| Orla Guerin |
Interviewing President Nicolás Maduro
|Born||15 May 1966|
- 1 Interviewing Maduro
- 1.1 Ten million immigrants
- 1.2 Hyper-inflation
- 1.3 Health care
- 1.4 "Interim President"
- 1.5 New Elections
- 1.6 US white supremacists
- 1.7 Hands off Venezuela
- 1.8 Venezuelan gold
- 1.9 US invasion
- 1.10 Anti-Government protests
- 1.11 Army support
- 1.12 What about Chávez?
- 1.13 Send a convoy with our money
- 1.14 Reducing poverty
- 1.15 Jeremy Corbyn
- 2 References
Here is the full transcript of Orla Guerin's interview with President Maduro:
Orla Guerin, BBC News
Nicolás Maduro, Venezuelan president
First of all, it's a show, that the United States government has set up with the compliance of the Colombian government to humiliate the Venezuelans. Venezuela is a country that has the capacity to satisfy all the necessities of our people.
Venezuela is a country that has problems like any country. We are in a battle that has been going on for many years, a successful battle, to reduce poverty, misery, in order to increase the job capacity, to establish a social security system to protect 100% of our pensioners, in order to establish a public health system that reaches all the Venezuelan population, to establish an educational system, that reaches 90% of our girls, boys, and our young.
Venezuela is a country that has dignity, and the United States has intended to create a humanitarian crisis in order to justify a military intervention - "humanitarian". And this is part of that show. That's the reason that we, with dignity, tell them that the miniscule crumbs that they intend to bring with toxic food, with leftovers that they have, we tell them no - Venezuela has dignity, Venezuela produces and works and our people do not beg from anyone.
You say the humanitarian aid is a show, but are you actually saying that the hunger is a show? We have seen it with our own eyes. I have met a mother of five who told me that her children go to bed every night with nothing to eat, and just a short drive from here, we have actually seen people reaching into the garbage with their hands to find food to eat. Are you honestly saying there is no hunger in Venezuela?
I am telling you that the BBC in London has created a stereotype - the American media also - of a Venezuela that doesn't exist. We have 4.4% of what we call extreme poverty, misery. Of course this is still something that we have to overcome, but we came from 25% of extreme poverty, and we have reduced all the indexes of inequality. Venezuela today currently has indexes recognised by international organisations in the highest levels of social equality in social investment.
Do we have problems? Yes. But Venezuela is not a country with hunger.
Venezuela has the highest levels of nutrients, has extremely high levels of access to food and that stereotype, that stigma that they have tried to put on us, has only one objective: present a humanitarian crisis that does not exist in Venezuela, in order to do an intervention.
In any case I tell you, the United States, Donald Trump's government, has sequestered $10bn (£7.75bn) of bank accounts that belong to us. They have sequestered billions of dollars in gold in London that are ours - that is money to buy supplies, raw materials, food, medicines. They have sequestered $1.4bn for many months, that we are going to use to buy food, medicines in Euroclear.
It's very simple: if you want to help Venezuela, release the billions of dollars in resources that belong to us. So don't come with a cheap show, a show of indignity, of humiliation, where they offer $20m dollars in food that is toxic, and rotten.
I know your position, President Maduro, is that there is no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. If that is the case, why have more than three million of your people left? That's one tenth of the population. The United States says people are leaving at the rate of 5,000 per day. If there is no crisis here, what is driving them from their homeland?
Ten million immigrants
You all have a problem, in the Western media, that you take it as a fact any lie that is broadcast. All that emigration campaign that has been said about Venezuela has been exaggerated. Venezuela is a country that receives immigrants, and you don't show that and you don't broadcast it. Venezuela has here 5.8 million Colombians, that have immigrated due to the war in Colombia - because of the violation of human rights, and because of the misery. We have more than 300,000 Italians, more than 300,000 Portuguese, more than 300,000 Spaniards, more than a million Arabs, more than 300,000 Ecuadoreans, more than 300,000 Peruvians,
There are more than 10 million immigrants coming every year to Venezuela.
Now, due to the economic war there is a new phenomenon of migration.
We have the official numbers that show no more than 800,000 Venezuelans have left in the past two years, due to economic reasons, trying to look for new alternatives.
Many of those Venezuelans were shattered because they encountered situations they did not expect like racism, discrimination, labour slavery, and thousands are coming back. In any case I can tell you that Venezuela is a country that offers opportunities in areas such as social development, social protection, social security, and that is why that, despite the economic blockade and the economic sanctions, and the economic persecution, Venezuela is still a country that receives immigrants. That's the truth.
Last year, in December 2018, you know how many Colombians came? 120,000 Colombians came to set up in Venezuela, which led us to the number of 5.8 million. That's the truth that nobody says. The thing is that the script is established in the West to disfigure the Venezuela situation, and justify any intervention, any aggression, as is happening right now.
But with respect, President Maduro, you can see every day at the border with Colombia large numbers of people leaving here. Even if we accept your figure that only 800,000 have gone, that's almost a million of your people who have left. Yet you are saying there is no humanitarian crisis.
You have to see that economic war that we have been enduring, the financial persecution. Every single account that Venezuela has in the world has been traced. That has had an impact on the economic reality. And of course, some Venezuelans thought - because of the social media campaigns - to go and find an alternative type of job abroad. The educational level of the Venezuelans that have left is very high. There are a lot of university professionals that have left, people of a very good level have left, workers qualified to a high technical standard, and looking for alternatives abroad, they found even worse situations. And you can almost be assured that the majority of these Venezuelans that have left due to the economic reasons are going to come back.
Venezuela has the problems that any country could have, in the South, in the Third World, in Latin America. We have made a lot of progress in our social indexes, that is a reality. Venezuela is a country that has the highest measures of social advancement on the whole continent.
Now we have problems, yes, of course we do. If we have the most powerful empire in the world, Orla, the most powerful empire in the world, targeting all our accounts, freezing all our assets abroad, going after every ship that comes to Venezuela bringing products, of course that has brought considerable disruption. We have confronted it, and rest assured, we will overcome.
You say some of the problems here could be seen in other countries, but with respect, Mr President, you have a hyper-inflation rate last year of 1,000,000%. Nowhere else in the world is experiencing hyper-inflation like that.
When you came to power, just before you came to power, the inflation rate here was 20%. So are you saying that the complete economic collapse here has nothing to do with you?
I'll tell you again: you take as reference anything that comes in the Western media. I invite you to look at Venezuela in depth. Of course we have problems of an economic aggression, but 1,000,000% inflation, no country in the world would survive that, Orla. So you take as truth: you don't even question any number as long as it's against Venezuela, you don't question it. You are completely non-critical of the lies that are being said about Venezuela.
Well, that's the way you are, that's the way BBC is, that's the way CNN is. You are the Western media, because you are in the script, to intervene in our country. Why is Venezuela so interesting for the West, why is it so interesting for the United States? If we produced potatoes, if we produced parsley, if we produced apples, maybe we would not even exist on the geopolitical map.
But because Venezuela produces oil, and it's the largest oil reserve in the world, because Venezuela has the fourth-largest reserves of gas, because we have and are now certifying the largest gold reserves in the world, Venezuela is important. Venezuela is leader of Opec, Venezuela presides nowadays in OPEC, so it's important to throw stuff at Venezuela, to make attacks of all sorts - social, economic, political, military - to surround Venezuela in order to create a situation the way they did with Iraq, with Libya. But Venezuela is not Iran or Libya, Venezuela has its capacity. We will confront all these issues and be assured that all those campaigns of media aggression, of lies, we will slowly start to conquer them with reality.
You think we have a preconceived idea. I came to Venezuela for the first time two weeks ago. We have had a chance over those two weeks to see living conditions for ourselves. We have met with a young cancer patient whose mother was told she had to pay for his biopsy herself, and she told us it would take two years to earn the money. We met a young patient with tuberculosis, who was getting no treatment because there are no medicines. We met a young man with a brain tumour who told us he has been waiting a year for an operation because he himself has to rent surgical equipment. These are people that we have met and have heard their stories first hand. What do you say to them?
That we are putting up a huge fight. Of the $1.4bn that was sequestered in Euroclear, half of that was to bring medicines to fight diabetes, to fight cancer. The money was frozen over there, and then we started looking via Portugal, and then they froze over $2bn with which we had bought substitutes for these medicines. In spite of all that, we brought medicines into the country. It's a huge effort. No country has endured what we have endured.
But the people can't afford to buy it. There may be medicine but we have met people who say that two boxes of antibiotics costs a month's salary.
You are first talking about specific cases - some people that had surgery, and some people that are being taking care of. You can rest assured that the Venezuelan social health system will reach them, and rest assured that everything that has to do with the medical system, we have a primary system of medicine distribution, that no other country in the world has. We have the family doctors, we have more than 30,000 doctors distributed in the communities, in the barrios, and the doctor not only takes care of his clinic, he goes from house to house. In the clinic and in the visits from house to house, he takes the medicine directly to the person that needs it. That gives us very extensive coverage and we have been managing with a huge effort - with the economic blockade, with the economic persecution - we have been stabilising the pharmaceutical industry, the national pharmaceutical industry, and we have been regulating with a huge effort, three times what a country that is not blocked has to do, in order to regulate the supply and sale of medicines, in the private system.
But we stood in a hospital not far from here and we saw ourselves that they didn't have insulin, they had not had it for five years. They didn't have basic medication. This is a public hospital in Caracas, not in a distant part of the country.
I'm not talking about the interior of the country, or about Caracas, I'm talking about the entire country, which is affected. So they choke us and they ask us, why are we suffocating? That's your question. You don't question anything. The financial persecution, the blockade, the mental scheme that you bring, from the West, from London, simply is just to finish killing the person who is being choked, and kicked.
And our scheme is different. Our scheme is one of resistance to take care of the people. You come to justify all the persecution, and the social consequences of that persecution. Because if I had my money secured, the money of the country, in a bank account and then it's sequestered, and that money was to bring medicines, then you come and say that there are no medicines in the country. Why don't we have medicines? And then you should also ask, why did it happen? Try to change your mental scheme. Why is Venezuela the geopolitical centre of the world? Why Venezuela, and why is it not any country in Asia, or Latin America, or Africa? Why? Ask yourself. Because they want to conquer us, colonise us. They won't be able to - we are solid, legitimate, and popular. People that are suffering know the reasons why, and they are conscious of the protection that we give them, and they support this revolution. If that were not the case, we would not have been here for 20 years, winning 23 elections out of 25. You have to ask yourself, why the mental schemes that you use, why the script that you bring from the North, does not work in Venezuela. Why?
But your election victory last year is disputed by many people. There are now more than 50 governments that have recognised Juan Guaidó as the interim President of Venezuela.
Fifty, where did you get that number from? Where do you get your numbers from, really? You bring a mental picture that you should check. You should check, I am not going to tell you more because really it's up to you, if you are an objective journalist, stable, or you only come here to verify your war campaign, the BBC's war campaign, and the western campaign against Venezuela.
Venezuela is a noble country. Venezuela has the right to peace. It's not right that we are enduring this campaign of war.
Venezuela does not want war. Venezuela does not want the result of all these campaigns that you conduct, that one day troops will come, in order to conquer our country. Venezuela wants peace, and respect, and for all of you to stop lying daily, please.
But do you dispute the figure? Do you dispute that 50 countries have now recognised the opposition leader Juan Guaidó?
It's not that I agree, it is that you are lying. It's not that I agree or you agree. You bring an image, you are a person, that expresses a dogmatism, of the West, against Venezuela. You are dogmatic: you are not capable of checking yourself, and seeing if one thing is true, or not. You are dogmatic. You have no critical sense. There is only one way of thinking. That's how you call it - it's called one way of thinking.
President Maduro, these are facts. These countries have now recognised the opposition leader here as the president. What do you say to them?
First of all, it's not 50, not even the European Union. It's not my duty to say. It's about 10 countries - governments, not countries, governments - that are in alignment with the politics of Donald Trump. What you have to ask yourself is where does all this political aggression come from? Where does this coup d'état scenario come from? Where does it come from? Trying to impose on Venezuela a government that nobody has elected, a government that declared itself in a public square, absolutely unconstitutional and irregular. Where does it come from? From the White House. Who conducts it? Donald Trump. The extremists of the White House have taken it upon themselves to carry out a coup in Venezuela. And we have rejected it and the entire world has rejected it. Now a Western campaign continues in a rushed way, I would say in an evil way. Donald Trump's politics continue. I would tell the world - Europe, London, the United Kingdom - ask yourselves, if you are not being led to a road with no exit, to failure, as you are letting Donald Trump lead you to a completely extremist illegal politics that violates the United Nations charter. And it has no support in Venezuela.
It has already failed, that politics of trying to impose a government that nobody elected. In Venezuela according to this constitution, the sovereignty resides in the people and is non-transferable. It is non-transferable.
And only through the people's vote you can elect a president in Venezuela. That's like someone comes to a public square in London, and proclaims himself Queen of England, or proclaims himself prime minister, and then three governments come and recognise it. That's outrageous. It's one of the biggest political outrages in international politics. In Venezuela, the people vote, and according to this constitution, only the people can put you in power and remove you.
You say it's up to the people to decide. Why not call a new presidential election, a free and fair and credible election, and let the people have their say? It seems as if your country now is very divided on the question of who should be president.
Well, there could be a debate in any country - who should be prime minister, who should be president - but every country has an electoral schedule. They have rules, electoral rules. Venezuela in the last 18 months has had votes to elect 23 governors, and we won 19. We have 335 municipalities, and out of 335 we won 307. We have chosen, and we have gone to the polls six times in the past 18 months, and on 20 May of last year, we had an election based on the constitution, for president of the republic, and I won with 68% of the vote. The opposition since then, the government of the United States, has boycotted this election.
Because they knew that there was no candidate from the opposition that could beat me in a presidential election, and they positioned this coup d'état a year ago. Venezuela already had its election.
The election that's still pending - and we will probably bring it forward - is the parliamentary election. That's the organism of the democratic institutions in Venezuela that has not been re-legitimised. I completely agree that we should bring that election forward, the parliamentary election, and the elections for the president of parliament. Look at this: there is a very important element.
Our constitution allows a feature called a recall referendum. It's one of the few places in the world where it exists. It means that in the middle of the term of any popular election, the people could activate a recall referendum.
The opposition has that option left, in the year 2022, to start the process of a recall referendum. Let's respect the rules of the game. Let nobody impose worldwide blackmail, international blackmail, so that Venezuela breaks its rules, or electoral regulations.
Could you win a presidential election now?
I already won it. And nowadays all the polls say that the Popular Bolivarian forces that I represent - that we represent - we have the social majority, cultural, political, electoral. We have won. You should know, in 20 years, we have won 23 elections out of 25 that we have held: presidential elections, for governors, for mayors, for parliament, referendums.
But many would say they have not always been fair, particularly the last one. There are allegations of ballot stuffing, and opposition candidates were not allowed to take part. It was not a level playing field in the last election, and this is why many would say that your victory in that election is in doubt. If you are confident now of a new victory, why not have a new election?
What is the logic, reasoning, to repeat an election? There has not been even one legal question internally to the electoral authority, which is the highest authority that regulates the elections, within the judicial branch. What there have been are political questions, and from whom? From the government of the United States. The government of the United States, since January 2018, four months before the elections were held, Donald Trump said we are not going to recognise any results of the presidential elections held in Venezuela. And still we hadn't even set the date. Listen Orla, please, it's a war. I pray that God enlightens you, and enlightens the opinion of the audience watching the BBC. It's a political war, of the United States empire, of the interests of the extreme right that today is governing, of the Ku Klux Klan, that rules the White House, to take over Venezuela, and they have positioned a political strategy, communications, diplomatic, warmongering, in order to take over Venezuela. And we, with the truth in our country, we are dismantling all that manipulation, all those lies that are repeated day after day.
US white supremacists
Do you really think the Ku Klux Klan is ruling America?
It's an extremist sector that hates the world. They hate us Latin Americans, Central Americans, Mexicans, Venezuelans. They hate us, they belittle us, they hate the entire world, because they only believe in their own interests, and in the interests of the United States. So in this battle that we are leading for Venezuela, I tell you, it's a battle that goes beyond our country, the battle to respond. Look at this: Donald Trump threatened us with a military invasion, just a few days ago. He said he was going to send the United States army into Venezuela.
Why? What is the reason, the pretext, the motive to declare war against Venezuela, which is a peaceful country? I call upon the people of the world, to wake up, open your eyes, to see that it is an aggression against the peaceful country. That Venezuela has problems like many other countries in the world, but only in peace can we solve our problems. And if you really want to help Venezuela, you have to support peace.
Say no to the intervention, tell the United States, hands off Venezuela, and support Venezuela in its own efforts to resolve its own problems through dialogue.
Hands off Venezuela
You say to the Americans hands off Venezuela, and that's fair enough, it's your country. But do you think you are also facing criticism from Latin American nations? It's not only Washington that is criticising you at the moment, it's also some of your neighbours here in Latin America.
Well unfortunately some governments of the extreme right are now in power - Colombia, for example, Chile. They are governments - the one from Chile comes from the Pinochet tradition, President Piñera, Macri in Argentina. And now they form a bloc of extreme right.
They have substituted the international policy of respect, tolerance, to impose an ideology, an ideology that has imposed great intolerance in international politics. And we have strongly opposing viewpoints. Well, they form a group of 11 countries. With the rest of the countries of Latin America, and the Caribbean, we have permanent relationships. We just had a meeting in Montevideo, a very important meeting that everyone should know about, promoted by Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay, and the 14 governments from Caricom, from the Caribbean. They propose a mechanism for dialogue, to help Venezuela in four phases. These countries make up 17 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. They are currently working on a process of dialogue that I fully support, a dialogue with no secrets, an open dialogue, and that will allow Venezuela to deal with these issues in peace, and resolve them.
But Europe is also questioning your legitimacy. It's not only the White House, it's not only some of the neighbours here in Latin America. It's also large powerful countries in Europe.
It's unfortunate that Europe, after being kicked by Donald Trump, is now behind Donald Trump - some countries, some governments are behind Donald Trump in a completely illegal policy that has no reason to be. I have been in meetings very frequently with European Union ambassadors, and I have read them the constitution, and I have demonstrated that they are outside of the international rules of the game, of respect. Everything that they say is a lie. Well, I really hope from the European countries, even those who have gone in the wrong direction, and those who are just waiting, observing, I hope for more from them. I hope that they listen to us. They only listen, as I told them, to one version. The statements and the communications from the European Union, are a complete reproduction of what the Venezuelan extreme right has said. It can't be.
Orla, we are really a force that exists, with a historic background, and cultural background, with a political and democratic background. This Bolivarian movement that was founded by Commandante Chávez has an existing force, powerful, in Venezuela, that deserves to be heard. I tell Europe, listen more, open your ears, and please, follow the path of respect.
How much of your gold is currently being frozen in the Bank of England? There are assets of Venezuela belonging to this country that you have been trying to access through the Bank of England. How much of your gold is currently frozen, and have you any chance of getting that?
Well, in general, in England there could be more or less 80 tonnes. Legally, it's Venezuela's gold, established by the institutions.
It's protected by the central banks. It's gold that belongs to the central bank of Venezuela. And I hope that international law will be respected. And the Central Bank of Venezuela is respected. And that hopefully the law will prevail.
And that Venezuela is not robbed of the gold that legally belongs to us.
What would you say to the British government and to Theresa May?
In reality we have not had much of a relationship with the prime minister. If she would listen to me, I would tell her that she should open her ears wide and see the aggression and not be partners in crime in what could be an invasion, a war in Latin America. That the extremist group that is in the White House is willing to do anything, and in the name of Venezuela, I tell her look at the reality. Look into the heart of Venezuela. It goes beyond the information and the campaigns that are being waged daily against us. And that hopefully she has the opportunity that the UK and in general Europe could then propose a respectful dialogue between Venezuelans. There is a severe risk to peace in Latin America and the Caribbean. Venezuela will fight if we have to, for our liberty and for our independence. We fought in the past and there were many English, Irish that were on the battlefields of Venezuela. I am sending a message beyond Mrs May to the people of the United Kingdom, the people of England, to all the people of the United Kingdom, to have solidarity with us and support peace, and to enforce John Lennon's song, "Give Peace A Chance". "Give Peace a Chance" and give truth a chance in Venezuela - that would be my call.
You have said you are ready to fight. Are you ready to take up arms against the US military if they decide to cross the border?
They would not leave us any other option. We would have to defend the right of our country to exist. To defend our right to peace. I hope that doesn't happen. I hope that public opinion will be on the side of peace and they can see how noble the Venezuelan people are, and that we have a right to discuss our own problems in peace. And that nobody interferes with Venezuela. No-one. And that this extremist group that is in the White House is defeated by powerful world-wide public opinion. I have faith in that. I am a believer, I am a Christian and I always ask God to enlighten us and protect us. And I have faith that we are going to accomplish everything in peace.
The opposition has talked about getting volunteers, getting people to the border to get the aid across. If they attempt to do that, would your troops fire on your own people?
We have never done that. We would never do that. We have never done that. The opposition has its tactics, its politics. They create their own shows. They have the freedom in this country to do anything they want. But there has never been and never will be repression of that kind. Please.
But there have been people killed in anti-government protests. Just last month, the United Nations said that as many as 40 were killed, about 26 by your security forces. People have been killed for protesting.
What protests? They have not shown a single bit of proof of a campaign that lasted 15 days. I saw it, I watch international news and the international news was showing a Venezuela that was not on the streets. Of course, on 23 January there were big rallies. The opposition held a big march and so did we. And with those images and other images of confrontation on the streets, they ended up saying that there were enormous protests that lasted 15 days in Venezuela. I spoke to prime ministers and presidents from around the world who called me, on 25, 28, 29 January, on 1 February and they were asking me if there were big demonstrations in the streets. And I said no, Venezuela is working, Venezuela is in peace. Because they tried to show - look at this. In order to justify this coup d'état and find international support, they had a plan to stir up the main cities in the country, but they failed. It's a small group of delinquents that went out to the streets, paid for by sections of the opposition and they were caught in the middle of their violent action.
There were many large-scale protests. We have seen some of those ourselves. We have also seen your supporters. But do you dispute that the opposition has been able to bring large numbers out and these people have said they are calling for change?
Yes, I saw them. And they were given the right to protest and have big protests, the same for the opposition as for us. Venezuela is a dynamic democracy with people who support the revolution and people who oppose the revolution. Whenever they go out and march, they will have the right to do so. And I always say I hope they do it in peace. They have small violent cells of protesters that, when the demonstrations are over, the marches of the opposition, always try to have a confrontation with the police in order to cause disturbance. The opposition have all the freedom to march as many times as they want, with their slogans and demands and we are also going to mobilise our people. Fortunately our people have a dynamic democracy.
Is there any set of circumstances in which you would give up power?
It is not about me as an individual wanting to be in power, Orla, and it is not my individual choice to abandon power. I am part of a social, political and historical revolutionary movement and that popular movement placed me in this position of responsibility. Complying with all the constitutional steps, electoral requirements and the mandate that they gave me is very powerful. And I have to comply with that mandate with my life. I swore to do this. I swore in the national supreme court to give my life to uphold and enforce the constitution. That is the mandate. And I am going to go beyond words to the end of what is possible to do this.
Are you confident you still have the support of the army? There is a lot of intimidation in the army now - people are being jailed when they speak out against you.
Well, that is another of the myths that were created throughout this campaign against me. The national Bolivarian armed forces are structurally humane. they are Bolivarian. Democratic. Structurally institutionalised. And they are armed forces forged through their values and a new doctrine, a new concept with teaching academies, and with a university for permanent learning. It's a new type of armed forces. This is not just an army, just made up of a random group of people, nor is it a rebellious army. It is not an army in the style of Pinochet. Nor will it be. So therefore these armed forces are loyal to the constitution. Loyal. Firmly loyal to the constitution. Mobilised in defence. Preparing themselves to defend the country. With very high moral values. They are very conscientious. And loyal to the Constitutional Commander in Chief, who is Nicolás Maduro. I am the head of state and the head of government and, according to the constitution, I am the Commander in Chief. They are loyal because they have a conscience and they have morals. They are not rebellious armed forces. And they are not armed forces that will put themselves at the service of the interests of the United States, of Donald Trump's Empire of the United States. Donald Trump has given orders on Twitter. It's incredible, Orla. Donald Trump, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence - they have commanded the Venezuelan armed forces to rise up in rebellion against the president of the republic. They have gone to extreme lengths and I am sure it has never been done with any country in the world before. And where are the armed forces? Are they going to serve Donald Trump? No. The armed forces are loyal. To the country and the constitution and recognising their commander in chief as the legitimate chief. I have a level of relationship that I inherited from Commandante Hugo Chávez, and that I have developed. So it is now a very deep, sincere honest and real relationship with all the officers, with the armed forces, with the soldiers. And that is a big strength that our country has.
What about Chávez?
How do you think Hugo Chávez would feel if he saw Venezuela today?
He would feel motivated to fight for our country as he always did. Commandante Chávez had to endure very similar circumstances to these, very similar. George W. Bush launched a coup d'état against him on 11 and 12 April 2002. He was kidnapped and they were going to kill him and Chávez did not hesitate, not even for one second, to defend his principles, his ideals and to fight to stay alive. So therefore Chávez is a huge inspiration for us. I always think, what would Chávez do in these circumstances? And that helps me a lot to find the right way forward, to know what to do every day.
Send a convoy with our money
One last question, if I may, about the Americans. If President Trump was to put 5,000 US troops on the Colombian border, how would you respond?
He can put a million there if he wants to. If it's inside Colombia, he can bring a million tanks, a million planes, a million soldiers. It's not a problem. If they stay inside Colombia, there is no problem. We will defend Venezuela and we will make them respect Venezuela. And with the conscience of the world and the conscience of the decent people of the world, we must tie the hands of Donald Trump, prevent Donald Trump from starting a war in Latin America. Or from assaulting Venezuela. I appeal for solidarity. I appeal for the active solidarity of all people of conscience in the world, beyond any ideology. No to a war in Venezuela. No to an invasion of Venezuela. And that we all tell Donald Trump: hands off Venezuela. Venezuela wants peace, tranquillity, happiness.
If a convoy comes through without authorisation, would you fire upon it? If a plane comes in without authorisation, would it be attacked?
They should send a convoy with the dollars they have stolen from us. Send a convoy with the gold, with the 80 tonnes. Let it come, the convoy with money. It's our money. With that, we could solve all our country's problems.
What would you say to the people who are hungry now, to the people who can't find food, can't find medicine, who are worried they won't have fuel? What do you say to them?
I tell them, and more than that, I act. I generate jobs, the pension system, protect Venezuelan families, continue to protect Venezuelan families, continue reducing extreme poverty. We have made a commitment between 2017 and 2025 to reach a state of zero poverty and we are going to accomplish it. You will see that we will do it.
A very last question: can you tell me how much a kilo of cheese costs in Venezuela?
It has different prices depending on the region.
Because we have been told it is the equivalent of a month's wages and that is what it is costing people just to buy one kilo of cheese.
We have different scales of salary. Now this is a very Venezuelan issue.
I don't think your audience is interested in that. You see, because if we had time to compare the jobs, social protection, social security, public health, and public education available to the Venezuelan people, then with time your audience would probably understand. So I can tell you in Venezuela we have a policy of social protection to generate jobs and our people will progressively start solving their problems and they won't want for anything. I can tell you that.
Have you heard from Jeremy Corbyn, the British opposition leader, during this crisis? Do you feel he hasn't given you enough support? He has been a strong supporter of Venezuela in the past.
No, we haven't spoken.
And do you think he should have given you support?
|Born on||May 15, 1966 +|
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