in quotes.
Venezuela has high rates of employment. Last year we closed again with 6 percent unemployment. Sixty percent of employment in Venezuela is formal, protected, we have advanced. Venezuela has a social security system that protects one hundred percent of its pensioners. Venezuela has over 90 percent education in initial, basic, secondary, and university education. Eighty percent of our global education is public, free, of quality.
Venezuela has a program called CLAP (Local Supply and Production Committees) that reaches 6 million homes, 24 million Venezuelans. Nutrition is ongoing and, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, we have very high levels of nutrition. Venezuela has a program called Barrio Adentro en Salud, which brings 30,000 doctors to the communities. You in your neighborhood, in your community, you have a doctor, you have access to medicine. In the three recent years, because of the sanctions, we have had problems to import food, to import medicines. Yes, we have had them, and we are already solving them effectively. But a humanitarian crisis has not existed nor will it exist in Venezuela.
Donald Trump is obsessed with Venezuela
- You have declared that behind the attempt to impose an interim president is the hand of the United States. Why do you say that? What evidence do you have?
- Well, because the attitude of the government of the United States calling for the overthrow of the constitutional government over which I preside is open and vulgar. It is, above all, since the extremists of Donald Trump arrived at the White House. It has been a stage of total confrontation, of sanctions, of financial persecution, of calls for a military coup, of direct conspiracy in the gringo embassy in Venezuela.
Donald Trump is obsessed with Venezuela. His team calls itself the Venezuela team. John Bolton, Security Adviser; Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, and Mike Pence, Vice President, call themselves the Venezuela team. Every day they tweet, write, declare, calling for an open coup.
It’s not that they dissimulate. Recently, The Wall Street Journal published a report on how this whole issue was managed to try to impose a parallel government, a false government. And it was created in Washington, it was financed in Washington, it was imposed from Washington.
For months before, in September, The New York Times and The Washington Post drew evidence of the participation of the United States government, directly from the White House, in a military coup attempt in the months of March and April, which we neutralized!__ and defeated. They gave details of who conspired, who paid, where they paid. These testimonies and statements are sufficient evidence of the imperialist obsession they have.
Last Sunday Donald Trump threatened us once again with an invasion, with sending the US Army to take Venezuela. And I have been asking: what is the casus belli (reason for war)? Venezuela is not a threat to the United States. Venezuela does not have weapons of mass destruction targeting the United States. No, his casus belli is Venezuelan oil, the wealth of Venezuela. And that, in 20 years, they have not been able to defeat the Bolivarian revolution by any means. Neither by the electoral route, neither by political, diplomatic, nor by coup d’etat.
I believe that the United States government is entering a phase of great despair and is becoming increasingly dangerous. So the solidarity of the world, of people who want peace, of people who want to stop a new Vietnam, this time in South America, is very important. Venezuela would become a Vietnam if one day Donald Trump sent the US Army to attack us.
Are you ready for a US military intervention?
-Venezuela is morally prepared to reject threats of the use of force. And we and our Bolivarian National Armed Force, our Bolivarian people, our weapons system and our people, in civic-military union, we prepare ourselves with the concept of war of all the people, war of resistance, to give a forceful response to any possibility of military aggression.
We hope it never happens. We hope that the truth of Venezuela will be asserted, the diplomatic way, and that the conscience of peace in the people of the United States will turn the will and the madness of Donald Trump. We hope peace reigns. But, meanwhile, we prepare to defend our sacred land, as everyone would defend it.
-You have reported that militias grouped with 2 million members can be counted upon. Do these militias have a territorial or union organization? Do they have direct control of weapons? Have they received military training?
-Yes, we have the Bolivarian National Armed Force that has four components. The Bolivarian Army, with a territorial distribution, a very powerful weapons system. The Bolivarian Navy, which has also been strengthening its weapons system. The Bolivarian Military Aviation, also with a good system to take care of our country, and the Bolivarian National Guard, which is a force of public order. And, in addition, Comandante Chávez created the Bolivarian National Militia as a fifth element that strengthens and integrates the four constitutional components.
“The militia has reached one million 600 thousand citizens. On April 13 this year we will reach 2 million. They are organized in popular defense units, which group a number of 20 or 30 militiamen per territory. They have military training, they have an operational plan, they know what to do in any scenario. And, in addition, they have access, and each time they will have more access, to the national weapons system. This means that Venezuela has 2 million militiamen and a militia integrated for a war of resistance, a war of all the people, which would make it unbearable, it would make hell for an invading force that comes to Venezuela.
We want peace. All our armed force and our militia have only one slogan: to win peace. Our victory is peace and so we will continue.
-The opposition accuses you of having paramilitary groups. According to them, the groups are civilian armed groups at the service of Chavismo. Is that true?
-The collective calls are a form of voluntary popular organization, very typical of the Bolivarian revolution. They are an extraparty form of the popular movement. There are thousands in Venezuela. They organize people around some goal. The majority of the groups in the country are in the productive, business, and agro-productive areas, where they produce tens of tons of food. Or they are in the area of culture, of cultural resistance, of music, of art, of muralism. And they are also in the political arena.
The right is very afraid of the collectives because they are very revolutionary groups, very radical. They are very honest people. They (the opposition) have tried to stigmatize them as paramilitaries but it is totally false. That does not mean that there is no collective that suddenly initiates training for national defense. Surely there is one or two of these groups around here. But the fundamental thing about the collectives is that they are a form of organization of the cultural movement.
- And the right does have paramilitary groups?
-The right has had violent groups that have directed the guarimbas. During all these years they have had groups that make attempts against the military units. And they have groups that express themselves through social networks, which say they have weapons, they cover their faces and they say they are already in a line for war, for a civil war. They have not been able, with these groups, to disturb the life and the internal peace of the country, but they declare it and they have them. They are elements of risk that you have to know how to control.
It’s not about the cold war
-You place the current attempted coup as a dispute for national sovereignty against imperialist intervention. However, some people see conflict as a fight between powers. They claim that behind the government of Nicolás Maduro are China and Russia, which intend to establish a beachhead in Latin America. Is that interpretation correct?
-That is an interpretation scheme of the Cold War, where all the conflicts seemed to have behind them the confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States. But it is not our case. The Venezuelan conflict is 200 years old. It existed before the Soviet Union or the Russian Federation existed, or the existence of the People’s Republic of China. It comes from Bolívar.
“It is the conflict between the independent ideas of freedom and sovereignty of our liberators versus the imperialist ideas. If one reviews the ideology, the political practice of the liberators, of Bolivar, you find that they sought to create a block of free, independent nations that did not oppress any nation in the world and that built their own political, social, economic, cultural model .
On the other hand, if you review the project, the form, the practice of those who founded the United States, of the old 13 colonies, you will find how they directly inherited the entire British imperial vision. They never helped the independence of the South (South America). They were against the struggle for independence. Moreover, they sold arms, sold accoutrements and supported the Spanish imperial army against the liberators.
It’s a conflict in a story that comes from afar, 200 years ago. We today say that our conflict is between the independence of Venezuela, the sovereignty of Venezuela and the attempt to recolonize the US empire. The center of the conflict is that of the new independence of Latin America versus the attempt of domination and of a new slavery against our people.
-What is your road map to face the current conflict? It seems that what the Venezuelan right wants today, apart from establishing a parallel government and gaining legitimacy in the international arena, is to mount a provocation around humanitarian aid that justifies a foreign military intervention. What are the steps that you plan to take to avoid such a scenario?
-The steps we are taking are linked to the Constitution. Our road map is the Constitution.
“In the first place, to govern the country, to solve to the problems of our people, to implement the plan of the homeland 2019-2025 in all areas. Today we launched the Great Mission Transportation Venezuela. A great project that aims to transform the entire public transportation system in the country.
“Second, to defend peace, peace with justice, I say, peace with equality, peace with independence. And promote all forms of political dialogue and political negotiation to establish a lasting peace.
“Third, maintain the civic-military union: Our strength is our armed force, our Bolivarian city and its unitary capacity to manage national defense.
“Fourthly, defend ourselves diplomatically, politically, mediatically from all the aggressions of the imperialist government of Donald Trump. The operation called ‘humanitarian aid’ is a show, a cheap show, a bad show. We will take care of it, rest assured that it will not disturb Venezuela. These shows are diluted, they dissolve with Venezuelan reality. ”
- Is there a danger of an army rupture?
- Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested to divide the Bolivarian National Armed Forces. I can tell you, being in direct contact with the Venezuelan soldiers, who today are more united than ever. They will not break it.
-What has the government of Nicolás Maduro done wrong?
-Many things. We have a large capacity for self-criticism. We believe that self-criticism and criticism are the most important political pedagogy to learn from experience.
“We make a great effort for our country. A daily effort, ongoing, with great honesty. But we still lack many things. We have made mistakes in the exchange rate policy that have led to the imposition of the criminal dollar, the parallel dollar that is set from Miami, from Colombia. We are rectifying many elements of that policy.
In some cases we have abandoned the daily leadership of popular issues. We must put more emphasis on the construction of the popular movement, popular power, communal councils. Attend to the base directly. Address the problems of the people, listen to the people, promote the assembly movement, make a permanent revision. Maybe there we have made mistakes, the product of the same conflict that we face.
There are many things to rectify every day. The fight against indolence, bureaucratism, corruption, is hard, it is bitter, it is very complex. Nobody is going to come to me to say that because one says that we are going to fight against corruption and that is what is being done. No, corruption has a thousand ways to reconstitute itself. Sometimes you name a great comrade to a position, one who has served in the political struggle, in the social upheaval, and ends up rotting in office. He ends up being more corrupt than some mafia that you withdrew from that position.
The fight against corruption is tremendous, it is an endless struggle and we are waging it with great precision. I have the feeling that in the months that are to come that will have a great result in the political reality of the country.
-The last document of President Chávez before his death, “Golpe de Timon”, bet heavily on the construction of that popular power. Would you say that the government of Nicolás Maduro has followed that orientation?
-I think so. We have ridden together with Venezuelan popular power. We have managed to activate more than 50 thousand communal councils that group 80, 100, 120 families each, sometimes a little more. We have managed to articulate 3,100 communes of a higher instance of the social, economic, and political organization of the community. They group about 2 million Venezuelans. We have managed to respond to the issue of food supply through the communal councils, creating the CLAP. If there were no popular power it would have been impossible to address this issue and others that we serve.
Now there is still a lot to do. It is a lie that just because one calls the organization, the popular power organizes itself. No. It takes a lot of effort, knocking on doors, motivating, educating, taking the people forward, addressing their problems, truly empowering the man, the humble woman, the citizen.
I would say that the great challenge of the left in the world is to build true popular bases, true popular power. Because, sometimes, the left fulfills its political struggles with its slogan, but forgets that politics can not be air. The policy must have roots. You always have to put your feet on the ground.
The Bolivarian revolution, by mandate of Commander Chávez, gave us the slogan: commune or nothing. There is the dichotomy. Either we go on the path of the commune of popular power, of the real root of the people, or we are left in nothingness.
-You’re passionate about history, movies -directed the Caracas film club before doing institutional politics- and music. How would you summarize this current situation in a historical event, in a movie and a song?
-It would be: The battle for Venezuela. And the salsa song, by Ray Barretto, which I really like, called Indestructible. Look for it in social networks. As in that song, I feel With new blood, indestructible / Oh, united we will win and I know we will arrive.
-President: anything else you want to say?
-Thank Mexico very much for its nobility, for its solidarity. And ask for all solidarity. Let there be a powerful movement in solidarity that will tell Donald Trump: No to military intervention in Venezuela! We want peace in Venezuela! We need the company of the Mexican people so that peace is asserted and the war cries against our country are over.
Translated by JRE/EF