Democracy Now! Interview With Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Monday, September 19th, 2005
Hugo Chavez: "If the Imperialist Government of the White House Dares to Invade Venezuela, the War of 100 Years Will be Unleashed in South America"
listen at http://www.democracynow.org/
MARGARET PRESCOD: President Chavez, speaking of the other super power, the Bush administration via Rumsfeld referred to you as a threat to the region. Many of us translating that on a grass root level assume that means thatyou're doing something that really rattles the Bush administration and means also that you're wildly popular in the region. Which we have seen. I want you to comment on two things. In relation to women and also the relationship between the middle class and the grassroots. You're the only president who has said that to deal with poverty, you have to give power to the poor, 70% of whom are women. Why did you say this? And how are you putting it intopractice? And also in relation to the middle class and the grassroots ofthat relationship, some of us have often seen how middle class professionalswho are used to being in charge, instead of putting their skills at theservice of the grassroots, cling to power and keep the grassroots out. How are you addressing the class issue in Venezuela so that the movement here can learn from it?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ: That's a very important issue you are raising there.Because you are touching the core, the very core of any transformation process. Beat reformists, beat revolutionaries, beat an abrupt process or aggressive process, moderate or radical. In any transformation process, social transformation process, economic transformation process, political--is doomed to fail without the participation of the grassroots and the population. The people, the communities, they are like the fuel. They arethe fuel of revolution, of the processes. Without them there's norevolution. It’s like water. It's just a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. Or air, oxygen is important for this mixture to occur. That is why when you go to the plenary sessions of the U.N., I feel like oxygen is missing there. Because it is so removed from the reality of the people, of the needs of thepeople. You ask me then, in the Bolivarian revolution, the role of the grassroots communities, the women and men, as well of course. But the grassroots and communities, their role is vital, and it’s more dynamic. It's very beautiful in the roles they have to play. Just to give you an idea of some of the experiences we have had in Venezuela. I leave for Venezuela this weekend. Next week we are going to have an event in Caracas with thousands of peoplewho are part of the Urban Land Committee, the C.T.U. in Spanish.
These committees of urban land are all over the country. They are in each neighborhood, poor neighborhood. You have a committee. The members of this committee should watch the whole neighborhood. And then they draft the map of the neighborhood. They go house by house, family by family and they assess all the problems. If they lack running water or if some of the houses are unstable and they could fall down. How many children they have. The schools. The health care system in the neighborhood and so on. So these are the urban land communities. We also have the technical commissions of water. These technical commissionsof water interact with the urban land committee. They take care of the water supply and also the sewage system.
There are other technical groups to takecare of energy supply, electricity supply especially. We have also the health committee. The rural land committees in the rural areas. We also have housing cooperatives. In large networks of grassroots organizations, as youknow, in the constitution that we have drafted, in the government we foster these grassroots movements. Here we have been trying the democratic model. It is the revolutionary democracy. But it is not only a representative democracy. It is a participatory democracy and beyond that it is a fully and meaningful democracy. And Abraham Lincoln already said this: the governmentof the people, for the people and by the people. That what we say here is totransfer power to the people, especially the poorest of the poor. If you want to get rid of poverty, we need to empower the poor. Not to treat them like beggars. And this week we're going to give money, we’re going to give financial resources to these neighborhood committees, grassroots organizations, we’re going to give them technical resources, equipment, weare going to carry out the housing schemes, infrastructure schemes, wate rsupply, electricity supply schemes. So this is a beautiful task we are conducting.
Because there, we are reducing to zero, the possibility of corruption because we give the money to the population themselves. And they put it inthe bank, they help to make withdrawals and then execute the budget. They have to save some money also. And, of course, the money is to better used. They do the social oversight of the use of the moneys. Efficiency, because the work will profit them. It not a private company that is going to do the job and they take the profit and in the end the community is poorer than before. And let me tell you this. In all these committees, cooperatives, the women play a major role. Without women there would be no revolution. Artists arenever wrong when they paint revolution with the beautiful dress and with the sword. On the horse or by foot. Because revolution is a woman. A woman isthe revolution. But the poverty also is the face of the woman. And the hopesis also woman. And nature is also woman. There will be no probability ofsuccess without the creative participation and the powerful participation of women.
MARGARET PRESCOD: Thank you.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Mr. President, there's no longer any doubt that the majorityof the people in Venezuela support your government. But there are still those in Venezuela who say that you are using that majority support to stamp out the dissident views. Recently, I participated in a forum at ColumbiaUniversity with Gustavo Cisnero, the head of Venevision, where he insisted that you are not allowing a free press to continue to function in Venezuela.I asked him, well what is the press of Venezuela doing organizing political coups? But I'd like you to talk about the role of the press in your democratic revolution and the importance of the press in general in communicating ideas to the mass of the people.
PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ: Ignacio Ramonet recently wrote a piece called “The Media Dictatorship” because most of the media, not only in Venezuela but allover the world as well, they are in the hands of very powerful people. Very powerful economic people. For instance this person you refer to is a clear example of that. And he was one of the ones taking part in the coup in that time. And he use all his media power and all the private channels inVenezuela and all the media, the press, newspapers and private TV station seven succeeded in fooling the international public opinion for some time.They depicted me as a tyrant who massacred his people. The tyrant was defeated, was overthrown, was toppled. However, a few hours after that, the people who toppled the tyrant brought the tyrant back. So they were nakedbefore the world, of course.
So that is one of the problems the world is facing today, the media’s tyranny and that we have been denouncing around the world. However, at the same time we are very encouraged by the fact that we have excellent shows. Every day the more the truth is being revealed in the Hurricane. I waswatching CNN during the Katrina disaster, and you can see how thejournalists-- I remember a lady who was in the eye of the hurricane, Inez Fered, I think the name of this lady. I watched a lot of TV at the timeduring Katrina. Well she started to interview people and telling the truth. And then another journalist, and they started to criticize the government for the way they reacted to the tragedy. So the powers could not silence thetruth. Not even through CNN. And other media, large media. Now in Venezuela we have full freedom of the press. I doubt very much that there is any other country where freedom of the speech is so respected in Venezuela.
For instance, Luis Zapatero, the president of the Spanish government, he arrived late, and I waited for him in the palace the next day. When he saw me, hetold me, Chavez, I had many news about you and about freedom of speech. Now,this morning I saw two hours of TV shows. And I read the papers. I have no doubt in my mind that here you have full and total freedom of speech. Andthis will continue to be so.
And all these rumors and attacks against us are totally untrue. And I think here in the United States you have a journalist in jail because she did not reveal her sources. This has never, in other parts of our history, never happened. Journalists who were in jail and journalists killed or persecuted. Today, there is total freedom Venezuela.This is part of the dynamic of the revolutionary democracy. And what the capitalists of the media do not forgive us, forgive the people because wehave demonstrated that the people are fully aware of the reality defeat the media campaign. You ask about the middle class. I forgot to mention the middle classes. This is important. The same struggles -- the same reality that was discovered openly in the world is touching today the middle class. In Venezuela, middle class’s current is appearing all over the country. And they are adding up.They are joining the process. After the coup there is this movement called middle class in positive this is a movement which is growing every day.
When the medical doctors, the Cuban doctors arrived in Venezuela. The media launched a campaign against these Cuban doctors. And they succeeded inmaking the middle class to oppose the presence of the Cuban doctors inVenezuela. They succeeded in preventing Venezuelan doctors to join these health care schemes. It was insanity, total insanity. Today, however, we have thousands of Venezuelan doctors joining the Cuban doctors in these programs. We have dentists, ophthalmologists, and the “Into theNeighborhood” project, the health care program, today, two hundred millionof doctors seeing patients in poor neighborhoods. We have twenty-fivemillion people. It means that it’s four times the population. It’s like eachVenezuelan has gone to the doctor four times, and these being free of charge procedures with the medication.
The Venezuelan doctors today are joiningthis scheme. And together with Castro, we have signed an agreement to form,to train two hundred thousand doctors in ten years. To train them in SouthAmerica, Africa and the U.S., social doctors, doctors who are not charging,those who are saving lives. People who are giving a lending hand to thepoor. That’s the medical doctors we need. We have also started a projectcalled “The Miracle Project,” and we put this project today to be at the disposal of the U.S. If you know someone – tomorrow when you show this broadcast this show and you have people who have eye problems and theycannot afford an eye surgery, please, go to the Venezuelan Consulate in theU.S. Go to the U.S. Embassy in Washington. Go to CITGO.
We can guarantee the transportation of these people to Caracas and Havana free, totally free ofcharge. These people could undergo eye surgery. This year we have conducted close to 100,000 eye surgeries, cataracts. In children, when you do not operate these cataracts, they can go blind, cornea operations, estavism,myopia and many others. You wear glasses and you are writing pretty well,right? If you remove your glasses, you cannot read. It’s going to bedifficult.
The same thing. I am 51 years old. So I have problems with my eyes. I need glasses. There are people who cannot read because no one has told them that they should wear glasses. They don't have glasses to read –millions of human beings. So we have this plan with Fidel, and we haveagreed to do this in the next 10 years, and we have already started, 2005 to2015, we are going to operate to conduct eye surgery to a million people. 600,000 people per year. That's a miracle surgery. And that includes theU.S. people, especially the poorest of the poor. Help us to help these people who are suffering from eye diseases.
AMY GOODMAN: Mr. President, I know you have to go, but why are you calling for the extradition of Luis Posada to Venezuela?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ: Well, you know that this gentleman – there is ample evidence that this guy is a terrorist, clear evidence that he took part and he masterminded, among many other terrorist attacks, in the blowing the Cuban plane that was coming from Barbados to Caracas. It was blown up, and 73 people died as a result of this terrorist attack. But also in Venezuela this person occupied a senior position in the political police force, andthere are many evidences of tortures, of people missing as a result of his acts. It was in the 1960's and the 1970's. So this gentleman, Posada, was already condemned in Venezuela for the blowing of the plane. He was in jail, but he fled. He escaped with the connivance of friends in jail. So we have the duty, once we located him – and we located him here in the U.S. – well it is our duty to request that he is extradited to Venezuela because he is a murderer. He is an assassin. He's a terrorist. He's a very dangerous person. He has caused a lot of harm, and he could even cause more harm, by himself and in a network he is leading, because he is very active. If he were in jail, he would be the mastermind of the terrorist network that already took part in the coup attempt in Venezuela, like snipers for instance, they were sent to kill people. So they blame me for those deaths. So this personshould be extradited in Venezuela.
AMY GOODMAN: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in his first sit-down interview in the United States. Tomorrow we bring you the rest of the conversation, where we ask him what evidence he has for his charges that theBush administration has attempted to assassinate him. We also talked to him about the offer of cheap oil to the poor of the United States.Tuesday, September 20th, 2005Venezuela's President Chavez Offers Cheap Oil to the Poor...of the UnitedStates.
We play the rest of our conversation with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He spoke with Democracy Now! in his first interview in the United States. We ask him what evidence he has for his charges that the Bush administration has attempted to assassinate him and he reveals for the first time, details of a plan to offer of cheap oil to the poor...of the United States.
Today, the rest of our interview with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.President Chavez was in New York last week for a summit of world leaders at the United Nations. In his speech, Chavez blasted US foreign policy andaccused the Bush administration of trying to hijack the UN summit. He described the United States as a terrorist nation because it is harboring the televangelist Pat Robertson who recently called for his assassination.Chavez has long charged that the US was behind the aborted coup against himin 2002. In the interview, he reveals for the first time, details of a plan to offer of cheap oil to the poor...of the United States. Democracy Now! met with President Chavez on Friday in his first sit-down interview in the United States. I interviewed him with Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez and Margaret Prescod of Pacifica Radio station KPFK atthe Venezuelan ambassador to the UN's residence here in New York City.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
AMY GOODMAN: Welcome Mr. President to the United States. You have come to a country whose government, the U.S. government, you have accused of trying to assassinate you. What evidence do you have of this and of your other charge that it was involved with the attempted coup against you?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ: Thank you for the invitation to come to this show,Juan, Amy and Margaret and my greetings to all the people and the viewers and the listeners to these programs these well known programs. Let’s talk about life, rather than death, because we are fighting for life. However there are always threats, those who are devoted to the struggle for life and use the truth as a flag and or principles as a lifeline. There is no doubt whatsoever that the U.S. government, led by Mr. Bush, planned and participated in a coup d’etat in Venezuela in April, 2002. There’re many proofs and evidence of this.
There is a U.S. lady who wrote a book called the “Chavez’s Code,” Mrs. Eva Golinger and she was sitting here not too long ago, and she is very close and there are declassified documents that she has found thanks to an effort to investigate the situation.I have many evidences that my assassination was ordered on April the 11. More precisely on April the 12, and I was ready to die, however thank Godand thanks to the Venezuelan people and thanks to the soldiers, Venezuelan soldiers, this order was not accomplished and this order was given byWashington.
And there are many evidences and witnesses, however I would liketo talk about life and greet the U.S. people with a lot of affection, with a lot of love and with a lot of pain due to the tragedy in New Orleans and the gulf states.We’ve been accompanying these states from the very beginning, and we’ve been watching TV and receiving reports by our ambassadors and the CITGO peoplefrom the very beginning, cooperating very humbly trying to save lives and assist the homeless. We have offered assistance, up to five million dollars,a very modest sum, but I guess it would be useful. We have offered medicine,water, and electric power plants, the same way Cuba offered doctors. So far we have not being authorize to reach the area. However, we hope the best forthe poor, the poorest of these countries.
AMY GOODMAN: And televangelist Pat Robertson, his call for yourassassination. What do you demand now, what is your response to that?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ: Well as a matter of fact, Robertson is not acting alone. He’s just conveying, in a perhaps desperate manner, the thinking ofthose people closer to Mr. Bush. This is the voice of the most radical - ofthe extreme right wing in the U.S., I am totally convinced that is the situation with Mr. Robertson. And as you can see, so far there has been no reaction by the U.S. government in this regard. There’s nothing being saidabout these terrorist remarks that is in full breach of international lawand breaches the laws of the United States. But it’s not only Mr. Robertson here. For some time, for some months, people who participated in a coup attempt in Venezuela and are living here in the United States. And from TV stations in this country these people are calling for my assassination. A week ago, in another TV show, people in uniform, infatigues, like terrorists. Venezuelans and Americans and Cubans exiled inthe United States, and a former agent of the CIA, very recently said on TV that Chavez should be dead already. That Robertson is right.
So this is the desire and the voice of the ultraconservative right-wing elite of the United States. They threatened Chavez. Chavez is nothing. Who is me? I’m nothing.They are threatening the world. That is serious. They invaded Iraq. Withoutany reason whatsoever. They violated international law and are ignoring the rules of the U.N. Terrorists bombard complete cities, such as Fallujah,Baghdad, innocent women and children. Now, history is long. Hiroshima forinstance-- Nagasaki, Grenada, Haiti, Panama, Santo Domingo. No, that is not - they do not represent the people of the United States. They are part of the imperialist dictatorship that the U.S. people are suffering today.
MARGARET PRESCOD: Mr. President, on behalf of KPFK, Pacifica Radio in Southern California, welcome to the United States. We have been waiting for this moment.
Many people in the United States have been shocked at the racism they have witnessed against low income people in New Orleans and the other gulf cities and we wonder how Venezuelans view what has happened. And also you are clearly working to unite people of color throughout the world. You are the first Latin American president we know of who identifies as black and indigenous, and this breaks a long tradition of racism in the Americas. You’ve also identified with the people of Haiti who are fighting to defeat a brutal coup against their president how crucial do you think the defeat of all racism is to making the fundamental economic and socia lchanges needed to save the world from the destruction of the market?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ: When we were children, we were told that we have a motherland, and that motherland was Spain. However, we have discovered later, in our lives, that as a matter of fact, we have several motherlands. And one of the greatest motherlands of all is no doubt, Africa. We loveAfrica. And every day we are much more aware of the roots we have in Africa. Also, America is our motherland. Africa, America - and Bolivar used to say that we are a new human race in Latin America, that we are not Europeans, orAfricans, or North Americans.
That we are a mixture of all of those races, and there is no doubt that Africa resounds with a pulse like a thousand drums and happiness and joy. But, also there’s a lot of pain when you think of Africa. Yesterday, I metwith the president of Mozambique, because fully aware of these roots and these realities, we have designed an agenda for Africa in Venezuela. And we have spoken to other South American leaders. Lula for instance, is fully aware of the African roots of Brazil and South America, and I want to sharethe African agenda with other leaders in South America, but Venezuela hasalso it’s own African agenda. In the case of Mozambique. The life expectancy in Mozambique is 38 years old, and going down, because AIDS is causing havoc in the population.
It’s terrible, it’s a tragedy, it’s a million Katrina’s hitting this country. The president of Mozambique told me the number of children, orphaned children, whose parents have died as a result of AIDS. The teachers are dying, the doctors are dying. That’s a tragedy, and it’s a disgrace, and that’s why it hurts. It hurts so much to see the U.N. openingits doors to listen to speeches and speeches and more speeches, while at the same time, every year a population equivalent to Argentina today, or Columbia die of hunger, or Venezuela die of hunger, and those deaths could be avoided. Most of them are children, little girls, little boys, and most of them are in Africa. So, we need like a shaking of the world. To shake up the world. That’s why when people talk about my style-- my style - that’s why the speech I delivered yesterday before the United Nations Assembly – because it doesn’twork! It’s not working. If we reduced the military expenses in 10 percent of the world, we would have enough money to save millions of lives in thisworld.In Venezuela, with the little resources - few resources - we have initiated a program to bring food to feed the poor people in Venezuela, and we arecovering today 15 million people in Venezuela - receiving this fooddistribution and assistance. And most of them receive this food for free,and others a percentage, they have to pay only 50 percent of the total amount for the food they eat.
Of course this is possible only if the people themselves, participate and with a new awareness. Racism is very characteristic of imperialism. Racism is very characteristic of capitalism. Katrina is – indeed, has a lot to do with racism - no doub tabout it. Hate against me has a lot to do with racism. Because of my big mouth, because of my curly hair. And I’m so proud to have this mouth and this hair, because it’s African. So we need a new morality, a new ethic at this point. And from my Christian point of view, we need a revolution of the ethic. And in the political and economic fields we need to take back the flag of socialism, in my view - in order to be able to defeat - with the will of the people, with the participation of the people – to beat those ominous phenomenon such as racism.
AMY GOODMAN: Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in his first interview in theUnited States.[break]
JUAN GONZALEZ: Mr. President, welcome. Bien venido a los Estados Unidos.Your democratic revolution has a different aspect to it, in that your rich in oil, and the world badly needs oil. What do you do in Latin America to use oil as a weapon to assist the poor. Can you tell us a little more aboutwhat you are offering to the communities of the United States who are also suffering from high oil prices.
PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ: This is the result of our awareness, that only through integration we can advance and we can progress among Latin American countries, breaking the paradigm of capitalism, of free trade, and neo-liberalism. In the year 2000, we started a cooperation program especially with the Caribbean and Central American countries, and some of the South American countries, with the Caracas Energy Accord, and there for the first time in history we included Cuba, because Cuba is considered likea country that is not part the Americas, and we think it is part of the Americas; Jamaica, Nicaragua, Grenada, many countries. This mechanism includes the sale of oil and oil by-products with a discountof up to 25 percent. This discount becomes in the end a donation we givethese countries, however, when the price of oil, starts increases, in the year 2000 we signed the Caracas Accord and the price at that time was 20, 25 dollars a barrel.
When we realized that the prices started to increase and it goes beyond 40 and beyond 50, and I doubt very much the price is going to drop any time soon because this is part of the structural crisis, the world has to face it, it is a reality. There is a drop in the oil reserves, there is an increase in consumption and demand. The refining capacity is low.The consumerism of the world is unbearable. The world of the U.S. people must come to understand, how this country with 5 percent of the world population only, consumes 25 percent of the oil and the energy of the world. I mean that type of consumption is totally unbearable and this planet cannot stand it any more. When we realized that the price of oil went up beyond 50 dollars, we initiated another cooperation scheme.
We have created, therefore, Petrocaribe and we are going to start with small Caribbean and Caricom countries, and the larger Antillas such as Cuba, Jamaica, and Dominican Republic. So we’re now providing, first we’re ensuring the supply of oil, direct supply of oil from state to state, in order to avoid the speculation o fmultinationals and traders. They buy gasoline in Venezuela and then they goto a Caribbean country, and they charge double so we are selling the products to the states directly. We are not charging for freight, we assume the cost of freight.
But apart from that, this discount is not of 25 percent it goes to 40 percent of the total, and this money will be paid back in 25 years time, with 2 years of grace and 1 percent interest rates. So if you make all of the mathematical calculations, the donation percentage is almost 70 percent because it’s a long term adjusted 1 percent. So what Venezuela’sdoing is supplying 200,000 barrels of oil to the Caribbean and other Central American and South American countries such as Paraguay, Uruguay and smaller nations in South America. 200, 000 millions of barrels, if you apply calculations, mathematical calculations by 1.5 percent of our GDP, 1.5 percent of the GDP is devoted to this cooperation. It means we are financing these sister nations that next year will reach 1.7 billion dollars a year, in 10 years is 17 billion dollars. It’s a way for us to share, to share our resources with these countries. And what about the US population?
Well after many meetings with the U.S. citizens, we decided to propose a scheme for poor populations and low-income populations in the US. We’ve seen that poverty in the us is growing everywhere. It’s close to 11 percent poverty according to some estimates and instead of the figures you have to go deeper into it because if you see Katrina, and you saw what’s happened, 100,000 people were abandoned and they are abandoned, and they’re just surviving.So here we have CITGO, this oil company. We have the CITGO company here in the United States. This is a Venezuelan company, so let’s have a look at theU.S. map the distribution area of CITGO in the U.S. We are present in 14,000 gas stations in the U.S., and here we have a different refineries, asphalt refineries, eight refineries that we have in the U.S., the plants forfilling units, the third, refineries, terminals, and so on.
We want to use these infrastructures to help the poor populations. We have made some progress. We have given instructions to the president of CITGO, Felix Rodriguez. We want that up to 10 percent we refine here. We supply every day to the us 1.5 million barrels of oil, crude and product and we refine, here, close to 800,000 barrels a day refined here in the US. So we would like to take 10 percent of what we refine those products and to offer these products in several modalities to the poor populations. And the pilot project will be starting in Chicago we are already operating in Chicago.Well let’s hope that there’s not going to be any obstacle by the government opposed to this project being implemented, but we will be working in those poor populations.
We have some allies, local partners and we have a number of communities, and we are going to donate some heating oil, because the winter is close, and for the school transportation to school, for the Mexican neighborhood which is the largest in Chicago, La Villita, is the name of this neighborhood with close to 900,000 inhabitants, and so there are other neighborhoods with Hispanics and Latinos. October, the 14th we’re going to start with these pilot projects with small communities and schools, but there are other pilot projects that will start in November in Boston, and here in New York. So different modalities, with local authorities, mayors, organized communities, religious groups. So we are very pleased to announce this. And to help just with a drop, and a grain of contribution to help the low-income populations, Blacks or Hispanics or also White population so we’re just starting with this project.
AMY GOODMAN: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaking in his first interview in the United States.