Interview with the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías

Former Vice-President José Vicente Rangel returned to his interview program after eight years of absence and interviewed Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez on dictatorship, assassination, and the burdens of the presidency.

Excerpt from the transcription of

Exclusive Interview with the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías

on the program “José Vicente hoy”

Sunday, March 4, 2007

JournalistJosé Vicente Rangel Friends, compatriots, everyone once again with you all in this program “José Vicente Hoy (Today)” on Televén. I return to journalism, return to investigative work, to analysis, to the execution of honest, responsible, precise, and above all truthful journalism. To service to what? In service to social change, in service to what today is Venezuela, and also service to the eternal values of liberty and democracy. I hope that this program will again be a place for dialogue, for understanding among Venezuelans, for polemic, for dignified polemic, to highlight the important political, economic, and social issues of the country.

Nothing demonstrates that more than to begin this program with the President of the Republic, Hugo Chávez Frías. Approximately 8 years and 3 months ago, or to be more exact, December 3, 1998, 48 hours before his electoral victory, I interviewed Hugo Chávez Frías. It is very important to replay fragments from that interview that reveal President Chavez’ coherence of thought and that his actions conform to what he promised Venezuelans. It is a good analysis and therefore permits us to advance to my first interview on “José Vicente Hoy.”


Journalist José Vicente Rangel You have had an extraordinarily rapid political career; in 6 years you have gained prestige and now culminating in this presidential campaign.

Candidate Hugo Chávez José Vicente, I think, among other things, that of Ortega is becoming evident here, the “Man and His Circumstances.” I definitely believe that we were not wrong when we decided to come out of our barracks with our dignity to propel that legitimate rebellion of February 4, 1992, because the Hugo Chávez of today is a product of all those circumstances, a product of a legitimate military rebellion— painful for sure, but legitimate. It was necessary.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Power for what? What will you do with power?

President Chávez in the first place….

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Power is squandered, corrupted, or ennobled. Surely you will tell me: I will ennoble it; but what real possibility in this setting, so dramatic, does Chávez have of carrying out real work from a place of power.

President Chávez Yes, listen, in the first place the concept of power. You made the reflection: Chávez is a man of power, a man in search of power. Really, deep down, it’s not like that. It’s not that Chávez is seeking out power. I don’t believe that power is like this glass of water that you drink, no. At some moment it appears, you drank it, no. Power must be built up along the way. I have said it over the years, we are constructing a new power as we go along and today we can demonstrate it to the world openly. A power to construct, not to destroy. Because the question was how and for what to use power.

The political power that we will assume within 48 hours as the new government, the moral power that we have been building, the intellectual power of a project for the future of the country, all of this we will use, and not Hugo Chávez because its not about one man exercising power. This power is dispersed among thousands and thousands of Venezuelan citizens. All of us together have to use this power to build a new political system.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Hugo Chávez comes from the ranks of the armed forces and within the anti-military concept of some sectors of Venezuelan society, all military men are potential dictators. Consequently Hugo Chávez, who was an officer, is a potential dictator. That is the synopsis they offer the country and the fact that you have had a brilliant and rapid career—in 6 years you are practically at the doors of power— some think this reinforces that suspicion. Is Hugo Chávez a potential dictator for Venezuela?

President Chávez Those who say that all military people have a dictator, a tyrant inside, some of them might say it out of ignorance, but without a doubt those who have promoted this idea from the dirty-warfare laboratories are my adversaries. Perhaps they forget that there have been military men who have been examples of true democrats in governmental positions— and active officers, not only retired ones. One of them we mentioned just a few minutes ago General Isaías Medina Angarita, who in addition to being an officer trained in Gomez-ism, he came from Gomez-ism stock and nevertheless some historians say that he was the most democratic president of this century. General López Contreras also, to a lesser degree than Medina, but still those two made a duo for democracy. But let’s go to the past century, there we find examples of military men who led true democracies or battles for democracy.

My great grand father General Pedro Pérez Delgado went off to the war against Gómez. He rose up against the tyrant. So it is this manichaeist view that tries to associate military with dictatorship and this is a lack of respect, [an insult] to intelligence and to my brothers at arms, the Venezuelan military, in particular to the new generations, without it being an insult to the old generations, the teachers that we had. But the soldiers of our generation were formed with a vision of humanism, of respect for human rights, for democracy. And we are going to demonstrate it. We are demonstrating it, but we are going to demonstrate it in particular. God willing, President Hugo Chávez Frías will contribute to the construction of an authentic democracy. Dictatorship is not possible here in Venezuela…

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Here we enter the terrain of the dilemmas that are used in publicity against you. The dilemma that you represent dictatorship and the others represent democracy, freedom of expression. That is to say that programs such as this would be cancelled and I would be left without a job under your government. In addition there is the dilemma of private property that they defend and you intend to infringe upon. They say that you are going to take away their house, bicycle, refrigerator, all these things and even women.

President Chávez [laughter] God and the Virgin Mary forbid.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Are you a man of dialogue?

President Chávez I have always been and now I must be more than ever before. I was educated in a school of leadership. It’s true that in that military academy a scientific and humanistic effort is made to shape leaders, and a true leader must be in contact with his people and in this case a real statesman, José Vicente, has to converse with the nation.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Finally, Hugo, what haven’t you said over this long campaign that you would like to say at this moment, your last TV appearance—only 48 hours before the vote…

President Chávez I have said many things over the years…I will never forget the day that I came here straight from prison and the first question you asked me was: Hugo where and when did this all begin? I told you that it started August 8, 1971 when I entered the military academy. There everything began for me.

Now I am arriving—and this I believe I have not said, hopefully it will satisfy your restlessness as an interviewer—I am aware, I have been thinking recently that I, Hugo Chávez, am entering the final phase of another period of my life. That is how I feel. Just like on the morning of February 3. I was aware that a stage of my life was coming to a close and I was entering another. Sure, on that occasion I was full of uncertainty. What would happen February 4? Nobody knew, including me.

Now I am finishing another period of my life. I give thanks to God and to the Venezuelans who have helped me so much in this period of my life. I have endured solitude; I have been vilified; I have been persecuted. But I have survived due to the love of the people, the hope of the people, many thanks to the Venezuelan people. And this sentiment, which blossoms forth from my soul, I am going to demonstrate. Love is repaid with love. I am going to embark on a new period of my life, God willing, as President of Venezuela, to serve you all, to build up, along with you all, the dignity of a people, the rebirth of a people. Perhaps I haven’t ever said that.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Thank you very much and lots of luck.

End of video

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Good day President.

President Chávez Good day José Vicente. Welcome to your home…first of all I want to say that I feel very happy that “José Vicente Hoy” has appeared. It survived 8 years of dictatorship. [laughter] I truly congratulate you… Greetings to Anita and all the crew at Televén. I will try to watch it every Sunday. I have always said that it was a reference for many years for us patriotic soldiers many years ago. We learned a lot from you all in the 80’s.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Look, 8 years and three months after that interview, a long time, and for you, a man who likes quotes, I have Francis Bacon one for you: Truth is the daughter of time. What truth has 8 plus years of governing revealed to you? Where is truth found?

President Chávez I will respond with a song: The truth of Venezuela is not found in the Country Club, the truth is seen in the hills with their people and their stillness… we have discovered many truths, I think that if time is the master of truth, you can compare me in this video that we just saw from December 3, 1998 and today, the truth is there, the truth has sprung up. Let me recall Chateaubriand, you gave me that great book “Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe” Chateaubriand said, speaking of frontiersmen, men who… I think we are frontiersmen, we are living on the frontiers of a time, a time that is coming to an end, an era winding up, and as Chateaubriand put it, with all the pain of childbirth the truth is revealed. Right? So I believe that the great truth of a new era has been revealed. We have not been not wrong, José Vicente, to cite Gramsci as we have since the 80’s. We were recalling the Caracazo [the February 1989 riots and subsequent repression] a couple days ago on Aló Presidente, as well as in the streets. We all remembered. It cannot be forgotten, that historic crisis that had no solution within the previous paradigm. That has been demonstrated, proven. Only the call for a constituent assembly could provide a peaceful way out of the trap of an old era that refused to give way. I think that is one of the most significant truths, an absolute truth.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Nevertheless there are aspects that cause concern. For example, you divide your work into various periods. When I asked you from where all this came, you told me that it began in 1971 when you entered the military academy, this period ending on February 4 [1992]. The next period lasted until the electoral victory of December 6, 1998. After that there is a period, the way I see it, that culminated on April 11, 2002, and then the following period culminated on December 6 of last year. What will be the new Chavez period?

President Chávez The socialist period. And you with your vision and experience, your experience of having lived on the inside over these 8 years, right? You have classified these years into stages, which you just delineated correctly. I share your judgment. Now, I could add my own, very personal, criteria. Hugo Chávez has spent 14 years, always with a team, because individual action is not possible in politics, 14 years from 1977, ending when, in the mountains of the east, while in an anti-subversive battalion Hugo Chávez became a subversive. Five soldiers took an oath creating the Bolivarian Liberation Army. Then I decided to stay put and begin a dedicated internal revolutionary process. I read a lot of Ché Guevara, Plejanov, and José Vicente Rangel [laughter] and your speeches from when you were a candidate, and many others, like Américo Martín. What was the name of that book?

Journalist José Vicente RangelLos peces gordos” (The Fat Fish).

President Chávez I remember having read Diego Salazar “Después del túnel” (After the Tunnel), I began to read Douglas Bravo and his writings about universal shock. In the end, I decided to go down that road, but it was 14 years, from 77 to 92, and from 92 to 2006, 14 more years, that encompasses all that you mentioned. But I would perhaps extend it a bit more in its prospects; this new era that is beginning—optimistically—14 years more, 2007 to 2021…

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Conclusion, Hugo Chávez is a subversive within the realm of power.

President Chávez A subversive even here. I am a subversive in Miraflores; Venezuela has a subversive in the Presidential Palace.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Why?

President Chávez Because I always think like a subversive.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel They say that Chávez is more dangerous when he doesn’t speak, when he withdraws than when he speaks.

President Chávez I think that is true. When I am really busy in this daily dynamic, one can get carried away and dragged down by it, often by the bureaucracy, by government obligations. But, listen, in just a few weeks after the December elections…

Journalist José Vicente Rangel While others were on vacation, you were working.

President Chávez Vacations, hallacas, wine. I too ate a few hallacas, but hey, I dedicated my time to studying, reading, conversing. I consulted with you about some things, you remember, and well, we put together the 5 engines and we kicked off the New Year on the offensive. So those 5 engines are subversive engines.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel They say that these 5 engines do not function without the super-engine of Chávez.

President Chávez I refuse to believe that, but I try to play my role as the fuel. But look, those engines hit the street yesterday. We are at such a level of conscience and popular organization that we only had to set them in motion. I tell you José Vicente I thought it was going to be much more difficult or laborious…to activate those engines, but no. “Moral y Luces” (Morality and Enlightenment) hit the streets “in cascade” –they invented that term while forming the brigades. Yesterday Vice-President Jorge [Rodríguez Pérez] was in Los Caobos when the explosion of Communal Power occurred, expressions of which emerged everywhere.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel And this cascade, could it become a mudslide?

President Chávez …you are asking about a mudslide in the system, right?

Journalist, José Vicente Rangel It could cause some kind of chaos, no?

President Chávez …A general mudslide, chaos? Well, anything is possible in this world. But I believe that our process at this point has sufficient strength to resist an injection of energy such as that, because it is itself an injection of energy, which is why it occurred to me to call it an Explosion of Communal Power. I believe that we have matured; 5 or 8 years ago it would have been impossible to think of an explosion, of an aggressive expansion of communal power. I have ample faith in what we are achieving, and what we will achieve as an essential part of the construction of a socialism that will not end in the Soviet mudslide, for example, or the Eastern European mudslide, but with the dream we all have of a world heading toward socialism. I have ample faith in the popular strength and conscience, because it comes accompanied by Moral y Luces, which is an injection of conscience; it comes accompanied by constitutional reform, enabling laws. I think a new moral force is emerging, that was lacking before, in order to initiate these 14 years leading to 2021. It is a great, indispensable force.

Journalist, José Vicente Rangel It is obvious that certain people, not only government adversaries, people of good intention, feel that the country’s freedom could be in jeopardy, due to the sacrifice of that concept for the development of a thorough social and political process.

President Chávez Well, I believe that they have been saying this for nearly a decade now, rounding off. Eight years since we spoke, and you talked about that black and white Manichaeism that Chávez means dictatorship and the negation of freedom. Well, it means assured freedom… You lived it with me—the country lived it too, but we lived in a personal way—the drama of the coup, that terrorism, that if we, if you, if I, had authoritarian inclinations, that was the occasion. They handed it to us on a silver platter. You remember how many people told us that we had to send a tank battalion to Plaza Francia? I remember your expression—like they were cooking up something. Well, yes, they were cooking themselves. We did not fall in the trap. And we have had the opportunity 100 times, but we have never decreed a suspension of constitutional guarantees. Everything has been done in full freedom, even extreme freedom…

Journalist, José Vicente Rangel That’s true Hugo, absolutely true, I believe that your government has withstood grave situations regarding stability and public order, and you have never declared an emergency, that’s true. So then, why the doubt in some sectors? Why the concern. Why the anxiety? Is it possible the government cannot totally dispel this doubt?

President Chávez I think the doubt must be looked at by sectors, because there are sectors that never budge from their position. Well, why? Because their own history expresses their doubts, which are not doubts in truth…They know full well that here this Palace they governed with authoritarianism behind a mask of democracy during that era of puntofijismo [the era between 1958 and 1998], persecutions, repression. I remember your program that we recorded in Yare; it couldn’t be aired; and the one we recorded in the Military Hospital.

Now, there are sectors that doubt and continue doubting, due to the perverse and continuous media campaign, that is not only limited to the broadcasts of some television stations and the hundreds of radio stations that daily, from 4 in the morning to midnight, keep repeating “the tyranny, the dictatorship.” They say: they are going to quit making cars, and what we have done is facilitate the production of cars like never before in Venezuela; they are going to take away housing, and in reality we are making enormous efforts, last year we ran out of building materials. But I believe that those doubts will slowly fade, and we are called upon to make every effort to dispel them.

Journalist, José Vicente Rangel Conclusion: freedom will not perish in the hands of Hugo Chávez.

President Chávez No, not in the least, I believe freedom has flourished.

Journalist, José Vicente Rangel But you have an acute sense of communication. You move like a fish in the waters of the media realm. Some people view this as a way to bury other opinions, to impose, from your place of power, a certain media slant.

President Chávez No, to foment the Battle of Ideas, taking a phrase from Fidel Castro, the Battle of Ideas. Passionately I have joined the Battle of Ideas…

I am going to wrap up with this reflection on freedom. To clear this up. Authority, which a government must have, should not be confused with authoritarianism. It must have authority, the most important being moral authority. I take great care of my moral authority; it is the “jewel of the crown” so to speak. Authority from all angles; not authoritarianism. Likewise, liberty is not the same as license. For what? The freedom the powerful want is to violate the weak. Jean-Jacques Rousseau illustrated it well: “Between the weak and the strong, it is freedom that oppresses and the law that liberates” That is, freedom lies within the framework of law.

Journalist, José Vicente Rangel In other countries, when they tried to implement important social changes, the closet was opened and all the specters were released—one of them was freedom, another was democracy, another ownership, you know that is one of the issues currently being raised, right? Chávez is going to do away with freedom, Chávez is going to do away with democracy, Chávez is going to do away with private ownership. Like you said, over the last 8 plus years those values have been strengthened. But how can a more convincing response be given?

President Chávez I think that one must be given, and we are obligated to give it…

Journalist, José Vicente Rangel Without being on the defensive.

President Chávez No, without being on the defensive, of course. It is the right of the country to be given a clearer response, especially, José Vicente, when I just told you a few minutes ago that now comes the socialist Chávez, this could frighten some: Ah! This is the other Chávez. No, it is the same Chávez, it is the same project, it has only entered into a new phase.

Now, as some analysts have said, I believe in a very serious and just way, I did not arrive here with a how-to booklet under my arm, as they say, and I am calling on all the country to build socialism.

I was just joking with Camero. I recall when he once told me that he was not worried in the least about land issues because he has so many cows in Guárico. I said, that’s great, if you have 100,000 hectares and you have 200,000 head of cattle, I applaud you. That’s a big production unit. Now I invite you, I said to Camero, to form an alliance, and this is what we are planning. Our model of socialism does not exclude private property. It recognizes it and even dignifies it, placing it on a pedestal, of what? Of caring, or of recognition of society, making you a respected proprietor, who doesn’t trample others and who can coexist and accepts to coexist with a State, with a constitution, with laws, and with collective communitarian ownership by producer’s associations, with collective ownership and social ownership. That is to say, a mixed system that tries to seek a social balance, economic balance and a political balance, and even beyond that, territorial balance, the harmonic development of the land…

I will end by saying all are invited that in this Venezuela-style socialism, everyone, politicians, those who are not political, those of the left, those on the right, the atheists, Catholics, Christians—let’s build it.

Now, I have said that it aims to modestly contribute to the quest for international equilibrium in order to escape this crazy, uni-polar world, where someone wants to be the leader of the world, to a world in balance, where there is freedom, respect of sovereignty, and therefore world peace.

Journalist, José Vicente Rangel This is no indulgent program; this is not a government program…

President Chávez I am here with bat at the ready expecting a fastball…

Journalist, José Vicente Rangel I am going to ask you about the government’s failures, the government’s errors, the topic of corruption, which I know is something that constantly makes you shudder. Are you ready?

President Chávez Ready.

Journalist, José Vicente Rangel What really disturbs you, worries you about the management of the government, anything?

President Chávez I told you that I am permanently dissatisfied, right? And this dissatisfaction causes anguish sometimes, but one always tries to convert this into positive energy for new ideas, for new programs, for new beginnings, and to move forward. One thing: I mentioned little advancement in agriculture. It’s an existential obligation and I have worked hard to transform the model of petroleum dependency. I mean, it cannot be that the day I leave here the Venezuelan economic model continues to be exclusively dependent on oil production, almost exclusively on oil production. But, well, these errors we have committed, and this dissatisfaction drives me in this new phase.

Another thing, the issue of corruption that you mentioned. I have always felt that regarding this issue we are on the offensive. We do not allow ourselves to be cornered by the discourse of our adversaries who say that this is the most corrupt government in history—which is completely false. However it is a deep-rooted problem, a deep-rooted social problem, it is the degeneration of 100 years of corruption, to turn a García Márquez phrase. We have achieved some fleeting victories, but few advances; it is a social challenge, a national challenge.

Journalist, José Vicente Rangel Why no emergency? With all the heated debate regarding the Enabling Law, the constitutional reform, to go to the roots as you like to say, if there is a Consumer Defense Law that is aggressive, bold, almost draconian, why not do the same with corruption?

President Chávez Yes, I have been thinking about this in the context of the constitutional reform, the Enabling Law, how to draw swords, truly sharp swords, see, and fight against the monster that manifests itself in a thousand ways: but it is a fleeting reflection. Nevertheless, I tell you José Vicente, I am personally leading an infinite number of tasks. But I have decided to apply myself more to the issue of corruption, in a personal and direct way… But it is a daunting task…

Journalist José Vicente Rangel There are people here who accuse you of being against dialogue, the most anti-dialogue character in the country.

President Chávez The country knows, well a good part of the country knows, that we exercise power, a new power, not a personal power, not a power from above, but power with humility, with much humility; and every day I want to be more humble.

The deal is that there was a custom, or a mode of dialogue here, the dialogue of the elites, and I will never allow myself to be locked into that dialogue. No, I promote and I constantly participate in –and every day I want to do so more— the national dialogue, the dialogue of the nation, the dialogue with the country, the dialogue with everyone and among everyone.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel And this doesn’t leave out certain interlocutors, with whom it is worth conversing?

President Chávez No we have no intention of leaving anyone out… Fedecámaras came in through those doors. How many times did I receive Fedecámaras? And they came to make presentations, one hour and several hours listening to them, discussing there at the table, as you know, at the large table, or at the smaller table, and someone taking notes…

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Yes, I remember that April 28, that is 7 days after the coup, you designated a dialogue commission, you named me coordinator, all these sectors met, and made a mockery of it.

President Chávez They made a mockery of it.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel They went out and prepared the oil coup.

President Chávez Exactly… But what I was saying is that there is a manner of dialogue that must be left to history, the dialogue of the elites.

Fedecámaras came here and made proposals. But if the government did not agree to their proposals ¡Ah! Then there is no dialogue. See, to them dialogue means submission. And a government cannot subordinate itself to any element of power, because it is not the only power, there is economic power, media power, power is manifest in many ways.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Imperial power

President Chávez Imperial power. In any case, we are subordinate to the constitution and the demands of popular power.

So, I am prepared for all sectors to be included in a national debate, in a national dialogue. Right now I invite— again I am going to take advantage of your show, which I know after today will be, as it always was, very popular, the best Sunday show; because there is no Aló President [laughter], because we would have had to compete, and it would have been a good match—

But, listen, on “José Vicente Hoy” here on Televén, I invite all of the country. Let’s debate socialism, let’s dialogue. Capitalism is the king of inequality, of lies; so lets debate about the economy, about policy, about ethics…

Journalist José Vicente Rangel About constitutional reform.

President Chávez Constitutional reform. So that all sectors contribute. Especially as it passes to the second step. The second step, as you know, the Council of Ministers approved the proposal, and so it went to the National Assembly.

In the end I believe that dialogue, but frank, sincere, open dialogue with no hidden cards, is what is lacking in this country and in the world.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Do you see signs of destabilization? There has recently been an attack on the meat and potatoes of Venezuela, against the stomachs of Venezuelans. Some attribute it to agitators, even to the involvement of the CIA in certain activities. Is a coup in the works? Is a popular insurrection organized, as some say, a repetition of February 27? And most importantly, is an assassination really planned? I ask you this with some emphasis because as you know in Colombia, just the other day, former DAS (Security Department) Chief Rafael García was detained. Who made the accusation that resulted in the chief of DAS landing in jail? This has caused a lot of commotion in Colombia. And Rafael García initially indicated that DAS paramilitary contacts expect an assassination attempt on President Chávez.

It seems to me that the specter of assassination is permanently hovering, no? More so than other options, and this is a fundamental matter, because if something happens to the life of a president, and especially that of a man like Chávez, it results in absolute instability of the country.

President Chávez Without a doubt we cannot dismiss this hypothesis.

A coup would be extraordinarily difficult at this time, and I believe for evermore, with this Armed Force we have, each day more conscious, including the generals. Many of those guys of February 4 are generals. What emotion it gave me, on February 4, when General Euclides Campos Aponte led his escort, which included 4 other F-4 participants, and they saluted with: Homeland, Socialism or Death! Some say that this was an order I gave. No, that came from those guys’ souls, from their souls, because they were born in this process.

In addition we have the Minister of Defense, Baduel, a fortress. The military sectors meet here nearly every day. The Civil-Military Union leaders were here last night and the night before, with the Presidential Commission of Popular Power, the commander of the Reserve, 200,000 plus reservists, and now they are receiving LARs, light automatic rifles, because we are distributing Kalashnikov to the combat units; and the LARs, and it is the armed populace together with the Armed Forces, which are now Bolivarian.

So, a coup would be extremely difficult.

Someone could try something crazy, an individual or small groups, but it won’t get out of hand.

A popular insurrection, which has been considered in some places, would be extremely difficult. I’ll make a comparison between the situation of February 27 and today. It is a totally different situation. There is a populace out there that has a government that serves them, that makes mistakes, but the people also know that it is a government that belongs to them. Back then the people had no government, except to stifle them and rob them.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel And assassination? Some laugh when you speak of assassination. They want the proof—which is a cadaver.

President Chávez Sure those who laugh are suspects. [laughter] All who laugh are suspect to me, not of direct participation, no, but of manifesting it from the deepest corners and dark souls of fascists, without realizing it. Good God, what would happen here if they killed me? I even say to my closest men, look, be careful because if something naturally happens to me, it’s possible that many people will not believe it and will say that they killed Chávez…

I have no doubt that the assassination hypothesis has become more likely. Who was just sworn in as sub-secretary of state in the White House? John Negroponte, a professional killer. And they have assigned special CIA units, real killers, who not only roam around Venezuela, [but also] Central America, and South America. Recently a report arrived from Central America, for example. Posada Carriles’s people are very active in Central America, and they are looking for contacts in Venezuela. Among other things they are seeking large quantities of explosives. Are they perhaps thinking of some kind of car bomb? Or they look for ground to air missiles with the presidential plane in mind.

We are ready, fortunately. Well, with the help of God, our friends around the world, and the experience our teams have acquired we are neutralizing them.

In Colombia, José Vicente, that day [in 2001] when I visited Pastrana and later the set-up emerged about Diego Serna Alzate, who was behind me when I was addressing some businessmen. He even brought me a glass of water before my speech. A month later he came out claiming to be with the FARC and that he was there as part of an agreement between Chávez and Marulanda, and that he was supposed to kill Pastrana that day. No, that day he was going to kill me. That man was planted there by the Colombian intelligence, by the extreme right, and surely by the CIA. Only one detail saved me. We were there— he was behind me—the Colombian intelligence planted him there, not us, or better put, it was an error on the part of my security to permit this man to be behind me— errors, inexperience—now this could never happen in any part of the world. Now it is my security behind me or I am not there. Get it?

So, afterward there were cocktails on the patio. I remember it very clearly because we investigated it all step by step later. Some policeman, who was not with the squad on duty, detected a guy acting suspicious and he spoke to one of our guys, and they followed him to the bathroom. There was a loaded 9mm pistol in the bathroom. The guy went to find the pistol of the year. There they grabbed him and they hauled him to jail. Later he spouted out this story of how he was going to kill Pastrana—at my order. No, he was going to kill me that night in Bogotá. The DAS was behind it without a doubt…

Journalist José Vicente Rangel The narco- DAS

President Chávez The narco-DAS, the paramilitaries. How did those paramilitaries get here [2004]? They were also detected thanks to information from local people, thanks to our intelligence, to the movement and to the patrols. In fact, on that day they recommended that I not stay the night in the Palace because something was going to happen, there were many reports. I was here until late; then I left. But I was alert until 5 or 6 in the morning when we figured nothing was going to happen—false alarm. But the news was very good. Around 200 uniformed paramilitaries had been captured. One was caught in Barinas. I even saw his face, because I had gone to see my mother for Mother’s Day. So the garrison general told me: “Look, last night we captured a guy who was on a bus heading to San Cristóbal. He had proof of being in the military. We saw his Colombian Army Reserve ID. He said he came to Caracas because he was working. He could be one of the paramilitaries. So, I went to interview him. I spoke to him awhile and of course he denied everything. Later they brought him to Caracas as one of the leaders and cruelest killers of that group. The kind that cuts a person in half with a chainsaw, you see? I saw the face of one of those who were training to come here to assassinate me wearing the glorious uniform of the Venezuelan army. How did they get here? The DAS and the Venezuelan coup-plotters in the military planted them here, along with a group of traitorous and fascist civilians like the owner of that land, and many others who go on nurturing the thesis of assassination.

I told the Disip chief, the DIM chief (Military Intelligence), the minister of the interior, and the vice-president to launch an offensive, because we have been on the defensive regarding this topic, no? So, it is possible that surprises of this kind may soon occur. But I will say no more.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel How has Hugo Chávez changed over these long years of governing, inhabiting the Palace?

President Chávez [laughter] It’s a prison, really. It’s a prison.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Do you consider yourself to be the same?

President Chávez Yes, yes I am the same. Only like I said 8 years ago, the man and his circumstances. But me sitting here on this patio could be the Commander Chávez imprisoned in Yare. But in truth I am a prisoner. I would like to stand on the corner, drink a coffee. I would like to go out one Friday to listen to music, with good friends. I would like to go on March 19 to listen to the harp in the fiestas of Elorza on the banks of the Arauca. But I can’t…

Journalist José Vicente Rangel All of this is contrary to the idea of re-election.

President Chávez Of what?

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Of re-election.

President Chávez Of re-election [laughter]. Rosinés, my poor daughter asked me one day, because she has it in her head to be a skydiver, she asked me: Papa since you are the president you can’t jump. In 2021 can you jump with me? [laughter] Dreaming about the future.

The issue of re-election is profoundly democratic, as you well know. We will propose it to the Assembly and later to the people. So the people can debate it, discuss it, and say yes or no. If the people approve it we will have to see if I am still in condition to launch another campaign in 2012, whether the people support me or not, etc. Yes, it will be a profoundly democratic process. But on a personal level, I don’t regret it. I don’t feel like a victim, or like I’m walking around here in chains.

I spoke to you a while ago about the sub-lieutenant Hugo Chávez on a mountain in Anzoátegui, in an anti-subversive battalion, back when they killed Jorge Rodríguez, all those years of terrible repression against the Venezuelan left and against the people. I went around reading Plejanov, The Role of the Individual in History, and there it is clearly stated, José Vicente. I internalized it. One can be chained up in a dungeon, but if you are conscious of your role in a historic process, in this case a process of change, if you are conscious of that, you are free. Therefore I feel perfectly free. I am fulfilling the mandate of a people; I don’t regret it at all. But I am still the same “Goofy!” Now a little less “Goofy” than before. I like to play chapitas [“baseball” with bottle caps and sticks]. Sometimes we play pelota de goma [baseball with a rubber ball] until dawn. You never played with us. You did play bolas criollas [similar to bocce ball].

Journalist José Vicente Rangel And I won!

President Chávez When I play I am “Goofy” again. In essence I am still the same. I am the same surrounded by new circumstances. Of course I am much more mature. I study a lot. What I try hardest to do each day is read, study. Right now I am rereading Ché Guevara and his critique of USSR economic policy, of the new economic policy, of the Soviet handbook. I am reading Simón Rodríguez. I read so many books that arrive, old books, new books, looking for knowledge. Trying to fulfill the journey as long as God wants.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Thank you very much. I won’t have to wait until 2012 for another interview?

President Chávez [laughter] No, next time, when you want, we will come to the studio at Televén.

Journalist José Vicente Rangel Ok, thank you.

President Chávez Thank you José Vicente. Welcome once again, for the good of Venezuela, “José Vicente Hoy. Thank you.

Translated for Venezuelanalysis.com by Dawn Gable