While in Venezuela as an international observer during the regional elections in November 2021, Fire This Time Editorial Board member Alison Bodine had the opportunity to interview Professor Luis Acuña, the Charge d’Affaires of the Venezuela Embassy in Canada. Professor Acuña is the former Minister of Higher Education in Venezuela under President Comandante Hugo Chavez. From 2012-2017 Luis Acuña was the elected governor of the state of Sucre in Venezuela. He was also elected deputy of his state to the National Assembly of Venezuela on three separate occasions.
Fire This Time: Considering that this election was a great victory for President Nicolas Maduro's government and the Bolivarian Revolutionary process and a crushing defeat for violent opposition and their imperialist backers, what do you think the impact of the election's outcome would be for Venezuela as a whole?
Professor Luis Acuña:The elections were a very important victory for President Maduro, for the PSUV [the United Socialist Party of Venezuela], for the Bolivarian revolution, but also a very important victory for all Venezuelans.
The PSUV, led by President Maduro and Diosdado Cabello, was able to win 20 of the 24 governors that were running, and about 210 of the 333 mayors. That's a very, very important victory. But it is also important that we, supporters of the Bolivarian revolution, were able to convince Venezuelans to force the opposition to return to the democratic way of doing politics. That's a victory, not for just the PSUV; that’s a victory for Venezuela. We have been suffering in these last five years because of the opposition’s methods against Maduro, whether riots, violence, interim presidents, or the Lima Group. We think that with this election, we defeated all of that and are returning to what should be the way we solve our differences, the democratic way.
FTT: How do you think the election victory will resonate in international public opinion and imperialist countries? Do you believe imperialists have backed off momentarily and prefer to defeat revolution with more sanctions and blockade, similar to what we have seen toward Cuba by the U.S.?
Professor Acuña: Their purpose is the same. I mean, they [imperialists] don't change their goal. They may change how they pursue that goal. For us, although the opinion of the observers who came may change their methods; it won't change the idea that they have to overthrow Nicolas Maduro. They will keep trying to do that.
The United States, the Empire, the European Union, and Canada know that they have lost. They have tried to overthrow Nicolas Maduro with riots, with Guarimbas [violent right-wing street barricades], with invasions, with, I mean, naming a clown as an interim president. And none of those were able to overthrow Nicolas Maduro. But they will keep trying to get rid of Nicolas Maduro, the President of Venezuela because that's the goal.
FTT: What is your analysis of recent elections in Latin America that has brought either progressive or leftist governments back to power? Can we say we are witnessing a mass popular surge against pro-imperialist governments favoring democratic, anti-corruption, and anti-poverty reforms?
Professor Acuña: Well, I think that we are witnessing the weakening of the U.S. empire. What is happening in those countries is part of the weakening of the U.S. empire. Historically, the U.S. Empire has done what it wanted in Latin America regarding presidents. They were able to get rid of Salvador Allende [in Chile]. They were able to get rid of Evo Morales [in Bolivia] very recently. They were able to get rid of Lula da Silva [in Brazil].
However, the weakening of Bolsonaro [in Brazil], in a way, is because of the weakening of the U.S. empire. Because if the empire was very, very strong, they would just do the same thing they did in 1973 when they got rid of Salvador Allende.
FTT: In the last Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on September 18 in Mexico, 31 countries of 35 countries of Latin America participated. Do you think that CELAC is becoming more and more a challenge and an alternative to OAS?
Professor Acuña: I hope that we keep CELAC going. With CELAC, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean found a means to get away from the influence of the United States and make our own decisions. So, I hope that CELAC returns to what it was. I am sure that CELAC will come to life again, also with UNASUR. CELAC contains all the Caribbean countries, but UNASUR [Union of South American Nations] has only the South American countries. But they both are very important organizations that don't allow the empire in.
FTT: In the last few years, the Venezuelan government has taken a closer approach to countries like China, Russia, and Iran. What has been the impact of these strategic alliances in Venezuela?
Professor Acuña: The impact of our relationship with China, Russia, India, and Iran has been very, very important for strengthening the capacity of Venezuela and for our survival through the last few years of heavy sanctions. President Maduro has reinforced those relationships.
Our relations with Cuba are very, very important, too. Cuba is an example of strength. The blockade that Cuba has suffered for 60 years is not an easy thing to understand. But we look to Cuba, and we say, if Cuba was able to resist, we will resist too. And we are doing our job resisting the pressure of the U.S., the pressure of the empire, the pressure of the European Union.
The difference between us and Cuba is that we have oil. Venezuela could easily solve our difficulties because we have the ability to pay off any loan. The thing is that we can't even sell one drop of oil because of the sanctions. That's why we have to keep the relations with China, Cuba, Russia, India, and Iran, because they have, in a way, allowed us to manage through the sanctions. With Iran, especially, we have been able to exchange oil for products that we need here. That impact has been very, very important for Venezuela.
FTT: Why do you think the US government has kidnapped Alex Saab?
Professor Acuña: Well, the United States has imposed sanctions on Venezuela, and one person was able to bypass those sanctions and buy food and medicines for Venezuela. Do you think that the U.S. is going to forgive him for that? No, the U.S. will punish him very, very hard, so no one else follows his example. That's the main thing. They try to scare people, so they don't break the laws that the U.S. decided to impose on us. Alex Saab is an example of what you shouldn't do. They are letting others know that if they break the law of sanctions, they will punish you like they have punished Alex Saab. But that's not a law. That's a unilateral decision of the empire.
FTT: What is the state of diplomatic relations between Canada and Venezuela? Is this true that you are functioning in your diplomatic capacity from Venezuela?
Professor Acuña: Canada and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, led by President Nicolas Maduro, did not break diplomatic relations. The diplomatic relations are alive. The only decision was to lower the diplomatic relations to the level of Charge d'Affaires instead of having ambassadors.
We asked Canada for the renewal of the Visa of the diplomat who is the Charge d'Affaires. But Canada did not answer. Canada said that the decision would be taken at the highest level, but they didn't say yes; they didn't say no. So, at this moment, we are awaiting a decision from Canada.
I am running the Embassy from Venezuela. We have local personnel in the Embassy that we pay a salary every month; we pay all the services for the Embassy, electricity, gas, security, everything has been paid. The Embassy is open; the Embassy is working; the only thing that we cannot do is sign things that require the signature of a diplomat.
FTT: What is your advice to us and all other progressive and revolutionary movements in our efforts to build an effective solidarity movement with Venezuela, not only in the U.S. and Canada but worldwide?
Professor Luis Acuña:For us, you are very, very important. And we will do anything we can to keep you going and working and helping us. Any time you speak about Venezuela, the happiness of the Venezuelan people, the music of Venezuela, and all the good things that we have here, we thank you. And any time you talk about our struggle, our suffering under the sanctions, our daily fight for liberty, for sovereignty, we also thank you.
You are our voice abroad. Fire This Time, for example, is our voice in Canada, Vancouver, and the world. That's why we really thank all the solidarity groups.
I want to say that I feel very, very happy that you are here as an observer from Canada, from the solidarity movement, from Fire This Time, because I am sure that you will bring to Canada the experiences you have lived here, and nobody told you, you saw it for yourself.
I heard the opinion of many of the observers, and I feel glad that Venezuela has an electoral system that is a good system. We can guarantee that the people who won the elections were the ones who were elected and that we have one person, one vote. The audits that we make are so many. That makes our system a very good system that I hope other countries can learn from.
FTT: Thank you very much for your time.
Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alisoncolette
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