Interview by Fire This Time (FTT) with the Venezuelan Ambassador to Canada, His Excellency Wilmer Omar Barrientos Fernández
Fire This Time: Thank you for doing this interview with us, at such a critical moment for Venezuela and Venezuela solidarity. What is the most important and burning issue for Venezuela today? Is it the economy, with challenges such as inflation and sanctions or, is it the politics, with challenges such as corruption, reactionaries and the right-wing?
Amb. Barrientos: Venezuela lives in a transcendental historical moment; a decisive historical stage for the continuity of progressive, free, independent and sovereign governmental management, one without ties to the neoliberal postulates. Venezuela lives a true democracy, whose center is the human being and for that reason it is participative and protagonist. We are in a permanent battle to reverse the sad inheritance of interventionism and the imperialist plunder of countries of the region. Venezuela is part of the peoples of Nuestramérica (Our America) who keep their conscience intact despite the abuses and offenses committed. The Venezuelan people have resisted and do not accept any lessoning of their status as a free, sovereign and independent nation.
Faced with this strength, reflected in the successful process of convening, electing and inaugurating the National Constituent Assembly, imperial threats - including military ones - have been increased. Unilateral and illegal economic sanctions have been imposed with the aim of establishing a diplomatic siege against Venezuela. This shows the despair of hegemonic power centers in the face of recurrent failures in their destabilization attempts that aim to overthrow a constitutionally elected president and that also aim to dismount, dismantle or wipe out any vestige of the process initiated by Chávez and guided by Simón Bolívar’s ideals of freedom and justice.
Certainly, the United States has increased its interventionist escalation against Venezuela. On August 11, 2017, US president Donald Trump threatened, without euphemism, military intervention as an option for the most aggressive, warmongering and armed empire in the history of mankind. On August 25, 2017, the Trump administration continued its onslaught by issuing an executive order for the fifth round of sanctions against Venezuela. This greatly affects our ability to conduct financial transactions with individuals or institutions with operations in the United States. Such economic sanctions are contributing to the creation of a deep crisis that causes most dispossessed to suffer more rigorously.
These measures have been adopted in the name of an alleged interest to help the people of Venezuela. However, they are really hypocritical actions as they seek to deepen the economic crisis in order to turn it into a humanitarian crisis and affect the popular sectors, which are the majority in Venezuela as well as the main supports for the Bolivarian Revolution.
Fortunately, in addition to the categorical rejection of all these actions, our government has seen these imperial attacks as an opportunity to free us from the domination of the dollar. President Maduro has adopted a series of measures to counteract its pernicious effects on our economy. The most emblematic has been the implementation of a basket of currencies in order to be able to use the currencies of several emerging countries in our external financial relations. The successful tour recently conducted by President Nicolás Maduro confirmed that Venezuela is not alone and has the support of several States with which we maintain a strategic partnership or have an in-progress bilateral cooperation framework.
We know that the United States is not alone in its interventionist aspirations and alleged guardianship over Venezuela. Washington has called on all its allies to follow their path with similar sanctions. Regrettably, among them, there are many countries in Latin America which the United States can practically order-around. Unfortunately, Canada has also imitated this behavior in violation of International Law and on September 22, 2017, adopted similar measures that disrupt the bonds of friendship. They say it is to help the Venezuelan people, but it is that same people who ultimately suffer the most damage. With its decision, Canada had disregarded the framework of respect that we have maintained for almost 70 years of uninterrupted relations. With its actions, Canada has also showed no independence from US tutelage, as they preach. Canada does not show authentic and true leadership in Latin America and with these types of positions they will never achieve it.
Evidently, the large media corporations have given another nuance to these illegal actions. They maintain their media campaign that distorts reality and discredits Venezuela internationally, as part of their systemic protection of the interests of the global hegemonic power in order to guarantee the permanence of their alleged global domination.
In their strategy, these transnational media corporations have also spread an image throughout the world that Venezuela is a country in bankruptcy and with an insurmountable economic crisis. With the imposition of unilateral and illegal sanctions, the international financial war has deepened. These are actions that, together with the breakdown of the oil rentier model and the internal economic war, have destabilized the Venezuelan economy, sharpening the scarcity of basic products and hitting the most vulnerable people. Among other measures, the Bolivarian Government has promoted a plan for the diversification of the economy whose effects will be seen in the medium and long term. To meet the immediate needs of the people, the Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP) were created. CLAPs are a new form of popular organization that directly benefit 6 million families through the distribution, house by house, of more of 60,000 tons of food each week, a reach that continues to grow.
They have also wanted to brand us as a dictatorial government that is disrespectful of human rights. Venezuela is working on this matter and our efforts have been recognized in various international forums. For example, in the last Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, Venezuela was better evaluated than the United States. In Venezuela there is full freedom of expression; people can say what they want. In the case of the accusations of the existence of alleged political prisoners, citizens or leaders detained, and even deprived of their liberty, have been found guilty of violating domestic laws by competent judicial bodies.
Our government is working hard to solve a historical problem, which is the product of an oil rentier system, as is corruption. Today these problems have become more visible, because during the 40 years of representative democracy they were hiding them to the benefit of an exclusive and classist elite.
FTT: I would also like to ask you about the National Consistent Assembly, what is your evaluation of the process so far?
Amb. Barrientos: The National Constituent Assembly is already a political-legal reality. It is a faithful reflection of the sovereign will, of the firm dignity of a people with a clear political conscience, a bastion of Latin American resistance.
Since this election, on July 30, 2017, and the inauguration of this original power, on August 4, 2017, Venezuela has returned to normal by ending violent demonstrations. There is a climate of peace and civic tranquility. The National Constituent Assembly is an instrument of peace and dialogue, and its convocation by President Nicolás Maduro was always in-line with the Constitution, our legal framework. Anyone who knows our constitutional text knows that the Constituent Assembly is an element included in it. His call was aimed at restoring national peace, privileging respect and political tolerance, against the generalized violence that the Venezuelan opposition has tried to impose and also against growing imperial interference led by the United States, and seconded by Canada.
The election of the National Constituent Assembly was a successful process for all of Venezuelan society. The National Assembly was supported by more than 8 million Venezuelans, whose only desire is to live in peace and to be able to determine the destiny of their own country, rejecting any external interference. In this way, the Venezuela people are maintaining and deepening the social gains achieved since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution under the leadership of Commander Hugo Chávez.
Since this power was installed, we observe that in response, the imperialist powers have intensified the siege against Venezuela, increasing their attacks, threats and abject interference.
FTT: What do you think we should do to build a stronger solidarity movement with Venezuela and the Bolivarian revolutionary process here in Canada?
Amb. Barrientos: It is fundamental that people have a clear conscience that in Venezuela there is no dictatorship; that democracy is not deteriorating, but that a true democracy is deepening. Tell the truth and counteract the virtual lies against Venezuela created by those that have the aspiration to seize the immense riches of the country.
Today more than ever we must create a great network of solidarity to be interconnected and denounce the onslaught of the imperial powers against Venezuelan sovereignty. Venezuela is the central target of the attacks of the hegemonic centers against progressive countries and, if Venezuela falls, it would be a hard blow for all the free peoples of the world. We must not allow this event to become a reality.
FTT: Thank you for your time.
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