Is Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos our “best friend” (as President Chavez once afﬁrmed) or our worst enemy?
Elias Jaua: We are the best friends of the Colombian people and of peace in Colombia. Starting in August of 2010, with the Meeting of Santa Marta, we began building a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation with President Santos. This relationship, however, was derailed last week when Santos chose to receive an opposition leader who fails to recognize Venezuela’s judicial, electoral, and executive powers, the same leader responsible for the post-election violence of April 15th that resulted in the death of 11 Venezuelans, citizens killed for defending the Bolivarian Revolution.
That is the point here. Anyone who doubts our position is invited to remember that in September 2012 President Santos met with then-candidate Henrique Capriles. At that time, we issued no formal complaint. At that time, Capriles was just another political actor within the conﬁnes of the democratic process. That is no longer the case. That’s what makes this a grave situation – the Colombian state has received someone who openly deﬁes the Venezuelan state, who fails to recognize the rules of our democracy.
The opposition claims that our Revolutionary Government in Caracas has for years received opposition leaders of other nations. What makes this any different?
Elias Jaua: None of the people we’ve met with carry out their political struggle on the margins of legality, nor do they openly defy the institutions of the countries they represent.
This recent incident demonstrated that there are still many unresolved issues between Venezuela and Colombia. Isn’t it better to place all things on the table?
Elias Jaua: As President Maduro put it, paraphrasing President Chavez, Venezuela and Colombia are Siamese twins. We are the children of the same liberator, of Simon Bolivar, but we maintain two distinct frameworks for our development, two different visions of how society should be organized, and this will always be a source of some tension. But the basis of good relations is respect for the internal development of each country and the model each people chooses to implement. We can expect to understand one another, however, only if each of us stays out of the others’ internal affairs.
Some analysts believe Santos’ recent attitude is related to the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden to Bogota. Do you think that’s the case?
Elias Jaua: I don’t want to speculate on that issue. Only President Santos knows the reasons why he received the governor of Miranda (Capriles).
Here’s another question, in multiple-choice format. The Alliance of the Paciﬁc is an organization that is: a) anti-Celac; b) anti-Unasur; c) antiALBA; d) anti-Mercosur; e) all of the above?
Elias Jaua: All countries have the right to organize themselves, to associate with one another based on their own national interests and perspectives. We have no objection to the Alliance of the Paciﬁc. We have said, however, not in reference speciﬁcally to that agreement, but in general, that US Imperialism and the Latin American right-wing feel that with the physical departure of President Hugo Chavez the time has come to restore free trade, neo-liberalism, and all that they bring with them.
We, in contrast, are sure that they’re mistaken. We believe that the people of Latin America and the Caribbean still hold fresh in their memories the dark neo-liberal decades that brought instability, social exclusion, misery, and the privatization of fundamental human rights such as health and education. For us, that model is unviable in the Latin America and Caribbean of today.
Venezuela is the only country that voted against a recent resolution of the UN Human Rights Commission condemning the Syrian government. Why don’t allied nations, including powerful neighbors, take a similar stance?
Elias Jaua: We can’t judge other nations for the positions they take. Our position is based on the principles of non-interference and non-intervention and these principles must be defended with greater strength when peace, independence, and territorial integrity are under attack. That is what’s happening in Syria, a country besieged by terrorist groupings supported by international players. Ours are not double standards.
Recent scandals provoked by the right demonstrate that their hatred towards Cuba continues. Do you believe that sentiment will ever reach the popular sectors of society, or is it to remain within the middle and upper classes?
Elias Jaua: Those sentiments are part of the fascist doctrine, an ideology that always seeks a foreign nationality to blame. Hitler blamed the Jewish people and Franco blamed the gypsies. In Venezuela, however, anti-Cuba propaganda will never reach its intended targets, the poor majority. If there is one cooperation accord that is now deep-rooted it is the agreement between the Cuban and Venezuelan people. The greatest proof of this is found in the immediate response by Venezuelans who came out to defend Cuban doctors during the fascist, postelection attacks, a defense that cost several people their lives.
Though he planned to visit Peru after Colombia, Capriles says he canceled his trip to Lima in order to attend to internal issues. Do you think he returned to govern in Miranda, even if just for a short while?
Elias Jaua: Let’s hope so. The opposition recently complained after President Maduro created the Corporation for the Integral Development of Miranda, claiming it serves as a parallel government. How can it be a parallel government if Capriles’ government is non-existent?
What critical reﬂections do you have with respect to your own government?
Elias Jaua: What I want to know is why Capriles can operate with such impunity? We mustn’t allow the rightwing to continue murdering popular leaders. If we had called people out onto the streets to express their “rage” – as Capriles did – we would already be standing trial at The Hague.
I don’t want to meddle in what is the judiciary’s responsibility, but I think our courts should take on these cases (of current political violence). The parties that together make up the Patriotic Pole – including the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) – should improve our ability to struggle against impunity. Our coalition, and the Venezuelan left in general, successfully carried out important efforts to obtain justice for the victims of repression during the 60’s and 70’s. They never allowed victims’ names to be forgotten, for example. And the victims of April 15th? How many of us in government, within the left, in the Patriotic Pole, remember the names of those men and women who died defending this process? We are morally obliged to ﬁght against the violence being directed at Venezuela’s poor majority.