Full Interview with Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño
Hour-long interview on the historic Chevron lawsuit, oil drilling in the Amazon, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Ecuador’s new media law, meeting with Fidel Castro and the legacy of Hugo Chávez. [includes rush transcript]
Watch our full hour-long interview with Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño on the historic Chevron lawsuit, oil drilling in the Amazon, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Ecuador’s new media law, meeting with Fidel Castro, the legacy of Hugo Chavez and more.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. And we’re here at the Ecuadorean mission to the United Nations in New York, joined by Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño.
We welcome you to Democracy Now!
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Thank you so much. It’s a great pleasure to be here with you, and I’m eager to participate in this interview and hear your crucial questions.
AMY GOODMAN: Just as you come to New York, the U.N. General Assembly is meeting. We have heard that there is a major decision that has been handed down by a tribunal at The Hague on the side of Chevron against Ecuador. Can you explain what this decision is? But for people who are not familiar with the case, if you could summarize the case for us of ChevronTexaco in Ecuador?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Yes, I would be delighted.
Texaco exploited natural resources in Ecuador since the ’60s up to 1992. When it concluded its operations in Ecuador, the next year, in 1993, the Amazonian communities sued Texaco for the pollution that Texaco had caused—not just the pollution of the environment, but also the very adverse impacts on the health of the communities.
This lawsuit was brought in front of the courts here in New York. And Texaco opposed the lawsuit and requested that it be transferred to the courts of Ecuador. And Texaco argued the case, saying that the courts in Ecuador were trustworthy and should hear the case. So, 10 years later, the courts in New York ruled in favor of the communities in transferring the case to a court in Ecuador, but they also ruled that Texaco should accept the ruling as such. So, in 2011, Texaco was sentenced to paying a compensation for damages of $9.6 billion, and it was requested to issue a public apology within two weeks; otherwise, the amount would be doubled. The company refused to apologize, and that is why the amount was doubled.
During this time, Chevron bought out Texaco, and therefore took on the liability that Texaco had. So, it’s clear that the government of Ecuador has not sued Texaco. This is a dispute between the Amazonian communities of Ecuador against a multinational. And so, that’s why we say—since Chevron bought out Texaco, now we speak of ChevronTexaco.
After the ruling, ChevronTexaco has sued the government of Ecuador before the—in the Hague International Permanent Court of Arbitration to avoid complying with the ruling. And we have prepared a booklet, which is entitled "ChevronTexaco Wants Ecuadorean People to Pay for the Pollution They Caused." And I’d like to give you a copy of it so that you have it.
So, what is the fundamental problem, as we speak? The Ecuadorean government does not accept that ChevronTexaco is suing the Ecuadorean government, for two important reasons. First of all, ChevronTexaco is substantiating the lawsuit on a bilateral investment treaty between Ecuador and the United States, which was entered into effect in 1997, five years after Texaco left the country. So, a bilateral investment treaty cannot be applied retroactively. Texaco left in 1992. It no longer invests in our country. And the bilateral investment treaty entered into effect in 1997. It does not—it’s not applicable to companies that were active in our country in the '50s or ’60s. It's only applicable from 1997 forward. So that’s why this treaty is not applicable to the case.
Secondly, this treaty does not allow a court of arbitration to have jurisdiction between private parties, and this, of course, is a dispute between private parties. And that’s why we are tabling the fact that this doesn’t have jurisdiction for the case.
And after having provided you with this short summary, I’d like to now answer your question.
This tribunal has issued some decisions. One of the decisions is that Ecuador, of course, never sued Texaco, and we can’t, but ChevronTexaco could be sued by individuals for the impacts on those individuals, and not for impacts on collectives. So, that’s something that has to be looked at further, but the government of Ecuador considers that the court of arbitration lacks jurisdiction and that this bilateral investment treatment is not applicable retroactively.
So, just to conclude the issue of ChevronTexaco, it’s important to note that Chevron has spent millions of dollars on a campaign to discredit the Ecuadorean government, arguing that there were problems with the legal process. If that’s the case, then they need to address those as such in the Ecuadorean legal system. But one of the things that they argue is that they cleaned up after devastating the Amazon and that they didn’t leave anything amiss. And ChevronTexaco argues that any damages that is still visible wasn’t their fault and corresponds to the Ecuadorean government to address.
President Rafael Correa, a few days ago, went to an area where ChevronTexaco was operating, and the president put his hands in the toxic waste pits that ChevronTexaco left, and raised his oil-stained hand up to show the world how ChevronTexaco has destroyed the Ecuadorean Amazon and did not use the cleanup methodologies that were available at the time to mitigate or even avoid environmental damages.
So, ChevronTexaco didn’t care at all about the destruction of the environment that it caused, and that is why we are now inviting the world to come to the Ecuadorean Amazon and see for themselves the destruction that ChevronTexaco has caused. And even though Texaco left the country in 1992, these damages are still very much evident. And we have no interest in taking legal action in this regard; we simply want to show the world that they’re lying.
AMY GOODMAN: What happens with this tribunal that has ruled against Ecuador? What will Ecuador do?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Ecuador is going to, first of all, continue to reject the jurisdiction of the court of arbitration for the reasons that I have already listed. That’s the most fundamental issue. It’s unfortunate that a transnational corporation has made efforts to involve the Ecuadorean government when it’s not at issue with the government. And, of course, the Ecuadorean government has to defend itself, since the multinational is trying to do that.
AMY GOODMAN: The Ecuadorean government issued a statement that said a group of Ecuadorean diplomats who were coming to the United Nations to talk about the Chevron case were denied visas. Is this true?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] There are persons from Amazonian communities who had requested visas to come to the U.S. On Tuesday, September 24th, we’re going to have a side event at the United Nations to denounce transnational corporations and the specific case of Chevron. And we had invited to this side event a small group of representatives of Amazonian communities. So we requested the visas a few days ago, and those visas were denied. But apparently, on Friday, we were informed that the U.S. government was going to provide them with visas, and this morning we received news that two of this group had received their visas. But it’s unfortunately that we have to pressure internationally for such a matter, so that these members of Amazonian communities can travel to the United Nations. But it’s happened before, even to Ecuadorean ministers. Members of the government have been denied visas to participate in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. And obviously this affects the fact that the U.S. is the headquarters for international organizations. But we are hopeful that the entire group will be able to travel to the U.S. and participate in the United Nations side event tomorrow.
AMY GOODMAN: You argue that ChevronTexaco has not cleaned up the Amazon that it polluted. Why hasn’t the Ecuadorean government done more to clean it up over these decades that ChevronTexaco is gone? Wasn’t Texaco a subcontractor for the Ecuadorean—for Ecuador, Petroecuador?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Unfortunately, the governments prior to the current government did not take measures to clean up Texaco’s mess. At one point, officials of Ecopetrol issued a document saying that Texaco had in fact cleaned up, but we know that this isn’t the case. That is why Ecuador has now begun to clean up the damage. But now we have to put that on hold, because, otherwise, the evidence of their pollution will no longer exist. So, the proof could disappear if we continue with the cleanup.
AMY GOODMAN: Foreign Minister, let me ask you a difficult question about another indigenous issue, and that is the Yasuní, this remarkable area of Ecuador that UNESCO has designated as a world biosphere reserve because it contains 100,000 species of animals, many which are not found anywhere else in the world. I see, even in this room, "Yasuní-ITT creating a new world," the signs that you have here in the mission. Now, for a long time, President Correa has championed this area, but in August Ecuador dropped a plan to preserve vast areas of the Amazon rainforest from oil drilling, by having wealthy countries pay them not to drill. President Correa said the plan to save parts of Yasuní National Park had raised only a fraction of the money sought. He announced, "The world has failed us."
I wanted now to read you just a excerpt of a letter from environmentalists, from Vandana Shiva of India, Naomi Klein of Canada, James Hansen, the climate change scientist here in the United States, who wrote the president an open letter, President Correa, saying, "Along with thousands of other world citizens, we look to the Yasuní-ITT initiative as a pioneering step in the international struggle for a post-fossil-fuel civilization. We have been inspired by the determination of the Ecuadorian public to rejuvenate the initiative following your government’s recent decision to abandon it.
"Accordingly, we are extremely concerned at reports that your government is attempting to repress the voices of the majority of Ecuadorians who continue to support the Yasuni proposal. We understand that efforts are under way to block a public referendum on the question, that press freedom is being curtailed, and that students exercising their right of dissent are being threatened with expulsion from their schools."
Foreign Minister, can you respond to this?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] First of all, it’s important to say that it was the Ecuadorean government that presented the initiative, and we’ve been working on it for six years. What does the initiative say, basically? It says, well, we’d like to preserve the extraordinary biodiversity on the surface of Yasuní and that we want to exploit the oil in the subsurface—that is to say, underground—and that we also want to avoid drilling and selling and burning this oil, and thus avoid polluting the atmosphere.
The initiative said the following: The Ecuadorean government is willing to sacrifice 50 percent of the resources that this oil could generate for Ecuador, resources that we need. Ecuador is not a rich country, and Ecuador needs resources for its development. There is still quite a lot of poverty. A lot has changed in the last six years. A lot has been improved, but we need to work quickly to achieve even better conditions, and we need these resources. All over the world, natural resources are being exploited without a great deal of concern about the impacts of that exploitation. And we appeal to the world, and we said we’re willing to sacrifice 50 percent of the income that could potentially be generated, but the world has to contribute. And we said, if the international community would cover the other 50 percent, we were willing to completely preserve the area of Yasuní-ITT and not exploit the oil indefinitely.
But the world’s response was negative. We only got very few million of dollars. And we said, if we don’t—the world doesn’t respond to our appeal, we are going to have to exploit this oil, because we need these resources and the resulting income. After having done—appealed and appealed and appealed and not seen an echo to our appeal, Ecuador decided to exploit the oil without affecting the surface of Yasuní—this is very important. It will have some impact, but it will be minimal.
We respect the criterias that were expressed in that open letter. If the people who signed it could raise the awareness of the world to achieve the ends that we didn’t manage to achieve, we would be delighted. But, unfortunately, we didn’t achieve what we had proposed. And maybe there are other issues that the world is more concerned about or interested in. The world spends $2 billion in arms and weapons—or $2 trillion, and the rich countries and companies did not want to contribute to the fund for Yasuní. Even in very rich, wealthy and powerful European countries, it was the local authorities that contributed to the fund, but not the federal governments. The world has other priorities, but we also need to try and eliminate the misery that people are suffering in Ecuador. There are a lot of people who still die from intestinal illness and a lack of drinking water, and so we need these resources.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the call for a public referendum in Ecuador on Yasuní?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] The government of Ecuador can make the decision through its legislative body, and that’s why the president has sent this proposal to the National Assembly to analyze it and make a decision on it. If a significant part of the population wants to organize a public referendum, they can do so, and they can collect signatures to that effect, and then we can go and have a public referendum. We don’t have any problem in doing that.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you, as the world gathers in New York at the United Nations, world leaders, about the possible attack on Syria, a military strike on Syria. For now, it looks like it has been put on hold, while a chemical weapons deal is worked out between Russia, the United States and Syria. But it is still on the table. Your thoughts as foreign minister of Ecuador?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Yes, I believe that the possibility of an attack is on hold. But the world was at risk of an attack even just a few days ago. And it seems to us that it is totally irresponsible to put the planet at risk to try and protect power groups’ interests. There are a lot of things that are grave that are happening in the world, but that’s why the United Nations was created, precisely to try and find solutions—negotiated, political, peaceful solutions—to these grave problems. And we are absolutely against any unilateral intervention of one country against another, even if it tries to justify international intervention. We cannot approve or allow such a thing. The world cannot allow a country or several countries, just because they have the arms to do so, to invade another country.
It’s not a question of just any old intervention. We have Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Libya, are important precedents. I think China and Russia understood the lesson of Libya, which started off with a partial intervention, and then it became a full-blown invasion, where there’s statistics about 100,000 deaths. That may be a conservative figure. There are those that say that half a million people died, mostly civilians. And what was the excuse? It was a lie that they were armed of mass destruction. Where are those who were responsible? Are they in jail? No, they’re walking around. They’re free, having been responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of people, which it seems like they don’t even consider them people, because when they talk about Iraq, they only talk about the 6,000 deaths of Americans, but the other deaths are not even tallied. This is genocide. And it seems that the powers that be in the world allow those responsible for this to enjoy impunity.
I think it’s clear that chemical weapons were used in Syria, but we don’t know who was responsible for using them. At least an independent monitoring body or the U.N. should report on this first. But they were already planning to invade Syria without that information. We think that it’s good that Russia is proposing to control the chemical arms and investigate what’s occurred, but there can’t be invasions with such excuses allowed. We insist on the need for political, negotiated, peaceful solutions, and we think it’s viable.
AMY GOODMAN: Why is President Correa not addressing the U.N. General Assembly like so many world leaders are?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] President Correa doesn’t have a lot of expectations about what is said in the meetings of the General Assembly. He attended one General Assembly and addressed the hall, but there were no world leaders in the room at the time to hear what he had to say. It seems like only the first speeches are given importance, and the rest... So, there’s concern about the methodology of how things are organized here. And since he had the experience that he had here in the U.N., he was, quite frankly, just frustrated, and he’s not really interested in participating in an event where nobody really seems to be interested in hearing each other.
AMY GOODMAN: Foreign Minister, what about Edward Snowden and the—what you have learned from the leaks of this NSA contractor, the exposé after exposé of surveillance inside the United States and outside?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Edward Snowden opened the eyes of the world to an international crime: the NSA’s spying on the whole world. And that’s a violation of international law. And furthermore, it doesn’t just violate international law, it violates international trust, not just of one’s friends and enemies, as you say. And that, in and of itself, is grave. In the world, there are not countries that are friends and countries that are enemies. We all deserve respect and shouldn’t be categorized as such. But in the rhetoric of the U.S. government, in that even the U.S. government’s so-called friends were respected—they wanted to know absolutely everything that was going on. So, the—what Snowden denounced, this is very useful and allows us to correct what’s been going on. And the U.N. should take take that up. Unfortunately, sometimes the power relations are such that these issues are not addressed. For example, it’s not on the agenda of the U.N. General Assembly. And that’s unfortunate.
AMY GOODMAN: President Rousseff of Brazil has canceled her state visit to Washington because of the information that has come out, based on the leaks, that she was being spied on, that the [Brazilian] energy company Petrobras was being spied on. Do you think you, here at the mission, at the embassy in Washington, that Ecuador is being spied on?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Well, I couldn’t tell you. But when I was visiting Julian Assange a few weeks ago in—
AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange in London.
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Julian Assange.
AMY GOODMAN: In your embassy.
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] In London, in the Ecuadorean embassy, they found a few days before my visit a hidden microphone in the office of our ambassador. And we still haven’t been able to ascertain who planted it. But we can imagine who might have put it there. The information that Snowden provided indicates that everybody is spied on. And so, one should probably assume that we’ve been spied on, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Venezuela has offered Edward Snowden political asylum. Is Ecuador weighing this, like you have Julian Assange?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Well, let’s see. We are a very sovereign country with very firm positions, and Julian Assange is protected by asylum that Ecuador has provided him with. When the case of Edward Snowden arose, Ecuador was the first country that offered to analyze his asylum request, while many countries immediately rejected the request. Ecuador considered that it was best not to be alone in this fight, because it’s a very difficult, sticky matter, given the political landscape of the world, and we can’t ignore that fact. That’s why we spoke with the ALBA countries, and we addressed the issue of Snowden, and we told them that we thought that it was important that other countries also offer a possible asylum to him. And because of that, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia offered asylum to him directly. And we thought that was good, because Ecuador can’t carry the weight of all these issues as if we were a very powerful country. That’s not the case. That’s why we’re pleased that these other countries have offered asylum and made that decision, so that they don’t gang up on us.
AMY GOODMAN: And Julian Assange’s fate? He remains in the Ecuadorean mission in London, in the embassy in London. It’s been more than a year.
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Yes. And, unfortunately, the United Kingdom still has not provided him with safe conduct. I have spoken a number of times with William Hague, and we’ve also provided him with the legal arguments which don’t just allow the United Kingdom, but actually compel and force the United Kingdom to provide safe conduct, but they continue to refuse to provide it. So, the decision is in the hands of the U.K. We are firm in our decision to offer asylum, and we’ve also proposed to the United Kingdom to convene a binational commission to study the legal matters related to substantiating the United Kingdom provision of safe conduct to him.
In recent days, we also have considered the possibility of Sweden participating in this commission, as well. The grave thing is that even though Mr. Assange has not been charged and the trial has not commenced, he has already spent a year and three months without his freedom, deprived of his freedom, and so that’s why it’s important for Sweden to participate in this, because in prior occasions Sweden has heard testimony of persons who have been charged in other parts of the world. And we don’t understand why this case is an exception, just because it’s a question of a person who is in the Ecuadorean embassy. They’re not willing take his testimony, but, well, I mean, that’s part of the sovereignty of each country. But we are insisting on the need to find a political and diplomatic solution to the case.
AMY GOODMAN: So you’re saying you’ve offered that Sweden should come to your embassy, the Ecuadorean embassy where Julian Assange is, to take his testimony?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Yes, we did. We offered that to Sweden a year ago. And,
unfortunately, the answer has been no.
AMY GOODMAN: Is it possible—would Julian Assange agree to go to Sweden if he was guaranteed that he would not be sent to the United States?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Well, that was the proposal before asylum was granted, but Sweden never provided those guarantees. So, now that Mr. Assange has been granted political asylum, the solution has to be different, because we cannot return Assange because of the international commitments and norms, and also because of what our constitution says.
AMY GOODMAN: Ecuador has taken a very strong stand in supporting Julian Assange and all that he has done, WikiLeaks releasing documents on the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, State Department cables. And freedom of press advocates applaud Ecuador all over. But there’s also grave concern about press freedom in Ecuador, particularly the law that was passed recently, the Organic Law on Communication, that creates a state watchdog to regulate newspaper and television content, a move that critics call a blow to freedom of the press. Could you respond to this?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Well, there are some misunderstandings about freedom of expression. There are those that consider that freedom of expression should refer to the freedom of big media entrepreneurs. For us, free speech and freedom of expression is a much broader concept, which entails, first of all, that we all have freedom of expression, not just great media conglomerates, but that unions also have freedom of expressions, universities have freedom of expression, local governments have freedom of expression, and small associations.
And so, what the Organic Law on Communication does is to favor the broadening of this freedom of expression. And obviously this doesn’t sit well with those that have monopolized their freedom of expression and who have controlled what’s called public opinion. In Ecuador, when they say "public opinion," which the directors of the big media says, they are the ones that get to determine what public opinion is. What we’re doing is promoting the broadening of freedom and access to media and to have access to the media so those that in the past have monopolized the media create a ruckus and say we don’t have influence in those institutions in Ecuador. There were no public TV, no public media, no public radio, no public newspaper. Now there are. And this allows there to be a diversity of media, and now they attack us for reducing freedom of speech.
In addition to freedom of expression, there’s also the right to information. And the citizens have a right to receive information, information that is the most impartial, if possible, and based on ethical criteria. And those that in the past monopolized the media don’t want to talk about these concepts.
I want to say that we don’t agree with prior censorship. We never thought in our government in those concepts, but we do agree with the responsibility to promote the Organic Law on Communication. If someone accuses someone else of a crime, if there is a campaign in the media against a person or a smear campaign, often that happens in the media in a number of outlets. If that occurs, if there’s a smear campaign against somebody, they should have the right to respond to that smear campaign and defend their reputation. But the media conglomerates don’t accept that concept of the right to response. They want to be able to destroy people’s reputation as they see fit.
And I’d like to conclude by saying something that’s really important. One of the most important men in the history of our country, Eloy Alfaro, a hero of our country, the leader of the liberal revolution in the beginning of the 20th century, end of 19th century, was burnt and dragged through the streets of Quito by the oligarchy at the time, and with the firm and massive support of the media. And I’m not talking just about the honor; I’m also talking about life itself. The media at the time, who still exist, and they say that they are free and independent, but they were complicit in the destruction and lynching of one of the most important men of our country, and now they’re doing the same thing to President Correa. The majority of those media conglomerates have been in a permanent campaign in the last six years against President Rafael Correa and his key collaborators. They try to smear us with op-eds, with editorials, with cartoons, with fake, false information, and they want to continue doing this and enjoy impunity. This isn’t information; it’s political lobbying that is not just political lobbying, but also irresponsible. And so, that’s why they’re not content. But you’ve got to come to Ecuador some day, for at least one day, and you can see for yourself whether there is freedom of expression.
AMY GOODMAN: Foreign Minister Patiño, after college you went to Nicaragua. You supported the Sandinistas. You worked on land reform. Do you feel, after, what, 30 years, that U.S.-Latin American relations have improved? And what is your assessment of President Obama?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] The U.S. government was responsible in the last century for many coup d’états and many invasions of our countries in Latin America. I think times have change, and I think that’s positive that this is not continuing to occur. In this regard, I think in this regard relations have improved, because what happened to Nicaragua was terrible. I lived in Nicaragua during the first two years of the Sandinista revolution, and thousands and thousands of Nicaraguans were murdered with the support of power groups in the U.S. to the counter-revolutionaries, after the Sandinista front liberated Nicaragua from more than 50 years of bloody dictatorship of the Somoza family.
In the last 10 years, things have changed, but I think that, nonetheless, the relationship with the United States could still improve a great deal more if the United States could find a different way of relating to Latin America and not conceive of Latin America merely as countries to avoid drug trafficking reaching the United States, but could conceive of Latin America countries with a great deal to contribute to development and lots of potential for joint collaboration in favor of the communities of the United States and the communities of Latin America. There is so much that we could do together. For example, with regard to healthcare, the United States has very advanced technology. On sanitary infrastructure, there are great advances in science and research that could be used to understand and manage our natural resources, but not to exploit them by U.S. companies. So we need to collaborate as in fraternal relationship, as countries that are brothers and sisters. And that, of course, would be beneficial for the U.S. population. For example, on the question of healthcare, well, we have the Amazon, which is a natural laboratory and a source of health. But we need a different vision of the relationship. If it’s just a question of exploiting the Amazon for pharmaceutical companies, we’re not going to get anywhere. But if the vision is to promote the health of the peoples of the United States and Latin America, then that’s a different matter. And that requires changing the vision of the relationship. And, unfortunately, we see that that vision has not changed and that this relationship continues to be constrained by a vision of the past.
AMY GOODMAN: President Correa was just visiting with Fidel Castro in Cuba, spent several hours with him. What is Fidel Castro’s influence on Latin America and his significance? And also, if you could end, finally, by talking about the legacy of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] Well, Fidel Castro is an international figure. He is a man who managed to liberate his country from the Batista dictatorship and laid the foundation for a society that is beneficial for all of the Cubans. Unfortunately, the reaction of the United States government was to attack Cuba and to impose a criminal embargo. But the Cuban government, despite these problems, has managed to defend the life and well-being and health of its people. And not only, it has also offered international cooperation. Despite its economic limitations, it’s offered international cooperation with other countries. They offered it to Ecuador, in fact. I say it with a certain amount of concern. We would have loved that Europe and the United States offer the thousands of scholarships that Cuba has offered to Ecuadorean students to study medicine. There are 2,000 Ecuadorean students who are studying medicine in Cuba. Other countries only want to train our military personnel. That’s quite a contrast. So, that’s just a way to begin to respond to your question: What is the influence of Fidel Castro? I think it’s a moral influence. I participated in the conversations that President Correa has had with Fidel Castro. In fact, I was present at the last conversation. And Fidel Castro never offered advice to us. We talk about the state of the world and how to achieve better development, how to improve healthcare and protection of our natural resources. That’s what we talk about.
AMY GOODMAN: How is Fidel Castro’s health?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] He is a bit challenged in terms of mobility. But in terms of lucidity and reasoning and his concern for world issues, it’s quite extraordinary what one learns from him. He has an incredible memory and a capacity to analyze current events and to foresee what’s going to happen. He is already 30 or 50 years ahead of the curve. But his mobility is a bit problematic.
AMY GOODMAN: And the legacy of Chávez?
RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] The legacy of Hugo Chávez is extraordinary. After the Cuban revolution, it’s in 1998, when Hugo Chávez took office. And he was totally alone in Latin America. There were a lot of right-wing and neoliberal governments, and he would take a really strong stance in international events. And it was really hard, because he was isolated. Imagine how difficult it is to be the lone voice and have everybody against you. But, little by little, other progressive governments came to power, and now there’s many progressive governments—Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, Nicaragua—many other progressive governments in the Caribbean, as well, that have changed the face of Latin America. But the strength and power of the discourse and the proposals of Hugo Chávez to create the integration of Latin America is legendary. Also, he contributed to strengthening a Latin American and Caribbean consciousness about the need for greater unity. And so, that’s why we always speak of Hugo Chávez with a lot of respect and endearment, because he stood with Ecuador when times were tough, like he did with other countries. He supported our process and contributed to the dream of Simón Bolívar and contributed to making that dream a reality.
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