MERLI VANEGAS is a Bolivarian and socialist lawyer. She is the daughter of workers and was born in Barrio La Cruz de Chacao, Caracas. She initially worked for the Bolivarian Government in the National Assembly, and has served as a Legal Advisor in different governmental institutions, including the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, Ministry of Higher Education, Citizen Power (an institution to combat corruption and crimes against the people), Ministry of Communication and Information, and Ministry of Labor, among others. She then joined the Foreign Ministry, where she began as Government Representative to the International Labour Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. She was a diplomat in the Embassy of Venezuela in Libya and is now Consul General in Vancouver, Canada.
Fire This Time: Before everything else, let me ask you the question that many people around the world are asking, and which we of course as supporters of the Venezuelan Revolution are concerned with too. Basically I would like to ask how the health of our compañero Hugo Chávez is and what stage of treatment he is going through.
Merli Vanegas: As we have seen in his recent public appearances, the recovery of our President is moving, like our Bolivarian Revolution, “at the speed of the conquerors” as we say in Venezuela. In recent weeks he has been seen again directing the Council of Ministers with his usual vigor and his usual sense of humor. Those are meetings that last for long hours and are broadcast on national television, so we know he is doing better. Of course, that's not what private mass media says, both in Venezuela and internationally.
At least once a week one of the big international news networks publishes articles saying that the health of the President is wrong, and any number of lies. Their reason for wanting to create that array of opinion and have the world believe that Chávez is very sick, is simply the fact that the right wing candidate has no chance to beat Chávez in the elections on October 7th, as shown by all surveys.
For international hegemonic forces, lying about the President's health is one of many strategies to try to weaken his image. However, they have not succeeded. Chávez remains the most popular and is drawn out as the winner even in the polls made by companies of the right wing. Still, we must be very careful with the lies of the international news networks. Let us not forget that they might be trying to create arrays to justify a possible military attack on our country, something that the Venezuelan people would not sit idly by for.
FTT: With the right wing united behind one candidate for the first time since President Hugo Chávez came to power, do you see any serious challenges to President Chávez in the upcoming October 7th Venezuelan elections?
Vanegas: If we talk about unity in our country, we can say that since the Comandante President came to power in December 1998 with a revolutionary political model, inclusion, participation and equality, have become part of the Venezuelan people, who really have been attached to their leader. Revolutionary politics since the beginning of Chávez’s government have been designed to address the social emergency, combating poverty and exclusion of the majority. Therefore, it is the people who arguably have been favored and for whom justice has been done during these thirteen years of the Bolivarian Revolution. In this time, the Venezuelan opposition has never been united. We can now say with sadness that there is something that unites them: removing of Chávez from power. In these thirteen years, they have conspired, sabotaged and led a coup. Now they come with misleading and fraudulent electoral promises, such as a law to ensure the social missions [different programs designed by the Chávez government to bring improvements to people’s quality of life, including healthcare, food access, education and literacy]. The people of Venezuela know that it was President Chávez who created the missions, and that these missions represent the largest effort ever known by the nation to address the needs of the people. Therefore, we are convinced that this October 7th will be a victory of the Venezuelan people's unconditional support for President Chávez.
FTT: Where does ALBA stand today, seven years after its founding, and what is the impact it has had on other Latin American countries other than ALBA member countries? Is there any prospect of new members?
Vanegas: ALBA is the Big Homeland; it is the dream of our liberators – Miranda, Bolivar, Martí, Petion, among others – coming true. It was in 2001 at the Summit of Heads of State, when President Chávez noted the need for a new model of integration between the countries – a model that would substitute the nefarious imperialist and capitalist economic model known as ALCA – a new way of cooperation, integration and respect for self-determination and sovereignty of peoples. The first summit convened in December 2004. This meeting of peoples and governments of Latin America and the Caribbean forms a great nation… a great nation.
In relation to the impact on other Latin American countries, it is clearly an economic model of cooperation, inclusiveness and solidarity – results that are clear for the people. It is the belief that in unity lies strength. In relation to receiving new members, we believe that, based on self-determination of peoples, each nation has the sovereign right to choose its political model. Under the respect for sovereignty and self-determination, the common anti-imperialist struggle is that we march to the Big Homeland. Therefore the ideal is that there will be new members in the future.
FTT: What was the response of the Venezuelan government to the exclusion of Cuba from the Organization of American States (OAS), which was a result of the U.S. administration’s insistence and pressure in the recent general meeting in Colombia. Can we expect Cuba will be excluded again from the next OAS meeting?
Vanegas: The Venezuelan government has steadfastly maintained its conviction and absolute rejection of the exclusion of Cuba from the Summit of the Americas. This is why, at the recently held meeting in Cartagena, our Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro announced the position of the countries grouped under the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA), which emphasized and decided unanimously to not attend any Summit of the Americas if Cuba is still excluded. ALBA also reaffirmed its rejection of the inhuman and criminal blockade of Cuba by Washington since 1962 to pressure and end the Cuban revolutionary effort.
FTT: What is the significance and impact of the new Venezuelan Labour Law that President Chávez officially signed on May 1st, International Workers Day?
Vanegas: As for the newly enacted Labor Law, it was a debt to our workers. For our revolutionary government that guards labor demands, passing a law like this shows our commitment to the working class. It rescued the benefits of workers and represents an escalation of labor rights. Now social security is extended, is one of the best in the world and first in Latin America.
FTT: Thank you very much, Merli, for the interview and for your time.
Vanegas: Thanks to Fire This Time for giving me this space.
Back to Article Listing