“Neoliberalism is exhausted and new leaderships will surprise the world”.
The year 2020 has been relatively clement to Venezuela, although it has been so frightening for the whole world. Sure, the blockades and attacks from abroad have not ceased, and have even, at times, intensified. But the Bolivarian revolution, which has just turned 22 years old, is seasoned in these battles. The remarkable thing is that here, contrary to what happened in almost all Latin America and particularly in neighboring countries (Colombia, Brazil), the Covid-19 pandemic has been controlled. Few infections, low mortality. Meanwhile, the economy, in very difficult circumstances, has experienced a spectacular recovery. With an unprecedented increase in agricultural production and commercial activities. In addition, the new legislation is favoring an important arrival of foreign investment. These new winds, after several years of difficulties, have been translated politically by a resounding victory of Chavism, last December 6, in the legislative elections.
Attacked with such inclemency for years, President Nicolas Maduro is savoring this sweet moment in which, moreover, two of his main adversaries are successively biting the dust. On the domestic scene: the extremist opposition led by Juan Guaidó, defeated on December 6 and democratically expelled from the National Assembly. On the external scene: the leader of the international conspiracy, Donald Trump, electorally knocked out in the United States last November 3 and eliminated from the game next January 20.
To discuss these issues, in the beautiful gardens of La Casona, which was once the official residence of the presidents of Venezuela and today is a cultural center open to the public, we had a conversation with Nicolás Maduro.
Ignacio Ramonet: Mr. President, allow me first to thank you for your kindness in granting us this interview. It has become a tradition for us to meet every January 1st to take stock of the past year and also for you to tell us how you see the prospects for the coming year.
This interview will be based on nine questions: three on domestic policy; three on the economy; and three on international policy.
I would like to start with domestic policy. The year 2020, which has just ended, will go down in history as “the year of the Covid-19 pandemic” with a terrifying balance on a planetary scale, in terms of contagions and victims… In this frightening panorama, the figures presented by Venezuela are very encouraging, very positive, among the best in the world… How do you explain these good results in spite of the blockades and unilateral coercive measures imposed against your country by the American and European authorities? Is there a “Venezuelan model” to fight against Covid?
Nicolás Maduro: Well, first I thank you for this opportunity, this window that you open for us to communicate with many honest people in the world, in Europe, in the United States, in Latin America, in the Caribbean, in Africa… These interviews are already part, in fact, of a tradition to be published on January 1st and to start the new year 2021. Indeed, we have made a great effort on the treatment of the coronavirus. I could tell you that there is a Venezuelan model. And because, in spite of the persecution and criminal sanctions that prevent us from buying medical equipment in the world; and that prevent us from acquiring, in a natural way, the medicines the country needs, we have managed to maintain, increase and perfect the public health system founded by Commander Chavez. The ‘Barrio Adentro Mission’ was the first step to build our primary system of family medicine with more than 14,000 outpatient clinics, with the family doctor, etc. All this with the support of Fidel Castro, of Cuba and, for the last sixteen years, of thousands of Cuban doctors and health personnel… Meanwhile, we have also trained thousands of doctors and nurses…
When, last March, Venezuela began to face Covid, I remember articles from the Miami Herald, from the Spanish newspapers El País and ABC, from the New York Times, etc. that ‘predicted’, as always with Venezuela, the ‘collapse’ of Venezuelan society, the ‘collapse’ of our health system, giving truly terrifying, tragic figures….
That psychological warfare takes effect… Because one reads those numbers and says: “My God, what is going to happen…!” In March, when it was already known that it was a pandemic, well, we activated all the mechanisms of preventive medicine… We mobilized some 16,000 medical brigades -which are still active…- to go looking for cases with PCR tests, rapid tests, to go looking for them house by house, in the neighborhoods, in the communities….
We decided to provide integral treatment to all Covid patients… All of them! And to have them hospitalized in the public health system… And a small percentage in the private clinics, the private system with which we have established a perfect coordination, to provide treatment and hospitalization to 100 percent of the cases…
Today, I can tell you that 95 percent of the Covid cases we have had -about one hundred and some thousand cases of contagion- in Venezuela, have been detected in time, have had hospital medical treatment and have had all their medicines.
We identified a group of the best national and world medicines, and we effectively gave guaranteed integral treatment to all the patients: to the asymptomatic, to the mildly infected, to the moderately infected and, naturally, to the severely infected in their different modalities.
In addition, Venezuelan science has managed to create two medicines: one called DR10, and another one that I call the “miraculous drops of José Gregorio Hernández”, which are two therapies that allow attacking the coronavirus and neutralizing it 100 percent. This is our small contribution…
We are certifying these two medicines with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and with the World Health Organization (WHO)… And very soon, the country will enter the phase of mass production, for national consumption, of these two truly encouraging medicines.
When we talk about the “Venezuelan model”, we must also mention a formula that we created after the long voluntary quarantines during the months of March, April, May, June and July… Because, then, we were testing a method, which is our method, which we call “7 + 7”: seven days of deep radical quarantine, always voluntary; and seven days of flexibilization. This has allowed us to combine indispensable protection with economic activity… The necessary economic recovery combined with strict, voluntary quarantine, in order to cut the cycles of contagion. This is how we have been building our method.
Where did we get it from, Ramonet? From the study of experiences in the world. From the study of positive experiences, as there have been in China, in Vietnam, in Cuba, in Nicaragua, in New Zealand, at one stage in South Korea… From these experiences and from the study of disastrous experiences such as those of the United States, Brazil, Colombia, which have filled these brother countries with coronavirus, disease and death. So we have achieved a point of balance between the necessary quarantine, the necessary care, the necessary discipline, with the necessary flexibility.
–-I must also say that Venezuela was the first country in America, in the whole continent, to take quarantine measures… If I remember correctly, the WHO declared the pandemic on March 11, and here, the quarantine was decreed on March 13… That is, much earlier than in any other country in the region.
–Yes, and we had a great success with very few cases during the first three months. Then a phenomenon occurred: the massive return of thousands of Venezuelan migrants from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru… Fleeing from the coronavirus, from violence, from the “coronahambre”… Some came walking from Ecuador, from Peru, from Cali, from Medellin, from Bogota to the border.
We have received more than 270,000 Venezuelans, almost 250,000 of them from Colombia… A ‘wave’ that arrived in June, July… The border is very porous, very long too. And a large part of these migrants arrived by illegal means, by the “trochas”… That is why we speak of “trochismo”… Many of them came infected from Colombia, from Ecuador, from Peru and arrived directly to their communities… Which increased the number of Covid cases. This is now under control. Today, I can say that, even though we made a total relaxation in December 2020 -necessary for the family, for the economy-, we have a good level of control….
And now we have signed an agreement with Russia to buy 10 million doses of Sputnik-V vaccine. We are culminating the phase 3 studies of this Sputnik-V vaccine, which are very favorable. And we are going to start the vaccination phase. But you can’t mislead people: the vaccines are going to help, but they’re only going to protect for six months to two years… It’s not forever… People need to know that. Many people who are getting vaccinated right now in the world are getting vaccinated with the expectation that it is the definitive end of all danger of getting Covid… No, it is an experiment. Mass vaccination does not cease to be an experiment that will be evaluated.
—Mr. President, throughout last year, the attacks and sabotage – particularly against the electric and oil industries – directed and financed from abroad against the Bolivarian Revolution also continued. In that sense, the defeat of the armed incursion called ‘Operation Gideon’, in May 2020, demonstrated, once again, the solidity of the civil-military union. What are the keys of this union that seems to resist to any test? What new armed threats do you fear against Venezuela and against your person?
–Well, we work a lot… In the first place, we work with words, with example, with permanent government actions. We work on the ideological, the political, the values in the whole society… Venezuela has shown, in this year 2020, once again, the great strength of its new institutions, of its constitutional values. And it has shown a great strength of the conscience of the ‘civic-military-police union’ as I call it.
Venezuela is subjected to the attacks of a permanent war. No one should have any doubt that the US empire, as an empire, decided to reconquer, to recolonize Venezuela, to destroy our revolution, to destroy our institutions.
During these four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, we have known an extremist version of the imperial policy against Venezuela. A total extremism… Trump authorized several times -that will be known in due time, Ramonet- my assassination. Trump had a taste for blood, for death… He ordered the assassination of Soleimani, and others… And on several occasions he authorized plans, coordinated with [President] Iván Duque of Colombia, to assassinate me. Those plans are still in effect today. We, from time to time, are discovering elements, and taking measures for the protection, not only of my life, of the life of my family, of the life of the political-military high command, of the life of the country’s leadership, of the life of the institutions….
Recently we have just dismantled a plan that was hatched in Riohacha, in the Colombian Atlantic territory. There, on December 21, 2020, a meeting took place led by three Colombian intelligence officials closely linked to [former Colombian President] Álvaro Uribe Vélez, sent by Iván Duque to organize a plan to attack our Guri hydroelectric plant, to attack our refineries, to try to destroy, through an explosion, the headquarters of the National Assembly… That plan was called “Boycott the National Assembly”.
We are dismantling it now, with evidence in hand, with testimonies of the people who participated in that meeting in Riohacha. The Colombian government has kept silent, because we uncovered the secret plan they had for these days of December and January. We are subjected to a permanent attack, to a permanent threat?
But the key is conscience. Undoubtedly, if we were asked: what is the key for the Bolivarian Revolution to continue standing? The answer is: the truth; the committed word; the permanent action; to have the political initiative… And the superior conscience of the people, the superior conscience of our Bolivarian National Armed Forces.
This year a law was passed -the Constitutional Law governing the Bolivarian National Armed Force-, and in that law the doctrinal elements with which the Venezuelan soldier moves were embodied… Anti-imperialism, Bolivarianism, Latin Americanism were embodied… The Armed Force declared itself an anti-oligarchic Armed Force.
There are principles, key elements: to work on conscience, to work on values with the truth… This is a fundamental key of the civil-military-police union that sustains, in permanent combat, our revolution.
—Mr. President, the legislative elections of December 6 last year gave a new and resounding victory to Chavismo and its allies. Next January 5, the mandate of the previous Assembly, dominated by the opposition, will come to an end. And Chavismo will retake control of the National Assembly. However, part of the opposition refused to participate in these elections and does not recognize the results. What initiatives do you plan to take to convince this opposition to participate in a new dialogue table to advance towards the definitive pacification of political life?
–Well, indeed, an important part of the opposition has adopted the extremist vision imposed from Washington in this Trump era… But the Trump era is ending, and we are going to see how that part of the opposition reacts now. We have always maintained dialogues and negotiations with all the opposition, including with the opposition that has excluded itself from the democratic political system of the country. We have even talked with them, inviting them to occupy their spaces. The Venezuelan opposition has followers, militants; it has voters. And well, they have the right to occupy their political spaces.
I aspire that, with the installation of the new National Assembly next January 5 for the period 2021-2026… There are five years, from January 5, 2021 to January 5, 2026, that is the constitutional mandate, and here the constitutional mandates are for five years for the Legislative Power, not a day more, not a day less. I hope that this National Assembly that is being installed will call for a great inclusive, inclusive, broad, very broad dialogue… I offer myself to participate as one more in that dialogue, sitting on a chair as one more; I take off my President’s epaulets and I sit there to contribute to the meeting and reconciliation of Venezuelan men and women. And I hope that there will be good results from this dialogue called by the National Assembly. And may it become a political epicenter of dialogue, of reunion, of reconciliation.
I hope that all the opposition participates in the 2021 elections for governors that we have and that are very important… They are constitutionally mandated… There are 23 governorships in the country.
The last time, Ramonet, that we did pulse against all the opposition united against the Bolivarian forces, was in an election of governors, on October 15, 2017. And out of 23 governorships, we won 19 by a pulse. We took 54 percent of the national votes. A tremendous victory. That was the last time we could measure ourselves. What is more, I can add, we want to measure ourselves with all the opposition in all the states of the country, at arm wrestling like this, or however they want, in taekwondo, in boxing… however they want, but in elections, in elections… I hope so. Then, in 2022 comes the election of mayors in 335 municipalities, very important for the local government. And in 2022, I have to remember that on January 10, 2022, I will be President for three years…
–-Is there a possibility of recall?
–Yes, there is the right to a recall referendum. If someone from the opposition wanted to collect the signatures, and collected them, complying with the constitutional and legal requirements, we, in 2022, would have a recall referendum, we would go for a pulse measurement as well.
And then, in 2024, rain, thunder or shine, in Venezuela there will be presidential elections. So we have a great electoral agenda, a political agenda, and beyond the electoral agenda, beyond the political agenda there is an economic agenda of recovery, there is a social agenda, there is a moral agenda of fight against corruption. I would like to talk about all these issues with all the opposition, and be able to reach consensus.
Now I tell you sincerely Ramonet, you are a French-Spanish citizen, you know Europe very well. Much of the blame for the extremism of the opposition, for the exclusion of the opposition from the political life of the country, for the abandonment of its natural spaces and its voters, lies with the European Union and the governments of Europe. Not only Donald Trump, because the one who has followed Donald Trump’s chorus has been the European Union, supporting all the policies of barbarism, of right-wing extremism, all the senseless, unconscionable policies… The only place in the world where the European Union supports those policies is in Venezuela. We will have to see why. A good part of the fact that the Venezuelan right wing, the opposition, enters into a policy of good sense, of participation, of dialogue, has to do with that European Union that influences so much in the minds of those political leaders of that sector of the opposition. I hope that the European Union will talk to them about dialogue and help them to reflect and rectify.
—We are going to talk about the economy now, I wanted to ask you the following: your government has opted, since a year ago, to allow a partial dollarization of the economy, rather of trade. Could you make a balance of this dollarization? Why was this measure taken? What benefits has it brought? What inconveniences? How long is it going to be maintained? And another question that some analysts are asking: “Is there no contradiction between revolution and dollarization?
–Well, first of all, Venezuela is subject to a very particular situation. All sources of financing are chasing us. I could tell you, Ramonet, that the US empire has practically forbidden the Venezuelan State to use the dollar currency… So that you can see… I attack your question by telling you this great truth: Venezuela does not have the right to sell oil to the world and charge it in dollars. Venezuela does not have the right, as a State, to manage accounts to pay for medicines and food in the world… It does not have the right.
We have our own ways of moving resources, but they all have to be atypical ways, parallel to the world of the dollar. All this shows how the dollar, how the U.S. banking system is used to try to impose an economic model, a political model, a regime change in Venezuela. That is the real truth.
We are in the middle of an economy of resistance, an economy of war. We went from having 56 billion dollars of income in 2013, to less than 500 million dollars of oil income this year 2020. Let everyone draw their own conclusions. And in spite of that, we have maintained the social welfare state as dictated by our Constitution. Free and quality public education has been fully maintained for our people. Here we have maintained and increased free and quality public health care. Here we have maintained the right to housing… We have a world record in housing construction and delivery… I have just delivered 3,400,000 houses… We build 1,095 social housing units per day… A record, a true world record. And employment levels have been maintained here.
What has collapsed? The national income and the income of the workers. The income of the workers has been violated as a consequence of the 99 percent violation of the national income in foreign currency.
And in the midst of all this, what has happened? A previously surreptitious economy has emerged, now open and public, where the dollar is managed, especially at the commercial level. I have some numbers that, for the first time, I am going to give you officially. At the level of trade, and at the level of some activities, the dollar has worked as an escape valve for income, for trade and for the satisfaction of the needs of important sectors of Venezuelan life… It has been an escape valve.
But I can give you data for this year 2020, you see, all the commercial activity is reflected in these numbers. In the year 2020, I can tell you, particularly in the last two months of November and December, the commercial activity in the country quintupled in relation to last year. Quintupled in bolivars and in dollars.
Now, I can tell you that, in dollars -these data are fresh-, the relative importance of the expenditures made by households, according to the means of payment used, I can tell you that 77.3 percent of the commercial transactions in the country, in 2020, were made in bolivars by digital payment methods. So that you see the weight of the national currency still, and we are going to recover it. Only 18.6 percent was made in cash in convertible currencies, basically dollars… You can see here, for example, in the month of June, July, payments in foreign currency rose to more than twenty-odd percent, but the annual result is 18.6 percent of cash payments in dollars, in many activities of shopping centers, including street commerce, informal commerce… And 3.4 percent in physical bolivars, which you know they have a war against the physical currency. We are going, this year 2021, towards a deeper digital economy, more in expansion… I have set the goal: 100 percent digital economy, that everybody will have their payment methods in debit and credit cards…
—Physical money disappears, then, to a certain extent?
–It disappears. For Venezuela it is a great advantage. We are even going to create some payment formats in digital currency, with savings accounts in foreign currency in the Venezuelan banking system. Savings accounts and current accounts in foreign currency are being authorized, and people will be able to pay at the price of the currency in bolivars in the general market in the country. This means that the dollar is an escape valve. It cannot be said that Venezuela is, like Ecuador for example, a dollarized economy. It does not depend on the U.S. Treasury Department like Panama. No. Venezuela has its currency, the bolivar, and we are going to defend it in 2021 by improving income. We have to improve the quality of the Venezuelan currency. We have to continue decreasing inflation, which is still very high, although we have been gradually controlling it… But it is difficult, due to the whole situation of the national income… So we cannot talk about a dollarization of the whole economy. So to the question: Is there a contradiction between dollarization and revolution? The answer is, as far as we can see: no. There is rather complementarity. Rather, there is complementarity.
–Mr. President, Venezuela has been the victim of a spectacular robbery of assets abroad. In particular, the Citgo company in the United States and also the gold reserves deposited in London have been taken from you. What initiatives has your Government taken to recover those assets? What is the current situation? What hopes do you have of recovering them?
–We always hope, because we have the legal reason, we have the national, republican reason. These are assets of the Republic. The gold in London belongs to the Republic, administered by the Central Bank of Venezuela. The frozen bank accounts in Portugal, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, are bank accounts of almost 30 billion dollars that if they were activated and recovered would constitute an immediate injection of recovery and economic rebirth of Venezuela, only with the recovery of that money.
They have stolen from us the company Citgo, a company with eight thousand service stations in the United States… It is frozen, stolen by the Trump clan, it was stolen from us by the Trump clan, they put their eye on it since Donald Trump became president with his business group to steal Citgo from us… With the complicity of these whimpy bandits, thieves, of the Venezuelan extreme right, headed by Juan Guaidó… They stole Citgo. There is hope for recovery.
We have had difficulties in the defense of Venezuela and its interests because, even to pay international law firms, we have been prevented from doing so. Because, I repeat, they froze and stole our accounts.
But, well, in Venezuela we always found a way to get good law firms, to get brave, knowledgeable, capable lawyers… And to defend our interests a new National Assembly is coming now… Now the National Assembly that was the epicenter of the plundering, the plundering, the robbery of Venezuela is leaving… This will change the situation a lot because a new National Assembly is coming with full legislative powers and I believe that this will help us to move forward in the objective of recovering what belongs to the Republic. It does not belong to Maduro, it does not belong to a group, it is the patrimony of the Republic, it is the money and patrimony of all Venezuelans, of all Venezuelan women.
—Mr. President, in the current difficult national and international economic situation, marked by the consequences, as you point out, of both the blockade and the pandemic, what would be the main issues to be solved in order to boost the economic growth of your country? To what extent can the recent vote of an “anti-blockade” law contribute to this?
–Well, we are trained in difficulties. The Liberator called himself the “man of hardship.” And we call our people the “people of difficulties”. We have already been aiming and setting out a recovery plan that has had as its axis, this week, the Anti-Lockout Law.
The Anti-Lockout Law plays the role of a great central axis in the process for the recovery of national income. And with the recovery of national income we must recover the factors and balances of the macroeconomy. We must recover the income of working men and women, and maintain a process of recovery of the domestic market.
I can give you an important fact about how 2020 has been a year in which we have advanced in this process of installing an alternative economy, a post rentier economy, a productive economy… We have increased food production by 400 thousand tons, for example, and we have overcome the levels of shortage of products and foodstuffs that we had three, four or five years ago. With national production.\
I want to congratulate the businessmen and the producers, the agro-industry… We are now making the plan for the CLAP 2021… Today I approved the plan for the CLAP 2021, which means the monthly food market for 7 million households…
So that you understand us: the CLAPs are the Local Supply and Production Committees that constitute a fundamental instrument in the food market. We are going to talk about this in January, the Ministry of Food, the Executive Vice President… I have already approved the lines of work for the national production of all the CLAPs, of all the food distributed to the 7 million national households. Before, we imported 60 or 70 percent of that food… So, from 2021 onwards, with the Anti-Blockade Law, we will be recovering the national income, recovering the macroeconomic balance, containing inflation even more next year and resuming the real economic growth, of the real economy.
The year 2021 marks the beginning of a new progressive, sustained, real growth, I tell you, of the real economy, of the productive economy. Not of the economy of papers, of speculation, of lies, of farce, no, it is the growth of the economy that produces grains, milk, meat, corn, arepas, clothes, oil, gold, etc. Of the real economy.
I believe that all this cruelty that has been applied against Venezuela has left us great lessons, and we have ridden on the rails of the development of our own economy, a real one, which is going to be very strong, very powerful, you will see it, and we are also setting an example to the world. The dollar can be banned, we can be banned from financing and refinancing in the Western banking system, we can be persecuted and our accounts can be taken away, but we have not been and will never be stopped. And what emerges here will give an example to the world that another world is possible, that we have had enough of the blackmail of the dollar and the financial system of the International Monetary Fund… In Venezuela we are demonstrating, in resistance, in a very hard resistance, that another world is possible. We are going to get ahead, you are going to see it.
—Mr. President, we are now going to talk about international politics and we are going to start talking about Latin America. Something is changing in Latin America. The progressive governments of Mexico and Argentina have been joined by the recent victory of MAS in Bolivia, the success of the plebiscite in Chile, the defeat of Bolsonaro in the municipal elections in Brazil, the popular revolt in Peru, the protests in Guatemala and Colombia, the reasonable prospects of victory of candidate Araúz in the next presidential elections in Ecuador and the resounding victory of Chavism in the legislative elections of December 6 in Venezuela…. All this creates a very different atmosphere from the one that existed not long ago when some spoke of an “end of the progressive cycle”… How do you see the geopolitical situation in Latin America for this 2021 that is beginning?
–Well, I can say that the radical popular movements of struggle, the so-called progressive movements, the leftist movements, the revolutionary movements are a reality in Latin America and the Caribbean. We are the alternative of our peoples, each one with its profile, its characteristics, its discourse, its leadership… You cannot, for example, compare the leadership of the popular movements in Colombia with that of Ecuador, or Venezuela, or Brazil… Each one has its profile, its texture, its aesthetics, its discourse, its courage, its opportunities but, without a doubt, from Mexico to Patagonia and throughout the Caribbean there is a powerful popular, radical, rebellious, rebellious movement. There is a powerful progressive movement and a powerful leftist movement. There is a powerful revolutionary leadership. In the vanguard is ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America. The victory in Bolivia was a great victory for ALBA and, well, what is a great alliance for peace, social development and the life of our peoples is being recomposed. Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, the Caribbean with our leaders of the Caribbean, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada… The great deep and true alliance that has been maintained in the face of threats, in the face of all circumstances.
ALBA has always been on its feet. ALBA arose as a result and product of the first wave led by Chávez in this era, the first wave, which led to the historic meeting of Chávez and Fidel, which led to the return to power of Sandinismo, which led to the victory of Evo, of Correa, which led to the victory of Kirchner… Well, ALBA arose from that first wave and there it is firm, strong… And now, without a doubt, I see a second wave coming. The second wave of progressive, popular, nationalist, nationalist, Latin Americanist governments… A second wave is coming and it is in full development, why is this second wave coming? Because neoliberal capitalism is exhausted… Neoliberal capitalism generates poverty, exclusion, repression… There we see Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, the whole Pacific wing: repression, misery, unemployment… Colombia this year more than 90 massacres… More than 250 former FARC combatants murdered… And what do the media say, what does the world say? Then the repressive, anti-popular, excluding and generating misery model, neoliberal capitalism has no answer for the peoples… It is a very deep exhaustion, and the natural thing is that new leaderships emerge that will surprise not only Latin America and the Caribbean but will surprise the world.
I am not saying this simply out of optimism, out of faith -which I have, I am an optimistic man, of faith, of faith in the peoples, of faith in the struggle, of faith in the history of our countries-, I am saying it as a result of direct observation of reality and with the data that you have even contributed in your question.
—Mr. President, in recent years, as hostility towards Venezuela on the part of Washington and many European capitals has increased, your government has strengthened ties with several powers such as China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, India and others that have defended Venezuela’s sovereignty. Could you tell us what are the prospects for cooperation and development projects with these powers?
–We are open to the world. Undoubtedly, our relations are special with the Russian Federation, with the People’s Republic of China, with the Islamic Republic of Iran, with Cuba… They are also special with India, you know my great identity with India, with its spirituality, with its people… And with many other countries. With Turkey, with my brother President Erdogan… And with Africa, with many countries of the world we have great and excellent relations.
We want these relations to be consolidated, we will continue working. Thanks to the Anti-Blockade Law, spectacular progress has already been made in new partnerships in various fields of investment in the economy… I cannot say much, it is the characteristic of the Anti-Blockade Law, to do without saying, and to say when it has already been done. That is the principle: to do, to do, to do, to advance without saying anything, to dodge the imperialist war, to neutralize it, and to say later, when everything is already consummated and done, when I have here in my hand the achievement. Now, in the same line of the Anti-Blockade Law, I also invite investors from Latin America, from Mexico, from Panama, our brother investors from Colombia, from Brazil, from Argentina, from all Latin America and the Caribbean, from the United States: come, here there is a world to invest with special conditions… If anyone has harmed investors of all kinds, the debt holders of the United States, if anyone has harmed them, it is Donald Trump and his stubborn and extremist policy against Venezuela.
Because U.S. investors have the doors open here to invest in oil, gas, petrochemicals, telecommunications, tourism, finance, in everything they want. Trump has done great damage to the debt holders… And I can also tell you, as a scoop, that we paid the debt holders, by commitment of the Republic, more than 76 billion dollars in the period 2014-17. And with Commander Chávez, in the 2010-2013 period, we paid up to 56 billion dollars… Do the math, as a friend of mine says, do the math: 76 thousand plus 56 thousand is 132 billion dollars that we paid from 2010 to 2017 until Trump arrived….
Those were the profits of the financial investors… The debt holders lost everything when they froze our accounts, when they attacked our oil revenues… I have ratified to all debt holders, to all U.S. investors, our willingness to negotiate and renegotiate, and to fulfill all our commitments from now on. We have the best relations… They know that we are good payers, that we are people of our word, reliable for financial and economic activity, they know it, and they know that Trump did great damage to their investments, they know it perfectly well.
There are investors, Ramonet, who even represent groups, U.S. pensioners’ unions, U.S. social groups that bought, because of the reliability, Venezuelan debt bonds and now, look, Trump has broken them, Trump has destroyed them. Another world is possible even in this aspect.
So I send a message, I take advantage of your question to send a message to all investors in the world: we are ready, prepared, we have the Anti-Blockade Law, the new National Assembly is going to develop a set of laws to make everything more flexible in terms of investment in the Venezuelan economic activity, Venezuela is open to the world for investment.
—Mr. President, precisely the recent electoral defeat of Donald Trump in the United States and the imminent arrival of the new Democratic Administration of President Joe Biden constitute a particular moment of change in international political life. What do you expect from this new US Administration? What message of welcome are you sending to Joe Biden?
–On this subject I am obliged to be prudent… It does not mean that I do not have a clear thought, I do, about the changes in the United States, about the resounding defeat of Donald Trump. Trump is leaving… Let’s see if with Trump’s departure his harmful and extremist policies against Venezuela will also leave… Let’s see… There is a lot of lobbying. I got some information yesterday about this thief and murderer called Leopoldo López: he is hiring, in Washington, two lobbying firms close to the Democratic Party to start lobbying in favor of Venezuelan right-wing extremism before the new Biden administration. You know that U.S. politics moves on the basis of lobbying. It is even legal… Now they are hiring new lobbyists linked to Biden, linked to the new Secretary of State [Anthony Blinken] appointed by Biden, so, well, let’s wait for January 20 to arrive, for President Joe Biden to be sworn in and for us to follow our course.
I have always said: hopefully with Trump’s departure his extremist, cruel policies against Venezuela will go, hopefully, and the dialogue with Biden and with the United States will be reestablished based on a constructive agenda. Hopefully, hopefully. In the meantime, let us wait, always in God’s hands, depending on our own efforts… I always tell Venezuelans, Venezuelan women and the people of the world: let us not depend on anyone, let us always depend on our own efforts, let us depend on our own thinking, on our own word, the rest is profit, as our people say. May it be for the good, the change in the United States, for humanity, and may it be for the good of Venezuela as well. That is what I wish.
—Thank you very much Mr. President, we have come to the end of this interview, it only remains for me to wish you, your family and, obviously, Venezuela and all its people a happy new year.
–Well, thank you very much for this opportunity. Given the avalanche of lies, of manipulations, of attacks in the world press… I see all the time, in the press and on television in Madrid, attacks and attacks… Madrid has become the epicenter of the attack of the ultra-right against Venezuela, one reads the “New York Times”, the “Miami Herald”, the Colombian press and in the world in general: merciless, incessant, relentless attacks… But well, here is our truth and for our truth we give our life; and with our truth we go on the roads to the future.
The year 2021 will be the bicentennial of the battle of Carabobo, it will be an iconic year. Comandante Chávez himself set it: “In 2021, 200 years after Carabobo, Chávez said, we must arrive free, independent and sovereign”. And so we arrive: free, independent, sovereign in resistance, but also in victory. Happy New Year.
—Thank you President, we will meet on January 1st, 2022.
(Caracas, December 30, 2020.)
 A ‘trocha’ is a path that allows one to travel on foot through the jungle or undergrowth.
 Initiated on May 3, 2020 and led by U.S. mercenaries, with the participation of former Venezuelan military, this operation consisted of landing two armed groups to overthrow the government of Nicolás Maduro and assassinate the president.
 On January 3, 2020, Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force, was assassinated in Baghdad (Iraq) by a US drone attack.
 On June 24, 1821, the victory of Simón Bolívar’s patriotic forces against royalist troops at the battle of Carabobo was decisive in Venezuela’s war of independence.
Originally published in the newspaper La Jornada, from Mexico, special for Página/12.
Translation by Internationalist 360°