As Venezuela says President Hugo Chávez has undergone successful cancer surgery in Cuba, we revisit a 2009 interview in which he discusses climate change and President Obama. Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman spoke with Chávez at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. He called the summit undemocratic and accused world leaders of only seeking a face-saving agreement. "We must reduce all the emissions that are destroying the planet," said Chávez. "That requires a change in the economic model: we must go from capitalism to socialism."
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez spared no criticism of the climate conference in Copenhagen. At a joint news conference he held with the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, on Friday afternoon—this was before President Obama announced the accord—Chávez called the proceedings undemocratic and accused world leaders of only seeking a face-saving agreement. He described President Obama as having won the "Nobel War Prize" and said the world still smelled of sulfur, referring to his comments about President Bush at the United Nations last year.
Well, shortly after the news conference, I caught up with President Chávez for a few minutes.
AMY GOODMAN: You sell more oil to the United States than any country but Canada. Your economy depends on oil, yet you are here at a climate change summit. What’s your proposal?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] The problem is not the oil, but what they do with the oil. The United States is the biggest spender of oil and of all the planet resources. Oil is a very valuable resource for life—electric heaters. We must have to transition ourselves to a post-oil era. And that’s what we must discuss: searching and developing new sources of energy. And that requires scientific research. That requires investment. And the developed countries must be the ones to assume this responsibility first.
AMY GOODMAN: What level of emissions are you willing to support reductions of emissions?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] One hundred percent. One hundred percent. We must reduce the emissions 100 percent. In Venezuela, the emissions are currently insignificant compared to the emissions of the developed countries. We are in agreement. We must reduce all the emissions that are destroying the planet. However, that requires a change in lifestyle, a change in the economic model: We must go from capitalism to socialism. That’s the real solution.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you throw away capitalism?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] The way they did it in Cuba. That’s the way. The same way we are doing in Venezuela: giving the power to the people and taking it away from the economic elites. You can only do that through a revolution.
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama—what is your reaction to his speech today?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] Obama is a big frustration. In my opinion, Obama can become one of the biggest frustrations in the history for many people, not for me, but for the people of the United States that voted for him and saw him as a symbol of hope for change. But he has given continually to the most aggressive Bush policies, the imperialist policies.
AMY GOODMAN: What example of that?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] The war. I told Obama, when he took the initiative to come visit us in the Summit of the Americas—we talked for a few minutes. I told him, "Obama, let’s work for peace in Colombia. That’s what I am proposing. Let’s get a team together to analyze the problem." But absolutely nothing. He is now installing seven military bases in Colombia. That’s just one example.
And in Iraq and Afghanistan, policies of war. Guantánamo, it is a great frustration. And I feel sorry, not for me. You are from the United States. I feel sorry for you, because you deserve a government that takes care of the problems of the people of the United States and stops thinking about dominating the rest of the world and just governs over the United States, eradicates the problems of the United States, the poverty, the inequality, which gets bigger every day, the unemployment, families on the street, homeless, without Social Security, diseases. I wish for you to get a government that truly takes care of you first and then works towards peace for the rest of the world.
AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. government calls you a dictator. What is your response?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] I laugh. I laugh. It is the empire calling me a dictator. I’m happy. And I remember Don Quixote, Quixote who was with Sancho, you know, and the dogs start to bark, and Sancho says, "They are going to bite us." And Quixote wisely answers, "Take it easy, Sancho, because if the dogs are barking, it is because we are galloping." I will be very sad and worried if the imperialist government was calling me a great democratic man. No, it is them, the empire, who attack those who are truly contributing to the real democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, speaking to us in Copenhagen on Friday.