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      Fire This Time's Exclusive Interview
      His Excellency Wilmer Omar Barrientos Fernández
      Venezuelan Ambassador to Canada - Part 2

      Interview & Translation by Alison Bodine

      Below is Part 2 of an extensive interview by Fire This Time (FTT) with the Venezuelan Ambassador to Canada, His Excellency Wilmer Omar Barrientos Fernández. The first part of this interview was printed in the previous issue of Fire This Time (Volume 10, Issue 9 - September):

      Fire This Time: What does the counter-revolutionary Venezuelan opposition really want to achieve in Venezuela?

      Amb. Barrientos: I have always said and repeated. Venezuela's opposition has no interest in the people, as they have shown when they promote laws such as the Amnesty Law. Do you know that they brought a law such as this? An amnesty law implies forgiveness of a crime and its enactment involves "forgetting" the crimes committed by a person absolutely, in fact, they get out of the crime as well as all liabilities. The political nature of the amnesty, whose enactment falls constitutionally on the legislature, would allow the new National Assembly to enact by decree, by this Law, forgiveness for the crimes committed. However, the Law was vetoed by the Supreme Court in an instance of judiciary power, as the supreme interpreter of the Constitution. It was vetoed with strong support and a full room. Liability cases in murder, fraud, attempted coup d'etat and corruption could be "forgotten" and this could promote impunity for crimes against the Venezuelan people. It would be in "favor of persons involved in criminal cases, administrative, disciplinary or police investigations, and subject to administrative or criminal proceedings and would mean the end of policies and procedures that disqualify people from parliamentary immunity." But why are they seeking this? The main objective of this Law was to free the opposition leader Leopoldo López, responsible for the deaths of 43 people during 'las guarimbas' (violent riots) and obtain impunity for those involved in terrorist acts and those that promoted and participated in acts against the political stability of Venezuela, such is the case of Daniel Ceballos, convicted of the commission of the crimes of rebellion and conspiracy. Many of those who would benefit from an amnesty law fled the country to avoid surrendering to justice and facing due process for the commission of "ordinary crimes." Currently 36 people that have been judicially prosecuted for their involvement in the coup of April 2002, the oil sabotage of December 2002 and January 2003, and other related crimes, expect to benefit from this measure. The country's opposition only wants to recover what the people now controls, which are its natural resources, its wealth, its oil, its reserves of water, gas, gold and other resources that are no longer mortgaged nor handed over to capitalist governments in exchange for favors and concessions. FTT: U.S. government officials are often quoted in mainstream media as saying that there are "political prisoners" in Venezuela and number of “opposition” leaders are in prison. What is your response to this?

      Amb. Barrientos: In Venezuela there are no political prisoners. I have not met a single Venezuelan opposition politician or human rights defender that speaks of the crimes, disappearances, torture and other violations of human rights that were committed for political reasons from 1958-1998. Currently, the executions and killings of more than 5,000 Venezuelans who were killed in separate massacres such as "El Caracazo", "Cantaura", "Yumare," and so-called Theaters of Operation (TO), which were torture centers that operated under throughout the country, are under investigation.

      On 12 February 2014, what began in Venezuela as a peaceful demonstration to the headquarters of the Venezuelan Public Prosecutors' Office, was turned into a situation of chaos and violence, very distinct from peace and harmony that is guaranteed by the Constitution.

      This incident was the beginning of a series of non-peaceful protests that resulted in the death of 43 people, one a public prosecutor and three national guards, plus 878 injured, of which 600 are civilians and 278 are police, military officers and government officials.

      As a result of these acts of violence, the state security agencies made several arrests; not of people who are simply exercising their right to protest, but of people that were allegedly involved to some degree in violent actions, vandalism; or who have taken the lives of others. As of January 31, 2015, the Public Prosecutors' Office had presented 911 conclusive acts, involving 2,844 people.

      Referring to specific aspects of violations of fundamental rights, prosecutors began investigations into alleged violations of human rights, of which, as of January 31, 2015, 216 final decisions were presented. Notwithstanding, out of the 3,351 people arrested for alleged involvement in violent acts that have been taken to the Court of Control, 1,507 received inunctions, 59 received conditional suspension of the process, and 1,013 received full freedom, while only 41 have been deprived of their liberty, based on the seriousness of the crime.

      In general terms, the damage caused by these acts of vandalism and terrorism at national level amounted to 20 billion bolivars, with the following being the most affected states of the country: the Metropolitan Area of Caracas, with severe damage to the offices of government agencies, burned police stations and banks, as well as more than 61 stations of the Metro and Metrobus public transport affected; in Aragua, the infrastructure of the Mayor, residential areas and fuel stations were severely affected; in Carabobo the headquarters of the "Oil workers of Venezuela" (Petroleos de Venezuela -PDVSA) and the network of "Mercal" supermarkets were affected, as well as five food distribution trucks were destroyed, the headquarters of the state electricity company (Corpoelec) was destroyed and 22 company vehicles were burned, the Polytechnical Experimental National University of the National Armed Force (UNEF) and public transportation units were severely affected, plus private vehicles and motorcycles; in Merida, the headquarters of the national telephone company (CANTV), the National Institute of Parks, the Hotel Venetur, the former headquarters of Administrative Service for Identification (Saime), and the branches of the Bicentennial, Venezuela, Foreign and Banesco banks were completely destroyed; finally, in Zulia and Táchira states, the headquarters of the National Electoral Council (CNE) and public transportation stations, as well as the network of Bicentennial State supermarkets, libraries, clinics for low-income sectors in Barrio Adentro 1 and 2, were all affected, among others.

      People apprehended for acts of violence have all been presented in front of a judge within 48 hours following their arrest, which is the period established in our legislation, and after competing their respective forensic medical examinations to determine the health status . Also, we have addressed those who have reported being victims of abuse during detention; and once the complaint has been taken, a investigation starts immediately by prosecutors that specialize in fundamental rights.

      It is for this reason that 42 criminal investigations, against officials from various state security agencies, have begun in which it is alleged, in some cases, that they are responsible for the violation of human rights; noting that of the persons deprived of their liberty that I mentioned above, 14 are staff members of various security bodies that would be allegedly involved in human rights violations.

      Violent and terrorist acts in Venezuela caused "unnecessary deaths" that were used by the opponents of the government to spread the desire for revenge against the national government. The events that occurred in the vicinity of the Attorney General of the Republic triggered violence, leading to the prosecution of Leopoldo López and his collaborators for their responsibilities in such events, as was determined by the 2nd, 41st and 45th national prosecutors. Narda Sanabria, Franklin Nieves and Juan Cannelloni found sufficient evidence to indict Leopoldo López, and other promoters of violence, for the crimes of arson, damage, public incitement and conspiracy. The judges of the Public Prosecutors' Office had 21 expert testimonies, 5 reports, 67 testimonies and 42 experts from different areas of criminal investigation at the trial. Sufficient evidence was presented in the indictment to prosecute the right leader, who has been in prison since the 18 of February, 2014.

      Similarly regarding the violence generated in our country, the Attorney General of the Republic found that foreigners and groups of citizens who were posing as students were receiving a daily allowance of up to 5,000 bolivars per day (or equivalent to $793 US dollars) to generate violence or generate 'guarimbas'; foreign citizens were following the orders of authorities in their respective countries.

      The most well-known promoters of terrorist 'guarimbas' in Venezuela is the citizen Leopoldo López. The criminal record of violence of this citizen includes active involvement in the events that led to the coup d'etat against President Hugo Chávez in April 2002. Leopoldo López, who at that time was mayor of the affluent Chacao municipality east of Caracas, took its authority to initiate a hunt for Chavista leaders, including the Interior Minister of Chávez, Ramon Rodriguez Chacín, and revolutionary deputy Tarek William Saab, who were arrested the day after the coup by officers of the Police of Chacao itself commanded by Leopoldo López.

      In a television interview broadcast on April 12, 2002, Lopez confessed to having led an operation in which Chacao police officers to stripped drivers of the keys to their vehicles, and used their cars to impede a battalion of troops and tanks loyal to President Chavez from coming to Caracas. Leopoldo López' history of criminal conspiracy also includes active participation in violent protests called the "Guarimba Plan," in 2004. In addition, he ignored the results of the recall referendum that favored President Chávez in 2004.

      It was this character who gave voice to the plan for insurrection that was executed against the democratic government of Venezuela, which, on January 23, 2014, called on people to stay in the streets until the overthrow of President Nicolas Maduro; "Venezuelans are obliged to demand the ouster of a corrupt government."

      Leopoldo López

      The Attorney General of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela accuses him of the following elements stipulated in the penal code of our country:
      • Public incitement
      • Property damage
      • Arson
      • Criminal association

      Evidence against him:
      1. As part of evidence to support the charges against Leopoldo Eduardo López Mendoza (43), experts of the Criminology Unit Against the Violation of Fundamental Rights of the Public Prosecutors' Office and the Body of Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations (CICPC) determined that blunt objects were thrown at the headquarters of the Public Prosecutors' Office; on 12 February this year.
      2. The CICPC reported to the 28th Circuit Court of the Metropolitan Area of Caracas that, with their expertise, they had found hydrocarbon accelerants (fuel) in the clothing of the accused students.
      3. Another element that demonstrated the central participation of López in these events, were the calls made by him on January 23 and February 2, 2014, public calls for a march from Plaza Venezuela to the headquarters of the Public Prosecutors' Office; which is to say that if no one had called the protest, people would not have even come to an event that was announced as a peaceful and ended with destruction and severe damage.
      4. When the alleged peaceful march reached its destination, they only met the unarmed security personnel of the institution who were under the belief that the protesters were going to deliver a document that requested freedom for students detained by the Control Court of Táchira.
      5. None of the 29 videos provided by commissioned prosecutors show that there was ever any intention to deliver a document, demonstrating the fact that from the outset, the intention of the protest was to attack the Public Prosecutors' Office and begin the escalation of attacks against the representatives of public power.

      Carlos Vecchio

      The Attorney General of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela accuses him of the following elements stipulated in the penal code of our country:
      • Inciting crime
      • Arson
      • Public incitement
      • Criminal association

      Carlos Vecchio, coordinator of the Popular Will party, left the country despite having an arrest warrant to be prosecuted for various crimes. On February 17, 2014, an arrest warrant was issued against the opposition leader for events that had occurred from February 12.

      Daniel Ceballos

      The Attorney General of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela accuses him of the following elements stipulated in the penal code of our country:
      • Civil rebellion
      • Conspiracy

      Finally, I've always wondered, what would happen in a country such as this, if a citizen generates so much collective violence, leaving them at deaths door and damages infrastructure worth thousands of dollars. Perhaps they would give him a medal of honor?

      FTT: In March of 2015 U.S. President Obama issued on Executive Order declaring Venezuela to be a "threat to U.S. national security." The U.S. government has also imposed sanctions on Venezuela and continues their financial and political support for the Venezuelan counter-revolutionary opposition, among other forms of intervention. What is the purpose of imposing sanctions on Venezuela by United States? Why is the U.S. government supporting the Venezuelan counter-revolutionary opposition?

      Amb. Barrientos: It would be impossible to have a Latin American political analysis of the twentieth century and not to mention the extraordinary significance of the legacy of Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution in the process of the transformation of the Latin American experience at the local and regional level; without mentioning the impact it has had on world political expression, by following participatory democracy, grassroots organization, redistribution of income, achieving greater equity and combating the perverse neoliberal capitalist culture that threatens the dispossessed mercilessly.

      In his inaugural speech , February 2, 1999, Chávez called for "creating a government of and for the people." Bolivar's dream was the integration of all America as a great nation. Today Venezuela continues the struggle to maintain independence as our eternal Commander Hugo Chavez said, we have regained this independence after 200 years thanks to the people that have awaken and thanks to the united armed forces we have regained our homeland.

      President Chávez continued the Bolivarian dream of the integration of a united America by proposing a new mechanism of integration within the framework of the Summit of the Americas held in Quebec City on April 22, 2001. He did this with the creation of ALBA, which I was formalized in 2004, then with the creation of Petrocaribe in 2005, and in 2006 with the entry of Venezuela into Mercosur. In 2007 there was the creation of UNASUR and finally in 2011 the creation of CELAC. Since then, Venezuela has been a bad example to the United States. Because we have been an example of independence, sovereignty, self-determination and obviously, they did not expect this from a country that was a main supplier of energy to imperialist countries.

      Venezuela is not and cannot be a threat to anyone when we are working for the poorest and we fight against adversity that is imposed or created by hegemonic powers which have our fellow countrymen under their control, people who never worked for the good of the country, but for their own interests. Venezuela has demonstrated irrefutable signs that were are a peaceful country committed to world peace efforts, as has been recognized by all international, regional and national authorities. For example, we call for an end to violence in the Middle East, promote peace talks in Colombia, call for an end to military intervention in Syria, overwhelming reject of coups d'etats, call for an end to the global arms race, especially in countries that are pioneers in uranium enrichment, denounce attacks against the Palestinian people. This goes all the way up to our establishment of a peace and dialogue talks to resolve internal conflicts in Venezuela.

      A notable recognition of the peaceful management of Venezuela, and its permanent peace promotion, has been its re-election to a seat on the Security Council of the UN, reflecting Venezuela's belief in brotherhood, respect for self-determination and sovereignty of States, therefore we can say that we love peace and love.

      International solidarity in support of the role of Venezuela in promoting peace did not delay the decree made by the government of the United States that considers Venezuela "a threat to national security and foreign policy of the United States." The global reaction rejection of this measure was demonstrated forcefully just a few days after their arbitrary decision.

      Millions of expressions of solidarity came swiftly, and they joined a campaign that began in Venezuela, as an initiative of President Nicolás Maduro, called "Obama Repeal the Decree Now!" which intended to collect 10 million signatures to demand the repeal of the decree. Just a month after his call, we were able to collect 13,447,651 signatures worldwide in support of Venezuela; from Canada alone, this campaign generated 163,000 Tweets rejecting the interference and classification of Venezuela as a threat.

      Various organizations around the world strongly condemned this action of the united States, among which are the public statements of the G77 and China, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), MERCOSUR, ALBA-TCP, UNASUR and CELAC. Notably, all of them called on the US to respect relationships, make a commitment not to intervene directly or indirectly in the internal affairs of any other State and to observe the principles of national sovereignty, equal rights and self-determination of peoples.

      This ratification of support for the homeland of Bolivar was also seen in seventh edition of the Summit of the Americas, held in Panama in April, when 33 of the 35 participating countries expressed in their speeches a demand for the repeal of the Executive Order signed by the President of the United States, Barack Obama. Only two countries prevented a unanimous decision.

      FTT: How can we in Canada help to defend the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela?

      Amb. Barrientos: As I have always told my Canadian brothers and sisters and other Latin Americans in Canada, do not believe me, investigate, inquire, look in the history books, at the statistics about what was Venezuela and what it is today. Go and visit Venezuela, because after that trip you will come with the truth. You will see in Venezuela a country that respects a diversity of opinion, that we are a land of peace and our ultimate goal is to continue bringing love to our people.

      FTT: Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview. We look forward to our continued work together to defend the Venezuela Bolivarian Revolution.

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