[News] Venezuelan President Maduro: ‘The Pressures & Attacks of the US Empire Are Nothing Compared to the Voice of Our People’ - 3 Parts

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 9 13:39:41 EST 2019


https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14206
https://venezuelanalysis.com/interviews/14209
https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14212


  President Maduro’s New Year Interview: ‘The Pressures & Attacks of the
  US Empire Are Nothing Compared to the Voice of Our People’

By Nicolas Maduro / Ignacio Ramonet - January 7, 2019
------------------------------------------------------------------------

*/3 Parts follow/*

VA- The following is an interview conducted by Spanish journalist 
Ignacio Ramonet with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Ramonet has 
previously worked with Le Monde Diplomatique 
<https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Monde_diplomatique> and Liberation 
<https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lib%C3%A9ration_(peri%C3%B3dico)> and is 
an author of over a dozen works including a spoken biography of Fidel 
Castro.

The interview was published on Ramonet’s facebook page 
<https://www.facebook.com/ignacio.ramonet> on January 1 2018 and comes 
only days before Maduro is due to start his second 
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/13820> constitutional term as 
president on January 10, which many regional right-wing governments have 
claimed is illegitimate. It also comes in a context of ongoing 
inflation, increased international pressure 
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/14071> and sanctions 
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/13936> against Venezuela, a 
solidification of the political hegemony of the ruling United Socialist 
Party (PSUV <https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/14180>) after winning 
five elections in the past 18 months, the implosion of the right-wing 
opposition alliance, a series of government-led economic reforms 
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/13967>, and a recent attempt to 
assassinate <https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/13976> the President with 
drone-laden explosives.

Ramonet, who has known Maduro for more than ten years, personally 
testifies to “the profound affection and confidence that Chávez had in him.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

*IR- Before we sit down in his office to do this interview in Miraflores 
Palace, Caracas, President Maduro invited me to join him in a public 
ceremony to hand over social housing units. Apartment number 2.5 million 
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/14198> is about to be delivered… The 
buildings, erected in collaboration with a Chinese company, are located 
close to the El Valle neighbourhood, a **middle class**area, and 
precisely where Maduro was born and raised.*

*The small population here receive Maduro with a loud show of joy and 
affection. Maduro is wearing a white Guayabera shirt with the Venezuelan 
colours on the collar. Naturally elegant and with **an 
imposing**stature, – he is over 1,90m tall – Maduro is a calm, affable, 
serene person, gifted with a fine sense of humour.*

*In his short **speech**he denounces the “indolence” of many of his own 
collaborators in the government or in local institutions. The locals 
enthusiastically cheer these criticisms. And they shout their lungs out 
when the president rails against corruption and pledges to punish it 
“regardless of who falls.”*

*He alternates pleasant comments, almost personal, with some of the 
families (among them a young couple with hearing disabilities and their 
baby) who receive keys to their new apartments, with deep reflections on 
economic policy or international relations. A bit how Hugo Chávez used 
to do it. He oscillates from the personal to the collective, from the 
concrete to the general, from praxis to theory. Always giving a 
pedagogical impression of lightness so as not to overwhelm anyone.*

*The next day, December 27, we met in his working office in the 
government palace. In the very same room where, almost six years ago to 
the date, Chávez appointed Maduro as his successor. We greet and, as the 
team finish preparing the set, we take a stroll in the yard and the 
beautiful indoor gardens of Miraflores, decorated for the holidays.*

*Today, the President is wearing an elegant intense blue shirt. Although 
this is an interview for **written**press, some photos of our meeting 
will be shot and some of the answers will be recorded on video. As usual 
with him, he brought a bunch of books that he places on the table 
between us. Everything is ready. Therefore, without further ado, we get 
started.*

*IR: Good afternoon, President. Thank you for receiving us. In this 
**interview**we will essentially address three issues: politics, 
economics and international affairs.*

*Let's start with politics: perhaps the main political event of 2018 was 
your re-election in the elections of May 20, with more than six million 
votes and more than 40 **percent**of difference with respect to the main 
opposition candidate, Henri Falcon.*

*How do you explain, given the difficult context for citizens created by 
the economic war and the financial sanctions imposed by Washington, that 
voters gave you their massive support for the second time?*

*Nicolás Maduro:* Indeed, the people of Venezuela gave their greater 
support <https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/13820> to the Bolivarian 
revolution, to Chavismo, to my candidacy - which is a real political and 
social force on the streets, in neighbourhoods, in the countryside, in 
the cities and in the villages - with humility. In percentage terms, it 
was the greatest support that any candidate has ever received in a 
presidential election in Venezuela.

We had already started noticing that after the victory for peace with 
the constituent election of July 2017 
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/13174> our forces had undergone a 
sustained recovery, a strengthening of revolutionary unity. [In May] we 
received the support of all the Great Patriotic Pole (GPP) parties and 
plenty of social movements. We have also seen an organized growth of our 
United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which is the political party 
with the greatest number of members in Latin America.

This good result is also explained, I must say, by the maturity and 
wisdom shown by our people in the midst of the most brutal aggression 
that we have suffered since our wars of independence. Our people have 
grown, have grown in awareness, in organized strength, in patriotism, 
and in spite of the psychological warfare and the illegal and 
illegitimate economic war perpetrated by the American empire along with 
its satellite governments of this continent and Europe, which look and 
subdue us. The result of this hostility has been the resilience shown by 
citizens in their determination to remain free, independent and sovereign.

Another fundamental, decisive factor, Ramonet, is that the Bolivarian 
revolution has, in the midst of difficulties and economic and financial 
harassment, managed to meet the needs of Venezuelan society. Not a 
single school or university has been closed here. On the contrary, the 
number of students in public education has increased. Here we continue 
to have free healthcare for everyone. We have protected, with much 
strength and determination, wages and employment for all. And 
approximately every three weeks we make sure that staple food products 
get to about six million households in Venezuela, the now famous "CLAP 
boxes," we deliver them directly to their homes.

On the walls of Caracas one may see some murals or grafitti which maybe 
sum up what I want to say: "I vote for who increases my wage, not for 
who makes products more expensive." Perhaps that explains why the 
Bolivarian revolution is now more robust, alive and amalgamated in a 
single constructive effort than ever.

*IR: Within a few days, January 10, your new presidential term of six 
years starts. Some governments that did not recognize the results of the 
presidential election of May 20 have threatened to not recognise you as 
the constitutional President of Venezuela. What is your response to them?*

*Nicolás Maduro:* Well, first of all, that Venezuela is a country that 
has forged, throughout history, its own identity, its Republican 
character, its independence. Also, that Venezuela is ruled by a 
Constitution which is the most democratic that has existed in our 
history, approved by our people nineteen years ago by referendum, and 
this Constitution has been respected flawlessly during the nineteen years.

In 2018, we had two fully transparent electoral contests, governed by 
the country's electoral institutions. I must remind everyone that the 
Electoral Power in Venezuela is an [independent] public power, the fifth 
public power. This power used all of its logistics, its electronic 
[voting] system with the highest level of transparency. Recognized by 
international personalities of unquestionable prestige like [former 
President of the United States] Jimmy Carter who said at the time that 
"the Venezuelan electoral system is the most transparent and clean in 
the world; the most perfect."

The presidential election of May 20 2018 was held with the accompaniment 
of national and international observers, and our people made a decision. 
Venezuela’s decisions are not taken by foreign governments. We are not 
an intervened country, advised by any empire. Not by the empire of the 
North, its satellites in Latin America and the Caribbean, nor Europe. In 
Venezuela, the people rule and govern sovereignly. The people made a 
very clear and very forceful decision: for the first time we won 68 
percent of the vote... as you pointed out: four million votes more than 
the main opposition candidate.

So: the people decided. And we are going to comply with the decision of 
the people. There is no way that any government can have a say, from 
abroad, on the correctness of recognizing or failing to recognise the 
constitutional and democratic legitimacy of the government which I will 
preside over as of January 10 2019 until January 10 2025. I have a plan, 
a project, experience, the strength. I have the people, with the 
military-civil union, and above all, [I have] the constitutional 
legitimacy which is the most important.

Let me repeat myself: the pressures and attacks of the North American 
empire and its satellite governments mean nothing compared to the voice 
of our people. Our democracy has a real strength that has been expressed 
in the 25 elections over the last 20 years... This means that in twenty 
years of Bolivarian Revolution, there has been almost three times the 
amount of elections carried out during the same period, for example, in 
the United States...

In the election campaign of April and May 2018, which lasted 21 days, I 
visited the 23 States of Venezuela several times. And I asked the people 
that filled the streets and avenues: "Who elects the President in 
Venezuela? Washington or Caracas? Miami or Maracaibo?" And the vigorous 
response of all the people, including those that vote for the 
opposition, is that we have the inalienable right to choose our rulers. 
Nothing and nobody is going to change that basic and sacred right.

For those who don't like this we say that Venezuela has a long tradition 
of non-interference in the affairs of other countries. The Bolivarian 
Revolution has shown solidarity with all the countries of our continent 
and the world when they so required it due to natural disasters or other 
incidents. The least we can demand is that this is reciprocated, that 
others respect that we are sovereign and independent.

*IR: Although you have not ceased to appeal to democratic dialogue, the 
most important opposition group - gathered in the so-called Democratic 
Unity Roundtable (MUD) - decided not to participate in the elections of 
May 20. The result is that the MUD is now fragmented, divided and, in 
fact, self-dissolved. What do think about you this opposition?*

*Nicolas Maduro:* I have invited the Venezuelan opposition to 
participate in a political dialogue on more than 300 occasions... And 
this doesn't even include the ongoing dialogue that my government 
maintains with the private sector and society in general. This dialogue 
has not sought to convince anyone to take on our model, we understand 
that we have very different ways of looking at life, that we [all] have 
different proposals to meet the challenges of our society. Our efforts 
have always consisted of strengthening the peaceful political 
coexistence of political forces in Venezuela.

But all those efforts of dialogue have been boycotted by the US Embassy 
in Venezuela. At some point the details of the house to house visits 
that the Chargé d'affaires of the US Embassy made to each of the 
opposition candidates to force them not to take part in the presidential 
election of 20 May will come to light. He managed to convince almost all 
of them, with two exceptions [Henry Falcón and Javier Bertucci] who 
participated and got the vote they got.

You don't know how happy I would be if we could count on an opposition 
in Venezuela that stayed attached to politics, which moved away from 
conspiracies and coup adventures, which defended a voice of their own. 
And not the authoritative voice of the US Embassy.

*IR: Within the framework of the Bolivarian Revolution, what is the 
political space available to the opposition? In other words: will the 
Revolution accept an opposition which wins a presidential election?*

*Nicolás Maduro:* The opposition in Venezuela has all of the guarantees 
that the Constitution provides for the free exercise of politics. What 
more, of the twenty-five elections which have occurred in Venezuela in 
20 years, we have won twenty-three, that is true, but we have lost two: 
the 2007 constitutional reform and the legislative elections of 2015. 
When we lost, we immediately recognized our defeat, minutes after the 
Electoral Council issued the results. Chavez in 2007 and myself in 2015 
recognized the outcomes and called on the people to respect them in peace.

I presented my message to the nation, in January 2016, before the 
National Assembly's opposition majority, headed by the leader of the 
opposition Henry Ramos Allup. And what was the response of the right, 
which had become vain by its electoral victory? To say that they would 
take power in six months, in violation of the Constitution and the 
electoral mandate given by the people.

The consequences of their actions are that now we have a fragmented 
opposition, divided, hating their leaders among them, and very 
diminished in its political strength. I want to say that we have always 
recognized all the election results, when we have won and when we have 
lost. The opposition has exercised regional and local power in the 
election of governors and mayors that has been favourable for them with 
the same electronic electoral system which Venezuela has had since 2004.

The problem is that they recognize only electoral results when they 
win... They did not recognize the outcome of the recall referendum of 
2004, which Chavez won by 20 points. Nor that of the presidential 
election of 2006, which Chavez took by 23 points, nor my 2014 victory, 
nor May 2018.

*IR: On various **occasions**you have described some opposition forces 
as looking for a “coup.” This past August 4 you were the victim of a 
spectacular assassination attempt with explosives-laden drones. What can 
you say with regard to this attack?*

*Nicolás Maduro:* Indeed, on August 4, 2018, we lived 
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/13976>what I never thought could 
happen: a terrorist attack with the use of advanced technology to kill 
me. And rather than kill myself as a human being, it was looking to end 
the Presidency of the Republic and put an end to the powers of the 
State. It was a truly terrible attack. Thanks to the technological 
security mechanisms that we have, we managed to partially neutralize the 
attack.

They used drones. A drone flew above the stage where I was, and was 
flown in front of me when I was making the keynote speech. Later it came 
closer but was neutralized by our technology. If it had exploded where 
the criminals wanted it to, it would had caused lots of blood, pain and 
death.

And there was a second drone that, fortunately, was disoriented by the 
same protective technology we possess. And it exploded... It was the 
most powerful drone because it carried a load of C-4, a plastic 
military-grade explosive. That drone exploded against an apartment 
building very close to the main stage. It made a huge hole in the 
outside wall of the building, and set fire to an apartment. The mission 
of this drone was to finish off, from above, the work of the first drone 
once this one had destroyed the main stage from the front.

We were able to - along with the Venezuelan people, the security and 
intelligence forces, and alongside the police - immediately apprehend 
the perpetrators. And then we started to capture the other perpetrators, 
those who organised it, and we were able to establish the identity of 
the masterminds of the attack.

The attack was ordered by [Colombian ex-] President Juan Manuel Santos, 
whose mandate ended curiously three days after the terrorist attack, on 
August 7, from Bogota... With the direct participation of former 
[Venezuelan First Justice] Deputy Julio Borges, leader of the Venezuelan 
opposition. The entire attack was prepared in Colombia. All direct drone 
operators were trained in Colombia. The drones and their explosives were 
prepared in Colombia under the direction of the government of then 
President Juan Manuel Santos.

The White House in Washington also had knowledge of it. I have no doubt. 
Behind that attack, there was a “yes,” an "okay" from the White House. 
We already know that John Bolton, current President Donald Trump’s 
National Security Adviser, is leading plans to kill me. I've reported 
it. Bolton had knowledge of the attack. And he gave his "ok" to run it. 
Washington and Bogota maintain a permanent policy of terrorism against us.

Why accuse me of being a "dictator"? When they label a progressive 
leader a "dictator" and build such a beastly global campaign against 
them... and all right and the extreme right forces in the world take up 
the accusation of "dictator" against Maduro, a union leader, a man of 
the people, forged in the struggles of the Caracas barrios, in the 
struggles of the student movement, in the struggles of the Constituent 
Assembly, in parliamentary debates, forged on the diplomatic front... 
When they accuse someone like me of being a "dictator" and term 
Venezuela a "dictatorship," it is to be able to justify anything against 
our country. There is a permanent conspiracy of the Colombian oligarchy 
and the U.S. empire against the Bolivarian Revolution.

I say that God saved me from this attack. He placed his protective cloak 
over me. The Virgin of la Chinita, very miraculous, patron saint of the 
Bolivarian National Guard, also saved me. Anyway, here we are, very 
committed, willing to go on. Obviously with special security measures so 
that the criminal purposes of those people are never carried out.

*IR: Repeatedly, both Chávez and you have spoken of the need for a 
democratic opposition that abandons the coup strategy and their 
subordination to any foreign power. Do you consider that in 2018, there 
has there been any progress on that regard?*

*Nicolás Maduro:* In Venezuela, the opposition, the opposition bloc, the 
MUD, unfortunately has been falling apart, disintegrating. And I am 
convinced that the main cause of this collapse is its dependence on the 
policies of Washington and Bogota. It is not a national opposition, it 
has no policy based on national interests, an ideology or a national 
doctrine. It is an opposition supported, maintained, and directed - as 
if they were remote-controlled drones - from Washington and Bogota. And 
that has made them disintegrate, because they don't think with own 
heads, they are unable to make decisions.

Just look at the sad spectacle they gave in the last process of national 
dialogue, when the registration of candidates for the presidential 
elections of May 20, 2018 was raised. They only attended to the call of 
the international forces of American imperialism and the right. That was 
regrettable. Because Venezuela needs a political opposition. I have 
called them to come and dialogue hundreds of times.

And I am firm on this: every sector of the opposition which wants to 
talk will find me with my arms open, with an open mind, ready to discuss 
the future of the country.

I deeply believe that, sooner rather than later, in Venezuela a diverse 
political dialogue with all the ideological forces of the opposition 
will be set up. I have faith in that. And I will work to achieve that 
goal, so that, in Venezuela, in 2019, there is a fruitful political 
dialogue that would rebuild a real opposition that our country needs to 
have peace, to have peace of mind, as well as to have a diverse 
democracy which is what we need.

*IR: Several opposition leaders have launched an international smear 
campaign against your government accusing it of holding "political 
prisoners." How do you assess these serious criticisms?*

*Nicolás Maduro: *Look, there are people who, being accused of 
committing a crime such as, for example, being involved in coups or 
attempted military coups, or even assassination attempts like that last 
August 4 that we just spoke about, must be held to justice. Whether they 
are political or not. One must not confuse a politician in prison with a 
political prisoner. This is so in Venezuela and in any country in the world.

Imagine for a moment that a political actor - a deputy, a mayor, a 
councillor, a former minister - attempts to assassinate the President of 
France, or launches a coup d'état against the President of Spain, what 
would be the legal response that they would receive from the courts of 
these nations? Well, in Venezuela, there is a rule of law which must be 
respected by all.

Also, as a result of dialogue with the opposition in 2017, a Truth 
Commission appointed by the National Constituent Assembly granted 
generous commutations of sentences and benefits for almost all of the 
accused who had acted against the Constitution and the law, since the 
coup of 2002 until the violent actions - the "guarimbas" - of 2014 and 
2017, with the exception of those who had committed serious offences, 
such as murder or drug trafficking.

*IR: There are currently two legislative assemblies in Venezuela. On the 
one hand, the National Assembly that emerged from elections in 2015 and 
is dominated by the opposition but that the Supreme Court has declared 
"in contempt." On the other hand, the National Constituent Assembly 
(ANC) that emerged from the elections of July 30, 2017, and is dominated 
by the ruling party but which several international powers do not 
recognise. How do you think that this situation can be resolved?*

*Nicolás Maduro:* Really, they are two figures of popular representation 
clearly laid down in the Constitution and with specific functions which 
are also contained in the constitutional text.

On the one hand, the legislative power, which flagrantly disregarded a 
ruling of the highest court of the Republic, forcing this Court to take 
an action of constitutional protection. This action by the Supreme Court 
will be overcome straight away once the National Assembly takes 
corrective measures and follows the decision of the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, in response to the power of initiative that the 
Constitution gives me in its article 348, I convened the election of the 
National Constituent Assembly (ANC) by popular vote, in a context in 
which the right had plunged sectors of the country in a serious, 
murderous violence with more than 130 dead, people burned alive due to 
their skin color, children who were induced to act with violence under 
the influence of drugs... In summary, a very unfortunate and painful 
situation. So as it turns out, the election of the ANC was wise and had 
a curing effect. It brought peace to the country.

In identical circumstances, I would do it again. I can assure you. And 
the ANC is now complying with the constitutional function set which is 
to transform the State, create a new legal system and write a new 
Constitution.
/_________________________________________________________/

*Ignacio Ramonet: Well, let's discuss, in the second part, some economic 
issues.*

*Once the scene of political violence was overcome, the economic battle 
and in particular the fight against inflation were seen as the main 
national tasks for 2019. What evaluation do you make of the Plan of 
Economic Recovery, Growth and Prosperity launched on August 20 last 
year? And what are the prospects for 2019?*

*Nicolás Maduro: *I believe that the main achievement of the Programme 
of Economic Recovery, Growth and Prosperity is that we now have a handle 
on what is a plan of growth and recovery. We have the reins for the 
protection of employment, the protection of the wages of the workers. We 
have the reins for the organized growth of key sectors of the economy.

And we are in a better position to engage in the bloody, tough battle 
against international sanctions that have made Venezuela lose at least 
some twenty billion dollars only during 2018... These are colossal, 
multi-billion dollar losses. They pursue our bank accounts. They prevent 
us from purchasing any product in the world: food, medicines, 
supplies... It is a wild persecution, a criminal harassment against 
Venezuela.

Not to mention the financial blockade, which is more than a blockade... 
Because a blockade is, sometimes, when they want to block you they put a 
barrier there, and now you cannot go there... But it is more than a 
blockade against us, it is a true persecution... They chase after our 
bank accounts, the business dealings which Venezuela has in the world, 
our purchases etc…

For example, Euroclear [one of the largest systems of clearing and 
settlement of financial stocks in the world whose headquarters are 
located in Brussels.] in 2018 kidnapped 1.4 billion Euros which we had 
put aside and committed to buy medicines, food and supplies. And no one 
gave us an explanation. We have denounced this at the United Nations, to 
the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I have reported it to the 
various international agencies... And nobody says anything.

So, we have a struggle to liberate ourselves, to make ourselves 
independent from all this persecution and blockade, and this is only 
achieved through the production of wealth.

I'm very determined to raise oil production, to raise Venezuela’s 
petrochemical capacity, gold, diamonds, coltan, iron, steel, aluminum 
production. These are abundant goods which Venezuela has and which, 
despite international persecution decreed by the United States of North 
America, are still raw materials which have an international market 
without limitations.

I would add that the attacks against us are constant, ruthless, and 
multi-pronged. And they are not just economic. For example, now, with 
the end of the year festivities, dozens of terrorist cells specialized 
in electrical sabotage have arrived to Venezuela from outside. They blow 
up transformers, cut high voltage cables, they dynamite power 
stations... They leave entire neighborhoods, sometimes entire towns, 
without electricity, without power for freezers, industries, hospitals, 
transport. They put lives in danger, they ruined the holidays for 
thousands of families.

Other groups have infiltrated [Venezuela] with plans to provoke 
disruptions in the distribution of water. They destroy pipelines, 
sabotage aqueducts, cause water cuts, they complicate the daily life of 
hundreds of families. Other terrorists sabotage our public transport... 
Others specialize in making cash disappear, carrying it en masse to 
Colombia.

These are criminal acts that we qualify as "terrorist." Our security 
forces are deployed throughout the country and are every more effective. 
They have already arrested dozens of these mercenary commandos. But they 
keep coming because our enemies’ resources are infinite...

And I must say, admiringly, that the Venezuelan people have faced all 
these attacks with a staggering political consciousness. With the 
determined support of our security forces, they are very determined to 
resist against such cowardly attacks.

This is why I say that the people of Venezuela are the victims of fierce 
persecution that I compared, I have dared to do so, with the persecution 
of Hitler against the Jews, with the permission of the World Jewish 
community. They persecute us mercilessly. They besiege us. They 
obsessively heckle us from the United States, with sadism, and they want 
to do us economic damage so as to suffocate us, strangle us, beat us.

They haven't managed to achieve this. Nor will they. And I think that 
with the Programme of Economic Recovery, Growth and Prosperity, in 2019 
there will be very positive surprises, the elevation of production and 
the creation of wealth for the country and for the population. 
Decidedly, our economy will take off thanks to the control of inflation 
and the elements that have been disrupting the life of Venezuelans in 
recent years.

*IR: *According to our information, the production of oil from Venezuela 
is around 1,200,000 barrels per day, i.e. below the optimum output. What 
is the real situation of the state-owned PDVSA petroleum firm?

*NM: *We have embarked on a process of defending international oil 
prices, and my government has strived to do just this. One of the 
manifestations of the multipronged aggression against the economies of 
Russia, Iran and Venezuela - to mention a few of the big exporters - is 
the way of handling dangerous forms of production, the so-called 
fracking of shale oil, and the financial speculation in future 
contracts, which look to artificially lower prices.

We try and defend a balanced oil price that favours both producers and 
consumers, and we will continue to act this way in the framework of the 
agreement of OPEC [Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries] member 
countries and non-OPEC members.

About your specific question, I confess: it is true, Venezuela is 
producing less oil than it should, and that has been one of my major 
concerns. Unfortunately real mafias have popped up in the bosom of 
PDVSA. Wicked corruption which, like a cancer, has undermined our 
strength and prevented us from increasing oil production. We have faced 
this with force, with determination.

We have put several corrupt managers and senior officials who betrayed 
our trust, their word of honour, and loyalty to become cheap thieves, at 
the disposal of the justice system, and they are being processed.

I am sure that 2019 will be the year of recovery in oil production, with 
the contributions of the honest PDVSA and private enterprises that, 
through the formation of joint ventures and contracts for services, are 
already producing and accelerating this effort.

*IR: What you respond you to the international media that campaign 
against your government talking about "chronic shortages" of basic food, 
“hardship” in finding vital drugs, and denouncing a "humanitarian crisis"?*

*NM: *The reality behind the brutal and infamous psychological and media 
campaign of the imperial centers against Venezuela and Venezuelans has 
been demonstrated by serious researchers. They want to break our morale 
and our unwavering commitment to be independent and free.

Of all the news published about Venezuela in US and European media, 98 
percent is negative news. 98 percent! Outrageous. They don't tell - as I 
have already stated - that six million Venezuelan households receive at 
home, almost for free, essential family food every three weeks. They 
silence the fact that we are ensuring food for the people, as they do 
for the recognition by multilateral agencies such as FAO [Food and 
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations]. They do not mention 
that, in these festive weeks, our government has distributed about 14 
million toys to boys and girls from poor families. They are silent on 
the fact that we have delivered - you were witness to a part of this 
yesterday - two and a half million social houses. What other country has 
done that?

They hide the fact that we are facing a tough economic war and a 
blockade promoted by the US empire and some countries in Europe. They 
omit indicators that almost the entire population of Venezuela has 
access to free and good quality medical care. There is not a single 
corner of Venezuela that is not covered to by our physicians of the 
Barrio Adentro mission. They don't say - as I have also pointed out - 
that the entire population has access to free and quality education from 
preschool to elementary school to university and even postgraduate level.

By the way, in 2018 in Venezuela total education enrolment increased... 
Don’t you find it strange, Ramonet, that we have managed to increase 
enrolment in this so-called "catastrophic" context which they are trying 
to convince the world exists here?

The response to such nonsense has already been suggested in 2015 by 
General John Kelly [current Chief of Staff of President Donald Trump; 
former Secretary of Homeland Security. In 2015, he was commander of the 
United States Southern Command of the United States] when he said that 
Washington "would intervene" in Venezuela should a "humanitarian crisis" 
present itself.

We do not deny the problems that exist in our country. On the contrary, 
we confront them, discuss them with our people and are determined to 
solve them. If the United States wanted to help, they could start by not 
being hypocritical. They could release the resources that Euroclear 
stole from us, 1.4 billion Euros. They could allow us access to the 
credit system of international finance that all the states of the world 
can access. And bear in mind that Venezuela is a good payer. In the 
first five years of my government, we paid more than US $ 70 billion [in 
debts].

Despite our status as good payers, Venezuela is denied access to 
international credit, pursued and has accounts closed in an illegal, 
abusive, illegitimate, and unfair way.

*IR: Throughout 2018, some international media outlets have spread 
images of Venezuelans "fleeing" their country due to the alleged 
"economic collapse" and the "humanitarian crisis." They speak of 
"millions of immigrants." And several neighbouring recipients of this 
emigration - spurred on by the United States, the European Union and 
Canada - are demanding international aid for the so-called "care 
expenses" for those migrants. What reflection does this phenomena deserve?*

*NM: *This phenomena, as you yourself observed, has been built, in part, 
based upon "fake news" of "alternate truths" and other misinformation 
manufactured with the active complicity of various media conglomerates.

On a minimum reality base - that no one denies, Ramonet - some working 
screenwriters have developed an anti-Chavista narrative for the 
millions. It is a gigantic 'false positive' operation coordinated by the 
world champions in 'false positives', i.e. the government of Colombia, 
who are accompanied as ‘yes-men’ by some satellite countries of imperialism.

It's a good sad story. It sounds regrettable. On the one hand these 
magicians tricked a group of Venezuelans, whose number - I take this 
opportunity to denounce - never reached, even remotely, the figures big 
media outlets have repeated a thousand times in a deceitful way. We, I 
insist, do not deny that a group of Venezuelans left the country 
swallowing that deceitful offer of "better conditions of life and work."

It was an unusual group of people, to put it that way, because those who 
left did so with money in their pockets, a thousand, even ten thousand 
dollars; another group left with twenty thousand dollars, or even larger 
amounts... And they went to Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile. And there 
they were met with the brutal reality of the wild capitalism, of 
xenophobia, racial hatred... Many had the money stolen from them, others 
were mistreated, harassed, or subjected to slave work.

In parallel, the propagandists constructed the false story of "mass 
migration" and the "humanitarian crisis." Stating frankly absurd things, 
blatant lies... They came to repeat, for example, that a million 
Venezuelans entered Ecuador each month... I did a little exercise of 
arithmetic, Ramonet: do you how many buses are needed daily to move that 
amount of people to Ecuador? Eight hundred daily trips! Can you imagine 
eight hundred buses going daily to Quito? Where are the photographs 
showing that these million people? The world has seen thousands of 
migrants walking toward the United States from Honduras. We all saw a 
huge march. Yet, however, this was only something like eight or nine 
thousand people... Can you imagine a column of 100,000 migrants? A 
column of eight hundred buses collapsing the streets of Quito daily?

It is incredible that people who can think for themselves have believed 
lies of such a caliber. But that is precisely the purpose of the "false 
positive" and of the "fake news": to sow lies so that they impose 
themselves over reasoning and truth.

In addition, the government of Colombia and its President Iván Duque, in 
a shameless move, are trying to get money out of the operation. It's 
amazing! Isn’t it? Money that, surely, will be lost, stolen... There are 
still those who are asking, in the United States Congress, what the 
government of Colombia did with the US $72 billion Washington gave them 
to "fight drugs"... What did they do with those billions? I can tell you 
for sure: they stole it.

Colombia remains the number one producer of cocaine in the world, and 
illicit crops have done nothing but increase. It is incredible that 
President Duque is looking to defraud the international community and 
the multilateral system with the nonsense that he himself invented. He 
could begin to deal with, for example, his own citizens, the Colombians, 
who already repudiate him amply only a little more than 100 days after 
taking office.

He could deal with, for example, the Colombians living in Venezuela. Did 
you know that here, in our country, we have received around six million 
sisters and brothers from Colombia? They constitute 12 percent of the 
population of Colombia, but they live in Venezuela! And here we have 
given them security, work, food, education, free medical care and above 
all, peace, we have guaranteed their right to a dignified life. It never 
occurred us to ask anyone for a penny to cater for the millions of 
Colombian, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Chilean, Brazilian, Spanish, 
Portuguese, Italian, Lebanese brothers and sisters who have come to this 
Venezuelan homeland. Here we receive them with open arms.

Finally, all this tall story about "mass migration" has already fallen 
apart. The mask has fallen off... And something even more unusual has 
happened. I do not remember this happening anywhere else: in mid-2018, 
large numbers of our compatriots began to queue at the doors of our 
embassies and consulates in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, etc. 
Compatriots clamoring to return to Venezuela. Fed up with racism, 
xenophobia, scams, the precariousness of the poor, the working life of a 
slave...

This was when we came up with the “Return to the Homeland" plan... More 
than twenty thousand Venezuelans have returned already. And we will 
continue facilitating the return of all those who wish to do so. Here we 
expect them to go on to building our beautiful homeland together.

*IR: Several Latin American governments, left and right, have recently 
been accused of being involved in major corruption patterns linked in 
particular to the "Odebrecht" case. In your opinion, what is the level 
of corruption in Venezuela? What measures has your government taken to 
fight this corruption?*

*NM: *Listen well to what I'm going to say, Ramonet: there is, in the 
history of Venezuela, no process nor government that has fought 
corruption in its structural character with greater rigour than the 
Bolivarian Revolution and the governments of Hugo Chávez and mine. I am 
aware that one of the lines of attack of our opponents consists in 
accusing us of laxity with regard to corruption. It is absolutely false.

I denounced corruption in virtually every one of my speeches. You have 
heard me, only yesterday... I am the first to recognise that there is 
much corruption, there are many bandits out there, in public offices, 
stealing, cheating and taking advantage of the people. I have denounced 
it with greater severity again recently, last December 20, in the 
Bolivarian Peoples Congress where I proposed the creation of a plan for 
the fight against corruption and bureaucracy. This has never been 
addressed in Venezuela.

But these are not just words or speeches, Ramonet. With the tools of 
justice and of the state, we have undertaken a genuine crusade against 
corruption and indolence.

And we have gotten the Attorney General to process and imprison dozens 
and dozens of senior public officials and high-level representatives of 
private companies that dishonored their oath of loyalty, honesty and 
that violated the laws of the Republic. To point out only the oil 
sector, for example, more than 40 senior managers of PDVSA and Citgo 
[Citgo Petroleum Corporation] are in prison for acts of corruption 
against the Republic, and even a former president of PDVSA is on the run 
from our justice for serious acts of corruption.

So I doubt that there is any government in the world that confronts 
corruption more aggressively and diligently as we are doing. In fact, 
for 2019, I've defined three basic lines of action of the revolution and 
of my government in its new beginning. First of all, the preservation of 
the peace of the Republic, with strict adherence to the constitution, 
and safeguarding of the peace from internal or external threats. 
Secondly, the consolidation of the economic recovery programme to 
finally defeat, in the first half of 2019, the criminally induced 
inflation and strengthen the productive system of our country.

And thirdly, precisely: a tireless struggle against indolence, 
negligence, laziness, and above all corruption. I have asked for all the 
support of the people in this crusade. And I am counting on their 
strength and collaboration to accompany me. This is a highly popular 
cause, deeply supported by the population. People know that corruption 
is their enemy, an enemy in the shadows and an enemy of the revolution. 
We will eradicate it. We'll make it happen. You will see. We will defeat 
the indolence of the officials who don't fulfill their duties. And we 
will deepen the battle against corruption. Be it where it may. He or she 
who has to fall, must fall.

/Translation by Ricardo Vaz and Paul Dobson for Venezuelanalysis.com./

______________________________________________

*Ignacio Ramonet: For this final section, let us look at international 
issues. In these past six years, several Latin American countries have 
witnessed a resurgence of the neoliberal right-wing. In your opinion, is 
this conservative surge – confirmed by the recent victory of Jair 
Bolsonaro – a lasting trend or merely a temporary crisis?*

*Nicolás Maduro:* Well, Latin America is a terrain of struggle, and, 
with the Monroe Doctrine, is embraced by the current US administration. 
As background, there has been a brutal offensive against popular 
movements, against these alternative leaderships which, ever since the 
1990s, tackled and dismantled neoliberalism in Latin America. Let us 
recall, for example, President Lula da Silva in Brazil, former President 
Cristina Fernández in Argentina among others. There has been a 
persecution of these leaders which has created the coming-to-power of 
governments and leaders very far to the right.

There has been, certainly, a regressive cycle in what concerns social 
achievements, reversing the advances made under the progressive 
leaderships which were very diverse. We feel not only the impact of 
these policies on the peoples, but also in processes of privatization. 
In Brazil, for example, after the destitution of Dilma Rousseff, there 
have been privatizations of oil, public services, electricity, water, 
etc. They have privatized everything overnight. Now with the arrival of 
the far-right neofascist government of Jair Bolsonaro 
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/14121>, they will be handing over 
Brazil, and what it represents in Latin America, to US multinational 
corporations on a silver platter. It really is a sad process of regression.

*IR: Along the same lines, with the electoral victory of Andrés Manuel 
López Obrador in Mexico, do you envision a possibility for the popular 
forces to return to power in Latin America.*

*NM:* Along the lines of what I was saying before, I should add that 
this entire process of regression boosts and stimulates – inadvertently 
– the forces that fight against it. It is like the physical principle of 
action and reaction.

Therefore, we witness that, alongside this major regression, in many 
countries currently governed by neoliberal forces, the capacity for 
action of social and popular movements in the cities and in the 
countryside is getting stronger. Examples include the Homeless Workers’ 
Movement, the Landless Workers’ Movement [both from Brazil], as well as 
student, feminist, Afro-descendant, sexually diverse movements.

There is a powerful resurgence which reminds me of the emergence of 
formidable popular movements that fought against the ALCA [Americas Free 
Trade Deal] in the 1990s. At the time, these resistance movements did 
not have a prospect of achieving political power. Then, in Venezuela, 
along came the Bolivarian Revolution. This victory by Chávez [in 1998] 
convinced the resistance movements against ALCA that winning political 
power was possible. It had been so in Venezuela, and then in 1999 with 
the constitutional referendum.

These two victories blew new wind into the sails of social struggle in 
Latin America. They paved the way for the upcoming electoral triumphs of 
popular governments of Lula in Brazil, Néstor Kirchner in Argentina, 
Fernando Lugo in Paraguay, the Frente Amplio in Uruguay, Rafael Correa 
in Ecuador, Evo Morales in Bolivia, the FSLN and commander Daniel Ortega 
in Nicaragua, Michelle Bachelet and the Concertación in Chile, Manuel 
Zelaya in Honduras, Salvador Sánchez Cerén and the FMLN in El Salvador…

This sparkle of popular forces allowed Latin America and the Caribbean 
to play, in the early XXI century, a central role in global geopolitics 
and in the global left. Today, paradoxically, the situation is similar. 
There have been setbacks due to, most of the time, merciless attacks and 
coups from the opponents of progress and social justice, but popular 
forces throughout the continent are once more ready for battle, and new 
electoral, democratic successes will not be far off.

*IR: Recently you made two visits to important partners, one to Beijing 
in September and another to Moscow in December. What were your 
conclusions from these two trips to China and Russia, two of the main 
world superpowers and strong allies of the Bolivarian Revolution?*

*NM:* From the beginning of our Revolution, Commander Chávez was very 
dedicated to consolidating relations based on respect and friendship 
with all the peoples of the world, and in accordance to what he called 
“strategic alliances” for a planet different from the one imposed by 
imperial powers. Then, with his prodigious political creativity, and in 
close cahoots with [Cuban President] Fidel Castro, Chávez moved towards 
the creation of ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our 
America], UNASUR [Union of South American Nations], Petrocaribe, 
TeleSUR, CELAC [Community of Latin American and Caribbean States]… All 
of this was part of a wide ranging effort towards Latin American 
integration.

The relationship between Caracas and both China and Russia, two economic 
and military giants, was also directly nourished by Chávez and his 
counterparts to get to where we are today.

I should tell you that with Beijing and Moscow we have more than a 
relationship of partners, we have a relationship of true brotherhood 
between our governments and peoples. The same occurs with some Arab 
countries, Iran, African countries and others in the Far East.

I served as Chávez’s foreign minister for over six years and I can 
testify to his efforts towards the construction of a “multipolar and 
multicentred world.” These days, with the brutal aggression from the US 
empire and its allies against us, we take note of the results of the 
relationships that Chávez set up and nurtured.

Let me remind you that Venezuela currently presides the Non-Aligned 
Movement, which is the most important organization of states after the 
United Nations. On the other hand, by the time this interview is 
published, on January 1, we will assume the presidency of OPEC in 
Vienna. During these recent trips 
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/14175>of mine to Russia and China 
that you mentioned, we had high level discussions about our economic, 
political, military and cultural relations with two of the main world 
superpowers.

With Turkey we also share ties of true friendship, between the 
government of President Erdogan and mine, and there is even – I confess 
– a true personal friendship between myself and the Turkish leader. 
Never before had Venezuela managed to have such important economic and 
commercial ties, so diverse and favourable, with a historical power like 
Turkey.

Nowadays Venezuela is not alone. On the contrary, it is our aggressors 
that are ever more isolated, while our relations with the whole world 
get stronger and more diverse.

*IR: January 1 2019 will be the 60th anniversary of the triumph of the 
Cuban Revolution. In your opinion, what is the importance that this 
Revolution had and still has in Latin America?*

*NM:* The Cuban Revolution <https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/14199> was 
a watershed moment in the second half of the XX century. It represented 
and still represents a fundamental reference point for all the peoples 
struggling for freedom, for dignity, for sovereignty, for justice and 
for socialism. Many generations of revolutionaries – including mine, the 
youth of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s – saw the feats of Fidel, Raúl, 
Camilo and Che as a beacon that guided our hopes during the long 
neocolonial night that engulfed our continent for over a century.

This small country faced up to the most brutal empire that humanity has 
ever seen, resisted and still resists against the aggressions of its 
northern neighbour and its lackeys. A country that made dreams of 
redemption, equality, solidarity, of an historic construction of 
socialism, came to exist. It drove many young people to the streets to 
struggle with renewed hope.

It is a Revolution that has defended and supported Latin American unity, 
this dream of Simón Bolívar and José Martí. A dreamed unity – without 
forgetting Puerto Rico and the Malvinas – that the pliant oligarchies of 
our continent so fear. Cuba has been an example of international 
solidarity. How many lives have Cuban doctors saved around the world?

I celebrate this 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. And I am 
thankful for so many long nights talking to Fidel, hearing his words 
full of wisdom, of searching for ideas and putting them into practice. 
Always striving to do good. I also thank Hugo Chávez as he, alongside 
Fidel and Raúl, built a new dignified beginning for Latin America.

*IR: December 6 2018 was the 20th anniversary of Chávez’s first 
electoral victory. To conclude, I would like to ask you the following: 
if you had the chance to talk to Chávez about your own experience of 
almost six years governing, what would you tell him?*

*NM:* There are so many occasions, in the midst of battles, when 
reflecting on things in the middle of the night after a hard day’s work, 
that I ask myself: “What would Chávez have done?” “How would he have 
approached this or that issue?” We had so many intimate conversations, 
so many memories…

Fortunately, and of this I am sure, Chávez established a constant 
pedagogical work with us, his closest circle, a training on the immense 
difficulties involved in the construction of a revolutionary project: 
its challenges, obstacles, unexpected turns… the attacks, threats, 
betrayals… This taught us, trained us, forged us.

Chávez predicted many of the events we are currently living through. He 
put us on guard. Some of the last concerns he shared with us concerned 
what he envisioned as the “economic war” – the phrase is his – that the 
enemy would launch against us, a new kind of aggression, a multi-pronged 
one at that, against our people. He was also very concerned that oil 
production was declining.

Therefore, the profound sorrow that his departure provoked is in a way 
compensated by the immense advice he left us. And we never forget it. So 
many examples of strength and loyalty to the Bolivarian ideals. This 
“beautiful revolution” he dreamed of, with democracy and freedom, free 
from illiteracy, with multiplied art and culture, healthcare for 
everyone, full employment, peace, joy, progress, prosperity and love. 
When I think of how cruelly he was attacked for having this beautiful 
dream… Just like I am attacked today, with even more fury, if that is 
even possible, for having the same dream, wanting to do good and spread joy…

That is why I invoke Chávez every day. I need him, I claim him, I resort 
to him, and like in that verse by Spanish poet Miguel Hernández, I tell 
him: “We have to talk about many things, compañero.”

/Translation by Ricardo Vaz and Paul Dobson for Venezuelanalysis.com/

//

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