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      The real enemy of free and fair elections in Venezuela is the U.S. interference
      Interview with Venezuelan Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Ron

      Interview by Alison Bodine
      Transcription by Azza Rojbi

      Fire This Time: First, thank you, compañero Carlos Ron, for taking the time to sit down with me tonight here at the Anti-Imperialist Forum in Caracas. I know that you've just gotten back from some long and good trips, so I really appreciate your time. One year ago, just about today, in January 2019, U.S. puppet Juan Guaidó declared himself president of Venezuela. In January 2020, Guaidó is even farther away from where he was to taking power in Venezuela. What are the main reasons that this U.S. strategy to overthrow Nicolas Maduro, the democratically elected president of Venezuela, has failed, in your opinion?

      Carlos Ron: Well, the main reason I think is the obvious reason that they don't have the support of the people of Venezuela. I think that a lot of people even from the opposition reject violence and reject a change of government that doesn't comply somehow with the constitution or with our democratic process. And what Guaidó has been proposing is precisely that, it is either a coup or some sort of intervention or some sort of tutelage by the United States, things that the Venezuelan people in general terms reject. And not having that backing from the Venezuelan people that you could see, you know, every time he convenes a mobilization there's very few people. This has been probably the period where the opposition in Venezuela has had the least power to gather people and move them around the country. You see that reflected in that their own base has withered out and they're not supportive of Guaidó. That's not to say there's not an opposition. There is a vibrant opposition, as a matter of fact, the newly elected board from the National Assembly is composed of all members of the opposition. But this is an opposition that doesn't believe in sanctions or at least is not looking for sanctions, it is an opposition that wants to dispute things within the political system, within the democratic process and it's not willing to have their country invaded or taken over by the United States or any foreign power.

      FTT: Recently, the U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, sent a tweet saying that the people of Venezuela deserve "a free and fair presidential election", I am sure we can expect in the coming days a similar comment from someone in Canada's government. What is your response to the statement?"

      CR: Well, the interesting thing is that they know that this year there needs to be by law, as it is said in our constitution, we need to have elections for a new national assembly. So, what's interesting is that they are also now talking about those elections and only the presidential elections, which they were arguing about from years ago. Venezuela's electoral system has been proven by international observers for over 25 elections in 20 years, that it is a trustworthy process and has been handled in a free and fair manner. However, whenever the United States doesn't consider their winning choice or their candidate as a winner, then they question the electoral system, it is basically a matter of choice. The only free elections, or the only elections that will be free for Mike Pompeo is one where, you know, his candidate is the one that wins. And this is true not only for Venezuela, this is true for anywhere else the U.S. has any interest in. And really the national assembly is supposed to meet this year and elect a new electoral board. And it doesn't happen because the United States orders its puppets like Guaidó, and his groups to block that negotiation. So really, the real enemy of free and fair elections in Venezuela is the United States interference.

      FTT: Within the first two weeks of January, the United States had already announced new sanctions against Venezuela. The government of Canada and the European Union, where you've recently been have also imposed sanctions. Can you describe some of the main impacts of this brutal blockade on the people of Venezuela?

      CR: Again, we haven't had normal transactions in the financial sector for a couple of years now. These sanctions don't allow us to, for example, make important purchases that are needed to import food, medicine, parts for our basic industries that are necessary for the country's development. There's about 15000 people that have not been able to have access to their dialysis medicine and equipment because of these blockades. When there's a shutdown of the electrical system like we had before, companies that use the service of Venezuela's electrical supply can no longer do their work because they're forbidden.

      You have other companies that won't even do business with Venezuela anymore because they fear that they could get punished in another way in the United States or in any of these countries. So, it's really, it's making everyday life for Venezuelans difficult. In the banks alone, you know, there is over 30 billion dollars that have been frozen in Venezuelan accounts, not to take into consideration that, you know, Venezuela has lost Citgo, which was an oil company in the United States, Venezuela has lost others in Colombia as well. So, there is a very sharp blockade that doesn't allow Venezuelans to live their everyday life like they used to before. It is a violation of international law. These are unilateral coercive measures which are forbidden explicitly by the U.N. charter and that no country has a right to do alone or in a collective manner, because what they're really doing is in a way they've made unilateralism collective by having several countries apply unilateral measures. But these are all illegal because the only sanctions that can be legal are ones that are dictated within the Security Council in a multilateral institution like the United Nations. So, this is breach of law and its harm that goes directly not to the Venezuelan government, not to Venezuelan officials, but to the whole Venezuelan population itself. It's a form of collective punishment, which really is a violation of Venezuelan human rights.

      FTT: So, at this time, what is your message to the people of U.S. and Canada, as a Venezuelan, as a Venezuelan diplomat?

      CR: Well, I think our message is that we feel that we have strong ties. We feel that we have the same aspirations in life. When we see, for example, this year in the United States that you see the campaign or the campaign a few months ago in Canada, you see that a lot of the people mobilizing in the streets that are asking for the same things that Venezuelans were trying to build here. You know, housing is affordable and available to all, health care system is provided for all, education that is free and doesn't tie you to debt for the rest of your life. These are things that we have here in Venezuela and that we've been fighting for over 20 years. So, I think to the people of Canada, to the people in the United States, we see things eye to eye, we have the same needs, we have the same longings. Our problem is with the governments that are completely sold out to corporate interests that want to take Venezuela's resources such as our oil, our gold and many other important natural resources that we have and use them at their disposal while not use them for the benefit of the Venezuelan people.

      So we have a problem with those governments, we have problem with governments that want to interfere into Venezuela's internal affairs and want to portray Venezuela's democracy as some sort of old time dictatorship, when in fact we have a very vibrant and participatory democracy, that we know many of our friends in Canada and the United States would want for themselves. We have no issues but solidarity and brotherhood, sisterhood with our comrades in the United States and Canada.

      We do have an issue with the imperialist attitudes of those two governments that at different levels and at different times, they have combined their actions to attack Venezuela's sovereignty and Venezuela's democratic revolution.

      FTT: Great. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

      CR: No. I would say that we like to invite our friends from Canada, from the U.S. to come to Venezuela to see for yourself, not take my word. See for yourself what goes on here, and the way that we live and that this is a project for humanity. That's what we defend. And hopefully we can share that with you.

      FTT: Thank you very much.

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