teleSUR: We invite you to talk about other issues that the teleSUR audience would be interested in hearing your thoughts on. Greece comes to mind.
I was talking to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras two days ago. The courage of this young 40-year-old is admirable. He seems to me a man who is trying to improve things for his country. He became leader thanks to his own efforts. He's not tied to any transnationals. The campaign they waged for the referendum was huge. They won with 62 percent of the vote, and many of those who voted Yes did it out of fear.
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There was also a strong media campaign.
They affected banks. People couldn't withdraw more than a certain amount. I saw on teleSUR and Russia Today and other channels how they affected product supply, just like the type of war we are facing – it affected the gas stations – a fear campaign. That's why it was surprising when the booths were opened. In Europe, no-one in the last 50 years has won by such a huge percentage.
It wasn't expected because the polls didn't predict it. You mentioned a phone conversation, what was that about?
I told him that I gave him all my political and moral support, and the support of the people of Venezuela and ALBA. I told him how important the battle was that they were waging for humanity, beyond Greece and Europe. And furthermore, that if they keep advancing, humanity will benefit from the hope. Also we talked about a visit one day, we are still deciding on a date. We have various agreements on energy, tourism, trade, culture, and education that we are going to deepen with Greece at the highest level.
It’s wrong that Europe is chasing its pensioners, lowering wages, privatizing education, health, culture, and everything that is public, that can't be the right path.
Tsipras reminded me of the recall referendum held against Chavez in 2006 – he reminded me about the impact that this had in the world, above all on the Venezuelan process. And I reflected on a few things about this process, the processes that have come up in the world, alternative processes, those that are seeking new societal processes based on a broader awareness of the people, a stronger popular will, sovereignty in practice. The Venezuelan process and now the Greek process.
So we ask God to bless the Greek people, their leader Alexis Tsipras, and we can see how Europe and the people of Europe are going to be freed of the yoke of the IMF and neoliberalism. Its incredible.
Europe, which felt proud of its social wellbeing, something that came out of competition with socialist countries at the time. It’s wrong that Europe is chasing its pensioners, lowering wages, privatizing education, health, culture, and everything that is public, that can't be the right path.
On alternative ways, there are increasingly more solid steps being taken towards consolidating the BRICS Development Bank … an alternative to what the IMF has been imposing, for example.
The world has many centers and each of those is a motor and each motor generates results. We have produced some results on the continent, but we lack much more. The Bank of the South hasn't been able to move forward because of bureaucracy, the lack of political will of the government's. It’s regrettable, but it has to be said. Eight years after signing into reality the Bank of the South, it is frozen and overwhelmed by bureaucracy. We are going to take the initiative, together with our brother governments, to activate it, because everything is ready, but nothing’s being done.
The bureaucracies are fighting each other for positions, which it still hasn't kicked off. Behind all this is the technocrat vision of who should have responsibility for important projects like this. That needs to be said as self criticism. We have to get the Bank of the South up and running.
The BRICS Bank is a big brother to the Bank of the South. The whole idea of the BRICS and its reserve fund was debated in Latin America in 2006, 2007 and 2008. I still remember Chavez, Rafael Correa, Lula da Silva, and Nestor Kirchner saying it was urgent for our continent to create a reserve fund for the South, that we should bring together all the resources necessary to create mechanisms for our development, and that these two instruments adjust to each other – the strategic reserve fund and the Bank of the South. Seeing this experience of the BRICS, we should be more motivated.
I told the foreign minister (Delcy Rodriguez) that she should do all the necessary paperwork so that we can join BRICS. As soon as its possible, we're going to propose to the ALBA (bloc of Latin America and Caribbean nations) to join through the BRICS Bank alliance. Build a new (world) order, a world financial structure.
...a structure that is an alternative to the IMF, the Central European Bank, and the European Commission. But the question is, how much muscle can these alternative financial entities have in ending the popularity that the U.S. has through, for example, the IMF?
The time has come for new things. The difficulties we are seeing in the Bank of the South with bureaucracy, the lack of political initiative. I think that there is an acceleration taking place in the BRICS. There's a big decision by Chinese president Xi Jinping, President Putin of Russia, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, and the leaders of India and South Africa. One can see they are advancing rapidly, with solid steps. We are optimists when we see this because substituting the old financial scheme will be costly, as it was for Greece and Europe.
Unemployment at 25 percent, evictions. Why have the Spanish people had to suffer evictions of 500,000 families? Why have they seen their pensions reduced and a decline in public health? They have had to suffer neoliberal packages because those dinosaurs of the financial oligarchy think they can impose the dictatorship of capital — that says it is worth more than work, effort, the right to life, and people’s happiness.
The international media wants the world to believe that what the Greek people have suffered can be expected in Venezuela. How does Venezuela see the future, in terms of the situation its economy is facing, especially in an election year?
We are dealing with a sustained political and economic war. I think in the first semester they have hurt us. They have kept attacking us and we protect the people. I think we are the only country in the world to increase wages three times, and in the last 15 years we have increased it 28 times, in order to protect people’s real income. We broke records with unemployment in the first four months of the year. I prioritized investment in public works, more than 66 billion bolivars. We advanced in building housing, beyond the aim of 400,000 housing units this year.
I prioritized investment in pensions to get 3 million people receiving pensions – 300,000 new people this year. The price of oil went from US$100 to US$50, and just in the last few days it's gone down by three or four dollars. We are investing a lot nationally, such as in food missions, so that people can get their goods, in the middle of a war in which they have hijacked the economy. The Venezuelan bourgeois have done it so the people will be brought to their knees. They say, we'll leave you alone if you give us Maduro, the revolution, and your dignity.
But the people have said “no,” and on June 28 the people went out into the streets to vote, more than 3 million voted. I was surprised. I mistakenly underestimated people and they barely opened 20 percent of the booths. If they had opened 50 or 60 percent of them, we'd be counting 6 million votes. We have a dignified people, a people that has grown, because they are (now) aware.
We're moving ahead with strength in all areas of battle; national and international politics, because we have morale and the truth, because we love this country. Four elites are not going to take away our social project, which we will defend with everything we've got, including our lives.
Can this “hijacking of the economy,” this economic war be won?
Its a complex process in which we have to take measures and we are getting to the point of defeating the economic war. Almost 100 percent of the distribution systems of the country are in the hands of the capitalists, the private sector. What is in our hands works, the people have their services and products at fair prices. If you go to the public (distribution) networks, which are being attacked, people obtain the products at the prices they should be. Now, the economic war and the fear campaign will burn out because the people aren't kowtowing to it.
People can of course be bothered by things, but they know that who the enemies are and why they do what they do. I am going to a lot of effort so that the people have their public education. This year is going to be a big test. The elections on Dec. 6 … we're ready for them, we're battle hardened. When the National Electoral Council authorizes it, we'll see the people in the streets. It will be a blow to the people who are waging this economic war, those who have been supported by international interests, those who haven't supported the struggle for Essequibo, because the people are clear.
How is the re-establishing of relations with the U.S. going?
The diplomatic channel with the U.S. is a big achievement, it's an opportunity. I bet that it will work out and get to the point where the government of the U.S. takes the historic step of recognizing Venezuela and its revolution — what it has done with Cuba — recognizing the reality in Cuba. Even though they want to re-conquer the country by other methods, they want to dominate it while they are (still) an empire. Cuba, Fidel, Raul, can say, 56 later, that Cuba’s people have stood up to all the pain caused by the blockade and maintained their culture.
On two occasions I have met here (in Presidential Palace) with Thomas Shannon, and I think the open diplomatic channel will be successful after we shake hands in Panama. In this way we will defeat the decree and will regularize relations (between the two countries) based on respect, which is the most important thing.
Is there an agenda proposed for this?
Yes, there are number of points that are being discussed: the function of our embassies, respecting international law, possibilities of joint work with PetroCaribe projects in the region, support for peace and prosperity in Haiti, among other issues. What is important is that this diplomatic initiative results in a good outcome for governments to come. They can't ask us to stop being Bolivarian, Chavista, and socialists who are proud of our history.
We don't want to end without your message to teleSUR on its 10th anniversary, not only to its staff, but also to the audience.
Congratulations to all the workers, to Patricia (Villegas), your president, to the journalists, camera-people, technicians, and all those who make the existence of teleSUR possible. Chavez was right, with teleSUR, Chavez said that we are going to do it, and now it is a communication channel that determines public opinion. It is the voice of truth, and it will continue to be so in Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Arabic. What it is going to do in the future is grow. Congratulations to everyone.