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  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 August 2017
An interview with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for the Jose Vicente Hoy program Aug. 18, 2017.

Jose Vicente Rangel: Friends, I’m in the Salon Simon Bolivar in Miraflores with the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro. Welcome. President of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Republic, Nicolas.

President Nicolas Maduro: Welcome to you in this house, Jose Vicente, very pleased that we have this chance to talk with Venezuela’s people.

JVR: Right, can we be informal?

NM: Sure!

JVR: Remember this photo?

NM: (laughs) Of course, this photo was in 1982. I can more or less remember it. It was the beginning of the long walks for the electoral campaign in Caracas of the presidential candidate, José Vicente Rangel, a great effort José Vicente. I remember you perfectly. Here is David Nieves and this kid, me, right here. That was me then and that’s still me now. 1982. That’s 35 years ago right?

JVR: A time of searching and of hopes.

NM: Yes. I remember that song Ali Primera composed for you for the campaign, that’s famous again now. He did an arrangement of the song “I’m not staying home, off to join the fight I go” and he put in a verse with your name in it.

I remember that was in the north of the city here in Lídice. We began in Baralt Avenue and finished at the Sucre Avenue over there, a four hour walk.

I always tell Cilia, my partner, that the physical condition of the presidential candidate José Vicente Rangel was exceptional, since we went right into the barrios. I remember you took a green branch from a tree and placed it there.

JVR: That symbolic gesture I learned in the Carúpano market.

NM: You remember that?

JVR: Yes

NM: You went door to door. I remember it clearly because people showed much appreciation and affection.

JVR: But they didn’t vote.

NM: But they didn’t vote, or maybe they voted but systemic fraud just cut them out.

JVR: In any case, it planted their votes for a later time.

NM: Yes, right. But it was a great effort, we might say that all that effort creating consciousness back then bore fruit ten years on. 1982, José Vicente. What a good memory to recall! Thank you.

JVR: A year of discovery.

NM: One of building and planting. The years of planting.

JVR: And those lost along the way?

NM: Many people. Many people dropped out from weariness, others because they joined the enemies of the people and others because they gave up their lives.

JVR: And on that second point you mention, it’s very important to invoke loyalty in political terms.

NM: Of course, loyalty to principles..

JVR: Exactly right.

NM: Loyalty to principles. With loyalty to principles, to values, one can take any road, negotiate any difficulty, overcome the greatest pain. With loyalty to principles you can always come out ahead, emerge with strength, or if not then one has the examples of Fabricio Ojeda, of Jorge Rodríguez, and of so many others. Right? Ruiz Pineda. So many people who clashed in their time against repression, but in death, with their example, their name, they encouraged various generations of revolutionaries until the roads reached where they had get to. In Venezuela’s case they reached the Bolivarian Revolution's rebirth with Comandante Chávez.

JVR: Loyalty is a value that today has acquired even greater value.

NM: I think what we lived last July 30th in those heroic elections, with that heroic Venezuela we saw in those elections to the Constituent Assembly, that showed we should continue along the road with two values, loyalty and love.

Loyalty to a project, to a history, loyalty to a history, to a people, to a leadership, that of Comandante Chávez.

And love, love of those greatest values, of the family, of community, values of patriotism. Love of the right our country has to its future. Love, the power of love can achieve anything against hatred, against the perversity we have been forced to confront. The power of supreme absolute loyalty and the power of love have been the two things, like a binomial, that carried us to victory last July 30th.

JVR: Since the time of that photo, during all that time, did you ever think you’d get to where you are now?

NM: No. Never, ever.

JVR: You don’t need to be modest.

NM: No. No. No, never, ever. My aspirations have never been individualist, they haven’t been nor are they now. The dreams that forged us were the dreams of that collective march, of a country, of a motherland. And apart from that, being able to live alongside and get to know deeply the values represented in our Comandante Chávez, in the Bolivarian project he opened up for our country. With that I am even more totally convinced that our project as a country has to be a collective project, a national project, a project for the great majorities, a project capable of a leadership that expresses popular bases, communities, the different states, that expresses our country’s distinct sectors. I visualize the Constituent Assembly something like that, as a national leadership, a collective leadership representing the whole country, albeit with a central leader, which for the moment means me, for who knows how long, but a central leader in a revolution must include too a collective leadership, a shared leadership.

JVR: How was your relationship with Chávez?

NM: Well, it was a relationship of learning, of permanent learning.

JVR: Working with Chávez implied a big effort, he was very demanding, What was the daily, enduring relationship?

NM: It was always a very close relationship and it had different stages from the time I met him in the Yare prison, December 16th 1993. 1993. I remember it perfectly. The first time we spoke in person and he presented the project, his tactical, strategic, historic, programatic vision, very impressive. From that day there were different stages, when he was free on March 26th 1994, we were supporting him through a complex, difficult time, requiring great effort and sacrifice. People should know that the Bolivarian Movement, the Bolivarian forces emerged from a great street effort, practical, permanent, one of great sacrifice, of great unitary force, amplifying the message as well as being inclusive of different popular revolutionary currents. Then, when he was President of the Republic we were always in permanent communication through all the different situations arising. I remember the time of the coup d’etat, April 11th, 12th and 13th. You played a very important role in that, stellar, and we were very close to him. But for me the most intense stage of my relationship with our Comandante teacher, our Comandante maestro was when I was Foreign Minister of the Republic.

There, we were in constant communication, never less than three times a day. We traveled the world over, building strategic relationships in this new world order that has emerged. We were permanently engaged in it and he gave me major political tasks. He named me Vice President of Government Policy from 2008 onwards and we were constantly in touch. He was someone who, as you know, attended to the details of every occurrence, every event. He liked to be well informed and always on the offensive politically. He detested that any error should put him on the defensive in any area. He always liked to be in permanent combat opening the way forward. It was a relationship of permanent learning because Chávez was someone who deeply studied every issue. He never improvised. He was someone who always looked for the balance among the best replies for all the options that one presented to him. And in that sense I think I learned to have strategic vision from him and tactical ability and above all I learned to listen, to listen carefully to friends, to enemies and to outsiders. I learned to listen and that is one of the main things one should practice, to listen carefully so as to take the best decisions.

JVR: Regionally, anti-Chavismo has turned into the ideology of the extreme right wing.

NM: Yes.

JVR: To what do you attribute that?

NM: Because Chavismo is the new Bolivarian impulse of the 21st Century. Without any doubt, since Chavismo emerged, it changed regional geopolitics. It changed the political world of Latin America and the Caribbean and made an impact in important parts of the world. That means that the revolutionary forces that came out of Comandante Chavez’s leadership managed to articulate the progressive forces, the most advanced revolutionary Left of a whole continent and managed to become a reference for possible change at a world level, of the necessary changes for our countries and all humanity. In that sense, the Latin American right wing, very closely supervised, very controlled by and very subordinate to North American imperialism, a long time ago took as its main banner defeating the Bolivarian Revolution. And the anti-Chavista campaigns, the anti-Bolivarian, counter-Bolivarian campaigns became a central policy in the discourse of all the right wing that have come to power with meagre electoral support, as in the case of Argentina, where with a little over thirty per cent of the electorate a President took office to destroy that country. Or via a coup d’etat in the case of Brazil, a very dangerous coup d’etat in which the OAS and all the so called international community kept quiet in a very complicit way. And all the right wing that has come to power in key countries like Argentina, Brazil, the Paraguayan right wing or the right wing in Peru, feeds off anti-Chavista, anti-Bolivarian doctrine based on their fear, their terror at the power of the ideas and example of the Bolivarian Revolution. It is lamentable. But they have put us at the center of a debate and we have to live up to that and not just give an example so as to make ur own people happy but to give an example so the ideas of social transformation, the revolutionary ideas of the 21st Century, shine out and get embodied in the autonomous movements of our region’s countries.

JVR: I want to talk abut the reality of power, power as reality. Power is not an abstraction, but a concrete reality. How did you manage it at the beginning and how do you cope with it now? Via planning? Via improvisation? how do you go about your day to day work?

NM: That’s an interesting question. because power works to benefit someone or some interests, political power if we are talking, in this case, about the central power in a country, the power of a head of State, of a head of government, of a President, of a Commander of the Armed Forces. If we are talking about that kind of power , that power works to the benefit or otherwise of social groups, of a whole country. For whom was this power used to work for in Venezuela? Who exercised political power in Venezuela? That would be very important to review over a whole century, since Juan Vicente Gómez who imposed an atrocious dictatorship in Venezuela, right up until the Fixed Point Agreement of the successive governments of Democratic Action and COPEI. How was power used from an ethical and political point of view? There’s no question power was used for the benefit of transnational groups, to plunder the country’s natural resources. Power was exercised to benefit economic and political groups that clustered around ministerial and regional projects. You remember the denunciation that was made by Américo Martín in the 1970s, one of the most powerful condemnations made by the left wing political leadership of the 12 apostles of how a country was divided up along with all its wealth. Now, you ask how I accommodate my life to having power...I live power as an exercise of service to the nation, as an exercise of service to a people, I am independent as President. That is very important being independent.

JVR: Because the exercise of power can be either austere or self-interested.

NM: Correct. Now, an independent President. People will wonder, “What, an independent President?” Yes, independent because I don’t have economic groups. I don’t serve economic groups. I don’t have political groups nor do I serve political groups. I don’t serve embassies or outside power factions. In Venezuela, the United States Embassy with a call to the secretariat of the Miraflores Palace or to some Minister used to impose decisions of all kinds in this country. I am an absolutely independent president and firstly, my reply would be, I exercise power out of humility, and total independent honesty, because I exercise it completely based on a collective vision of political leadership but also fully and totally in the service of our national interests.

JVR: These economic groups you mention, have they not tried to surround you and fence you in?

NM: Always, what has happened is (laughs), Hugo Chávez was here and he left this presidential palace clean of mafias and I have kept it clean of mafias.

JVR: But they approached Chavez.

NM: Of course, above all at the beginning, those years 1998, 1999, 2000, were years of clearing the ground, clearing scrub, and planting. Then came the years of harvest and sowing. Fortunately, the exercise of political power today via the Bolivarian Revolution and the mandate I represent and exercise, is free of ties, of dependence, of anomalies linked to economic groups, in any way at all. When you’re face to face with the opposition political forces, the leadership of the opposition and you see how the economic groups operate and how they stab each other and maneuver and lay traps, you think, “God save Venezuela from these people ever returning to power”, because it would be the return of the old mafias, the old political practices. We have to conserve with great force the exercise of power in the national interest, on behalf of the great majority, on the basis of a patriotic project over and above a personal project or the project of a group of some kind always dependent on economic interests.

JVR: You have certainly been successful in office, for example you’ve achieved important victories over the internal conspiracy, the international plot, over the media manipulation, you have been successful and have categorical achievements, probably you’ve also had setbacks.

But there’s something important that has always caught my attention and that is the way people underestimate you. The political world of political chicanery underestimated you from the start for you humble working class origins etc. and that ever present attitude has worked against them, precesily against your adversaries. Now, this man, this person Nicolas Maduro, how has he reacted against this underestimation?

NM: I think, above all lately, I think a lot about trying to put myself in the place of the people who underestimate me or of those who underestimate us, because it is to treat with contempt all our disadvantaged people, because they think, that mentality thinks that ordinary people are incapable, ignorant, and lack willpower. They transfer their contempt for Comandante Chavez to extremes, the contempt has reached extremes.

I try to put myself in their clothes, their shoes, their minds. First, of the Venezuelan opposition, not so much of the imperialists, above all those who govern now in the North, who not only underestimate me but who treat the whole world with contempt, thanks to their racism which has come to the fore very strongly now given the events at Charlottesville, right?, but that’s another issue.

I try and put myself in the position of the opposition political leaders, for example Julio Borges. Julio Borges is a political leader, unquestionably, regardless of what we might think or what I might think. Henry Ramos Allup. Those two are the two leaders, the two likely candidates for the presidential elections next year. So I try t put myself in their minds and in the minds of those around them, a band of leaders of the political parties. They know very well what has happened in Venezuela in these years, they know that for four years and all through March, April, May and June, for four months, they have tried everything to overthrow me and they know they have used weapons they never used against Comandante Chavez, with maximum intensity and they haven’t been able to do it.

I know they know from the remarks they themselves make, but which they don’t own up to politically. I think the worst policy the opposition can have is to continue with their contempt for me and for the people. If they could overcome that contempt they could take a step towards something I want, that I firmly believe in, namely that based on respect and mutual recognition, with the differences we have, they could enter into a process of national dialog in favor of the country’s overriding interests.

Really, I look forward to the moment when they stop underestimating me and underestimating our people. I look forward to when, based on respect and mutual recognition we can start a permanent national dialog as the way to prioritize national interests and to control the conflict that results from differences in the middle of a revolution that has not given way and will not give way and is going to continue being a revolution.

JVR: A friend of mine, a political analyst says you are a very astute person who has converted contempt for you into a weapon that helps you confront your adversary. (Smiling) Is that deliberate, calculated?

NM: (Laughs) No it’s not like that. We always act genuinely and we always trust our intuition and intelligence for what we believe is best for the country. That’s the path of action we follow.

I think that when one is dealing with a historic revolution like what we are doing and will continue doing in Venezuela, one has to behave with honesty, with maximum humility and in accordance with the greater national interest.

If someone looks at those traits that seem simple, that is where the contempt starts. We act based on simplicity, on the idea that life should be simple so as to try and create ways accessible to all Venezuelans into complex things like politics, or the State, or a Revolution. That is why we act out of authenticity. And by working like that perhaps we have practiced politics in a way that has misled the enemies of the revolutionary process because they have confused the simplicity and humility of our way of doing things with lack of sophistication or, who knows, what they call being brutish. You know they call me “Madonkey”. The people don’t like it, nor does Cilia, when I mention these things, but the opposition repeat “Madonkey” all the time. Fine, let them carry on thinking that, right?, let them keep on thinking that and thinking they are superior to us.

For our part we’ll carry on acting out of humility and simplicity but with much determination when we do decide to take action.

JVR: Right, now you say one of the virtues of this process and of course of this government is the fight against corruption. However, your adversaries say this is the most corrupt government in this country’s political history, although they offer no proof. What’s your response?

NM: Look, people know we are honest. There’s no doubt corruption is a plague that has attacked Venezuela, a very rich country. It’s a plague linked to bureaucratization, the very bureaucracy we are fighting.

Unfortunately, I have to tell you and I told her the last time I had a formal meeting with the ex-Attorney General of the Republic, that I never had the support of the Attorney General’s office in the fight aganst corruption. To the contrary, imagine the surprise that one of the cases which I mentioned to her in our conversation, and thank goodness I have witnesses to that discussion, was a case involving the Orinoco Oil Belt, where our National Anti-Corruption police intelligence investigated, established proof, identified the suspects and when we informed the Attorney General, what did they do? Now we know, they alerted the suspects who left the country and took millions of dollars from them with which they opened foreign bank accounts. The evidence lies in the original documents of banks in the Caribbean island tax havens showing that the self-same husband of the Attorney General was the one in charge of that extortion network.

It’s only now that I have proof to be able to discover the full extent, to be frank, to reveal the complete extent of what was in fact a network to protect corruption, an extortion network that has cost us a great deal in key battles. Just imagine, just so you know, I ordered that investigation of the structure of corrupt schemes around some of the projects in the Orinoco Oil Belt. I directed it personally and it was tremendously frustrating when the order was given to arrest those people and they fled the country.

And now we know why they fled the country. The Attorney General’s office, the very people responsible for the investigation and the arrests, was also part of the extortion and protected those corrupt sectors. There’s still a lot to do, perhaps it's one of the most urgent job pending, not just from the punitive point of view, the judicial point of view. I hope the National Constituent Assembly, with all its powers, will really push that issue and give me special support in the fight against corruption because it is a task we have pending. Not only in its punitive aspect, but also from an educative, moral, cultural perspective. We have to continue insisting on building a society of men and women with values of respect, of honesty, of a transparent practice in the conduct of public life and public affairs. It’s a major battle that will take a long time. Venezuela and you yourself know, you have in me a President committed to do all it takes in the fight against corruption and those who promote it.

JVR: The regular periodic opinion polls, I mean the serious ones, put two issues as the most important, one is the economy and the other is the lack of security. I don’t want to go deeply into the economy because this interview is focused essentially on politics, which isn’t to say the economy isn’t political

NM: Sure.

JVR: But there are other spaces and other moments to go deeply into that issues, right? But I do want to say the following. It’s worrying that a revolutionary process like the one we are living through has achieved extraordinary successes that transcend the national scene, achievements universally recognized, especially with reference to the exemplary housing program, along with issues like health care, education and university education, culture in general. No one in the world among serious and responsible people doubt these are achievements of this revolution or doubt that they could not have been achieved in another context. However, on the issue of the economy we do have problems. We have not been so successful. Indeed we have faced an economic war and it’s true we have suffered the effects of the fall in oil prices. But still, even given that, what has happened in relation to the economy is not on the same level as the social, cultural, health care and educational achievements of the Revolution.

NM: Correct.

In terms of changes and achievements, economic issues are always the slowest. It’s fallen to me to live this time of difficulties, maybe the hardest time we’ve yet had, certainly during the Revolution, but even over the last hundred years. Because over a hundred years there was a process of expansion of oil income that had brief dips but was sustainable and sustained and the multi-million oil income allowed a process of expansion of public spending and of expansion in general of social and economic processes in the country and that lasted a hundred years.

It’s fallen to me to live past that and for all of us to live, thanks be to God with the protection of the socialist chavista social model, we’re living through the total breakdown of the model of oil dependency. That’s not a small thing to note, José Vicente, first of all, no matter how many times we explain it and state it, the oil model that sustained Venezuela is over.

Some people promised, maybe promised no, but forecast that for the year 2030, 2040, some experts even said 2050, would be when the oil model would start to decline. But it fell with a bump right now, all at once and we went from oil being one day US$120 a barrel to being another day US$20 a barrel. But here no one lost school or work or income or food. With all the problems we have had we didn’t stop building houses or basic public works. We made silk purses out of sows’ ears and I think we performed a social miracle saving the country. That has to be recognized. We performed a social miracle saving the country in the middle of a breakdown.

And in the middle of this income breakdown, José Vicente, secondly, we have very important international commitments.

We have paid more than U$65 billion over two years, without excuses or delays, right on time. That means that in the middle of the collapse in oil prices, the breakdown of the oil model, we have performed a social miracle and we have performed a financial miracle too. These are things Venezuela should know about and value.

Thirdly, in the middle of an economic war whose perversity has been based on striking the weak points of the Venezuelan process. Until a little while ago, Venezuela imported 70% of everything consumed in the country. They struck importing processes and began to hoard and smuggle products over three or four years. And now we are facing a demoniacal system, a deeply oppressive system of rigging from outside the country a criminal dollar, a militarized dollar, a weaponized dollar, turned into the principal means of attacking the prices people pay. That battle, to borrow a saying from a good friend, so I ask your permission Walter Martinez, that battle is currently playing out.

What I could tell you, to sum up this theme of having confronted these three demons: the breakdown of the system of oil dependency, the international financial war and the internal economic trade and induced inflation war, having faced those three demons we have a people protected by a social system that is going to be the mainstay of economic recovery. Venezuela is going to recover and, in a short economic time scale, overcome the situation we are confronting, given that it has been the worst economic situation faced by a Venezuelan President in a hundred years.

JVR: Exactly. But let’s see, at the moment there’s a huge expectation in the country, in part driven by the government’s political successes, the victory on July 30th, the operation of the Constituent Assembly, effective and fast, so people are expecting economic measures. I’m hoping that maybe on this program you can give us some advance information, right?. But there’s no doubt people want for there to be the beginnings of a way out on the economic issues, but rationally, right? Because we’re not going to move from a being in a precarious situation to one of abundance just like that, to a much better situation, but they do want to see important changes based on decisions by the government, especially now with the support of the Constituent Assembly.

NM: That’s right. What we have to be very clear about is that our strategy and policies are the right ones. The 15 motors of the Bolivarian Economic Agenda are the right strategy towards economic independence and the development of Venezuela’s potential to free itself from oil. That is the most important thing we are doing, developing those 15 motors, all of them, the industrial motor, the agricultural food motor, the petrochemical motor, the motor of tourism, the motor of the associative socialist economy, the motor of heavy industry and so on. Al those 15 motors are our strategy.

And on that, you see, we have to persevere in an almost obsessive way to keep up the rhythm of development of that whole complex of relationships that those 15 motors imply.

Then in the second place an important thing is to ensure the generation and stability of employment, to defend the income of workers and, perhaps the most important and most difficult, because it does not depend on the real economy or on national factors, namely control the criminal induced inflation that has taken off via the criminal dollar rigged from Miami. I say this is the most difficult because this is not something in the real economy, economists know, experts know, ordinary people know that it’s unscrupulous traders adopting this criminal dollar who don’t do so in relation to the real costs of the products they sell. People know this perfectly well.

For example, José Vicente, we support six million households with the CLAPs, on occasion we do so very well, on occasion not so well, we are in a stage of consolidation, you need to understand what it means to look after six million households. And I can tell you we sell the CLAP package at 15,000 Bolívars.

Now why can we do that without making a loss? Providing a family with 20 products, 24 products of items covering the most important consumer needs. Why can we do it? By supporting national production and importing some of those goods so as to make them available to households at a price of, as I said, 12,000 to15,000 Bolívars depending on the size and quantity of the products.

So why then for just one of the products we deliver to Venezuelan families do these unscrupulous traders sell it for the price of the whole CLAP package? For how much do they price a tray of 24 eggs? It costs more than an entire CLAP package.

So how much does it cost to produce? 20% of the price at which they sell on the street. This is a battle. I call on the people, a forest consists of more than a single tree, it’s not just President Maduro who controls inflation.

In that sense, I can tell you we need, although I can’t give you the confidential details, I can tell you there’s a special commission of the Constituent Assembly working directly with me and the economic team and with business sectors so that next week, the week beginning tomorrow, a set of measures will be announced to enforce respect for the maximum price of these products along with a set of what may be regarded as severe justice measures that will shake our society up.

You well know that when I undertake such measures I don’t hesitate because I don’t depend on anyone, right? I can’t say more than that for now. We have to defeat the criminal dollar. I’m asking all of Venezuela to help.

JVR: Will this address the dollar too?

NM: Of course. We have to defeat the criminal dollar. just look at the days prior to the Constituent Assemby. What I call the criminal dollar took off like crazy. What reason, what economic, financial or monetary logic did that have? None. It had a political logic to destroy the country. It was the guarimba dollar. After the triumph with the Constituent Assembly, it’s as if they went mad, as if they became taken over by…?

JVR: A duende.

NM: A duende. A kind of fierce spirit of reaction to defeat. And the first week after the Constituent Assembly elections, the criminal dollar doubled in price.

So I appeal for help, for support and those who don’t comply will face the weight of the law, across all economic sectors. I can demonstrate, product by product, to every trader in the country how, by relying on a criminal dollar, they are damaging their own society, damaging their own economy. And that is going to end. As you will see, José Vicente,. perhaps this is the hardest battle, the battle over productivity, over production, for the fair distribution of goods, the battle for how they are marketed so the scarcities end, the battle for fair prices. For the country, it’s the hardest battle, the most complex one. I’m at the forefront of that battle and I am certain that sooner rather than later we are going to stabilize and recover the economy in those aspects.

JVR: Nicolas, the idea of calling the Constituent Assembly was it an intuitive stroke of audacity on your part? Or was it a throw of the dice? Was it planned?

NM: First of all it was something we needed.. We had no other choice and it was something well thought out over some time. Well thought out because it is one of the possibilities our Constitution holds open, that our original constituent assembly made possible. this is something Chile for example does not understand, that our original constituent assembly prevails and can be called in Venezuela at any moment. There they have Pinochet’s Constitution, unfortunately, and as Allende said, sooner or later the people of Chile will follow the broad boulevards of a Constituent Assembly. I am sure they will. Nor does an enclosed society like the one in the United States understand. Washington has a Constitution 230 years old. They aren’t going to understand the constituent process in Venezuela, nor do they want to.

JVR: Or the oligarchy in Colombia.

NM: The Colombian oligarchy under popular pressure carried out a Constituent Assembly in 1990, 1991 and then they manipulated it and tied it up in knots.

JVR: The argument they all use, that the assembly is unconstitutional that it doesn’t accord with Venezuela’s Constitution is absurd from every point of view. To the contrary, it’s an absolutely constitutional decision.

NM: First off, they’ve no business offering opinions on Venezuela’s internal affairs.

JVR: Exactly, but even giving them the benefit of allowing them to talk about our country’s internal affairs, because that is typical of them, it is a measure absolutely and totally constitutional.

NM: Indeed. And look at what the opinion of the Latin American oligarchies has been, using a truly insulting and annoying expression saying they do not recognize the Constituent Assembly. But who are they to recognize it?

JVR: Correct.

NM: In any case, the Venezuelan people gave birth to the Constituent Assembly based on our Constitution and if anyone takes the trouble to study our Constitution, articles 347, 348, 349, they would see that the Constituent power is a live one and the originating constituent power has been activated. Your question José Vicente was whether I thought about it at length.

JVR: And now look…

NM: For the month of April, or of May…

JVR: The Colombian President went so far as to say it could lead to cutting off relations with Venezuela.

NM: Well, Santos is trying to get people to forgive his corruption, his crimes, because he will soon be gone. Santos is saying goodbye and heading into history. I understand his desperation, trying to get some forgiveness within his own Colombian oligarchy and among the United States elites who govern Colombia, for the crimes he has been committing non-stop. 

JVR: And returning to the issue of the Constituent Assembly.

NM: The issue was very well thought out, as I have said, the idea came to me very strongly on December 9th 2015, three days after the electoral defeat because as you said, I’ve governed for four years and four months and under hard circumstances including a circumstantial electoral defeat. And I never doubted for a second, as I have to say now, although it’s the first time I’ve stated it in public. You are a first rate witness of how we took the news of the electoral defeat that night on December 6th because you were with me then, you and Pepe and Cilia and then we had a meeting of the revolutionary high command. We received the news and you know with what clarity and firmness I announced the results as being the legal results and that we’d immediately recognize them.

I told Tibisay Lucena, President of the Electoral Council that I hoped she’d announce the results and at the relevant time in the early morning I’d recognize them immediately and that’s what I did.

JVR: As I can vouch for.

NM: Three days later on December 9th I received thousands of people who came here to offer their support, indignant, and hurt by the defeat. And from that moment the idea came to me and I began to think about how to activate a popular constituent process, at the appropriate time but in search of political dialog, looking for the words to work with the opposition so as to control the historic conflict, find solutions for the country’s problems, José Vicente, but it was impossible. In 2016 they refused. I sat down with them at the table to talk along with the Vatican and they got up and left. In 2017, the first quarter started well economically, socially, politically and then they took to warfare in the street.

So then in April, I can admit to you now I was going to make the announcement on April 19th, given the historic importance of that date, because by April 19th I was convinced the opposition in the streets were trying to provoke chaos for a civil war and a yankee military intervention in Venezuela. I denounced that several times. But the conditions were not right and I continued analyzing with the high command of the revolution, along with the political leadership and May 1st had all the conditions to make the announcement. It was the only option we had for Peace.

The Constituent Assembly happened and achieved Peace. And I have great faith that the full exercise of our national sovereignty, without giving in to blackmail or pressure from anyone in the world, much less from North American imperialism, through the Constituent Assembly, is going to bring order in terms of justice, as it is already doing, in institutional terms, in the State, in the economy and it is going to be my pivot, my fundamental support enabling us to finish 2017 with a good general level of recovery in society, in the country, in our politics and in terms of Peace which is the most important.

JVR: Given the malicious, perverse campaign outside the country against the Constituent Assembly members, dismissing them completely, shouldn’t there be an aggressive media campaign by the government and Venezuela’s institutions, aimed overseas. Because many people are confused outside Venezuela, aren’t they?

NM: Yes, that’s true, that’s true.

JVR: And the weight of all the criticism, absurd as it is from every point of view, has a specific force and is causing damage, don’t you think?

NM: Well, we are also faced with the world media campaign. CNN in English, in Spanish, in all the main languages, the BBC in London with all its power, Fox News in the United States, the Washington Post and the New York Times, that generate information and opinion for the world’s hegemonic media. That hegemony is made to serve a permanent and merciless campaign against the Bolivarian Revolution, totally disfiguring our reality. The campaign of street violence. They present the people responsible for burning hospitals, attacking military bases, burning people alive, as heroes, warriors. They present a world back to front.

In no country, José Vicente, let alone Colombia, a country of massacres, in no country, not in Mexico, the country of the disappeared, not in Spain and much less in the United States, would they accept even 1% of what the Venezuelan opposition have done against the country during the last four months. Try imagining in Colombia, Spain, Mexico or the United States the opposition there calling for attacks on military bases, or in those countries or Peru, Argentina or Brazil, people calling on the military to march against the government and attack the presidential palace. Try imagining in these countries, or in Germany, for example, that someone gets burnt alive for their political beliefs. That very much recalls the Nazi era, doesn’t it?

So then the world media campaign presents the world back to front. Before we started this interview I was in a meeting with our Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, with Minister Ernesto Villegas, with the Constituent Assembly member Adán Chávez and its president, comrade Delcy Rodríguez. We’ve drawn up a plan for a great World Solidarity Summit with the people of Venezuela against Donald Trump’s threats and in defense of the Constituent Assembly. That World Summit will have a series of preparatory events in various parts of the world and will begin this week, all this program of solidarity, and it should empower the mobilization of world opinion in defense of the truth about Venezuela.

I also hope, José Vicente, that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) with its presidency in the hands of comrade Salvador Sánchez Cerén, will very soon take the initiative to call a summit for dialog, for peace, in support of Venezuela’s sovereignty.

So these are actions which are going to help us one way or another to mitigate to some extent the gigantic, criminal, brutal, relentless global campaign against Venezuela. In the end, I have faith that Venezuela will prevail against that campaign.

JVR: Nicolas, you know the faces, the profiles, the manifestations of subversion, the efforts at a coup, the terrorism, the insurgent roadblocks, the efforts to subvert the military….Do you think that in a country where so many such things have happened and with your presidential style it’s possible to guarantee institutional stability?

NM: Stability in the sense of Revolutionary stability, stability to make progress towards transformation

JVR: And in accordance with the Constitution.

NM: And that stability under threat and in accord with the Constitution is a stability under permanent threat, because we have to take into account what it means to have the most powerful empire in the world pointing a gun at us, especially now that extremists are in power in the United States. They may take offense at what I am saying, but what I am saying is true. All of US society is saying it too, even European society these days is rejecting the extremism with which domestic and international affairs are being managed from Washington. Extremists, lobbyists, multimillionaires and magnates are now in power in Washington and they have turned Miami into the center of operations for all the processes of destabilization and conspiracy against Venezuela, working out of Miami with a great deal of resources and money.

Look at that terrorist attack against Fort Paramacay. It was financed, planned and directed from Miami, that’s established now. Now all those materially responsible and some of the intellectual authors have been captured and they have all confessed. Furthermore, evidence has been found in computers in mobile phones, evidence that is being processed and which has helped us to determine that the conspirators in te United States activated three groups, the first time I have stated this, for you who like to keep confidential news to the end of your program.

The group of the 2002 coup attempt is active, the whole group now living in Colombia, Costa Rica, Miami, Portugal and Spain. They have all been activated and they were the group that worked with the government of George W. Bush to create the coup d’etat in Venezuela that we defeated.

Secondly, the groups have been activated that we were able to discover and control, punish and break up, responsible for the misnamed “blue coup”. You know because you are familiar with much of that, as is the director of “Ultimas Noticias” our friend Eleazar Díaz Rangel, and you both researched a great deal in relation to that.

And a third group is the group we managed to neutralize in 2014, including this traitor, the ex-Captain who attacked Fort Paramacay and who has been involved for over ten years in permanent conspiracy and who has his operational base in Miami directly, very much linked to the Poleo family, Rafael Poleo, Patricia Poleo. And over there Patricia Poleo appeared making herself ridiculous when I announced that, sweeping her house. I think maybe she had never cleaned it before then.

Anyway, these three groups are these days working as one. We keep them under surveillance, under control, neutralized, but it’s a great deal of money involved and that’s why I talk to you about a dynamic stability, a Revolutionary stability, a stability under threat. But with God’s grace and with the support of our democracy and our Constitution, we will overcome all these threats, all these ambushes and Venezuela will enter an electoral climate again, José Vicente. As you know, the National Electoral Council, as ordered by the Constituent Assembly, is preparing for elections brought forward. The opposition wanted elections brought forward and the Constituent Assembly has responded with elections in October for all 23 governorships in the country and now all the political forces have registered their candidates

For the right wing, it cost them a lot to do that turnabout. From “Maduro go now!”, from the "insurgency right now", from the fires in the streets to, "well, let’s go to elections". All those political parties have registered candidates the way you’d throw rice at a wedding. Democratic Action, Henry Ramos Allup, I have to say thank you for recognizing the National Electoral Council. Justice First, Henrique Capriles Radonsky, thank you for recognizing Tibisay Lucena and the National Electoral Council. And they have registered candidates in every state.

Of course, one thing is Twitter and that incessant waste of time and another is the political facts. They registered candidates in every state. Leopoldo López, penalized by Venezuela’s justice system and political chief of a party called Popular Will which is the most fascist and extremist party in this country, registered its candidates despite saying they were going to destroy this country with a Hitler wannabe from somewhere or other. The New Times party of Manuel Rosales has candidates in every state. And the party Advanced Progress of Henri Falcon, my friend Henri Falcon, he is indeed my friend although he is in the opposition, I have to acknowledge I have a friend in the opposition, Henri Falcon. They all registered their candidates. The opposition registered 196 candidates and now they’re out in the street looking for the popular vote.

JVR: A forecast?.

NM: Forecast? Objectively? We are going to win all 23 governorships in this country. Make a note of that José Vicente and I promise you an interview the day after the elections for the state governorships. We are heading for a great victory because people want peace. The people want governors who will consolidate peace. They are tired of governors like in Miranda state who go out into the streets to burn and destroy instead of governing. people want governors who will look after their states and guarantee stability, peace in their regions. People the day of the elections in October are going to vote once more heroically, they’re going to vote for Peace and we are going to have a great victory. Make a note of that now, José Vicente.

JVR: Do you like power?

NM: The power of the people.

JVR: But don’t you long to be in the streets without all the protocol, and all the rest of it?

NM: Yes. Totally. I, always, when I’m out and about, driving, always with Cilia. Spontaneously, some Saturday when things are quiet we’ll go out and visit someone in their house, calling them five minutes beforehand to see if they’re home. We’ll be out in a barrio of El Valle or Catia or Caricuao where I have many friends and we’ll turn up ready to talk and we’ll make supper, drink coffee, talk until two or three in the morning. I haven’t lost the touch to listen and live reality. Sure. I miss being able to walk alone and quiet in the street but I think life places us and keeps placing us in situations and we should feel happy and I do believe in God, and give thanks to God for his blessings and try to carry out the mission I am charged with as best I can.

JVR: Look Nicolas, the Russian questionnaire is well know, those 30 questions which the great writer Marcel Proust made up so as to learn about the human condition. Once I put several of the questions to Chavez in an interview. I want to put two of them to you. One is, number 22, what habit of others can you not tolerate?

NM: Lying.

JVR: And number 28 is, “what is your most typical mood?

NM: My most typical mood is one of satirical humor, I’m typically of Caracas in that sense.

JVR: Pulling people’s chain?

NM: Pulling their chain, and really at one time it became something of a defect because people in Caracas often go too far when they’re making fun of someone, don’t they? I’ve learned to control that satirical humor but really it’s very natural for me. 24 hours a day from when I get up to when I go to sleep, I really need to be happy and I enjoy that kind of humor.

JVR: Don’t you get depressed?

NM: No, I don’t know what that is, really, since I was very young, I think difficulties, problems, setbacks are challenges, trials of life.

JVR: You dislike parables.

NM: (laughs). No, maybe it’s not that I dislike parables. I do really believe in God and I think we are here for a specific destiny, for a mission and we all have to complete that mission. For a time my mission in life was to drive a bus. Now I am at the wheel of a whole country. That is my mission and I have to complete it, with setbacks, obstacles, difficulties, managing in a balanced way the loads we have to bear.

JVR: Please give an unconventional but brief message to our audience.

NM: We should at this time adopt the spirit of the Constituent Assembly.

JVR: Look into the camera...

NM: Let’s adopt the spirit of the Constituent Assembly at this time. Life gave us the chance to live through a people’s constituent process. The Assembly has begun well. Peace has arrived. Now we have to consolidate it through these months of 2017 into 2018, into a climate of general recovery, moral, political, economic recovery for the country in the spirit of the Constituent Assembly. What is that spirit? It’s the spirit of Bolivarian rebirth, of the rebirth of a national coming together. Let’s hope that sooner rather than later, José Vicente, we may be able to see, with support from the international community, from the CELAC, the installation of a system of permanent political dialog with the opposition, with all the country’s social and political forces, so that, via dialog, through talking, through understanding, we may be able to consolidate not just in 2017 but in the years to come, making them years of Peace. That’s the most important. Years of Peace, achieving Peace and recovery for the country through the spirit of the Constituent Assembly.

Was that ok?

JVR: It was fine.

NM: Thank you José Vicente, thanks a lot.

JVR: Thanks to you and good luck, ok?.

NM: Thanks.

Translated by Tortilla Con Sal.

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