Interview with President Nicolás Maduro by Ignacio Ramonet (January 1, 2022)
Ignacio Ramonet: Good evening, good evening Mr. President, it is a pleasure to be with you here, thank you very much for receiving us, thank you also for granting us this interview. This interview is already becoming what we could call a classic, right? If it were soccer.
These are end-of-year meetings, which allow us, are allowing us in recent years, this is the fourth time we do it, this is the sixth time we actually have an end-of-year exchange, and which will allow, on the one hand, let’s say in our conversation, for you to take stock of the year that is ending and on the other hand, also to draw perspectives for the year that is beginning, this year 2022.
President Nicolás Maduro: Correct.
Ignacio Ramonet: This interview is going to be structured around three topics, domestic policy, the economy, and international policy. And I would like to end with one last question on a much bigger topic that you will discover when I ask it.
Let us start with domestic policy. In Venezuela there has been as in other countries, the year 2021 has been characterized by the presence of Covid, the pandemic. The second year of Covid has continued to be important, just as in 2020. But at this moment, these last weeks a kind of tsunami is coming. WHO itself announces the Omicron variant, we are seeing it in Europe at this moment; France had 200,000 cases there were a few days ago, per day, and the question is how Venezuela is facing this Omicron threat? Will the method that you put in place to fight Covid be effective against Omicron? And finally, can you give us an idea of how the vaccination is going, the status of vaccination in Venezuela?
President Nicolás Maduro: Well, first of all, I want to thank you for this cycle of conversations that we always have to make the balance, the evaluation of the years that we started in 2016, I remember December. And well, whoever wants to observe the evolution, whoever wants to evaluate the forecasts and the reality, and the results, there you have it 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and now 2021 heading for 2022. I send greetings to all the followers of your interviews, your articles and to everyone in the world who can see and hear us.
Now this presence of the Omicron variant, what it tells the world is that the virus is not over, that the virus is here to stay until further notice, and that it is not true the predictions that we are close to the end of the virus, that it is necessary to combine preventive health biosecurity measures, mass vaccination, with scientific research in search of solutions and treatments for this coronavirus, which has had so many variants.
This Omicron variant has dozens of mutations, which makes it more contagious. So far the studies that have been made in the world, this variant is not more lethal, but because it is more contagious, the phenomena we are seeing in Spain, Italy, Germany, France, the United States, thousands, thousands of cases; in the United States there were 250,000 cases in a single day; in Spain there were 1400 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, 1400 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, 100,000 cases per day.
We have made a great effort with a lot of discipline, with a lot of leadership from the revolution, from the public health system we have, with a lot of leadership from the doctors, from the nurses, from everything we call the Mission Barrio Adentro 100% Salud. With a lot of leadership from the Bolivarian government, of being present and guiding the people.
The key element in prevention is awareness, is the education of the people. If people are motivated, if people are alert, well informed, people take care of themselves. If people are really given good reasons on a permanent basis to take care of themselves, the result is that people tend to take their biosecurity measures and not to neglect them.
We have had a method since 2020 and this year practically the whole year, which we put into practice in November, the seven-plus-seven method, and it allowed us to get through this year 2021. This year the Brazilian variants arrived here, the two Brazilian variants, the Delta variant arrived, more lethal, all of them came and entered through Colombia and Brazil; and now we have just detected the Omicron variant. And we have maintained in relation to the world, especially what they call the developed world, the United States, Europe and all those countries, in relation to the numbers of contagion and deaths and the percentages they have, Venezuela has had an exemplary control over the pandemic. We have maintained it, with the seven-plus-seven method.
And when we started to advance in vaccination, we had already vaccinated 40% of the population, we restarted classes and we also allowed flexibility with biosecurity measures, but total flexibility. This is how the country has been working, the month of November, the month of December has been a spectacular thing of people in the streets, in public squares, boulevards, parks, parties, it has been a truly tremendous Christmas, happy for the people. And look, in spite of the great movement of people, you can see that our town takes care of itself, really takes care of itself. There will be a person around here who, because of tiredness or a certain carelessness, suddenly stops wearing a mask, but it is circumstantial, fundamentally people are taking care of themselves.
We are reaching truly impressive numbers. Venezuela has just reached six cases per 100,000 inhabitants. When Spain, the United States, Germany, Italy, they say they are the developed countries, right? They are the countries that have the wealth of the world, right? Well, this humble country called Venezuela is reaching six cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
And even though we are reaching that figure, which is a truly impressive figure, we maintain the care and leadership over the population so that it continues to take care of itself. And we also set ourselves the goal of reaching 90% of vaccination.
You have to take into account that the sanctions, blockade, economic persecution of the United States against Venezuela this year, they wanted us to run out of vaccines, threatened all the vaccine companies in the world with sanctions if they sold vaccines to Venezuela. The world has to know that. The U.S. government threatened all the companies in the world. Then they said it was a lie. And we did our part, intensively, and we managed to have all the vaccines that the country needed this year and we have reached 89% of vaccination by the end of the year 2021. I am telling you this as a scoop: 89% of vaccination.
And I can also tell you that we have in stock, and during the month of January new batches of vaccines will arrive, we have in stock already budgeted in our hands all the vaccines that the people of Venezuela need for the reinforcement during the year 2022, all the vaccines.
The world should know that we are vaccinating from two years of age, we started vaccinating from 18 years of age onwards, then we started vaccinating pregnant women, then we started vaccinating from 12 to 18 years of age, and now we are vaccinating boys and girls from two years of age onwards. This will give us a stronger immunity; it will give us a more powerful protection for our population.
So I believe that the virus will continue to affect humanity, we will have to continue to be attentive to the correct method to apply. We cannot renounce the seven-plus-seven method, nor can we renounce preventive measures. But always in a voluntary and conscious manner. Preventive measures cannot be imposed on the people with curfews, with repression; preventive measures have to be based on winning the conscience and the will of the people, to demonstrate the correctness of the measures to protect health. We do not renounce to preventive measures, we do not renounce to the seven-plus-seven. And in the year 2022, I hope that by achieving the vaccination of 95% of the population, including children from two years of age onwards, we will have a peaceful country, freely deploying itself, working, with its social life moderately normalized, and enjoying as it has enjoyed great happiness during these last two months of the year 2021.
Ignacio Ramonet: Dear President, after the regional and municipal elections of November 21, which have been elections, I say this to remind what it was for our viewers who may be outside Venezuela, more than a month ago there were elections here for governor and also for state assemblies, and likewise there were elections for mayors and also for municipal councils.
These elections I would like you to comment on the results, the balance you make from the electoral point of view, in terms of how the political forces are in the country and to what extent do you think these results reveal the state of forces currently in politics in the country, in Venezuela?
President Nicolás Maduro: Correct. The mega-elections of Sunday, November 21 of this year, gave a sobering result, this electoral campaign was not easy. I said it on several occasions to the campaign command of the patriotic and revolutionary forces led by comrade Diosdado Cabello Rondón; these elections are not easy because well, the blockade, the sanctions have created problems of public services, problems in the daily life of the people, that well a part of the population does not understand that it is because of the sanctions and it has bothered, created dissatisfaction, discomfort in part of the population. This is a little of what US imperialism seeks when it squeezes a country to crush it, as it has done with Venezuela, it seeks confusion, annoyance, protest from the people, this is what they have sought with their coercive, unilateral measures, the sanctions, the persecution of the economy, of public finances, of trade, of free trade in Venezuela.
I was saying to the comrades, look, there are problems we have in important public services such as water, there are problems that have remained from the sabotage of the electric system, there are problems that have remained in the solid waste service, these are the problems that the mayors and governors have to deal with, and they are real problems of the population, many of them caused by the impossible access to spare parts, pieces, equipment, that any country in the world is renewing to maintain its public services, they have a stock of spare parts, a stock of pieces and parts, well that allows them to maintain in operation without any decline.
If we were to buy spare parts for a water pump, the great majority, 90% of the water in Venezuela has to be brought up from the rivers, from the tributaries for the cities that are in a higher situation, if you are going to buy an engine, you are going to buy a water pump of a certain magnitude, or spare parts, OFAC, the United States government, is after Venezuela so that it cannot acquire them. Now, explaining this to the population? Is it explained to them, there is a part of the population that understands it perfectly well. They understand it and, in a stoic, heroic way, they continue supporting the revolution with conscience; but there is another part of the population that has become depoliticized and simply well, they protest, they get upset, they blame the government, the revolution and many times they blame the regional and local leaders. This election was not easy. And I am telling you all this because we were aware of that.
We went to a process of primaries to elect our candidates by popular vote. The primaries were good, good popular participation. But after the primaries, wounds were left in the regions, in the states, in the municipalities, many times they were divided into two groups, or three groups in such and such state, in such and such municipality, in such and such city. And then, if a Ramonet or a Maduro ran for governor of such and such state and Ramonet won, Maduro then took his people with him and did not vote for Ramonet. And that was allowed in some municipalities and in some states, well it would have been as hard a battle as it was. And we won in spite of that and allowed that in some municipalities and some states, in this case three states of the Republic, out of the 23 governorships the opposition won three governorships. In many of these mayorships and governorships the loss is explained by the divisions, intrigues and confrontations between [Chavista] groups, this must be said. This is the first time that I have said this, in this conversation.
The primaries left an insurmountable wound in most of the states and municipalities of the country, which were worked on in different ways by sectors of the right wing, of the opposition, well and that gave us the hardest battle, but in spite of this circumstance, the difficult objective circumstances, product of the sanctions and the difficult subjective circumstances, product of the divisions that remained from the primaries, we had a great victory Ramonet, we won 65% of the mayoralties and municipal councils of the country, we won 80% of the governorships of the country. With our own leadership, renewed leadership, leadership with deep roots in the people, our leadership is real, those leaders we have in the streets, in the communities, in the neighborhoods, in the parishes, the municipalities and in the states are real leaders, real. We have built a system of leadership and a truly impressive system of forces that makes this tremendous victory possible, I would say, surely this interview is going to be seen by many leaders and leaders of the left, of the so-called revolutionary progressive movements. I would say, after all the war they have waged against Venezuela, how is it that the Bolivarian and Chavista forces obtain this tremendous victory?
In Venezuela we have held 29 elections in 22 years and this is the 27th victory.
We are, as I always say, like this wood, we are for real, we are for real, we are for real. We have a leadership, we face the people, we are with the people in good times and bad, we are capable of renewing our discourse, our political program, we are capable of renewing ourselves spiritually, we are capable of renewing our smile and look the people in the eyes.
I would say, What leftist force, what revolutionary force, what political force of any doctrine or ideology in the world today can obtain a victory like the one obtained by the Bolivarian movement, the Chavista movement in Venezuela? Let each one draw his own conclusions. In any case, I believe that it has been an important impulse, it shows that we are the majority and that we have a solid base to promote economic recovery, the recovery of the social welfare state and to build what we are going to build, new majorities, new leaderships, new forces.
Ignacio Ramonet: We must add Mr. President, in that perspective, that besides this victory in a very democratic framework, elections that have been, let’s say they have been held under the observation of hundreds of international observers.
President Nicolás Maduro: Correct.
Ignacio Ramonet: It is practically the only victory of a ruling party in this context of Covid in the world. In the United States the governing party loses, at this moment the governing party loses, in Germany…
President Nicolás Maduro: The one who governed before lost, Donald Trump.
Ignacio Ramonet: Donald Trump, that’s why Donald Trump lost.
President Nicolás Maduro: Now Biden is losing.
Ignacio Ramonet: Merkel lost, in Norway they lost, in many Latin American countries those who govern have lost.
President Nicolás Maduro: In Argentina Macri lost.
President Nicolás Maduro: Piñera in Chile.
Ignacio Ramonet: Exactly.
President Nicolás Maduro: The right wing in Peru.
Ignacio Ramonet: All these, all these elections that have been made in this Covid era, the result is that, the one who governs has difficulty in carrying out these elections. That is why this victory is indeed exceptional.
I would also like to talk about the relationship with the opposition. You had a dialogue with the opposition in Mexico, a dialogue that was mediated, with the mediation of Norway. But that dialogue, that dialogue table was interrupted particularly after the arrest and extradition of Alex Saab, who had diplomatic status and his extradition to the United States. I wanted to ask you, Mr. President, under what conditions do you intend to resume the dialogue with the opposition, the most radical opposition in Mexico?
President Nicolás Maduro: It is important to keep in mind that I have called for dialogue during these more than eight years, almost nine years that I have been President on more than a thousand occasions, in all circumstances I have called for political dialogue, with all the oppositions, for dialogue, for debate, for understanding. Because I am a man of dialogue and peace. I believe in dialogue, in understanding, in debate and I believe in the search for consensus and every time there has been dialogue we have found the path of consensus and peace. I am against political violence, totally, that the opposition has brought to Venezuela for several years, on several occasions, the guarimbas in 2014, the guarimbas in 2017. I am against the calls they have made to invade Venezuela, to the gringo army, to the imperial army of the United States, to invade Venezuela during 2019, 2020.
And in this opportunity, after several efforts with the Kingdom of Norway, with Russia, with the Kingdom of the Netherlands, among others, with Mexico, we managed to establish a bridge of understanding with the extremist opposition, with the opposition that is outside the Constitution, the Guaidocista opposition, the Trumpist opposition, what Trump left, what Trump left. That opposition outside the Constitution, we are looking for it. It means that we arrived in Mexico after many private, secret, semi-secret meetings. While that Guaidocista opposition was going around with its high-flown discourse, shouting and talking nonsense, they were meeting with us in secret. And we managed to reach a signed agreement, a memorandum where the Guaidocista opposition for the first time recognizes the constitutional legitimacy of the government over which I preside. That was discussed a lot and explicitly and we put it as a condition, either you recognize and sign the recognition of the constitutional government or there is no dialogue with you. And they said we sign it, and they signed it. The dialogues were going very well, I can say. We were already entering into the depths, into the depths of the great issues of the re-institutionalization of Venezuela, of the economy, of the criminal sanctions, of everything, therefore, of the life of the country. And once again, when we were already entering into the big issues and there was a pre-agreement on the big issues, we were going to give good news and great news for the country, once again the government of the United States, the State Department takes an action, which they knew beforehand was going to provoke the breakdown of the dialogues.
Ignacio Ramonet: do you think it is sabotage?
President Nicolás Maduro: I think so, expressly, I have no doubt that it was a sabotage by the US government against the dialogues in Mexico, because we talked about this with the US government. The opposition itself, its coordinator Gerardo Blade spoke about it in Washington with the State Department and they gave him guarantees and they gave us guarantees that they were not going to take Alex Saab, our diplomat, so that the dialogues would continue to be fruitful. And Alex Saab, as we had incorporated him, well, he began to participate via videoconference in the dialogues. Now the United States has dealt a blow, a stab in the back to the dialogues in Mexico.
Why did they do it, why, why did they do it? Really, we have to ask ourselves, everyone should ask themselves why the United States sabotages a dialogue that is fruitful for the country, that is going to give Venezuela results and that is going to consolidate peace and the institutionalism of our democracy? They kidnapped Alex Saab, they took him away without warning and without protest. And now Alex Saab is kidnapped in a jail in Florida, they have him kidnapped there and accusing him of a thousand false things. And he is there and he continues to be Alex Saab, representative at the dialogue table in Mexico. There would have to be big changes in the matter that has to do with the kidnapping of Alex Saab for us to return to Mexico.
We will see what happens in January, in February, let us wait with good expectations for the months to come.
Ignacio Ramonet: Mr. President, we are going to talk about the economy now, and I wanted, we are going to talk about the economy and I wanted to tell you something that all the analysts who were so critical of the economic situation in Venezuela a few years ago are saying, and today all observers note that despite the blockade by the United States or the European Union, despite the coercive, unilateral measures, there is a very visible improvement in the economic situation in Venezuela.
I would like you to tell us how you explain, what is the reason for this economic improvement that all observers are noticing at this moment, when they observe the economic situation of the country.
President Nicolás Maduro: Well, first of all, Venezuela has its own engines to face its economic needs. I have been saying this for some time. Venezuela has its own economic engines, it has economic muscle, it has industrial capacity, it has technological capacity, it has the know-how to move forward with its own engines and replace the old capitalist economy dependent on oil, the old rentier economy that was installed in Venezuela for 100 years. An economy totally dependent on the petrodollar.
The economic sanctions undoubtedly had a terrible impact on the economic life of the country, on the economic income of the country and therefore on the economic income of the State, of the working class, of the Venezuelan family, of the Venezuelan businessmen. It was like an atomic bomb, the 440 coercive measures and sanctions of the Trump era against Venezuela, an atomic bomb.
The persecution against oil production, the persecution against gold production, the attack against the currency. The persecution against the cryptocurrency created as an alternative for international procurements.
I launched the Bolivarian Economic Agenda, that economic agenda has 17 engines, and we have been developing each one of those engines in a strategy. And we have been progressively implementing measures to free the productive forces in a scheme of war economy, it is not a normal economy. You can see for example the economies of Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, they are economies, none of them are subject to any measure of persecution, of limitation of their freedom of trade, of limitation of their monetary or financial freedom, none of them.
Venezuela has a de facto war economy, under a brutal war. Sometimes I see some people making statements about Venezuela in the world, including people who call themselves progressives who do not know what it is like to face a situation like this, I would like to see them, I would like to see those leaders who call themselves progressives; speaking stubbornly against Venezuela, when they do not know what we have suffered, and how from suffering we have gone on to resistance and now to growth.
We have taken a set of measures. Here I have an economic document of the balance sheet that I am preparing to present before the National Assembly in January. Venezuela was progressively adapting in these years to the economic war, since the launching of the Economic Recovery Program in August 2018. We were already launching elements to adapt the economy to the war economy.
We have made progress all these years, first we repealed the Law of illicit foreign exchange, to facilitate the circulation of the currency, a fundamental element. By keeping the Bolivar as our currency, we made the movement of international currencies more flexible.
The price control scheme was replaced by a scheme of agreed prices, which, although very weak, helps. Tax reforms were carried out and a public spending and investment program was implemented to reduce the fiscal deficit. And we made very good progress in reducing the fiscal deficit.
An exchange market was created, which did not exist in Venezuela; today the official exchange rate is the weighted average of the existing exchange tables in Venezuela, in the banks.
We were adapting and creating mechanisms for a war economy. Subsidies were optimized. For example, the subsidy to interest rates on credits and the subsidy to gasoline.
A new legal framework was developed to facilitate and secure investments, and the Anti-Blockade Law was approved, which is working in a divine way, as they would say over there in the Andes.
We also reactivated the dialogue mechanism with all the private sectors of the country. Today we have a close relationship with all the medium, small, big, national and international sectors; we have a permanent dialogue in the National Council of Productive Economy.
We gradually recovered the oil production and the production of the country’s refineries, the petrochemical complex and the upgrading complexes.
We are recovering the tariff policy, which is very important as a mechanism to promote and defend national production, within a framework of respect for international agreements, with the slogan “Venezuela first, what is ours first”, to protect national industry, to protect national producers.
This year we implemented what experts call the monetary re-expression, we eliminated 6 zeros from the Bolivar and we strengthened the psychological point of view, the management of the Bolivar within a general framework of improvement of the economy. The launching of the digital Bolivar, our digital currency, has been very well accepted by the population.
As a result of this set of measures, in a systematic, sustained and coherent manner, the Venezuelan economy at this moment is in a clear period of recovery.
I can tell you that we have recovered economic growth and in the second half of the year 2021 we are having an economic growth of 7.5%. It means that the economy with its own engine, with its own strength, the real economy, has taken the path of economic growth. This is great news.
It is the non-oil economy, although the oil economy is also growing, but the non-oil economy no longer depends on petrodollars, but on its own efforts, its self-financing capacity and the domestic market.
We have reactivated the domestic market with an impressive reactivation of domestic trade, which our people are experiencing.
Therefore, without any doubt, the greatest achievement of all this has been the defense of our economic model. Venezuela is recuperating its economy, promoting growth with opportunities for all, but above all thinking of the most vulnerable, the most needy according to our humanist and socialist orientation.
This means that 2021 has been the best year of the economic war and I believe that we must continue to be very attentive to the development of the economy, to provide facilities so that the internal productive forces continue to be released and to continue controlling all inflationary processes.
Now, in December, we are closing the year with good news from the inflationary point of view.
Ignacio Ramonet: That is what I wanted to ask you about, President, because inflation continues to be a concern for the population and the question is what measures do you intend to adopt to reduce inflation or make it disappear. Although inflation is returning all over the world at the moment, due to issues also linked to the post-Covid pandemic world. But how is the inflation issue here in Venezuela?
President Nicolás Maduro: Venezuela has always had an inflationary economy, before the economic war, before the coercive measures, before the economic war scheme, before the war economy. An economy with 60 years of oil income and high consumption of the domestic market that always generated an imbalance between the domestic consumption capacity resulting from the petrodollars, with the production capacity and satisfaction of those needs.
In addition, we have always had a tendency of the private sector to speculate in order to gain, to obtain, the maximum profit. These are two elements that have crossed economic life in the last 60, 70 years. When this period of intense war came to crush Venezuela, well, the economic measures made the Venezuelan State lose 99% of its income. In other words, one day we went from obtaining $100 to obtaining $1.
We went one day from having $54 billion in one year, to last year’s income of $600 million.
Because of the persecution against oil, because of the persecution against the accounts, the seizure of bank accounts. They stole from us more than $30 billion abroad and they do not have them sequestered. For the robbery and seizure of the CITGO company in the United States, of the Monomeros company. It is brutal! I tell you, it is an atomic bomb against the country.
Now, if there is no income, that had a tremendous impact on the capacity of the State to regulate the market, the foreign exchange market, in this case the dollar market. And that had a tremendous impact on the hyperinflation that took hold in Venezuela.
The way to fight hyperinflation in the first place was social protection, through the Carnet de la Patria system in our people, through the CLAPs, and through all the missions and great missions. The first was social protection for the people and the second, well, has been a set of economic, monetary and financial measures.
You tell me, what has to be done? Well, we have to deepen what we have been doing. We must attack one of the bases of inflation and increase the production capacity of food, goods and services, so that the supply capacity balances the demand or even exceeds it. This is sometimes a fundamental element in inflationary processes in Venezuela and anywhere in the world.
The other thing is to increase national revenue. The national revenue allows us to govern the foreign exchange market and satisfy the foreign exchange market. The foreign currency needs of the economy to move and control even more, to totally control the inflationary processes generated by the movement of the dollar within the country.
We have made progress in each one of these fronts, I can tell you for example, we have managed to stabilize with this exchange system everything that the dollar was causing to skyrocket in price. It has been stabilized, slowed down and I am very hopeful that in the year 2022 we will be able to continue governing the new exchange system that the country has, according to the economic war scheme.
Likewise at the inflation level, Venezuela has already had four consecutive months with one-digit inflation. Today we can say and declare politically, surely the economic authorities will do so in the coming months, but I can declare politically with the result of the management of inflation between the months of September, October, November and December, which has been in single digits with a downward trend, that Venezuela is leaving the state of hyperinflation, a product of the economic war and the sanctions.
Venezuela takes a step forward, we are entering the year 2022. I believe that the year 2022 will combine important elements of growth, of slowing down inflation, of wealth generation, which will allow the most important thing of all: That all that wealth be converted into education, health, housing, salaries, income, social happiness, into living. As our Commander Chávez used to say: A transition towards a humanly rewarding socialist model. That is our goal.
Ignacio Ramonet: President, this is all the more remarkable, that oil production has not known a spectacular growth, let us say, as a result of the blockade. And Venezuela was not used to having an economy in which oil was not the most important element. So I would like you to tell us a little bit about oil in Venezuela at the moment, how is the production, what consequences can it have today for this economic perspective you are talking about for next year? And also, what are the knots that still exist in the Venezuelan economy, which should be untied to allow for greater growth?
President Nicolás Maduro: Well, the main knot is the generation of monetary wealth that will allow us to make sufficient investments in the economic apparatus, in the oil apparatus, and sufficient investments in the social welfare system, so that the country may experience a process of economic and social expansion, of economic and social growth.
The main issue is the national revenue. And it is the main point of attack of U.S. imperialism. What is being done against Venezuela is criminal, it is cruel, the leaders of the progressive left, of the social democratic right, any leader who may be listening to me, should know that the experience of Venezuela will remain as one of the cruelest crimes ever attempted against a people. Because everything has been done.
The world must know, I sometimes explain it in international meetings, in videoconferences, the world must know the persecution that has taken place against accounts. Venezuela, the Venezuelan state cannot have a bank account in the international financial system, for example, to pay for vaccines, medicines, supplies, raw materials. Whatever it needs.
Venezuela does not have the right to import the spare parts, the machinery needed by its oil industry, its refineries, its petrochemical industry, its industry in general. Venezuela does not have the right, they have tried to deny it the freedom of trade for its natural products, its fundamental products, and they persecute companies, bank accounts, people, ships, who try to come to take Venezuela’s products and sell them to the world, they are persecuted. That is why I have said, faithful and convinced as I am of the path to build a non-oil, productive, wealth generating economy that satisfies the needs of the people, faithful and convinced as I am of the path left by the project of Commander Hugo Chávez, in view of the extreme conditions that we have had to live and that we have to live. I see these extreme conditions as an opportunity to move forward on this path, and the rightness of this path and of this opportunity to generate wealth with our own efforts is being demonstrated.
Venezuela is reaching one million barrels of oil production per day. We set a target of 1,200,000 for this year. PDVSA still owes me 200,000 barrels, well, but it is really a tremendous achievement of the workers. With practically no money. Oil production is an economic activity with a high use of financing, a large investment, it is a large investment to recover wells, to put technology in the wells, and that investment is recovered very quickly. Anyone who knows the oil business knows that this is the way it is, we are recovering oil production with Venezuelan investment, our own, penny by penny, to recover one well, recover another well and that is the way we are going. Ramonet, that is the way we are going. This year we reached one million. Next year’s goal is to reach two million barrels per day. To go step by step, sustained, sustainable, recovering production capacity.
This year we recovered the production capacity of the four refineries in the country, despite the attempts to bomb them, to sabotage our refineries with terrorism. A great achievement of the oil workers, this year we advanced in the recovery of more than 90% of the petrochemical production capacity.
This means that Venezuela’s oil refining and petrochemical industry, with its own lungs, with its own investment, with its own effort, with its own technology. All those who listen to us should know that the system with which Venezuela’s oil refining and petrochemical industry was built is 100% gringo or European. So there is still a part of the productive process that is paralyzed, spoiled, damaged, the dependence on foreign countries is 100%. And the gringos know that, the imperialists know that. And that is why they attacked for years, until our engineers, our scientists, our male and female scientists, our male and female workers came and began to make parts and pieces with national engineering and to recover wells, refineries, etc.
So it is a truly heroic path. Venezuela is working very hard, our country, to build an economy that is not dependent on oil, that generates goods and services that really satisfy the national need. A generator of alternative wealth, monetary wealth. And we are also working for the recovery of the powerful oil industry that will complement, in a wonderful way, the whole process of economic development that Venezuela will experience in all these years to come.
Ignacio Ramonet: President, we are now going to talk about international politics and in particular, I would like us to start talking about the United States. In the United States there has been at the beginning of this year a major political change, as a Democratic President Joe Biden has succeeded a Republican President Donald Trump.
However, the U.S. policy towards Venezuela has not changed, it is still extremely hostile, objectively speaking, what do you count on, what initiatives do you count on taking to have contact, relations, maybe you have them and you can reveal it to us here? What are the relations that Venezuela currently has with the current U.S. administration?
President Nicolás Maduro: Well, I have said on several occasions, Donald Trump left, but the empire remained, the empire is intact. Joe Biden arrived as a great promise of change, of a great change for the American society, and of a great change for humanity. In relation to Venezuela everything has remained the same, the financial, monetary, oil, economic and commercial persecution. There has been no sign, not a single sign of rectification, of improvement of all these cruel measures.
When we went to Mexico, we went with the understanding that when we sat down to talk with the extremist Guaidocist opposition, we were sitting down to talk with the United States. And the U.S. government in public statements made it clear, made it clear. But well, we already know what the fate of the negotiations in Mexico was, it was from the north that they made the stab in the back to derail the peace negotiations in Mexico.
So, well, I think and I always say it to my comrades, to the leaders, to all the political leaders we have, of the Great Patriotic Pole, of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, governors, all the leadership of the revolution and I say it to the people in general, we have to, we cannot expect anything but from ourselves. A thought of José Gervasio Artigas, which Commander Hugo Chávez liked to repeat. Let us expect nothing but from ourselves. Let us stand on our truth, on our reason, on our Bolivarian project and let us move forward. There is imperialism, there they are with their accusations, with their persecutions, here we are with our work, with our daily struggle, with our truth and with our achievements, with our progress. Hopefully, who knows when and with whom, the possibilities of a direct, courageous, sincere and understanding dialogue with the government of the United States will open up. Hopefully, hopefully with the government of Joe Biden, hopefully. If it happens, very well, and if it does not happen, we continue our struggle, our battle. This is our path, to walk with our own feet, to think with our own head, as Ho Chi Minh would say.
Ignacio Ramonet: Mr. President, you were talking earlier about Venezuelan assets abroad, in particular you mentioned CITGO, this oil company located in the United States, you mentioned Monomeros, which is located in Colombia. And there is also the issue of the gold reserves deposited in the U.K. What initiatives is your government taking to try to recover, let’s say a sovereign management over those assets?
President Nicolás Maduro: Well, we are in permanent diplomatic, political and legal activity. We have a lawsuit in London for the recovery of the gold reserves of the Central Bank of Venezuela. There, sufficient evidence has been provided by the legitimate authorities recognized nationally and globally by the United Nations System, the legitimate authorities of the Central Bank of Venezuela, of the constitutional national government of Venezuela. If they were trials adjusted to the real truth, to the legal truth and to justice, Venezuela should be returned the gold that belongs to the Central Bank of Venezuela and that is part of the reserves and assets of Venezuela.
In the case of the CITGO company in the United States, you should know that CITGO is a company that has six refineries in the United States, more than 7,000 gasoline stations. It is a company that made important contributions at the end of each year and that we administered in a transparent and neat manner. And all the contributions it gave came to Venezuela to be converted into economic investment, in housing, education, health and food. There are the clear accounts of all the income generated in CITGO.
In addition, CITGO operated, I do not know if it still operates, a foundation for humanitarian aid to children, which was totally dismantled and they began to use its resources for illicit activities, for personal and family activities of the group of bandits of the ultra-right wing who have got their claws into CITGO.
Well, we will also continue to seek through the legal judicial channels, although in the United States there is no possibility of guaranteeing a fair process for the Venezuelan government and the Venezuelan State to recover CITGO, there is none. It is imperial justice, they impose themselves, period, and they have kidnapped CITGO, its property, its assets, its bank accounts.
The same happens with Monómeros, a company that was in positive numbers, a company well managed and well administered by the revolution, which has been bankrupted, embezzled, destroyed by Juan Guaidó, Leopoldo López and all that bunch of mafiosi and bandits. That is the truth.
In this there is a political, diplomatic fight; in this there is also a legal fight that we must give because the rights of the country prevail, but it is also a moral fight.
These people have shown the moral rottenness in which they move, they put their claws like birds of prey to these companies, to these assets, and what have they done? They have stolen them, they have shared them out like booty. And not to mention, the $1.6 billion that the U.S. government more than a year ago said it had given to the Guaidocist opposition. Then they kept quiet. They threw a little bit of dirt on the subject.
But it is $1.6 billion of the US taxpayers. Someday jurists will emerge, good people who will look for the truth about where the money came from. $1.6 billion is a lot of money for a country, who did they give it to? And how did they embezzle that money? These are the people we are facing. A very corrupt, very corrupt ultra-right wing, very much a sellout. And it is a good thing that they are in the public eye because our people know what they represent and the damage they have done to our country.
Ignacio Ramonet: Mr. President, let us talk about Latin America. Lately in Latin America elections are taking place and as these elections are taking place the victories of the progressive camp are multiplying, lately we have seen it in a very spectacular way in Honduras and in Chile in particular, and the polls at this moment seem to announce progressive victories of the Latin American left as well. Next year in Colombia the elections will be in May of this year 2022, and in Brazil where the elections will be in October 2022. How do you analyze this situation, how do you explain so many progressive victories at this moment in Latin America?
President Nicolás Maduro: Well, neoliberalism is deeply and absolutely exhausted, the neoliberal model has been maintained for the last 20 years on the basis of deceit, lies, manipulation, electoral fraud, in many countries on the basis of division in the progressive camp in many opportunities and on the basis of repression, as is the case in Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, and as was the case in previous governments in Peru, with blood and fire, those right-wing and neoliberal governments imposed their packages on the basis of lies, deceit and repression. Bolsonaro has also imposed his neoliberal model in Brazil, but neoliberalism has no answers for the peoples, it is exhausted, totally exhausted. Venezuela is in the vanguard.
Venezuela was always in the vanguard. I humbly say it, but it is our historical truth, on February 27, on February 28, 1989 the people of Venezuela were the first to rise up against the International Monetary Fund with the government of Carlos Andres Perez. It was the first popular uprising, the first popular rebellion in the year 19 89, 32 years ago. I am right, am I not? Thirty-two years.
We are going to celebrate now on February 4, 2022, 30 years of the Bolivarian military rebellion of Comandante Chavez against the International Monetary Fund, against imperialism, against oligarchy, against neo-liberalism, it was an anti-neoliberal, anti-oligarchic, anti-imperialist, anti-Monetary Fund rebellion.
We were the first to reveal ourselves and then the Bolivarian project was the first anti-neoliberal project that came to power with votes. December 6, 1998. We have just celebrated 23 years since the first anti-neoliberal victory of a revolutionary force. Because we are a revolutionary force, we are not only an anti-neoliberal force, we are not only a leftist force, we are not only a force that adds to progressivism. We define ourselves as a transforming, revolutionary force, a historic Bolivarian force.
Well, from that triumph, then, you know, came the first wave, the arrival of Lula 2003, the arrival of Néstor Kirchner 2003, the arrival of the Frente Amplio in Uruguay with Tabaré Vázquez, the return of Daniel Ortega’s Frente Sandinista, the emergence and triumph of Evo Morales in Bolivia. The emergence and triumph of Rafael Correa, the progressive forces of the Caribbean, the historical Cuba of Fidel, Raul, and now of Miguel Diaz Canel.
Thus, the first wave was formed that allowed us to advance in the creation of ALBA, Petrocaribe, Unasur, CELAC, the reunion in the diversity of ideologies and policies, the reunion of Latin America and the Caribbean.
And it was possible to point the way to the years and decades to come. Now a second wave is taking place, very different from the first one, but it also has a fundamentally anti-neoliberal cut, the peoples have awakened, the peoples are looking for the way and hopefully the leaders and the political forces that are emerging in Latin America, that are insurgent, will be loyal to the historical legacies of those who preceded them, of martyrs who gave their blood for a deep change, a historical change in Latin America. Hopefully.
And may this anti-neoliberal flowering take a unitary course in the years to come, so that Latin America in its diversity, in its complex diversity, may find itself again on its own path, the path of union, of liberation and shared development.
Ignacio Ramonet: Mr. President, in conclusion, I would like to ask you to give us a more theoretical vision, let us say. I have noticed that in several of your recent speeches you talk about the world changing its cycle. And you say, you have also said, you have repeated that it is also necessary at this time to change the political analysis. I would like you to explain to us how you see this change of cycle that is taking place in the world, and what political analysis should be adapted to this change of cycle?
President Nicolás Maduro: It is a contribution we are making from Venezuela so that the sectors of intellectuals, thinkers of culture and political sectors, can lead an enlightening debate on what historical epoch we are living in. Is the historical epoch from the year 2000 to 2010, from 2010 to 2020, the same as the one we are beginning to see? We are noticing substantial changes that deserve to be understood and deserve a transformation in politics, especially in the progressive revolutionary sectors of the left, the sectors that are transforming the world. Thirty years ago the Soviet Union fell, disintegrated, and a few understood the opportunities that existed for new projects, many on the left ended up morally and intellectually broken, many ended up on the right, in the frustrations of pessimism. And frustration and pessimism is always the prologue to the negation of objectives and transforming policies. Few resisted in the world. It was after the fall of the Soviet Union that in Venezuela the Bolivarian project emerged, the leadership of Chavez, the Simon Bolivar National Project, from our roots. We modestly made our contributions to the new paradigms of the revolutionary movements of the world. The impact of Chávez’s leadership for the new paradigms today nobody denies it, otherwise we would not be in the center of the campaign that imperialism promotes and finances in all the countries of the world against Venezuela, the Bolivarian revolution, before against Chávez, now against me, in all the television, radio, press, social networks of Spain, Italy, Portugal, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, wherever you see it, there is a campaign against Venezuela, there must be a reason!
If we were defenseless we would not have had the impact that the Bolivarian project had, the leadership of Commander Chavez, the Bolivarian Revolution.
Now, with this experience of having been born of the emergence of a new epoch, of a new paradigm, we propose to the revolutionary movement of the world, to the honest intellectuals of the world, to the progressive sectors of the world, that we see the changes that exist, that we identify them very well. There are at least three elements that are having an accelerated impact on change in the world. The emergence of another era, of other generations, of another mentality, of another discourse and another way of looking at life and politics. Three elements at least:
First, the pandemic. It changed everything and the pandemic has not yet announced that it is going away and then this pandemic, well, it will leave its mark on the collective psyche, on the collective psychology of how to assume social life.
The pandemic has changed everything, social customs, ways of relating. Well, it has emerged, you see in the world denialist sectors, who expose their own lives to deny, believing that it is a manipulation of the political systems of the world, the existence of the pandemic. So the pandemic is an element that has come to stay and that has modified all social behavior, and that forces us to understand the new schemes of social relationships.
The other element is the accelerated economic change, the new economic actors in the world. When you ask yourself, or you used to ask in the 50s, 60s, give me the name of the world’s tycoon, people would say Rockefeller, and what was Rockefeller? Oil, industry. When they ask you today, what are the tycoons of the world? Ah? Elon Musk, space rockets, technology. Zuckerberg the owner of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, communication. Owner of the world, owner of the world the Zuckerberg.
Ignacio Ramonet: They call it digital capitalism.
President Nicolás Maduro: Digital capitalism. Or Bill Gates, who is already displacing Bill Gates. But Bill Gates means Internet, technology, computing, smart phones.
Ignacio Ramonet: Microsoft.
President Nicolás Maduro: The economy and the relationships that arise from the two economies, is marking an accelerated change in the way of being, in the consciousness and in the functioning of the circulation of wealth worldwide. We must keep an eye on this. From Venezuela we ask for help from all the researchers, from all the specialists in these issues to understand more and to be able to adapt our vision and our action to the new epoch that has already arisen.
And a third element, which you insist on a lot is the dominant character of social networks in the social, cultural, and human relations of today’s humanity. There are many theorists on this, I have listened to several conferences you have given on how social networks have displaced the traditional media, and how social networks have created a very powerful virtual reality and trap the individual as such, unlike the old social media that generated great nuances of a collective social character. The pervasiveness of social media alone has changed the world we live in. It is no longer possible to do politics without social networks, it is no longer possible to do marketing without social networks. You can’t sell, if you wanted to sell a brand of glasses like this, well, if you were to promote it on the radio and in the press, you wouldn’t sell a single one, but if you promote it on Tik Tok, on Instagram, they’ll rip them out of your hands.
It is another life, another world. That is why I say that we have entered a new era. And from the Bolivarian revolution we assume it, we are studying it so that we can adapt ourselves, renew ourselves, make the changes we have to make and that the forces of revolutionary and progressive change are at the forefront of the new epoch and of the new times to come.
Ignacio Ramonet: Thank you very much Mr. President. Particularly exciting theoretical reflection on this new world that is being installed. Thank you very much. It only remains for me to congratulate you for the new year, to congratulate you and all the Venezuelan people in particular, and to give you an appointment next year for our classic of 2023. Thank you President.
President Nicolás Maduro: Thanks to you Ramonet, and a greeting to all the good people of the world, from Venezuela we continue to resist with much love and much faith that we will continue to overcome.
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