Coup in progress? Venezuelan Foreign Minister decries US and Brazil-backed effort to oust Maduro

Chavista crowds gathered in Caracas vow to oppose any US-backed coups and attempts against the constitution, and to set up vigils around Miraflores Palace.

Update: Since this interveiw was published by Democracy Now!. President Trump has recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president, calling democratically elected President Maduro “illegitimate.” In response, Venezuela has cut diplomatic ties with the U.S., giving diplomats 72 hours to leave the country.

The United States and allied nations in Latin America are ratcheting up pressure on Venezuela in what appears to be a coordinated effort to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from office. Maduro was sworn in last week to a second 6-year term following his victory in last May’s election, which was boycotted by the opposition. Days before Maduro was sworn in, opposition figure Juan Guaidó became head of the National Assembly, which soon voted to declare Maduro a “usurper” in an effort to remove him from office. The United States, Brazil and other nations have welcomed the effort. As the political crisis intensifies, Maduro has reached out to the United Nations to help establish a peace dialogue in Venezuela.

In the clip below, Democracy Now! speaks with Jorge Arreaza, Venezuelan foreign minister. He met with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres this week. The transcript follow.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. The United States and allied nations in Latin America are ratcheting up pressure on Venezuela in what appears to be a coordinated effort to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from office. Maduro was sworn in last week to a second 6-year term following his victory in last May’s election, which was boycotted by the opposition. Days before Maduro was sworn in, opposition figure Juan Guaidó became head of the National Assembly, which soon voted to declare Maduro a “usurper” in an effort to remove him from office.

The United States, Brazil and other nations have welcomed the effort. Vice President Mike Pence tweeted, the U.S. “strongly supports the courageous decision by Juan Guaidó” to “declare the country’s presidency vacant.” On the day of Maruro’s inauguration, January 10th, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Guaidó to congratulate him on his election victory to head the National Assembly. Then, national security adviser John Bolton announced, quote, “The United States does not recognize Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro’s illegitimate claim to power,” unquote. Brazil, now led by the far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, has gone a step further by saying it recognizes Juan Guaidó as the rightful president of Venezuela, even though Guaidó himself hasn’t even claimed that title. A group of Latin American countries known as the Lima Group also recently voted to not recognize the legitimacy of Maduro’s presidency. Mexico was the sole dissenter.

The U.S.-led effort targeting the oil-rich nation of Venezuela dates back two decades, since the late Hugo Chávez became president in 1999. In November, John Bolton accused Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua of being part of a “troika of tyranny.” In September, The New York Times reported the Trump administration conducted secret meetings with rebellious military officers in Venezuela to discuss overthrowing Maduro. In August, Maduro survived an assassination attempt when he was attacked by a small drone. He accused the U.S. and Colombia of being involved in the plot. In 2017, President Donald Trump said he could not rule out a, quote, “military option” to deal with Venezuela.

All of this comes as Venezuela is facing a staggering economic crisis, caused in part by falling oil prices and broad U.S. sanctions. According to the IMF, inflation is over 1 million percent in the last year, the highest rate in the world. There are widespread reports of food and medicine shortages. The United Nations estimates 3 million Venezuelans have left Venezuela since 2015, resulting in what the U.N. has described as an “unprecedented migration crisis” in Latin America.

As the political turmoil intensifies, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has reached out to the United Nations to help establish a peace dialogue in Venezuela. Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, met this week with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres here in New York.

On Thursday, I had a chance to interview Foreign Minister Arreaza, who has served as foreign minister for the past three years. From 2013 to '16, he served as Venezuela's vice president. I began by asking him if he believes Venezuela is being set up for a coup.

JORGE ARREAZA: Of course. It’s evident. And you see this man, who nobody knows in Venezuela—you ask in the streets, “Who is Juan Guaidó?” and nobody knows him—but he’s being pushed to say that he is the new president, by the U.S. He hasn’t said that, but Pompeo says it, Almagro from the OAS says it, and other presidents say that now he’s the president. They are trying to push a political conflict in Venezuela. They are calling the armed forces to make pronunciations against President Maduro. That’s what they want, a coup d’état in Venezuela. They want a war in Venezuela. And it’s not going to happen.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s talk more about what you believe is the role of the United States in coalescing opposition to Maduro.

JORGE ARREAZA: They are the bosses of the opposition. They tell them what to do. Nothing that the opposition does is without the permission or authorization of the State Department, at least, here in the United States. And they confess this. They say, “We have to make consultations with the embassy. We have to make consultations with the Department of State.” It happens. I mean, they are not free. They are not independent.

But in spite of all of that, the president is trying to sit, again, with the opposition—with the democratic opposition, not the extremist opposition that makes violent demonstrations and burns people alive, no? And that is what he’s going to insist, on the dialogue. But this, what is happening now—John Bolton tweeting and doing communiqués, and Pompeo and everyone saying that Maduro is not the president, that he’s illegitimate, that he’s a usurper—come on, that is a coup d’état, again, against Venezuela.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, explain that term, a “usurper.” I mean, it looks like, you know, a case is being built for an overthrow, when he, when Guaidó, the opposition, the head of the National Assembly, announces that Maduro is a usurper.

JORGE ARREAZA: I mean, they are manipulating the Venezuela Constitution. They say that the elections, where almost 10 million Venezuelans voted and more than 6 million voted for Maduro, that this didn’t happen. No?

AMY GOODMAN: The opposition boycotted?

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes, they boycotted it—not only the opposition, Washington and Bogotá and Lima and Santiago, these governments—no?–neoliberal governments in Latin America. So, they said, when the elections were conveyed, three months before the elections, they said they’re going to be a fraud, and they wouldn’t recognize the results. And then they pressed the potential candidates of the opposition not to register. And when some of them registered, they pressed them to retire, to withdraw. And they didn’t. And now they say that because the elections were a fraud, then there’s no president of Venezuela, so the president of the National Assembly has to be the new president. And all these governments and the U.S. government are encouraging this thesis. So, it’s very dangerous.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to continue on what the U.S. is doing. In November, national security adviser John Bolton claimed Venezuela was part of a “troika of tyranny.”

 

JOHN BOLTON: The troika of tyranny in this hemisphere—Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua—has finally met its match. In Venezuela, the United States is acting against the dictator Maduro, who uses the same oppressive tactics that have been employed in Cuba for decades. He has installed an illegitimate Constituent Assembly, debased the currency for political gain and forced his people to sign up for a corrupt food distribution service or face certain starvation.

 

AMY GOODMAN: In December, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro accused U.S. national security adviser John Bolton of leading a plan to invade Venezuela.

 

PRESIDENT NICOLÁS MADURO: [translated] Today, I come out once again to denounce the plot set forth by the U.S. to destroy Venezuela’s democracy, to assassinate me and to impose a dictatorship in Venezuela. Mr. John Bolton has been assigned, once again, as the chief of a plot to fill Venezuela with violence and to seek a foreign military intervention—a coup—assassinate President Maduro and impose what they call a transitory government.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Foreign Minister, can you elaborate on this and also this term “troika of tyranny,” very much reminiscent of George W. Bush’s “axis of evil”?

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes, the “axis of evil,” no? And it’s reminiscent of the language used in the Cold War—Nixon, McCarthy, all that dark history, no? And it has no sense. We’re in the 21st century. You have to respect the sovereign nations. We have the right to build our own model, democratic model. And, yes, the United States government, especially the obsession of Bolton, of John Bolton, against President Maduro, they are behind everything that is happening in Venezuela. Yes, they almost killed, assassinated President Maduro August the 4th with drones. And it—

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s talk about this. This was the first drone attack, attempted assassination, on a head of state in history.

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: August 4th, it was a Saturday. It was in front of the Palace of Justice.

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Maduro was giving a speech. And explain exactly what happened.

JORGE ARREAZA: What happened is that suddenly a drone appeared, and it exploded.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you there?

JORGE ARREAZA: I wasn’t there. But most of the ministers were there, and the military forces were there, and the other branches of power were there. And it was two drones. These people were trained in Colombia. We told—we gave this information to the Colombian government. We gave them the place where they were trained, the people who were involved, the names of the people, of the officials of migration that led them across to Venezuela with the drones. We gave the U.S. government the information about these people in Miami, who met there and also were part of this plot against President Maduro. And nothing happened.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, before it, in April, at the Latin American summit in Lima, Peru, Vice President Mike Pence said more must be done to isolate Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

 

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: We must all stand with our brothers and sisters suffering in Venezuela. And I can promise you the United States will not rest, we will not relent, until democracy is restored in Venezuela and the Venezuelan people reclaim their birthright of libertad.

 

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Vice President Mike Pence. In June, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro called U.S. Vice President Mike Pence a “viper” and vowed to defeat what he called Washington’s attempts to force him from power.

 

PRESIDENT NICOLÁS MADURO: [translated] Every time the poisonous viper of Mike Pence opens his mouth, I feel stronger, clearer of what the road is. The road is ours. It is Venezuelan. It is not the one Mike Pence points out to us, not 20 poisonous snakes, not 20 vipers like Mike Pence.

 

AMY GOODMAN: Foreign Minister Arreaza, explain. Why—what is Mike Pence’s particular interest here? You’re looking at Pence, Bolton—

JORGE ARREAZA: Bolton.

AMY GOODMAN: —and Pompeo, now secretary of state.

JORGE ARREAZA: Pompeo, as well. You know, Pence, you know, he’s a religious guy. He’s from the extreme right. You know him. And he’s obsessed, as well, with the Venezuelan revolution.

You see they say that you have to restore democracy in Venezuela. We have a democracy. We have had 25 elections in 20 years. We’ve had elections for president in 1998, in 2000, 2004, 2006, in 2009, 2012, 2013, 2018. I mean, our people are used to—and not only democracy, because the Constitution says you have to elect these presidents and parliament members and mayors and governors; no, because we have—our society is organized in community councils—consejos comunales—and communes, and you take the decisions. Every single day, Venezuelans are exercising democracy. We have democratized the access to education, which was being privatized before the revolution. We have democratized access to housing, which was also exclusive for the rich before the revolution. We have democratized access to health. We have doctors all over—they used to be Cubans, now they’re Venezuelans—all over the country. You walk one block, and you have the doctor there. So, we are really trying to build a root democracy, rooted in the people. And that is what they don’t like, because that is not what they would like from the countries of Latin America.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about sanctions and the effect they’re having on the Venezuelan economy. You have Henry Kissinger, still an elder statesmen, consulted by Democrats and Republicans alike. Let’s go back half a century, go back decades. He wanted to make the Chilean economy under Allende scream, he said.

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: You have the half-century embargo against Cuba. What does economic pressure—economic sabotage, if you will—look like in Venezuela? In November, the Congressional Research Service published a short overview of current U.S. sanctions in Venezuela and mentions the Trump administration is considering a new wave of sanctions. But the report also states, quote, “Although stronger economic sanctions could influence the Venezuelan government’s behavior, they also could have negative effects and unintended consequences. Analysts are concerned that stronger sanctions could exacerbate Venezuela’s difficult humanitarian situation, which has been marked by shortages of food and medicines, increased poverty, and mass migration. Many Venezuelan civil society groups oppose sanctions that could worsen humanitarian conditions.” Now, again, this is not the Venezuelan president saying this; this is the U.S. Congressional Research Service. Can you talk about the effect of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela?

JORGE ARREAZA: The Venezuelan people are suffering because of these so-called sanctions, which are cohesive, unilateral measures. This is not approved by the United Nations Security Council. It has no legality. These are decisions taken by one government unilaterally to impose a blockade against Venezuela so it’s difficult for us to import food, to import medicine. We cannot use the dollar as a currency to exchange. We have to switch. Only this switching from dollars to euros is more than what we need to invest in, in importing the vaccines for our children or the treatment for HIV in Venezuela for two years. And it’s probably—the figure that I can give you is more than $20,000 million that we have lost because of the so-called sanctions in more than a year.

AMY GOODMAN: So, these sanctions are overt. Are there covert sanctions against Venezuela?

JORGE ARREAZA: Of course, because it’s not only this, that is official. It’s pressing the companies not to work with Venezuela. It’s threatening to seize a company that we have here in the United States, Citgo. We cannot repatriate the profit from our company in the United States to invest it in food and medicine in Venezuela.

AMY GOODMAN: And for people to know, Citgo, which is Venezuelan state oil company—

JORGE ARREAZA: Owned, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —has been used for many years in the United States to support poor people—

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —in their programs for—to have oil in the winter.

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes. And we intend to keep on using it for this in the United States. But most of the profit annually should be sent to Venezuela, and we cannot do it. It has to be here in the banks of the United States, blocked. We have more than $1,600 million or euros blocked in Europe in this company, intermediary—it’s called Euroclear. Why? Because of the sanctions.

AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned Russia. On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed concerns over U.S. meddling in Venezuela.

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes.

 

SERGEY LAVROV: [translate] We have heard talk that allows for military involvement in Venezuela, talk that the United States will now recognize as the president of Venezuela not Nicolás Maduro, but the representative of the parliament. All this is very alarming. And all this shows is that the approach of undermining governments the United States doesn’t like stays on as a priority of their activity in Latin America and in other regions.

 

AMY GOODMAN: If you can talk about the significance of Lavrov weighing in, also the latest news, in December, Russia landing two nuclear-capable Blackjack bombers in Venezuela as part of a joint training exercise?

JORGE ARREAZA: You know, Russia has been friends of Venezuela for over 16 years. We believe that the world has to have several poles, several centers, not only the United States. The United States cut all the military cooperation with Venezuela 20 years ago. And we have military cooperation with Russia. And these planes, aircrafts, that came this year, they came in 2013, as well, and nothing happened. But this year it was taken like it was that we were trying to bomb the U.S. And, come on, that’s nonsense. We have the right to have cooperation with Russia, with China, with whatever country in the world. And what Lavrov said there is exactly what the United States is doing. And he knows that they are trying to manipulate the people, the media, the Constitution of Venezuela even, to impose a man who has not been elected president.

AMY GOODMAN: Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza. We’ll be back with him in 30 seconds.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue with my interview with the Venezuelan foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza.

AMY GOODMAN: You have massive flight from Venezuela. The U.N. high commissioner for refugees has called the ongoing Venezuelan migration crisis “unprecedented” in Latin America. The U.N. estimates about 3 million Venezuelans have left since 2015. Another 2 million are projected to leave this year. About a million of them are living in Colombia; half a million in Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Panama, Brazil—all have large numbers. Why, Foreign Minister Arreaza, are so many people, so many Venezuelans, leaving?

JORGE ARREAZA: Well, first, it’s not—you know how many Colombians live in Venezuela? Six million Colombians live in Venezuela. Over—Peruvians and Ecuadoreans, over 1 million. Spaniards, Italians, Portuguese, Arabs, over 2 million.

So, of course there is migration at the moment, because we are blocked, because it’s difficult to find medicine, to find some products of food, and the hyperinflation process, with an exchange rate, Amy, that is not set by the national authorities in Venezuela, by the central bank, it’s set by webpages in Miami, you know? The exchange rate the day before Maduro’s inauguration was $1, 1,000 bolívares, which is crazy. Well, the day of the inauguration, it duplicated. It was 2,000 bolívares for $1. And that has no economic logic. That is all political. That is warfare. That is using the currency against our own people.

So, we are worried, of course, because there are—it’s not 3 million Venezuelans. It’s probably 1 million Venezuelans. And most of the people that have gone to Colombia are Colombians that live in Venezuela and that have gone back to their country. And we are willing them to come back to Venezuela. That’s what we want, for the Venezuelans and the Colombians that lived in Venezuela to come back to Venezuela.

AMY GOODMAN: But the economy, inflation over a million percent last year—

JORGE ARREAZA: Yeah, but that—

AMY GOODMAN: —the highest rate in the world?

JORGE ARREAZA: That’s the figure of the IMF. That’s not the exact—that’s not the figure at all. It’s probably 10 times less than that. It’s a very difficult problem. But this inflation is induced from abroad. It is produced by these webpages and all this warfare, economic warfare, against Venezuela. It is not only because we have not taken some measures in Venezuela. Of course it’s not. And it makes things very difficult for the Venezuelan people.

AMY GOODMAN: So, food and medicine shortages. Do you feel that your government, the Maduro government, takes some responsibility for what’s taking place?

JORGE ARREAZA: Of course. We are not perfect, as the government here is not perfect at all, and the government in Argentina is not perfect. Of course we have responsibilities. But most of the problem, the vast majority of the problems, in Venezuela are caused by the blockade, are caused by the warfare, economic warfare, against Venezuela.

And in spite of all of that, we are in a better situation today than we were in 2016. There is more food. There is more medicine. There’s more—the employment is under 6—unemployment is under 6 percent. And many things. I mean, we have not closed one school, one university, one hospital. We have not expelled the Cuban doctors, because we have to protect our people. We have delivered more than 2,000,500 houses to our people in the last four years. And that is investment that we have made, in spite of the sanctions, in spite of the blockade against Venezuela.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let me ask you about Human Rights Watch and the Venezuelan NGO Foro Penal recently releasing a report accusing Venezuelan intelligence and security forces of detaining and torturing military personnel accused of plotting against the government. The report claims, quote, “Some detainees were subjected to egregious abuses that amount to torture to force them to provide information about alleged conspiracies.”

JORGE ARREAZA: That’s psychological warfare against Venezuela. Of course there are detainees that were in plots last year to overthrow President Maduro. But no one is torturing them. This happened in the last century in Venezuela. We were used to torture. We were used to students being killed in the streets every week. We were used to repression. That stopped with the Bolivarian Revolution. It doesn’t happen anymore. But these NGOs are paid also by the USAID and by the government of the United States, and they say what they have to say because they are paid.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I want to ask you about other leaders in Latin America. On the one hand, you have Brazil’s far-right president now, Jair Bolsonaro, and Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri meeting to discuss joint opposition to the Venezuelan government. And then you have the newly elected president of Mexico, AMLO, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is not joining with these other countries who are opposing Venezuela. But first talk about the Macri-Bolsonaro alliance and what that means, joining with the U.S.

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes. As I told you, it’s—in Latin America, it’s like a company, you know, a corporation. Trump is the CEO of a corporation, and these presidents, who are businessmen, are his directors. And they want to be promoted by President Trump, so they have to do—they have to follow the orders. And they have been said that they have to isolate Maduro, that they have to not recognize Maduro’s government, and they have to do what the United States says so, in order to overthrow Maduro. And that’s what they’re doing.

Of course, we are worried about Brazil, because this man is far on the right. It’s fascism again. It’s what we felt, that what we believed to have disappeared from the Latin American history, it’s happening again. This man hates women. This man hates the black population. This man hates the homosexual community. This man hates Venezuelans. He’s a racist. We are worried about Brazil. He hates the poor. But—

AMY GOODMAN: And loves the Brazilian—former Brazilian military dictatorship.

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes, he loves the dictatorship.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does it mean to you that AMLO, the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador—the stance he has taken in support of Venezuela?

JORGE ARREAZA: I believe that the president of Mexico is right. We have to respect each other. We have to respect the principles of international law. I mean, if you join the United Nations, it’s because you respect the internal affairs of the other states. It’s because you respect the equality of states. It’s because you don’t have the right to interfere in other nations. That’s not what the United States does. They have done wars in Iraq. President Trump said that he regretted—we regretted that the United States invaded Iraq, because now the situation is worse than it was with Saddam Hussein. And the same in Libya.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet you see the same thing happening and, of course, a very serious similarity. You have George W. Bush coining the term, or his people writing the term and him saying it in 2002, “axis of evil,” which set up the foundation for the invasion of Iraq. And then you have the U.S. talking about the “troika of tyranny.”

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And the similarities between Iraq and Venezuela are three letters: oil. And interestingly, many years ago, the original name of the invasion of Iraq was going to be Operation Iraqi Liberation, but they realized the acronym was OIL, and they had to change it. That was the United States. But what about this similarity, this resource, focusing on countries that are, you know, the world’s most important oil providers?

JORGE ARREAZA: I am sure that if in Venezuela we only had bananas, none of this intervention would be happening. But we have oil. We have gas. We have gold. We have silver. We have bauxite. We have iron. We have water. I mean, Venezuela is a very rich, wealthy nation. And that is why we are—they want to rule the country again, as they did until 1998. They want to have control of the Venezuelan resources. And that is why they are so obsessed to overthrow Maduro, because they want to have these resources for the development of capitalism here in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think this coup will look like if it takes place?

JORGE ARREAZA: Well, first of all, it cannot take place, because we have to defend our Constitution, and we have to defend the peace of the Venezuelan people. And the military forces in Venezuela are aligned with the Constitution. They support the Constitution. And as a consequence of that, they support the legitimate president, who is Nicolás Maduro. No doubt about it. So it won’t happen.

But what they would like to happen is that some militaries say that Maduro is not the president anymore, and then that they will appoint this young fellow, Guaidó, as president, with no constitutional support. And then they will have control of PDVSA, of the oil of Venezuela—you said it: the oil. They will have control of the companies of Venezuela, of the resources, the gold and everything. And they believe that is possible. That’s not possible, not in Venezuela. Maybe in some other country, but not in Venezuela.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking at a tweet that just came over, from Florida Senator Marco Rubio. He says, “We must support those members of military in #Venezuela who have announced they will defend the constitution and recognize Guaidó as legitimate interim President.” That’s the president of the National Assembly.

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes. You know that those are supposed to be military people. They live in Peru. They don’t live in Venezuela. That’s part—

AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about the picture he tweeted out—

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes. That’s a video.

AMY GOODMAN: —of military men.

JORGE ARREAZA: That’s a video that last night came, and it’s supposed to be Venezuelan militaries, who live in Peru. I mean, that’s part of the show. They are probably paid, maybe by the Peruvian government. I don’t know. They are in the Peruvian TV. But that’s not happening in Venezuela. That’s what Marco Rubio wants, that this were to happen in Venezuela, that the military were to announce that they don’t recognize President Maduro. That’s not going to happen. And if it were to happen, a small group, we are ready for any scenario. But that’s—they want a coup d’état in Venezuela. That’s a good proof of what Bolton, Pence and Trump and Marco Rubio want for Venezuela.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me ask you about the issue of press freedom in Venezuela.

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: In December, the 75-year-old newspaper El Nacionalpublished its last issue. It was the largest remaining opposition newspaper publishing in Venezuela. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported the closure was due to restrictions that the government imposed on access to newsprint. According to CPJ, over 20 Venezuelan publications have been forced out of print due to government restrictions on newsprint. Natalie Southwick of CPJ said, quote, “The disappearance of El Nacional's print edition is the latest casualty of the Venezuelan government's ever-expanding campaign to silence critical reporting and limit the voices of independent media in the country.”

JORGE ARREAZA: You know, before all this economical trouble and problems we have, we used to subsidize the import of paper for the newspapers. And now it’s the private newspapers that have to import their own newspaper, and it’s more expensive. So, that’s what happened to El Nacional.

But El Nacional—you can check the social networks. You can check Twitter. You can put in Google—you can google “kill Maduro,” ”matar a Maduro,” ”maldito Maduro,” and it’s all over all the media in Venezuela—the radio stations, newspapers, TV broadcasting channels of the opposition. Probably 70 percent of the media in Venezuela, which is private, is against the government and encouraging all these situations to happen, because they are owned by the wealthy families, traditional wealthy families of Venezuela. But, I mean, that’s part of the show, saying that in Venezuela there is no free press and freedom of speech.

AMY GOODMAN: But what about the shutting down of this almost two dozen papers?

JORGE ARREAZA: That’s not true.

AMY GOODMAN: El Nacional is not—

JORGE ARREAZA: They’re bankrupt. They don’t have enough money. They don’t sell enough newspaper in order to have money to import their own paper.

AMY GOODMAN: For a non-Venezuelan audience, how would you define the Bolivarian Revolution? I mean, you are the foreign minister under Maduro. You’re also the son-in-law of Hugo Chávez. Talk about that history.

JORGE ARREAZA: The history of the Bolivarian Revolution is a process of independence, of giving back the people their rights, of guaranteeing that the people have access to health, to education, to housing, to culture, to their national identity, to their sovereignty. That is the Venezuelan revolution, democratizing our society, really democratizing the human rights in Venezuela. That is what we’re trying to do, using the wealth of the oil and the other natural resources to invest it in the people, for the people, as Abraham Lincoln said. That’s our mean, that’s our goal. That’s what happened.

But because those resources are not for the U.S., are not for other interests in the world, they are trying to overthrow President Chávez and then President Maduro. And they will continue. President Maduro would like to have a conversation with President Trump. And it would probably solve some issues, because I am sure that when they—if they were to talk and see each other to the eyes, they would see that they can coexist, and they can fulfill some agreements between them. But there’s no way. I haven’t been able to have a meeting with—not with Pompeo, who is like a minister of foreign affairs, no? With no one in the State Department. They don’t want to have dialogue with the Venezuelan authorities. What’s that? That’s uncivilized.

AMY GOODMAN: Final question, and this is about the International Criminal Court. In September, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru called on the ICC to investigate Venezuela. Human Rights Watch hailed the move, saying, “In two crackdowns, in 2014 and 2017, Venezuelan security forces committed systematic abuses against critics, including torture, Human Rights Watch research shows. They detained more than 5,400 people between April and July 2017. Members of the security forces have beaten detainees severely and tortured them with electric shocks, asphyxiation, sexual assault, and other brutal techniques.”

JORGE ARREAZA: That’s part also of the show. Now, you can compare the human rights record of Venezuela with Argentina or Brazil or any of these countries that are doing—manipulating the international institutions and using them to attack Venezuela. We are waiting for Michelle Bachelet, who is the high commissioner of human rights of the United Nations, to visit Venezuela. She’s—

AMY GOODMAN: Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile.

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes. She is—

AMY GOODMAN: A torture survivor herself.

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes, she is. And she’s been invited by President Maduro, and we’re waiting for her to come to Venezuela and to see the situation by herself. Of course, this is part of the warfare against Venezuela. But as I told you, this is going to be part of the past, Amy. These governments, right-wing governments in Latin America, are going to be over—some of them this year, some of them next year. And Venezuela is going to be there, at least the revolution—

AMY GOODMAN: How do explain this right-wing wave throughout Latin America, of course, excluding Mexico?

JORGE ARREAZA: Yes, Mexico, Bolivia, Nicaragua, the Caribbean nations. They have popular governments, as well. But it’s—Uruguay, of course, has a progressive government, as well. But it’s part of the cycle. You know, it’s part of the cycles.

But I must say that the United States was focused on the Middle East after 9/11, and they invested all these funds and money. And suddenly, the progressive governments became majority in Latin America. And when they turned their head, they said, “Hey, what’s happening here? We have to do something. We have to do a coup d’état in Honduras, because this Zelaya is trying to do a progressive government. We have to fund the candidates of the right. We have to”—so, they have had success until now.

But the peoples of Latin America are seeing, are witnessing this, and they will change the conditions. They will change, because the peoples have the right to be in power in Latin America.

AMY GOODMAN: Jorge Arreaza, Venezuelan foreign minister. He was here in New York to meet with the U.N. secretary-general. He’s also the former vice president of Venezuela and the son-in-law of the late President Hugo Chávez.

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