What follows is the transcription of HispanTV’s exclusive interview with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza:
HispanTV: Mr. Minister, today, there are dual, contradicting pictures of Venezuela in the world. The situation on the ground in the country is such that some people even regard Venezuela as one country with two presidents. What does the political and social map of your country look like at this moment?
Arreaza: Thank you for asking that question! First of all, I must say that Venezuela is in complete peace. Unlike 2014 and 2017, there is no unrest and no damage to public property out on the streets. Despite that [fact], some are attempting to portray Venezuela as a country that is in [civil] strife and in distress.
What has happened in Venezuela today is an attempt at a coup d’état, a coup whose leaders are not Venezuelan citizens but, rather, the US government and officials like [US President] Donald Trump, [Vice President] Mike Pence, [National Security Adviser] John Bolton, and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo, who are openly provoking people against President Nicolas Maduro.
HispanTV: Some countries believe that the pathway leading out of the current situation is negotiation. President Maduro, too, has stressed dialog. Do you think that dialog is possible under the current circumstances?
Arreaza: The Maduro government is very serious about dialog. I must say — and there is no exaggeration in this — that President Maduro has invited the opposition to dialog more than 400 times in his speeches.
We are ready for negotiation without any precondition. The only precondition that we — like any other legitimate government — would have is to respect the Constitution.
If the opposition is ready, we are prepared to sit with them at the negotiating table in Caracas, or in Montevideo, or in Tehran, within the next 15 days. But the opposition is only after going ahead with the coup d’état that the US has planned. They will be defeated once again, however.
HispanTV: The Venezuelan government met with the opposition in the Dominican Republic last year. What can you tell us about those meetings?
Arreaza: We began negotiating with them (the opposition) precisely a year ago. We reached a preliminary agreement, and everything was in place for a final deal; but then, suddenly, the opposition said it would sign any deal. To us, it is clear that they had received orders from Washington. And it was [only] after that when some countries refused to recognize our presidential election. The opposition, too, refused to recognize the Constitution and the president.
HispanTV: Your government won’t accept the humanitarian aid that it has been offered. Why is that? Is the humanitarian situation in Venezuela grave?
Arreaza: The humanitarian situation in Venezuela is not critical. The Venezuelan economy has been subjected to US sanctions. America does not allow Venezuela to use the dollar as the currency for trading. International banks refuse to cooperate with us. Since August last year, the US sanctions have inflicted 35 billion dollars in damage to our economy.
Yet, in spite of all of these problems, the humanitarian situation in Venezuela is not critical. There is a shortage of certain goods, and we are doing our utmost to supply them.
If we had had the 35 billion dollars, our economy would have been booming.
The humanitarian aid that people speak of is nothing more than a PR stunt. One has to read history. In 1965, the US declared that the humanitarian situation in the Dominican Republic is grave. Why? Because Washington viewed that country’s policies as not being in line with its own. Then, they dispatched some doctors and aid to the country through the Organization of American States (OAS), and with them, some 8,000 American soldiers, who toppled the legitimate and democratic government of the country and installed a dictator.
We will protect our country against foreign [military] intervention.
If America has humanitarian concerns, why did it not aid the people of Puerto Rico — which is US territory — when it was hit by hurricane?! Why did it not dispatch aid to Haiti?! Why did it cut humanitarian aid to Palestine?!
HispanTV: The Maduro government has announced that it supports peace. But does it rule out the possibility of US military intervention altogether?
Arreaza: When the US government — which has the world’s most powerful military — does not rule out the military option regarding Venezuela, we do not rule out that possibility either, and we prepare ourselves for that scenario. Firstly, through dialog. Despite the severance of relations with the US, we have a representative in Washington, and they have one in Caracas. Next, our Armed Forces are prepared. We have a professional army of more than 200,000 personnel. We have an additional 2,000,000-plus paramilitary force. We are nothing like the Dominican Republic of 1965. We are prepared for any scenario.
HispanTV: Beyond Venezuelan sovereignty, what is it that you are defending?
Arreaza: We are defending the people. We are defending the right to exist independently. [We are defending] the capability to determine our own fate, unlike the 15-year period in our past. In that period, we were under Spanish, then British, and then American government dominion. Today, however, we have our fate in our own hands.
HispanTV: How does the Venezuelan government view itself, facing the current circumstances?
Arreaza: We are calm, and optimistic. And this optimism is rooted in the trust that we have in the people. Despite problems, we are standing firm against the problems and against America.
HispanTV: Mr. Minister, thank you for the time you took out of your schedule to sit with HispanTV!
Arreaza: For my part, I would like to salute the anti-imperialist and brave people and government of Iran. We are together in this battle.