Speaking to RT Spanish host Eva Golinger in Caracas, Nicolas Maduro shared his views on the political and economic future of Venezuela and Latin America’s fight for independence.
Eva Golinger: We would like to ask you a question that’s on everybody’s mind: how is President Chavez doing? Do you have an update on his present condition? Will he be coming back to Venezuela soon?
Nicolas Мaduro: We’ve already said that President Chavez’s recuperation period is almost over. It has been a long and difficult process. The president was aware of the odds all the way, but his vigor and energy are simply amazing. The surgery was a very difficult. President Chavez suffered internal bleeding, which was a very alarming sign. I should say that Comandante Fidel Castro and his team were with Chavez and his relatives the whole time. We are very grateful for that. For the concern on the part of Comandante Castro, Cuban President Raul Castro, and the doctors.
Now President Chavez feels better than at any other time during his recuperation. I’m flying to Havana to visit the President soon. He will give me necessary instructions and messages to be announced at the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. So you could say that President Chavez is in the fight.
EG: Is there any hope that he may return to Venezuela any time soon?
NM: We remain optimistic, but there are too many factors at play. We need to talk to the doctors and President Chavez himself to choose the best moment. As we have repeatedly told Mr. Chavez, and the Venezuelan people know it well, the most important thing now is his recovery. Everybody knows how President Chavez has invested all his efforts and energy into his country, into fighting for the independence of Latin America, how he has persevered in his anti-imperialist struggle for social justice worldwide. It was President Chavez who went vocal about global warming, so that everyone could find out the truth. It was he who championed the struggle against global plunder and the neoliberal policies that are killing Europe.
It was President Chavez who adamantly raised the banner of protecting the Palestinian people, when they were attacked. When so many in the Arab world chose to keep silent out of fear, President Chavez raised that banner and the Arab people cheered him.
So President Chavez was at the helm of great campaigns for the sake of humanity, and today his role in the world is recognized by millions. Here’s why this RT interview is so important for all the viewers in the US, Russia and across the world: we know we are speaking to the hearts of millions on the planet, those who believe in President Chavez, admire him, follow him and love him deeply.
We tell them that the president is fighting the illness; that we, his people, are waiting here for him to come back soon. And one day that will definitely happen.
EG: Speaking of struggle, there is another question I want to ask you. Over the last few days, there has been talk of restoring the relations between Venezuela and the United States, and there has already been a kind of negotiation on the subject between the two governments.
NM: The US is, in fact, an empire that was established as a union of 13 independent colonies located on North America’s East coast. Throughout the 19th century, this nation expanded its territory, asserted its military might and imposed its policies and its trade on neighboring countries, and in the 20th century, it emerged as a global superpower. Ever since the Bolivarian era the US has looked down on Latin America and the Caribbean as its backyard. But President Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement expect that, sooner rather than later, the elite that run that mighty empire will find themselves forced to recognize our region’s independence and respect our leaders.
This is absolutely inevitable. Yet it’s not that they will do us a favor and grant us independence, like we are a former colony of theirs, but as a result of our own efforts. Today, the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean are winning independence once more, just as they did back in the 19th century. In Venezuela, we run our own country, thanks to Hugo Chavez and the victorious people’s revolution. And in tune with the other nations of our continent, our government has conveyed a message to President Obama on behalf of President Chavez during a recent ministerial meeting, saying that we wouldn’t mind improving our relations with the US and restoring mutual respect between our nations as far as possible.
But whenever we would attempt a rapprochement with the Obama administration, we would always face sabotage from the conservatives who build the core of the US military-industrial and media complex, which oppressively controls the entire nation, the same way as it oppresses the rest of the world.
That said, we wouldn’t mind restoring a fully functional relationship with the US based on mutual respect. If it eventually works out, we would be happy with that. But we will not be dominated.
The US is the only country in the world that has that much trouble dealing with other nations, because they haven’t come to grips with the new global reality yet. But they will have to soon. We have been telling them for years, and it’s time they should realize that the world has changed, and they can no longer dominate through air strikes and intimidation.
EG: Mr. Vice-President, not long ago President Chavez appointed a new foreign minister, but you held this position for six years. What are the priorities of Venezuela’s foreign policy now?
NМ: President Chavez has drafted a program that we are calling Our Homeland’s Plan for 2013-2019. It lists five main strategic, or long-term, goals, which are: building a true democracy in Venezuela, achieving independence and establishing a new socialism. The fourth strategic goal has an international dimension. It reflects the vision of Simon Bolivar. He talked about balance in the world, about the need for Latin American countries, which gained independence from Spanish control 200 years ago, to present a strong united front. He wanted our states to create a union that would make aggressive empires with big military clout that dominated in the international arena back then respect our region and our right to development.
President Chavez revived this doctrine and turned it into our foreign policy. It’s very easy to explain. The fourth strategic goal is: to facilitate the creation of a multi-polar world in which there will be no domineering empires. In terms of our region, it means that we need to strengthen the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and Petrocaribe. These institutions help forge new economic and social models of cooperation and development in our region. We also aim to strengthen the Union of South American Nations – UNASUR – and promote the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (SELAC) that has been set up. It was Bolivar’s dream, and we brought it to life here in Caracas in December 2011.
Internationally, we need to bolster our strategic alliances with the countries that play a key role both locally and globally, in this new multi-polar world that is emerging. So the strategic alliance between our region and Russia, China and India is growing stronger thanks to our active interaction and through economic and political projects with BRICS. We are convinced there are a lot of opportunities to create a new world order, which will be the result of a continuous and arduous struggle against imperialistic views and concepts in world politics.
EG: And now could you tell us a little bit about your domestic policies? The new administration has just got down to work in its 2013-2019 term. What issues are still outstanding?
NM: In the social sector we need to continue our fight against poverty. It’s our curse, a painful legacy of the 500 years under foreign oppression. We should not forget about all that destruction that colonial empires had brought to our land. I am talking about Venezuela specifically. This was a difficult burden that our country had to carry throughout the whole 19th century. Then our region suffered from North American hegemony. Venezuela became an oil rig to them, an oil colony. They destroyed the natural economic foundations that our republic enjoyed in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Our specialty was food production, we had rich agricultural traditions. We were also influenced by the military dictatorship, established in our country by US transnational corporations, the so-called Bermuda Companies. So they basically implemented an oil-dependent model by establishing the military dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gómez. This has set a course for the whole 20th century. The second half of the 20th century was plagued by terrible corruption, our oil resources were misappropriated. Poverty was at 80 per cent. The goal of our revolution is to bring this number down to zero. This is one of the goals set by Comandante Chavez, our president, for the next six years. And we’ll get it done. We have already brought down the poverty level from 27per cent to 7 per cent.
A large number of our people are still below the poverty line, but we are working on solving this problem. For example, we are implementing a new education plan. Good education, that is also free, is one of the major achievements of the Bolivarian government. We are also implementing reforms for such areas as healthcare, food security and employment. We keep an eye on the wage levels of the working people. By the end of 2012, unemployment dropped from between 20 and 25 per cent to 5 per cent. We have achieved a lot in the social care sector. While in Europe unemployment is at 20-25 per cent and governments cut pensions and salaries, our 21st century revolution is helping us to establish a social model that allows the Venezuelan people to build their own country.
EG: Back in December, prior to his latest surgery, President Chavez explicitly announced that you would be his successor in case he can’t remain in office and at the helm of the Bolivarian Revolution any longer. How would you describe the personality of Nicolas Maduro?
NM: Each of us is first and foremost a fighter, a man of the street. We walk to work, or take the subway. We’ve been engaged in struggle ever since we were kids. Caracas and its various locations have been our battleground, where we engaged in the student movement and the alternative union movement, which dates back to the 1990s, just as Hugo Chavez emerged as a leader. Once he came out in public and made his address to the nation on February 4, 1992, wearing his beret, we told ourselves, “This is the road we shall take.” And ever since that day, there wasn’t a day in my life when I wouldn’t be working for Chavez, because working for him means working for the sake of the country.
That will be the case till our last breath.
We don’t believe in “making a successful career in politics,” as some people’s aspirations are described. That kind of thinking belongs in a bourgeois political culture, which is no longer in our country. The only career we know is one of revolutionary struggle, as soldiers fighting for the cause of Chavez. This is who we are: soldiers who fight for the cause of Chavez, and we’ll go wherever our duty takes us.
EG: Mr. Vice President, thank you so much for the interview and for being with us.
NM: Many thanks to you and the RT channel.