The Opposition in Venezuela Is Worst than Bolsonaro, Says Nicolás Maduro

The Venezuelan dictator say that he wants peace, but the world must not forget that the country has a professional army with good weapons and power

Mônica Bergamo
São Paulo

Folha's interview with Nicolás Maduro was scheduled for 5 pm Thursday (12). A day earlier, however, the OAS decided to convene a meeting to study the activation of a treaty that could lead to military intervention in the country.

Ahead of the Venezuelan government since 2013, Maduro leads the country at its worst economic moment. The price of oil has plummeted. Unemployment and poverty increased, and inflation exploded. Caracas is short of water and electricity. The government contains social degradation with the distribution of staple food baskets.

The opposition gained momentum, with the brash support of US President Donald Trump and the Brazilian government.

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The Venezuelan dictator, Nicolás Maduro, during the interview in Caracas. (Foto: Marlene Bergamo/Folhapress) - Folhapress

The OAS (Organization of American States) may reactivate the Tiar (Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Action), which might result in military intervention in Venezuela. Is the country ready for a war?

"I think there will be peace. This decision was made by a group of ultra-right governments that are putting their ideological extremism ahead of international politics and law. First, [the decision] has no application. Venezuela left Tiar many years ago. We are not part of this treaty, which allowed the invasion of several sister countries, such as the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Panama.

It is a dead treaty, and all that remains is to bury it below the ground, well-hidden. And to defend the right to peace, to the non-military intervention of the people of Venezuela. I am sure this will prevail overall.

What if it doesn't prevail? Are you ready for a war? There is a rumor that the Armed Forces would not be unified under your presidency.

"The Bolivarian National Armed Force is more united than ever, more united than ever in defending Venezuela's right to peace, sovereignty, independence, and self-determination. All of these threats from [Jair] Bolsonaro's and Donald Trump's government to invade Venezuela have been ideologically and institutionally co-existing with the Bolivarian National Armed Force.

I recently enacted a set of military exercises, and we are preparing to defend our land. The world should not forget that Venezuela has a professional armed force, with a good, powerful defensive weapon system. Also, we have 3 million men and women from the national militia.

Would Russia participate in a Venezuelan defense effort?

"With Russia, we have strategic alliances, military cooperation. We have the world's highest equipment, anti-missile, missile, air defense, ground. We have a good weapon system, thanks to Russia. With China, we also have good military agreements. But Venezuela's defense depends on Venezuelans and Venezuelans. It has always been so.

Colombia says you are housing FARC guerrillas, and you have ordered military exercises at the border.

"They have been accusing us for 20 years. They have never shown proof and can never show it because it is false. They just want to serve the US government, seek some kind of Colombia-Venezuela military escalation.

This week Trump was asked if he would talk to you, and he said, "I don't want to talk about it." Is there any plan for a direct dialogue?

 "We have been the victims of the most brutal aggression that can be done to a country. They have frozen US $ 30 billion in our accounts abroad because of the Trump government. They expropriated, robbed us of the oil company Citgo in the US.

They chase vessels that bring wheat, corn, food, and medicine to Venezuela. They forbid us to import.

We react by denouncing. Recently 13 million Venezuelan and Venezuelan signatures have been collected which we will hand over to the UN proposing to end the blockade and economic persecution against Venezuela. Now, in this milestone, I tell you: I was Chancellor of Commander Hugo Chávez [died in 2013] for almost seven years. I know the diplomatic life. And since I am president, I have been telling the United States that the only path we have in the 21st century is dialogue.

Is there any dialogue with Brazil? It seems that the Venezuelan Armed Forces has communicated with the Brazilian military.

"Well, there has always been contact with Brazil's military, and I think this should continue. With the government, you know that Bolsonaro is an ideological extremist. He recently declared his admiration for [former] Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who is a kind of South American Hitler. And in your mind is just the aggression against Venezuela. He is not a politician. Regrettably, at the head of many South American governments, there are no politicians, with capital P, with doctrine, who know how to respect diversity. He, as president of Brazil, with such a large border with Venezuela, and a shared history, would be obliged, if he were a statesman, to have minimal communication with Venezuela.

The days will come when there will be a government in Brazil with whom we can understand each other.

He says that the Venezuelan people are the slave of a dictator. He does not know the history of Latin America or Venezuela. In 20 years, we have had 25 elections, president, governors, mayors, parliamentarians. The Bolivarian forces, Chavistas, won 23 elections.

Of 23 governors in Venezuela, 19 are Bolivarian. Of 335 mayors and mayors, 307 are ours, winners with votes. All we have ever had was by popular vote. It is stupid that he declares himself an admirer of Pinochet and says that the Bolivarian revolution is a dictatorship.

Other personalities say the same. Pepe Mujica, former president of Uruguay, says there is nothing other than a dictatorship in Venezuela. Alberto Fernández, Cristina Kirchner's candidate for the presidency of Argentina, says the government commits abuses. And Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, made a very damning report about Venezuela. Are they also Donald Trump puppets?

"I had a long talk with Bachelet on her visit here. And we have a tough controversy with her. Bachelet repeated the same report as the former High Commissioner [Zeid Al Hussein]. She repeated the same lies [Bachelet claims, among other things, of arbitrary arrests, torture, and economic degradation in the country]. No support, no proof. The only thing she picks up and puts in the report is copies of the newspaper O Globo, [newspapers of] Sao Paulo, the New York Times, and so on. etc., who tell lies about Venezuela. To say that Venezuela is a dictatorship is a historical stupidity. And who says it is stupid.

Even Mujica? 

"Whoever. Alberto Fernández says there are abuses. Whoever says it, where it says it, is stupid. Venezuela is respected. Venezuela is a solid democracy. Threatened. Harassed.

At a time when Venezuela suffers its greatest harassment, attacking it from the left, the center-left, is cowardice against a noble people who have resisted and will continue to resist and win with votes. That is our advantage. And with all the attacks, with all the misery and aggression, they have not been able to with us.

Neither will they. Our strength, I always say, is real. We are for real. I'm not here because you're a wizard, wizard. I am here because there are conscious people and a popular force that will continue to give historical examples.

In Brazil, Lula is under arrest after conviction in several courts. There is controversy, and even international personalities say it was a political judgment, with the use of justice to neutralize this leadership in the elections. People who are against him say that he is not a political prisoner, but a political prisoner. Doesn't the same thing happen here that they accuse of happening in Brazil? 

"It is a cursory analysis. In one case, there is an ultra-right-handed man [Leopoldo López], [convicted] with evidence, testimony, in an open, public process demonstrating that he tried to overthrow the government. There were 40 or more dead [in the protests]. The court makes its decision. [In Lula's case is] An arranged case, which was handled against a man of honorability, of Lula da Silva's stature. It is unmatched. It is a moral crime to compare a man like Lula da Silva, and his size in the history of Brazil and America, and the brutal persecution [which he suffered], already demonstrated with evidence, with these US-funded far-right opponents in Venezuela. It is a purpose.

In 2018 there was a low voter turnout in the presidential elections compared with Venezuela's recent past. In 2013, 80% participated in the elections, and now 46%. Doesn't it seem like the people are downhearted about democracy?

"I believe it was a good election. It was an electoral process subjected to an economic war, a multi-million dollar world campaign to openly lead to abstention. And, on our side, there was a triumphalist campaign, the product of the voting power we have.

It was a legal, constitutional, transparent election recognized by over 300 international observers.

There are elections with a very high level of participation, others in which he is low.

I won with 68% of the votes. When we make comparisons, we have a big advantage over people like Donald Trump, all the prime ministers of Europe, elected by 12%, 14% of the voters. And in Venezuela, voting is not mandatory. "Ah, but Nicolás Maduro was elected by 33% of registered voters. Ah, Nicolás Maduro is less legitimate." We will not accept this blackmail. We have constitutional, electoral, law-based legitimacy, and voting legitimacy.

In 2015, you lost the elections, and the opposition won a majority in the National Assembly. But it was put in contempt by the court. The laws they pass have no validity. Then a Constituent Assembly was created. That is the opposition, when won, did not lead. Isn't it an authoritarian system when the opposition wins but doesn't take over?

"I believe we should seek explanations in the mistakes and the unconstitutional acts of the opposition itself. We in Venezuela have worse opposition than Bolsonaro. To the right of the Bolsonaro. Which aims to unconstitutionally overthrow the revolution.

In 2002, they had a coup d' état against Commander Chavez [later reversed]. When they won the elections in 2015, they began to violate the Constitution--making decisions against the laws. And the Supreme Court was reacting to put things in their place.

What they wanted, with the circumstantial majority of the National Assembly, the Parliament was to overthrow the government, overriding the laws, the institutions. Thus, the answer to the errors must be sought in the far-right coup politics of the opposition.

The National Constituent Assembly was a necessity. Between April, May, June, July 2018, a violent offensive was launched to overthrow the government. I summoned the Constituent Assembly based on the Constitution. The constituent power in Venezuela is alive. And the Constituent Assembly brought peace to the country.

Are negotiations with the opposition going to follow? And what do you put on the table? For example, is there any possibility of anticipating presidential elections? 

"I always believed in dialogue. I have already made over 600 proposals and calls to dialogue. We have already succeeded on several occasions. In April 2014 we sat for more than a month with the opposition. In 2015 and 2016, we made an approximation process.

In early 2018, a very serious negotiation took place. They called for presidential elections to be brought forward. And we accept.

And we came to an agreement. And when the agreement was about to be signed, in the Dominican Republic, the US Secretary of State called the head of the opposition negotiators and gave him the order not to sign.

In any case, we reached a partial agreement with part of the opposition, and we held the elections on May 20, 2018 - they should be, as they always were, at the end of the year, in October, November, December. We advanced by opposition proposal.

Now, at the initiative of the Norwegian government, with our approval, there have been several rounds of negotiations, conversations. From 60 points that were seen, we managed to reach a consensus in about 32. If talks were resumed, further progress could be made. I don't wonder what things are possible or not possible. The only yes, I tell you, here, under this Venezuelan sky, about this beautiful Caracas [gorgeous], is that in the year 2020, by the Constitution, it is up to the elections for the new National Assembly. And these elections have to happen with all the guarantees so that they are elections that allow us to renew the legislative power of the country. And that is safe.

Bring forward the presidential elections without a doubt or 

"It's a proposal they [opposition] have. But it's a whim. Because the opposition really doesn't want elections. I tell you: we have done our work amid dire circumstances in the middle of the blockade. We do our work, permanent, social, political, governmental. We serve our people. I tell you, with great responsibility: if Venezuela had elections today, we would win by a vast majority. The people are tired of the ultra-right. You are tired of the blockage. You are tired of so much conspiracy. The people want peace, tranquility.

Amnesty for political prisoners, opposition politicians, is there any "

"‚[interrupts] The Constituent Assembly's Truth, Justice, and Peace Commission has already made some decisions around people who were detained by violence in 2018. It is for the Truth Commission to make these decisions when it is right and just.

One last question about economics: The World Bank predicts that there may be a 25% drop in Venezuela's economy, which would be 60% since 2013. Extreme poverty has also risen, according to some studies, from 20% to 61%. Unemployment may reach 44%, according to the IMF. 

"It surprises me that you cite this data. In Venezuela, we have almost full employment, despite the circumstances we are living.

We have special job incorporation programs. And we make a great effort, through a system called Carnage of the Fatherland, to protect household incomes. We have special protection for 6 million families to bring food to them monthly. Bring health, education, and protection through grants and direct grants. The economy, yes, I can tell you, is very battered, persecuted, tortured.

No government errors? Because the responsibility always....

"Why seek errors from a tortured, persecuted country? Perhaps our only mistake is not to do more to overcome the effects of the blockade.

Venezuela is tortured. All our foreign accounts, to import a grain of wheat, corn - if I wanted to bring corn from Brazil, I couldn't.

Venezuela is a country subjected to financial, commercial persecution that is not allowed to bring food, medicine. How can you lead a country if the Monetary Fund and the World Bank are complicit in this? Lie about Venezuela.

Now we have an economic plan, an economic program. This year we declared the economy in a phase of resistance. And we are laying the groundwork to end the year in better conditions than we have been able to live.

And start 2020 and 2021 as two years of recovery of economic growth, recovery of economic equilibrium. And adaptation to overcome the damage of oil persecution, blockade and economic and financial aggression.

Venezuela will move on, and our people will have the social protection, the social security they have had in the revolution, and which has allowed us to overcome all kinds of obstacles, all kinds of aggressions. I would say to the people of Brazil that Venezuela needs more solidarity. More support.

They want to torture and destroy our economy to see if they take control of our riches. They haven't been able, nor can they.  

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

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