Venezuela's Foreign Minister on Democracy Now!

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez didn't come to the United Nations this
week for the annual General Assembly meeting. Instead, Venezuela's
foreign minister, Nicolás Maduro Moros, traveled to New York, where he addressed the body. In a U.S. national broadcast
exclusive, Foreign Minister Maduro Moros joined Democracy Now to talk about
Venezuela's ties with Iran, oil prices, biofuels and his message to the
United Nations this year.

By Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez, and Nicolas Maduro
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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez didn't come to the United Nations this
week for the annual General Assembly meeting. Instead, Venezuela's
foreign minister, Nicolás Maduro Moros, traveled to New York, where he
will address the body this afternoon. In a U.S. national broadcast
exclusive, Foreign Minister Maduro Moros joins us to talk about
Venezuela's ties with Iran, oil prices, biofuels and his message to the
United Nations this year. [includes rush transcript]
After Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's controversial visit to
the US last week, he got a more welcome reception in two emerging Latin
American allies. Ahmedinejad made brief visits to Bolivia and Venezuela
to sign new bilateral accords promoting economic cooperation. On
Thursday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez welcomed Ahmedinejad at the
presidential palace. Chavez had praised Ahmedinejad's handling of the
criticism he received from Columbia University President Lee Bollinger.

  • Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela speaking in Caracas.

Ahmadinejad returned the praise.

  • Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, President of Iran speaking in Caracas.

Venezuela and Iran share a common foe in the White
House. It's been five years since the U.S. backed a coup that briefly
removed Chavez from office. Chavez" popularity remains strong -- he was
re-elected one year ago with sixty percent support, his largest victory
so far. We are joined for the rest of the hour by Venezuelan Foreign
Minister Nicolás Maduro Moros. He is in New York for the annual
gathering of world leaders at the UN General Assembly. He is scheduled
to address the General Assembly this afternoon.

  • Nicolás Maduro Moros, foreign minister of Venezuela.

RUSH TRANSCRIPT

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JUAN GONZALEZ: After Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s
controversial visit to the United States last week, he got a more
welcome reception in two emerging Latin American allies. Ahmadinejad
made brief visits to Bolivia and Venezuela to sign new bilateral
accords promoting economic cooperation.

On Thursday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez welcomed
Ahmadinejad at the presidential palace. Chavez had praised his handling
of the criticism he received from Columbia University President Lee
Bollinger.

    PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ: [translated] An imperial
    spokesman tried to disrespect you, calling you a small and cruel
    tyrant. You responded with the high level of the revolutionaries. You
    responded with the moral force of the brother people of Iran and, even
    more, with the moral force of the people of the world.

JUAN GONZALEZ: That was Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Ahmadinejad returned the praise.

    PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: [translated] I
    reiterate that the Iranian people and the Venezuelan people, with a
    common force, will be together always on the world scenes, and
    imperialism has no other option and must respect the peoples or accept
    defeat.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Venezuela and Iran share a common foe in the
White House. It’s been five years since the US backed a coup that
briefly removed Chavez from office. Chavez’s popularity remains strong.
He was re-elected one year ago with 60% support, his largest victory so
far.

We're joined for the rest of the hour by Venezuelan Foreign
Minister Nicolás Maduro Moros. He is in New York for the annual
gathering of world leaders at the UN General Assembly. He is scheduled
to address the General Assembly this afternoon.

AMY GOODMAN: In this Democracy Now! exclusive, Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro Moros joins us here in the firehouse studio.

Why is President Chavez not addressing the UN General Assembly?

NICOLAS MADURO MOROS: [translated] First of all, I’d like to thank you for this opportunity to communicate with the US viewers.

Chief of state, chief of government, head of government, are
always very busy, and they are not able to attend every year to this
meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. In the past, President
Chavez has been able to attend. This year, however, he has had a very
busy agenda in tackling social and economic problems and also tackling
the democratic constitutional reform that is being conducted in the
country and prevented him from attending directly these meetings.
However, he is always following very closely the debates that take
place here and participating in different debates from Caracas and in
the different places where he is deploying his leadership.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, at last year's General Assembly,
the statements of President Chavez got huge attention and negative
publicity here in the United States, his criticism of President Bush.
This year, it was the president of Iran who became the big focus. Your
country’s view of now how Iran is being viewed by both the American
press and the American government?

NICOLAS MADURO MOROS: [translated] There is a total
control by the US media network in this very moment. The repercussion
of President Chavez’s last year was one thing on the streets and
another thing, what happened in the media. And we have the evidence how
it had an impact, and it had an impact on the people of the United
States that considered itself represented, how its sentiment of
rejection to the warmongering attitude of the US government it was
reflected in the speech by President Hugo Chavez.

This time, there was also a very hard attacked against
President Ahmadinejad before attending the meeting in the UN during his
stay in New York. And there’s been an attempt to continue this harsh
attack after he left, once he left.

We are going through historic debate in mankind. There is a
quest, and the US society is part of this quest, despite the fact that
the media tried to control, to manipulate US opinion, public opinion,
from the grassroots, the recent increasing awareness of what is going
on around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the significance of
Ahmadinejad coming to Venezuela? First, he went to La Paz, Bolivia --
he met with President Morales, promising a large $1.1 billion, I think,
cooperation deal -- then to Venezuela. Is Iran and Venezuela forming a
kind of counter bloc to the United States?

NICOLAS MADURO MOROS: [translated] I think Iran,
Venezuela and many other Asian countries, African countries, Latin
American countries, we agree to a huge alliance for social development,
for peace. For instance, in the case of the bilateral relations between
Iran and Venezuela, these relations has allowed Venezuelans to make
progress in the construction of a productive economic model. With the
Iranian technology, we have created south of Venezuela a factory to
manufacture tractors for agricultural production. This did not happen
in the past. Today, Venezuela is producing tractors for its own
agricultural development, and it has allowed us to sell and send
tractors to our friends in Nicaragua, Bolivia and in the Caribbean.
Venezuela, together with Iran, with technology, Iranian technology, we
have built factories to process food, so our country can be
self-sufficient and to reach food security in the manufacturing of food
products. So we have a very productive relation with Iran, in regarding
economic development, technology transfer. And the main focus of this
is to overcome poverty.

JUAN GONZALEZ: But in the process of that fight against
poverty, there are obviously big differences still in that growing
alliance. For instance, both President Morales of Bolivia and President
Chavez have opposed the whole move toward biofuels, whereas President
Lula in Brazil is expanding his country’s involvement and his work with
the United States over the issue of biofuels. Could you talk about
those differences?

NICOLAS MADURO MOROS: [translated] That’s an important
issue, and there is an open debate on this issue, regarding the need to
create a comprehensive energy matrix to build energy security for the
next hundred years for South America and the Caribbean regions. In this
regard, we have made huge progress with the creation of Petrocaribe,
and fourteen Caribbean countries are part of this scheme, allowing them
to make huge progress to build a sustainable energy security into the
same thing, South America. With the creation of the Union of South
American Nations, we have -- we want to sign an energy security treaty.

Now, regarding biofuels, we agree in private and in public with
the position of Brazil and the position of other brothers and sisters
from South America, in the sense that this is a delicate matter, and
this should be dealt with in a very thorough and careful manner. We
consider that we have to modify the consumerism, the consumption model
that’s been imposed around the world. With this consumerism of the last
fifty years, well, there’s been a destruction of the planet as never
before, and we have reached the limit of what the earth can withstand.
And this has led to climate change, and this is threatening the
survival of the human species.

And so, to cure the illness, we are proposing a very dangerous
medicine to produce gasoline for cars, preventing human beings from
eating. I mean, what is going on with corn is awful. The increase in
the price of land to grow corn increases the price of corn, and we have
removed the corn from the dish of Latin American people, poor people,
to process this corn to be used as to feed the cows. And this is a
criminal attitude. And this debate that is all over the world, well,
this should clarify and pave the way towards alternative fuel for the
future. It is clear that we need alternative fuels to hydrocarbons, but
these alternative fuels cannot jeopardize the food balance in the
world.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about President Chavez
negotiating between the Colombian government and the FARC to free the
hostages -- three of them are American -- and his call to President
Bush to participate in this?

NICOLAS MADURO MOROS: [translated] Yes. A week ago,
President Chavez welcomed the relatives of three US citizens who are
hostages in the hands of the FARC, the guerrilla movement in Colombia.
This was a very emotional meeting, indeed, because even the sons or the
children of one of these US citizens, they didn’t know the grandparents
and the other siblings living in Florida. So this ratified the
commitment of President Chavez to make progress in the mediation
process and to try to find a way for the humanitarian agreement in
exchange, and these citizens can go back home. This is not an easy path
to follow. It takes a lot of patience and hard work, a lot of prudence.
And President Chavez is fully committed to be useful, to support, to
help as much as possible with the great commitment, human commitment,
to help the relatives of those who are being detained in the Colombian
forest, but also to open the path to a comprehensive exchange in
Colombia.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to ask you about the oil
situation. The price of oil has been obviously going up dramatically,
and President Chavez is on record as saying he believes it should go
higher, possibly as high as $100 a barrel of oil. What is going on
within OPEC on this? And also, why is he taking this stand?

NICOLAS MADURO MOROS: [translated] Well, President
Chavez has warned over the last five years of what might happen if we
continue on this path of war and destabilization of the Middle East.
And he has warned that if we continue on the path of violence and
destabilization taken by the US government, then this could lead to a
price of a barrel of $100. That’s what he has said, and he has said so
for over the last five years or so.

And the analysis conducted by President Chavez has been proven
by reality. The price of oil is increasing for different reasons: first
of all, because of the war in Iraq and the destabilization and
destruction resulting from this war; second, because of the increase of
consumption of hydrocarbons in the world as a result of increase of
consumption in Europe and the US society and the new pools of
development, such as India and China; and third, because of the lack of
investments in refining within the United States. There’s a number of
factors that has led to the level of price we know today. However, we
might say that the major factor has been the war on Iraq and the crazy
politics to destroy.

AMY GOODMAN: Mr. Maduro, you’re about to speak before
the UN General Assembly. We just have a little amount of time. Last
year, President Chavez said, “The devil came here yesterday; it smells
like sulfur today.” What is your message?

NICOLAS MADURO MOROS: [translated] Our message is a
message, first of all, to draw a balance of what has happened over the
last months in the world, what happened in the world, what’s been the
role of the United Nations to guarantee peace, how much the world has
lost as a result of this crazy policy that apparently will be prolonged
with this attack against the Islamic Republic of Iran. It could reach a
crazy level if we pretend to take the way of war to aggress, to attack
the Iranian people.

Our message remains the same. The world should open their
eyes. The US society should react. The US people can do a lot for
peace, for stability in the planet, for the recovery of the planet. The
awareness in the world today, it’s also expressed in the United States,
and we need a large humane alliance between the US people and the
peoples of the world, respecting our diversity, cultural diversity, our
different ways to see the world, and establishing a relationship of
equality. That’s the main message, and that’s been the message of
President Chavez a year ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro Moros, thank you very much for joining us.

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