We play the rest of our conversation with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He spoke with Democracy Now! in his first interview in the United States. We ask him what evidence he has for his charges that the Bush administration has attempted to assassinate him and he reveals for the first time, details of a plan to offer of cheap oil to the poor...of the United States. [includes rush transcript]
Today, the rest of our interview with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
President Chavez was in New York last week for a summit of world leaders at the United Nations. In his speech, Chavez blasted US foreign policy and accused the Bush administration of trying to hijack the UN summit. He described the United States as a terrorist nation because it is harboring the televangelist Pat Robertson who recently called for his assassination. Chavez has long charged that the US was behind the aborted coup against him in 2002.
In the interview, he reveals for the first time, details of a plan to offer of cheap oil to the poor...of the United States.
Democracy Now! met with President Chavez on Friday in his first sit-down interview in the United States. I interviewed him with Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez and Margaret Prescod of Pacifica Radio station KPFK at the Venezuelan ambassador to the UN’s residence here in New York City.
- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
AMY GOODMAN: Welcome Mr. President to the United States. You have come to a country who’s government, the U.S. government, you have accused of trying to assassinate you. What evidence do you have of this and of your other charge that it was involved with the attempted coup against you?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ: Thank you for the invitation to come to this show, Juan, Amy and Margaret and my greetings to all the people and the viewers and the listeners to these programs these well known programs. Let’s talk about life, rather than death, because we are fighting for life. However there are always threats, those who are devoted to the struggle for life and use the truth as a flag and or principles as a lifeline. There is no doubt whatsoever that the U.S. government, lead by Mr. Bush, planned and participated in a coup d’etat in Venezuela in April, 2002. There’re many proofs and evidence of this. There is a U.S. lady who wrote a book called the "Chavez’s Code," Mrs. Eva Golinger and she was sitting here not too long ago, and she is very close and there are declassified documents that she has found thanks to an effort to investigate the situation.
I have many evidences that my assassination was ordered on April the 11. More precisely on April the 12, and I was ready to die, however thank God and thanks to the Venezuelan people and thanks to the soldiers, Venezuelan soldiers, this order was not accomplished and this order was given by Washington. And there are many evidences and witnesses, however I would like to talk about life and greet the U.S. people with a lot of affection, with a lot of love and with a lot of pain due to the tragedy in New Orleans and the gulf states.
We’ve been accompanying these states from the very beginning, and we’ve been watching TV and receiving reports by our ambassadors and the CITGO people from the very beginning, cooperating very humbly trying to save lives and assist the homeless. We have offered assistance, up to five million dollars, a very modest sum, but I guess it would be useful. We have offered medicine, water, and electric power plants, the same way Cuba offered doctors. So far we have not being authorize to reach the area. However, we hope the best for the poor, the poorest of these countries.
AMY GOODMAN: And televangelist Pat Robertson, his call for your assassination. What do you demand now, what is your response to that?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ: Well as a matter of fact, Robertson is not acting alone. He’s just conveying, in a perhaps desperate manner, the thinking of those people closer to Mr. Bush. This is the voice of the most radical–of the extreme right wing in the U.S., I am totally convinced that is the situation with Mr. Robertson. And as you can see, so far there has been no reaction by the U.S. government in this regard. There’s nothing being said about these terrorist remarks that is in full breach of international law and breaches the laws of the United States.
But it’s not only Mr. Robertson here. For some time, for some months, people who participated in a coup attempt in Venezuela and are living here in the United States. And from TV stations in this country these people are calling for my assassination. A week ago, in another TV show, people in uniform, in fatigues, like terrorists. Venezuelans and Americans and Cubans exiled in the United States, and a former agent of the CIA, very recently said on TV that Chavez should be dead already. That Robertson is right. So this is the desire and the voice of the ultraconservative right-wing elite of the United States. They threatened Chavez. Chavez is nothing. Who is me? I’m nothing.
They are threatening the world. That is serious. They invaded Iraq. Without any reason whatsoever. They violated international law and are ignoring the rules of the U.N. Terrorists bombard complete cities, such as Fallujah, Baghdad, innocent women and children. Now, history is long. Hiroshima for instance— Nagasaki, Grenada, Haiti, Panama, Santo Domingo. No, that is not–they do not represent the people of the United States. They are part of the imperialist dictatorship that the U.S. people are suffering today.
MARGARET PRESCOD: Mr. President, on behalf of KPFK, Pacifica Radio in Southern California, welcome to the United States. We have been waiting for this moment. Many people in the United States have been shocked at the racism they have witnessed against low income people in New Orleans and the other gulf cities and we wonder how Venezuelans view what has happened. And also you are clearly working to unite people of color throughout the world. You are the first Latin American president we know of who identifies as black and indigenous, and this breaks a long tradition of racism in the Americas. You’ve also identified with the people of Haiti who are fighting to defeat a brutal coup against their president how crucial do you think the defeat of all racism is to making the fundamental economic and social changes needed to save the world from the destruction of the market?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ: When we were children, we were told that we have a motherland, and that motherland was Spain. However, we have discovered later, in our lives, that as a matter of fact, we have several motherlands. And one of the greatest motherlands of all is no doubt, Africa. We love Africa. And every day we are much more aware of the roots we have in Africa. Also, America is our motherland. Africa, America–and Bolivar used to say that we are a new human race in Latin America, that we are not Europeans, or Africans, or North Americans. That we are a mixture of all of those races, and there is no doubt that Africa resounds with a pulse like a thousand drums and happiness and joy.
But, also there’s a lot of pain when you think of Africa. Yesterday, I met with the president of Mozambique, because fully aware of these roots and these realities, we have designed an agenda for Africa in Venezuela. And we have spoken to other South American leaders. Lula for instance, is fully aware of the African roots of brazil and South America, and I want to share the African agenda with other leaders in South America, but Venezuela has also it’s own African agenda. In the case of Mozambique. The life expectancy in Mozambique is 38 years old, and going down, because AIDS is causing havoc in the population. It’s terrible, it’s a tragedy, it’s a million Katrina’s hitting this country. The president of Mozambique told me the number of children, orphaned children, whose parents have died as a result of AIDS. The teachers are dying, the doctors are dying. That’s a tragedy, and it’s a disgrace, and that’s why it hurts. It hurts so much to see the U.N. opening its doors to listen to speeches and speeches and more speeches, while at the same time, every year a population equivalent to Argentina today, or Columbia die of hunger, or Venezuela die of hunger, and those deaths could be avoided. Most of them are children, little girls, little boys, and most of them are in Africa.
So, we need like a shaking of the world. To shake up the world. That’s why when people talk about my style— my style–that’s why the speech I delivered yesterday before the United Nations Assembly — because it doesn’t work! It’s not working. If we reduced the military expenses in 10 percent of the world, we would have enough money to save millions of lives in this world.
In Venezuela, with the little resources–few resources–we have initiated a program to bring food to feed the poor people in Venezuela, and we are covering today 15 million people in Venezuela–receiving this food distribution and assistance. And most of them receive this food for free, and others a percentage, they have to pay only 50 percent of the total amount for the food they eat. Of course this is possible only if the people themselves, participate and with a new awareness.
Racism is very characteristic of imperialism. Racism is very characteristic of capitalism. Katrina is — indeed, has a lot to do with racism–no doubt about it. Hate against me has a lot to do with racism. Because of my big mouth, because of my curly hair. And I’m so proud to have this mouth and this hair, because it’s African. So we need a new morality, a new ethic at this point. And from my Christian point of view, we need a revolution of the ethic. And in the political and economic fields we need to take back the flag of socialism, in my view–in order to be able to defeat–with the will of the people, with the participation of the people — to beat those ominous phenomenon such as racism.
AMY GOODMAN: Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in his first interview in the United States.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Mr. President, welcome. Bien venido a los Estados Unidos. Your democratic revolution has a different aspect to it, in that your rich in oil, and the world badly needs oil. What do you do in Latin America to use oil as a weapon to assist the poor. Can you tell us a little more about what you are offering to the communities of the United States who are also suffering from high oil prices.
PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ: This is the result of our awareness, that only through integration we can advance and we can progress among Latin American countries, breaking the paradigm of capitalism, of free trade, and neo-liberalism. In the year 2000, we started a cooperation program especially with the Caribbean and Central American countries, and some of the South American countries, with the Caracas Energy Accord, and there for the first time in history we included Cuba, because Cuba is considered like a country that is not part the Americas, and we think it is part of the Americas; Jamaica, nicaragua, grenada, many countries.
This mechanism includes the sale of oil and oil by-products with a discount of up to 25 percent. This discount becomes in the end a donation we give these countries, however, when the price of oil, starts increases, in the year 2000 we signed the Caracas Accord and the price at that time was 20, 25 dollars a barrel. When we realized that the prices started to increase and it goes beyond 40 and beyond 50, and I doubt very much the price is going to drop any time soon because this is part of the structural crisis, the world has to face it, it is a reality. There is a drop in the oil reserves, there is an increase in consumption and demand. The refining capacity is low.
The consumerism of the world is unbearable. The world of the U.S. people must come to understand, how this country with 5 percent of the world population only, consumes 25 percent of the oil and the energy of the world. I mean that type of consumption is totally unbearable and this planet cannot stand it any more. When we realized that the price of oil went up beyond 50 dollars, we initiated another cooperation scheme. We have created, therefore, Petrocaribe and we are going to start with small Caribbean and Caricom countries, and the larger Antillas such as Cuba, Jamaica, and Dominican Republic.
So we’re now providing—first we’re ensuring the supply of oil, direct supply of oil from state to state, in order to avoid the speculation of multinationals and traders. They buy gasoline in Venezuela, and then they go to a Caribbean country and they charge double. So we are selling the products to the states directly. We are not charging for freight. We assume the cost of freight. But apart from that, this discount is not of 25 percent. It goes to 40 percent of the total. And this money will be paid back in 25 years’ time, with two years of grace and 1 percent interest rates. So, if you make all of the mathematical calculations, the donation percentage is almost 70 percent, because it’s a long-term adjusted 1 percent. So what Venezuela’s doing is supplying 200,000 barrels of oil to the Caribbean and other Central American and South American countries, such as Paraguay, Uruguay and smaller nations in South America—200,000 millions of barrels. If you apply calculations, mathematical calculations, by 1.5 percent of our GDP—1.5 percent of the GDP is devoted to this cooperation—it means that we are financing these sister nations that next year will reach $1.7 billion a year. In 10 years, it’s $17 billion. It’s a way for us to share, to share our resources with these countries.
And what about the us population? Well after many meetings with the U.S. citizens, we decided to propose a scheme for poor populations and low-income populations in the us. We’ve seen that poverty in the us is growing everywhere. It’s close to 11 percent poverty according to some estimates and instead of the figures you have to go deeper into it because if you see Katrina, and you saw what’s happened, 100,000 people were abandoned and they are abandoned, and they’re just surviving.
So here we have CITGO, this oil company. We have the CITGO company here in the United States. This is a Venezuelan company, so let’s have a look at the U.S. map the distribution area of CITGO in the U.S. We are present in 14,000 gas stations in the U.S., and here we have a different refineries, asphalt refineries, eight refineries that we have in the U.S., the plants for filling units, the third, refineries, terminals, and so on.
We want to use these infrastructures to help the poor populations. We have made some progress. We have given instructions to the president of CITGO, Felix Rodriguez. We want that up to 10 percent we refine here. We supply every day to the us 1.5 million barrels of oil, crude and product and we refine, here, close to 800,000 barrels a day refined here in the us. So we would like to take 10 percent of what we refine those products and to offer these products in several modalities to the poor populations. And the pilot project will be starting in Chicago we are already operating in Chicago. Well let’s hope that there’s not going to be any obstacle by the government opposed to this project being implemented, but we will be working in those poor populations. We have some allies, local partners and we have a number of communities, and we are going to donate some heating oil, because the winter is close, and for the school transportation to school, for the Mexican neighborhood which is the largest in Chicago, La Villita, is the name of this neighborhood with close to 900,000 inhabitants, and so there are other neighborhoods with Hispanics and Latinos. October, the 14th we’re going to start with these pilot projects with small communities and schools, but there are other pilot projects that will start in November in Boston, and here in New York.
So different modalities, with local authorities, mayors, organized communities, religious groups. So we are very pleased to announce this. And to help just with a drop, and a grain of contribution to help these low-income populations, Blacks or Hispanics or also White population so we’re just starting with this project.
AMY GOODMAN: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaking in his first interview in the United States.