The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza (Caracas, 1973), is the main interlocutor of the Government of Nicolás Maduro on the international board. The relations and contacts that Caracas maintains with its allies and also with some of the main international bodies depend on his efforts. Despite the permanent tensions, Chavismo has not lost communication channels even with Washington. In recent days the Venezuelan president and his collaborators charged against the independent verification mission appointed by the UN for a very harsh report on the situation of human rights in the country and warned the European Union that, despite their requests and the opposition leaders such as Henrique Capriles, the parliamentary elections called for December 6 are immovable. "There is no possibility that we violate the Constitution," ditch Arreaza, who spoke with EL PAÍS this Monday by videoconference. Both, in his opinion, are attempts to delegitimize the government and strengthen the opposition.
Question. A month ago a door seemed to have opened that today, at least if we pay attention to the statements of the European Union and the Venezuelan Government itself, is closed again. Have you maintained new contacts with Brussels in recent days to talk about the elections, about the possibility of the EU going to Venezuela after this exchange of statements?
Answer. That issue with the two delegates who traveled to Venezuela was discussed very clearly. The reality, the position was explained and I think that we must continue to look to the future and work on new issues. Unfortunately there was no provision of the European Union. Although they needed time for a complete electoral mission, they have been able to send some kind of delegate, a technical mission. Unfortunately it was not like that. We continue talking with Josep Borrell, today, but not necessarily about the electoral issue.
P. Do you see any way to resume the dialogue before December?
R. The position of the EU, the time they require for an electoral mission, is immovable and the Venezuelan Constitution has two fixed dates, which are, for the president, the inauguration of January 10 of the corresponding year, and for the National Assembly On January 5. So on January 5, 2021, a new National Assembly elected by the Venezuelan people must be sworn in. We reiterate that any form of presence of the EU and its member countries as observers, companions, as they wish, is welcome in Venezuela.
P. But is there no possibility that the Government will agree to speak or consider a postponement of that vote?
R. It is that there is no possibility that we violate the Constitution. We would simply be incurring a constitutional fault. Elections must be in 2020 for the National Assembly to be sworn in in 2021, on January 5. There is no possible discussion there and this has been the Venezuelan position from the beginning. What the opposition was constantly seeking was to postpone, even before the pandemic, the electoral process. And it is a formula that does not exist in the Constitution. What are they looking for? A better political moment. They are fractured, divided, the leadership of the person they recognized last year (Juan Guaidó) is on the ground. They have differences. They could not go this year with a single formula. What they want is a better political moment, to buy time. That is the game of the opposition and the EU has joined, but we have to play nothing more than the game of the Constitution and the dates are very clear and restrictive, they are not questionable or postponed.
P. You appeal to the Constitution to argue that the parliamentarians should be held in December. But there is another factor and that is that the pandemic is hitting the whole world and makes the election difficult at this juncture in Venezuela. Elections have been postponed in Latin American countries and in many parts of the world. Is there not an exception in a global health emergency in order to achieve the broadest possible agreement?
R. That would again be a pretext. In Chile there is a plebiscite in a few days. In Italy there was a referendum, in Spain there were regional elections …
P. But they were postponed …
R. In many European countries, in Belarus, in Russia, in health situations much more complicated than those of Venezuela. Unfortunately, in Venezuela we have 650 deceased people, we have 70,000 cases, but we have a 1% fatality rate. We cannot violate the Venezuelan Constitution due to international pressure under a sanitary pretext. If the situation in Venezuela were that of Brazil, Colombia or Chile, it could be evaluated, but it is not and will not be. We are not to blame for the stupidity of the Venezuelan opposition, for joining the US plans, for trying to impose a government fake, that later they regret, divide, fracture.
P. The EU in recent months has embarked on a different path from Washington in its relations with Venezuela and has somehow become a stable interlocutor. Aren't you worried that a refusal to negotiate a new date by Venezuela will break those channels?
R. No, we are not concerned, first of all because we are confident in the maturity of the EU. I insist, the refusal here is not from the Government to postpone the elections. The date of the elections is in the Constitution. The refusal is from the EU to send some kind of electoral mission to Venezuela. And we are not concerned at all, in fact we are already talking about other issues, the Human Rights Council, issues of cooperation. If they don't want to participate, how do we force them? If the Venezuelan opposition does not want to participate, to continue with the continued coup, to overthrow President Maduro through violence, how do we force them? We do our job and we do our job for the people of Venezuela. Others have to take responsibility.
P. Have you had new conversations with Henrique Capriles, who had expressed his intention to participate in those elections?
R. With this sector of the Venezuelan opposition, the president himself met twice at the beginning of the year. Jorge Rodríguez I believe that he has already lost count and finally the position of one group towards democracy and of another to remain in a gringo coup plan, and, well, those who remained remained. Important agreements were reached with that sector of Henrique Capriles, Stalin González and others, plus the members of the National Dialogue Table. From there, not only pardons and pardons were produced, which had weight and a political cost for the important Chavista base. Release those who tried to kill the president, overthrow the Government, who were responsible for political violence in 2017. Here, an absolute pardon was given to those who were with arms next to the military on April 30 of last year in a coup. And that in some bases is to think that impunity is being promoted. Well, no. It is about reaching agreements, reconciliation, meetings and that step was taken. Other steps were taken as regards electoral guarantees, even extreme ones, of joint supervision of the process … Now, if Mr. Capriles received a lot of pressure … We have learned that the people who registered to be candidates have received pressure from all type, I dare not say, because I do not have the proof, even what kind of pressure they have received. But they have been pressured and they recognize it. The Venezuelan opposition must complete its independence from the United States.
P. Were you willing to file charges against Leopoldo López and Juan Guaidó?
R. Those were speculations.
P. That is why we asked him.
R. They worked together with this opposition group to seek greater participation and, in addition, they had been proposing, in all dialogue processes, the pardon, the pardon of people who participated in violent acts against the Venezuelan Constitution in favor of a national reconciliation for for this to happen. Greater electoral participation is better for the country.
P. Borrell affirmed that not postponing the election would make a negotiated, democratic solution to the crisis in Venezuela difficult. What would new elections mean without the recognition of a large part of the international community? Are you concerned?
R. Perhaps as chancellor I have to worry, but the Venezuelan people do not care at all if the EU or Spain or Slovenia or Georgia recognize or do not recognize their powers. It has nothing to do with our daily life, with our fight against the blockade, with our need to reactivate the productive apparatus, to have a new legal framework that allows us to face the attacks on our economy. That is the interest of the Venezuelan people.
P. The crisis has worsened amid the pandemic. Fuel shortage, the country is more closed to the outside, power cuts, gas … In recent days there have been new protests, also in the interior, in recent weeks. Do you assume that even many of your voters are unhappy?
R. There have been fuel supply problems due to the US blockade, it is not because of the crisis in general or because of the pandemic. It is because the United States does not allow the ships necessary to process gasoline to arrive in Venezuela. And yet. supply is returning to normal. We have been experiencing the issue of electricity and gas cuts for several years precisely because of the complexity of an economy that does not allow you to import. The protests this year have been minimal compared to last year and the previous one. The problem this year is the pandemic as it is throughout the world. That there is an electorate dissatisfied with the revolution, a Chavista electorate that is not happy about the problems that exist, that there are many Venezuelans confused, surely this is the case. Because that is the intention of the sanctions and blockades. Read the book by Richard Nephew, Obama's adviser on sanctions. It is precisely that, the number one objective of the multilateral sanctions is to create pain in the people of the sanctioned country so that these people rebel against their authorities.
P. Are you willing to make a concession, to admit that at least you have done something wrong or made a mistake?
R. Of course, we are human, we are not extraterrestrial or divine. We are men and women in a revolution in a country with many natural resources and a philosophy of building a socialist model. This is very complex. Put Joseph Stiglitz in the Venezuelan Ministry of Finance and tell him to correct any economic policy. He won't be able to do it. Because when you make a decision a looking for a result b, the result is going to be z. Rather, we have made a great effort. Now comes a special legislation, a law against the blockade that will allow us to face aggression. This is unconventional warfare. By other ways. And there are many actors in the war, not only the US And we are not only defending ourselves, we are watching the offensive. But it is not easy. And if we have made mistakes in that war, we have no problem admitting it.
P. What mistakes have they made?
R. In economic matters, it would be necessary to review. If decisions were made on time, if the issue of salary increases to fight inflation was effective, if we had to protect our assets legally before they were stolen, if we had to have those resources that blocked us in the United States or in Europe in other parts of the world. If we have had to take any forecast in terms of the oil industry to have enough stock. If we have had to accelerate processes with the People's Republic of China, with Russia, of greater investments in Venezuela. All of that is for critical review.
P. Leaving aside the economy, it is important to talk about human rights. The recent report from a United Nations verification mission is extremely harsh. It speaks of very serious violations of human rights, crimes against humanity … You have made an amendment to the entirety of that document. What excesses have they committed in the area of human rights?
R. That mission is a mission of independent experts who paid very well the Human Rights Council to do a report. It is not a United Nations report. It has not been approved by the Council or the General Assembly. If I hire experts to do a report on migration, I may or may not use that opinion, but it is not a Foreign Ministry report. They did not come to Venezuela and we were working with Michelle Bachelet, with her team, who are in Venezuela. They have gone to all the places they have wanted to go and have verified the reality of what is happening in Venezuela, not like these gentlemen who did it with a remote control. It is absurd to validate that mission. What excesses can be committed in Venezuela? Those that can be committed in any country in the world. Some have committed the death of people who were not related to some events, all of them are in detention and are being processed.
P. A year and a half ago he told us that they did maintain a channel, despite everything, also with Washington. Are there contacts in the last days? And with whom?
R. There are contacts. Personally, I have contact with James Story, who seems to be the ambassador to Venezuela from Bogotá. We have permanent contacts and there are contacts through different channels with Mr. Elliott Abrams and with other actors that I am not authorized to tell you. And with the Democrats there have always been contacts.
P. And what are they talking about?
R. We always talk about the lifting of aggression, of sanctions and that they allow us to live in peace and that they respect the Venezuelan people. We offer a respectful dialogue with them, we even offer investments in Venezuela in terms that are respectful of our Constitution and our laws, that the aggression ceases.
P. He has said that they are at war and that it is not a conventional war. How long do you think it will last under the circumstances?
R. What imperialism seeks is to win this war by way of surrender, of capitulation. One day here with Elliott Abrams, like what island was Nicolás Maduro going to live on, if it was Cuba or another Caribbean island. Or how Abrams offered me to go live in the United States with my family, who was a very good person, that they gave me security, almost that he offered me a new identity. And they have therefore tried to bring the situation to such a point that this is the result. If that is not the result, they will try to do it by assassination, kill Maduro, Diosdado Cabello. The mercenary operation that took place here or the same mercenary operation of the human rights mission. In the end, it is the same goal, to kill Nicolás Maduro and Diosdado Cabello politically and morally.
P. But what is your feeling? Is this situation going to continue for a long time?
R. We are prepared for any scenario. If the EU and the US arrive tomorrow and say that they are going to stop this aggression, fine, the sanctions are lifted and we move forward. But if tomorrow 700 more sanctions are imposed, the National Assembly, the mayors, the governors, the teachers ignore us, we are going to move on. They will not be able to overthrow us. They will fail in that strategy. This is a marathon and we are expert marathoners. They are not, they are going to despair.