In this interview with the Ministry of Communication and Information in April, Venezuelan Vice-president Elias Jaua discusses the opposition, the dynamics of the PSUV party and his time as Minister of Agriculture. Jaua has recently been granted some presidential authorities, such as the right to approve expropriations, and would assume the presidency should Chávez become unable to.
Born in Caucagua in the state of Miranda 41 years ago, Elias Jaua is a sociologist graduated from the Central University of Venezuela (UBV). Before becoming Vice-president he was Minister of Agriculture and Land, Popular Economy and Presidential Advisor.
- Opposition leaders have outlined their government project, which up until now has been extremely hidden: privatize everything that can be privatized. What is your opinion with regards to this sudden burst of transparency?
It is a demonstration of their internal contradictions. On the one hand, the so-called social democrats have launched themselves into promoting a demagogic electoral project to make the people believe that a social-democratic state of law and justice can be obtained through a right-wing government and without confronting capital. It is a lie. The people know that everything that has been achieved with regards to inclusion, social advances, pensions, salaries, education and health, has been the product of the confrontation with capital. It cannot be achieved any other way. Now, it is difficult for the business sectors – who finance the leaders of the rightwing - to digest the discourse of that sector. It is the pressure of those business sectors which, on the other hand, lead the opposition to express more openly the reality of their proposal: the reconstitution of the domination of capital over the state and public policy.
- Right, and in terms of the revolutionary camp? There are leaders, including yourself, that have to grow, but they hit the roof of president Hugo Chávez’s leadership...Isn’t there too much pressure accumulating in the pot?
No. Those of us who accompany Chávez have political maturity and a convergence of ideas in order to understand that this historical period is going to be marked by his leadership. It is only proper that we accompany the leadership that has been produced by the revolution, which he has been in charge of forming, stimulating and putting in place, that we accompany the leader which the people gave itself to. Chávez isn’t the result of an imposition, or primary elections or a decree; he is the result of a leadership born out of the hopes and aspirations of the people. None of us has a complex with respect to that.
- By the way, the president has said that the current cabinet is the best that he has had in 12 years, what’s the secret?
You would have to ask him...I would say that, as much as in the management of the party as in that of the government, after so much rushing around and after so many desertions and betrayals, the president has managed to put together an ideologically and politically homogenous team, with a lot of mysticism of work.
- Ideologues of the PSUV party insist that you are at the head of an internal tendency. Does “Jauism” exist? Who does it go against?
No, it doesn’t exist. I can deny it and those that know me, know that I oppose such things. I am Bolivarian, socialist and Chavista. That is the only current to which I belong. My efforts have been to ensure that positions based on personal tendencies are not part of the culture of the revolution. I believe that the confrontation of ideas within the party and the project are necessary in order to overcome deviations and reformism, but never personalised in one individual.
- But, being a previous member of Bandera Roja (an ultra-left guerrilla group of Maoist ideology, since turned to electoral politics and forming part of the opposition to the Bolivarian project) when you were younger, how does the “endogenous right” within the party treat you?
First of all I would ask myself whether an “endogenous right” does actually exist. It’s a term, as a form of criticism, of some sectors of Chavismo, but I don’t share it because it doesn’t exist as an organic current. The thoughts of the right-wing in a revolution as wide and democratic as this, have always been and are going to be present, but the strategic orientation of president Chávez towards socialism is very clear, brave and determined – and that has eliminated any possibility that right-wing thought might be hegemonic within the revolutionary party.
- How do you feel when you see leaders of Bandera Roja in MUD? (Table of Democratic Unity – coalition of anti-Chávez political forces made up of social-democrats and right-wing parties)
That was overcome a long time ago, I was part of the internal rupture within the Bandera Roja. They expelled us in 1991. Now, all the bad examples of left wing leaders that are siding with the right, what they end up doing is reinforcing your own moral convictions, the belief that the sad role of the converted traitor is exactly that which you don’t want to end up playing.
- You are part of the functioning government, who better to tell us what is the most serious internal problem – bureaucracy, inefficiency, a culture of capitalism or corruption?
What we have been missing is the capacity to monitor and to control procedures, and that is the failure which makes us vulnerable to all those other negative things. When we manage to gain the ability to monitor and control, none of those vices will be able to thrive. By the way, that weakness demonstrates that we don’t have an omnipotent state which can supervise everything to the minutest detail. We’re lacking a lot of institutional strengthening before that control can become possible.
- According to the government’s most pessimistic hypotheses, after the invasion of Libya, a country with strategic primary resources, when is it Venezuela’s turn?
One of the greatest virtues of president Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution is having courageously prevented that scenario, through brave diplomacy, relationships with different poles of power in the world and the strengthening of the organisation and consciousness of our peoples. After Vietnam, imperialism wasn’t accustomed to getting involved with people who know how to organise and to defend their territory and sovereignty with dignity. We are going to keep fighting to create the conditions so that our country never falls under attack. The effort to recover our relations with Colombia, for example, has neutralized imperialist plans to attack through our neighbouring, brother country. It will always be a possibility, especially whilst oil is becoming increasingly scarce throughout the world, and that’s why we have to be better prepared every single day. That is the best defence against imperialism.
- The president sent you into the fold with the landowners at a very difficult moment. How did you deal with the challenge of being Minister of Agriculture without having ever milked a cow? Or have you milked one?
Well, yes, I milked cows in Mérida when I was there meeting with peasant-workers. Once I cut banana and plantain in Barlovento. Oh, and I also planted Yucca... (laughs) What the matter of agriculture requires is a lot of political direction and understanding of the social phenomenon that it is. Everything else, technical aspects, they’re written down and, furthermore, we have the support of powers such as China, Argentina and Brazil in the matter. We approached that sector in order to promote an important political debate, in which many have participated; from the recalcitrant right to our peasants. The union leaders of the private sector can’t admit it in public, but they know that we have made a great effort to reach agreements.
- Advances within the agrarian revolution have entailed a lot of bloodshed. Why has justice not been done for those peasant leaders that have been murdered at the hands of hired assassins?
The cases of hired assassins aren’t easy, the professional assassins don’t leave any traces and in the majority of cases they are people who come from outside, commit the crime and then they leave again. On the order of commander Chávez, we have tried to guarantee the social security of the survivors and victims of the hired assassins. In the last 2 years there have only been a few cases and they have been resolved by the police, the physical perpetrators detained and even some of the intellectual perpetrators behind them. There are 2 landowners currently in prison and another who has fled the country is also wanted by police.
Translated for Venezuelanalysis by Rachael Boothroyd