JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Venezuela’s opposition is calling on the United States and allied nations to consider using military force to topple the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. This comes as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence heads to Bogotá, Colombia, today to meet with regional leaders and Venezuela’s self-proclaimed president, opposition leader Juan Guaidó. A top Venezuelan opposition leader named Julio Borges told The Wall Street Journal, quote, “We will present firm positions which are an escalation of diplomatic measures, and political measures including the use of force for blocking the humanitarian aid and generating an unprecedented violence.”
The meeting comes after a dramatic weekend which saw the Venezuelan military block the delivery of so-called humanitarian aid from entering the country at the Colombia and Brazilian borders. At least four people died, and hundreds were injured, after clashes broke out between forces loyal to Maduro and the supporters of the opposition. According to some reports, supporters of the opposition threw rocks and Molotov cocktails. The Venezuelan security forces,and civilian groups known as “colectivos” responded with force, including tear gas and rubber bullets. Two trucks carrying aid were set on fire on the Colombian side of the border.
AMY GOODMAN: The United Nations, the Red Cross and other relief organizations have refused to work with the U.S. on delivering aid to Venezuela, which they say is politically motivated. Venezuela has allowed aid to be flown in from Russia and from some international organizations, but it’s refused to allow in the aid from the United States, describing it as a Trojan horse for an eventual U.S. invasion.
Over the weekend, U.S. officials ramped up pressure on the Maduro government. On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Maduro’s days in office are numbered. He also threatened more sanctions are coming. Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted the violence on the border, quote, “opened the door to various potential multilateral actions not on the table just 24 hours ago,” unquote. In what many saw as a cryptic threat to Maduro, Rubio tweeted an image of a bloodied Muammar Gaddafi as he was being killed following the U.S. bombing campaign of Libya. Rubio also tweeted photos of former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, who was removed from power during the U.S. invasion in 1989 and remained in a U.S. jail for years.
We’re joined right now by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!
JORGE ARREAZA: Thank you, Amy. A pleasure.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us.
JORGE ARREAZA: Thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you start off by talking about what happened on the borders? Why did at least four people die?
JORGE ARREAZA: Yes. Thank you very much, Amy, Juan. It’s a pleasure and my honor to be here once again. And it’s important for the American people to listen to us, as well, because we have what we believe is our truth, or, in any case, it’s the other version that you will not hear in the traditional, mainstream media.
So, I must say that what we saw last Saturday in the border, in both borders, with Colombia and Brazil, this was a spectacle. It was a show, you know. There were hundreds of journalists, of TV stations, broadcasting live. And the intention was—as you said, we believe it’s a Trojan horse. It was to break our sovereignty with a so-called humanitarian aid, which it’s not. And it reminds us of, for example, Dominican Republic 1965, where behind the—after the so-called humanitarian aid, 8,000 marines came in, overthrew the government of Juan Bosch, and they took power and installed a dictatorship for decades.
So, what we saw is—Juan said that the colectivos had answered with rubber bullets. No, it was the National Guard and the police. The front line was the police, the Policía Nacional Bolivariana; the second line, the National Guard. And then, of course, there were people that wanted to defend our sovereignty and that were there also. No one was killed in Táchira or in the Colombian side, which was the real—the real problem.
The events happened in Brazil, in Santa Elena, and in the Brazilian border, where there’s another story there. There’s something related to the indigenous groups of my country, which we defend and love, but there’s a mayor that has been elected, and he’s from the party of Guaidó. And they tried to get into a military unit. And something happened there. And it’s still not clear how these people, four people, died. It’s under investigations. We don’t know where the fire came from. But when you see the TV, it seems that Maduro gave the order to his military to fire on the people, and that is not true. We were very, very prudent.
And we resisted an invasion somehow. And it stopped. And now they are frustrated. And now they’re going to Bogotá to take decisions, with the real boss of the Group of the Lima, the Lima Group, who is Mike Pence. And he’s going to dictate the instructions and orders today in this group.
AMY GOODMAN: Did the soldiers have live bullets?
JORGE ARREAZA: No, they didn’t. We’d never use—what you saw on the bridge in Táchira is what we saw every single day during four months in Caracas, in Maracaibo, in Valencia in 2017. Even worse then, because it was every single day, and people actually died, and the people from the opposition had weapons, fire weapons, as well. So, for us, it was something smooth, if we compare it to what we have suffered in the past with all this wild opposition we have in Venezuela.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You mentioned Mike Pence as being the real boss of the Lima Group. I wanted to ask you about this. To me, it’s astonishing that Guaidó declared himself to be president the day after speaking on the phone with the vice president of the United States, the idea that a vice president would have a conversation with an opposition leader and, immediately after the opposition leader declares himself president, then come out publicly with a video backing him.
JORGE ARREAZA: This was a plan. It was activated last year, when they decided not to recognize the results of the presidential elections. And then they had to wait for the day of the inauguration of President Maduro, and this plan was activated. And it cannot be a coincidence that after this man goes to the rally and in the middle of the street, in a square, public square, he raises his hand, and he self-proclaims as president of Venezuela, with no formality, no constitution provision to support what he was doing, immediately Mike Pence recognizing him, and then Trump and the presidents of Chile, Argentina, Colombia and all these countries that are against Venezuela and following U.S. orders. So, that was a plan, well organized from much before. And we have to understand this: Nothing is a coincidence when it comes to Venezuela and the U.S.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, this is Venezuelan opposition leader, the self-proclaimed president, Juan Guaidó, set to have his first meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, speaking in Colombia.
JUAN GUAIDÓ: [translated] I will take part in this group, this meeting of the Lima Group, to meet with everyone, foreign ministers from the region, as well as with the United States Vice President Mike Pence, to discuss possible diplomatic action of cooperation, or, rather, sovereign, as it should be for each country, in a show of respect for the Constitution, so as to advance on this issue.
AMY GOODMAN: So, if you can respond to this? And Guaidó is apparently meeting Vice President Pence for the first time today. And also, will you let him back into Venezuela? He’s in Colombia now.
JORGE ARREAZA: We don’t—I don’t know if he’s coming back, if he’s willing to come back to Venezuela maybe, or what his plans are. But in any case, he’s going to meet with his boss, with Mr. Pence, and he’s going to ask Mr. Pence for a military intervention in Venezuela. He already said it, you know? This is—it’s sad. It’s sad. But it’s also insane. You cannot believe or tell the people that you are the president, so-called president, of your country and ask for a foreign intervention against your people, against your family, against your friends, you know, because bombs will not differentiate who is Chavista and who is not Chavista. So, it’s, I believe—I can almost not believe when I hear these people calling for these things.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about Guaidó and to recommend an article that Max Blumenthal wrote a few weeks ago in Grayzone called “The Making of Juan Guaidó: How the US Regime Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader.” And in his article, he says that basically many of the opposition, including Guaidó, were groomed and trained by a group called the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies, which specializes in regime changes around the world, and also by the intelligence group Strafor. I’m wondering if you could talk about Guaidó’s history, that most—he was virtually unknown even in Venezuela, until a few weeks ago.
JORGE ARREAZA: I believe that 99 percent of the Venezuelan people didn’t know him January the 4th, you know? On January the 5th, he was sworn as president of the National Assembly, which was correct, and then he went on with this plan. But this generation of youngsters in Venezuela, they were trained by intelligence groups of the United States and of other countries in order to make this regime change. What we saw in Ukraine, what we saw in some countries in the north of Africa, it’s the same people training with all these color revolutions and whatever. So, Leopoldo López, Juan Guaidó, it’s a generation that was prepared for this. They know how to make violent protests. They know the speech, even the words they use. So, nothing is coincidental. This is all part of a plan.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion. Our guest for the hour is Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza. We’ll be back with him in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: “Humanidad” by Ali Primera, here on Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We continue to look at the crisis in Venezuela, where the U.S. pressure to topple President Maduro’s government has been building for years. Former FBI Director Andrew McCabe reveals Trump privately discussed going to war with Venezuela as far back as 2017. In his new book, McCabe writes, quote, “Then the president talked about Venezuela. That’s the country we should be going to war with, he said. They have all that oil and they’re right on our back door.” In September, The New York Times reported the Trump administration conducted secret meetings with rebellious military officers in Venezuela to discuss overthrowing Maduro. In November, John Bolton accused Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua of being part of a “troika of tyranny.”
AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. intensified its efforts once Juan Guaidó became head of the National Assembly, and led an effort to declare Maduro a usurper, in an effort to remove him from office. On the day of Maduro’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. Vice President Mike Pence then spoke to Guaidó on the night before he declared himself to be president of Venezuela, on January 23rd, to offer U.S. support. Then, on January 24th, Bolton openly admitted the U.S. actions are motivated by Venezuela’s massive oil reserves. He told Fox Business it would be good for the United States if American companies produced the oil in Venezuela.
Still with us, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza. I wanted to go to the latest threats over the weekend, both a clip and a tweet. I wanted to turn to the role of Marco Rubio, but first let’s go to CNN’s Jake Tapper questioning Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Sunday.
JAKE TAPPER: How much does Venezuela’s oil reserves, oil capabilities, factor into what the United States is doing in Venezuela?
SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO: We’re aimed at a singular mission: ensuring that the Venezuelan people get the democracy that they so richly deserve. I am confident that the Venezuelan people will ensure that Maduro’s days are numbered.
AMY GOODMAN: Secretary of State Pompeo also said the United States would pursue further sanctions on Venezuela. Meanwhile, Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted the violence on the border, quote, “opened the door to various potential multilateral actions not on the table just 24 hours ago.” In what many saw as a threat to Maduro, Rubio tweeted an image of a bloodied Muammar Gaddafi as he was being killed following the U.S. bombing campaign of Libya. Rubio also tweeted photos of former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, who was removed from power during the U.S. invasion in 1989. Foreign Minister Arreaza, can you talk about these latest threats?
JORGE ARREAZA: I don’t think that this man, Marco Rubio, can represent the American people, the values by which the American people is known, because how can you threat a president, a threat against his life, so openly? And what kind of representative is him from the people? Not even from the people from Florida, you know? Of course, there’s a lot of domestic politics here, because Trump needs to win Florida. I believe that Trump’s days are numbered, because I truly believe that the American people will not re-elect Trump. So that’s the president that has the days numbered, really.
But this—I believe Marco Rubio and Bolton are paid by each tweet about Venezuela. It’s an obsession. On Saturday, it was—I don’t know if 40 tweets or more from Bolton and—sorry, from Marco Rubio, about the situation in Venezuela, and telling lies. It was fake news all over his information. So, how can the electors, the voters that elected Marco Rubio, stand this from him? He has to be stopped, as the war has to be stopped on Venezuela.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about the situation inside Venezuela. And obviously the opposition has grown. There are some accounts that even though President Maduro won the most recent election, that he’s deeply unpopular because of the economic crisis in the country, hyperinflation. Could you talk about the economic crisis? Has there been mismanagement? And has there been a move to greater authoritarianism under President Maduro than there was under President Chávez?
JORGE ARREAZA: You know, my country at the moment is calmed. Everything is still, smooth. People are going to their jobs. Students are going to the university or to their schools. People are going to the beach on the weekends. We are almost—next weekend it’s Carnaval in Venezuela, and there’s going to be a holiday. And all the pressure comes from abroad, from outside the country, you know? And—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But there is a large number of people leaving Venezuela, hasn’t there been?
JORGE ARREAZA: Those figures are not clear, but of course there is migration. We are blocked, Juan. In order for us to pay for what we need to produce food or for the medicine we need, we have to—a transaction that should take 48 hours takes 48 days, if it ever happens, no? And, of course, there are some shortages. But we are better off today than we were a year ago, and much more if we compare it to 2016 or 2017. We have done an effort not to sacrifice one bolívar, one dollar, for the social policies in which we invest a lot of our budget. And we have done an effort to try to manage the economy in spite of the blockade. If you were to sit Mr. Stiglitz or the director of the IMF in the seat of—in the chair of the minister of finance, and he would say, “You have to do this, this and this,” and if you take those decisions, nothing is going to happen, or something very different is going to happen than this person expected, because our economy is perturbated all over from abroad. And I must say that at this moment in time we are better off. There’s more food. There’s more medicine. And even some prices are lowering for the first time in two or three years.
AMY GOODMAN: Even with the crippling U.S. sanctions?
JORGE ARREAZA: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: With the amount of money that is being held in British banks and the U.S. saying they’re giving the money from like the Venezuelan company Citgo—
JORGE ARREAZA: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —to Guaidó, with the IMF reporting that inflation is over a million percent? Many are suffering enormously. Millions have left, according to the U.N.
JORGE ARREAZA: Yes, more than 1 million maybe, but not millions have left. And it’s not 1 million, the inflation. Those figures are crazy. But we have an economic crisis. Has there been mismanagement? Maybe. We are not a perfect government. And it’s very difficult to know what decisions to take when your economy is under aggression, when there is an economic warfare against your economy.
But I can say that the main reason why our economy has struggled is because of the international attack, and specifically this blockade and sanctions from the U.S. If we didn’t have those sanctions and that blockade, we could manage our economy. If we had the $30 billion that has cost—that this blockade has costed over one year and a half, and $15 billion that our company Citgo represents as a value of the assets, things would be very different. So, we have to understand this. This blockade is being translated into the suffering of many Venezuelans, and this has to be stopped.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about the international community, because in all the commercial press here in the United States, the sense is that the overwhelming number of countries have now declared Venezuelan President Maduro illegitimate, but that’s not the reality. The reality is that there are about 60 countries that are now recognizing Guaidó, but there is an equal number of countries, and some of the biggest countries in the world, that still recognize President Maduro, and that the United States—neither the United States government nor Guaidó has sought to go to the General Assembly to take a vote, because they would lose the vote—
JORGE ARREAZA: They would lose the vote.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —in the General Assembly. Could you talk about that, the dynamics of the line-up in the international community on this issue?
JORGE ARREAZA: Yes. The battlefield is in the international sphere at the moment. And I must say that it’s 52 governments that have said to recognize Mr. Guaidó as the so-called president of Venezuela. This is part of the plan. What governments are this? The U.S., Canada, the governments from the Grupo de Lima, you know, the right-winged governments subordinated to Washington, the European Union and two or three more countries in the world.
But, I mean, I had a meeting last Friday with over 60 delegations from all over the world, from the five continents. Here in the U.N., we had a meeting. And we were very satisfied when we listened to countries from Latin America, from the Caribbean, from Africa, from Asia, from—even some from Europe, giving support to the Venezuelan constitutional government.
But apart from that—because the aim is not to defend Maduro here. The aim is to defend the right to any nation to protect its sovereignty and not to interfere in their internal affairs. It’s to protect this, the Charter of the United Nations, the principles and the purposes that there are in this Charter. And we are creating a group—not “we.” It wasn’t our initiative. Some countries, with our participation, are creating a group, which I believe will have more than 80 members, to protect the Charter of the United Nations. And we are taking actions with the secretary-general, in the General Assembly, even in the Security Council, with this group.
AMY GOODMAN: What is happening at the United Nations? You have met with Guterres now, with the U.N. secretary-general, three times. We just played a clip of Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile. What do you want to happen right now? And do you want involvement of the pope? Do you want involvement of Mexico, with the new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador?
JORGE ARREAZA: In the United Nations, what’s happening is that there is a member of the United Nations—Venezuela—that’s been under attack. And the countries that are attacking Venezuela are violating every single principle of the Charter of the United Nations. So we expect for the secretary-general, for the General Assembly to raise their voice and condemn this intervention in Venezuela, and stop and not to be silent when the Charter is being violated.
What we are trying to do also in the United Nations is to let them know the truth, what’s happening. That’s why I have met three times with Guterres. But, as well, we want the organizations of the United Nations, you know, the agencies, to help us, because it’s their duty, as well. Because what’s the real problem? Banks don’t want to work with Venezuela, so any transaction that happens through New York or through London, which are most of the transactions in the Western world, are stopped, are blocked. So, we are working with some agencies of the United Nations in order for them to buy what we need in Venezuela—medicines, food—and we will pay this once it’s in the Venezuelan territory, in somewhere in the world, in a financial route that we are designing, because we have to look for these ways. We have done it. We’re working with China, with Russia. We are working with Turkey very closely. But it’s not been enough. So we need also the support of the United Nations organizations.
But, of course, we want—we are sitting around the table. We are sitting. We’re waiting for the opposition to sit again, because they usually sit and they stand up and they leave. We are sitting and waiting for Mr. Whomever, Guaidó and whomever, to sit down, and let’s have dialogue. Do we need Mexico’s, Uruguay’s support, or the countries of the Caribbean? It’s welcomed. I believe we don’t even need it, because we are Venezuelans and we can solve this amongst Venezuelans. But if they are helping, they are welcome. And whichever other country that wants to help for a sovereign solution amongst the Venezuelans, they are welcome in my country.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And while this is playing out, though, as you said, you’re willing to pay for the supplies you need, but you’ve got to have the revenue. The sale of oil, with the U.S. market cut off, have other countries stepped forward? I know China has long been buying Venezuelan oil. India has, as well. Have these countries been stepping forward to say, “We will fill the vacuum and buy more of your oil”?
JORGE ARREAZA: Yes. Yes, already. We already have new contracts with some other countries. And I’m not going to name them, because then Mr. Bolton threatens them, no? Immediately, when he knew that we had some negotiations with one of the Asian countries, he threatened that country, and he said that they wouldn’t be forgotten. So, I have to be careful here, but we are already selling our oil. The oil that was meant to come to the U.S., it’s being sold to other countries in the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Former President Hugo Chávez survived a coup attempt in 2002. You’re not only the foreign minister, you’re also Chávez’s son-in-law. Do you think Maduro will be able to survive this coup attempt?
JORGE ARREAZA: He has already survived the coup, because the coup was meant to happen between February the 23rd and the first days of—I mean, January 23rd and the first days of February. It didn’t happen. The military stood loyal with the Constitution.
And what’s happening now is that because the coup failed, now they’re looking for what they call other options. And there is when it’s dangerous. And I believe that the American people have a word here. They can—you can stop the war, if you really tell your Congress and your government and your people, and all over the streets you raise your voice, because that’s going to be a war on Venezuela, against the Venezuelan people. Venezuelan people are going to die. There’s going to be a bloodshed. But also American soldiers will die, marines will die in Venezuela, because we know how to resist. We are ready also to defend our homeland. But that’s not what we want. I believe that the American people and the American institutions can stop this from happening, this insane proposal of invading Venezuela. And this is the right time to do it.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, then come back to this discussion. We’re talking to the foreign minister of Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza. He is here in New York. He is meeting with the United Nations. In Venezuela, clearly, a coup attempt is underway, if not inside Venezuela, outside, because today the secretary of state, Pompeo, is in Colombia meeting with the self-proclaimed—rather, the vice president, Mike Pence, is in Colombia meeting with the Lima Group and the self-proclaimed Venezuela president, Juan Guaidó. We will see what happens with that, but we’ll talk more about this in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: “Stand Up Straight and Tall” by Jackie Shane. Shane was a pioneering black transgender singer and songwriter who died last Thursday at her home in Nashville, Tennessee. She was 78 years old.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. We’re spending the hour with the Venezuelan foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza. Juan?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, on Friday, Democracy Now! spoke to Edgardo Lander, a Venezuelan sociologist and Maduro critic, who is also against U.S. regime change. He’s a member of the Citizen’s Platform in Defense of the Constitution and has backed a national referendum on the future of Venezuela.
EDGARDO LANDER: The Citizen’s Platform in Defense of the Constitution, as well as other groups—mainly from the left, but not only—have been arguing that we need this consultative referendum in order to have the Venezuelan people decide if they want to have new authorities overall in the country—that is, all the national powers, including the executive and the National Assembly. But that requires an agreement, because we need a new National Electoral Council. The current Electoral Council is completely controlled by the government, and it’s not trustworthy for the majority of the Venezuelan population.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Edgardo Lander, Venezuelan sociologist. Your comments, Foreign Minister, about the possibility of a referendum as a way out of the crisis that’s existing now?
JORGE ARREAZA: First of all, I have a lot of respect for Edgardo Lander. And he used to be to accompany us for many years; now he’s changed position. But he’s a coherent man.
And what I do believe is that this Constitution has many solutions that can be started, but it has to happen in the dialogue process. No? You cannot impose a solution. You cannot say it’s the referendum or, as the U.S. and the European Union say, “You have to do—repeat the presidential elections.”
We have to sit down with the opposition. And we have to reach political agreements and analyze each option, but not war, but political options, and find our way as Venezuelans, because we’re brothers and sisters with the opposition, as well. So, that’s what we have to do. And we are waiting for the opposition. And even the pope has called the opposition, and we wish that Secretary-General Guterres would call the opposition to sit down, because that is the answer to everything. We’ve been through tougher times in the past in Venezuela. And the opposition sits down and then stands up. But at the moment, they have the order from the Pentagon or the White House telling them, “Do not sit around the table with the people of Maduro, because you are not allowed by us.” So, we hope that there is some rectification from the opposition, but, of course, in the U.S. government, in order to give them permission to sit down with the Venezuelan government.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you have this very unusual situation right now. President Trump is flying off to Vietnam to meet with the North Korean leader. You have the vice president, Pence, who issued this statement in support of Guaidó, spoke to him before he announced the he himself was president—not Pence, but Guaidó—of Venezuela. And so you have Pence and Guaidó in Colombia meeting with the Lima Group to get these countries to invade Venezuela. What countries would fend off an invasion, would fight alongside Venezuela?
JORGE ARREAZA: We have not even thought about it. We’re not considering war, you know? We are prepared to defend our sovereignty, but we’re not thinking about coalitions or these things. But this that is happening between Trump and the chairman of North Korea, it could happen with President Maduro, as well. Why don’t they meet? And why don’t—this would solve everything, because Maduro is the boss of the government in Venezuela, and Trump is the boss of the opposition in Venezuela. So, that would be the correct way. But even apart from that, we must sit with the opposition, as well.
So, this thing in Colombia, I believe that not even—most of these countries of the Grupo de Lima, they would not support a military intervention, although they are helping to create the conditions, you know, with all this trying to isolate Venezuela and the Venezuelan government and people. They have helped, but I don’t think that they would support a military intervention. There are two countries that should be denounced all over the world: the U.S. and Colombia. Colombia is letting the U.S. use their territory to attack Venezuela.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you, in terms of what you said, comments you made a few minutes ago, that the president has already survived—President Maduro has already survived the coup attempt. There were some articles I’ve seen in the financial press where the business community and the financial community is precisely worried about a drawn-out affair, because there’s a reality that there’s a huge debt that Venezuela has to world financiers in terms of its bond debt. There’s the issue of what the disruption, further disruption, of Venezuelan oil supply could mean to the world financial community, so that the business community, even of the United States, does not want a drawn-out, ongoing battle with the—between the U.S. government and Venezuela. I’m wondering the discussions that your government has had with some of the oil companies that are invested in Venezuela, and some of the bankers who have been lending money to Venezuela, about the current crisis, if you’re able to talk about that.
JORGE ARREAZA: Yes, with even American companies working in Venezuela, European companies, Asian companies, and they are working at the moment. They are producing oil and exporting oil. And they are worried, because they want to keep on doing it, doing this oil production. So, even the financial markets are worried, because they don’t want a war. They want everything to be calmed. And we can pay for all our debt if we are not under sanctions, if we’re not blocked, if there are no aggressions against Venezuela. So, that would be best for the international markets. That’s the reality. We have paid thousands and thousands and thousands of millions of dollars, billions of dollars, with our depth and in the past, and we would be able to do so, if they stop attacking Venezuela.
AMY GOODMAN: So, I wanted to go to Fox Business, where John Bolton recently spoke, the national security adviser openly saying U.S. oil companies could benefit from what’s happening in Venezuela.
JOHN BOLTON: We’re in conversation with major American companies now that are either in Venezuela or, in the case of Citgo, here in the United States. I think we’re trying to get to the same end result here. You know, Venezuela is one of the three countries I call the troika of tyranny. It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela. It’d be good for the people of Venezuela. It’d be good for the people of the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s national security adviser John Bolton on Fox Business. Foreign Minister Arreaza?
JORGE ARREAZA: Bolton is like a gangster. When it’s about Venezuela, he really is harsh, and there’s no sense in what he says. But he has said something that is truth: All of this is about oil. No? They want Maduro out because they want to regain the control they had over the Venezuelan economy, and especially over PDVSA, our company, before the Bolivarian Revolution. They want the Venezuelan oil because it is the largest reserve of oil in all the world, and it’s very close to the U.S. territory.
And that is not going to happen, because we will defend our territory. Our people will be defended. And we have to sit down and give some—if they want to invest in Venezuela. Chevron is in Venezuela. So, if other companies want to invest in Venezuela, they have to talk to us, they have to respect the Venezuelan law, and that’s everything. But you cannot be toppling governments, ousting presidents, in order to have control over the natural resources—although that’s what Trump said recently—no?—about that if he were to intervene in other countries, he needed the loot in order to be paid for what they are doing. This cannot happen in Venezuela. That’s why I’m telling you this can be stopped here in the U.S., if you do the right things.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about the Lima Group. It’s inconceivable—it would have been inconceivable 10 years ago that so many Latin American countries would have lined up with the United States condemning Venezuela, because there was a pink tide throughout Latin America of progressive and socially oriented governments. But now, of course, we’ve had a conservative tide now, with Bolsonaro in Brazil and Duque in Colombia. Could you talk about the impact of the changes in Latin America on Venezuela’s ability to withstand this kind of aggression?
JORGE ARREAZA: These changes were not for free, you know? The United States, the CIA, suddenly—I believe that everything was concentrated in the Middle East, and when Barack Obama turned his face and he saw what he—they consider their backyard, he said, “Hey, look what’s happening. This Chávez fellow and Lula and these people in Argentina, Nicaragua. We have to do something about this.” And they began to send resources, to support candidates, to do campaigns against the left-wing candidates, and they regained governments which respond exclusively to the orders of the United States. And that’s why the Lima Group exists.
But this is going to change again, because the peoples of Latin America are watching, and they are analyzing the situation, and they feel that these governments do not represent them—governments that want a war, governments that impose neoliberalism in their countries again. So, this is going to change. We have to have some strategic patience in order to see how things will change again in Latin America.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is the role right now of Elliott Abrams? He’s clearly Trump’s point person, publicly chosen—
JORGE ARREAZA: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —as the envoy to Venezuela, flew down in a military transport last week to Colombia. I want to go to a clip of Elliott Abrams recently speaking.
ELLIOTT ABRAMS: Maduro has proven he will manipulate any call for negotiations to his advantage, and he has often used so-called dialogues as a way to play for time. We urge all involved to deal solely with the legitimate Guaidó government. The time for dialogue with Maduro has long passed.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Elliott Abrams. “The time for dialogue … has long passed.” Again, Vice President Pence in Colombia right now. I think a lot of people will be surprised to hear you being so calm at this point, as this weekend they announced that a U.S. military action is now a possibility, a very serious intervention.
JORGE ARREAZA: There are too many contradictions. I have met two times with Elliott Abrams during the last month. And we have had meetings that have lasted more than two hours, with lots of differences, but we have maintained respect between us. And we have said our truths. And they are negotiating with us. We have just extended the presence of diplomats from the U.S. in Caracas for 15 more days. And this was agreed with the American delegation. It’s Elliott Abrams, and it’s Kimberly Breier, the undersecretary. And we have to keep on.
So, they say that the opposition cannot have dialogue with the government, but they are having dialogue with us. So, it’s realpolitiks here, what’s happening. And we hope that this channel with Mr. Abrams, or whomever is appointed by President Trump, is always open and that we can have contact, because that’s the civilized things to do, you know, amongst countries that respect the sovereignty and the international law.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, that does it for the show, for today. Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela’s foreign minister.
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