Residence La Vignette, Caracas
Thursday, January 17, 2013

EFE journalist Jose Luis Paniagua: Thank you very much, first of all, for taking time out from your busy schedule to meet us today, I’ll quickly ask the question everyone raises every day and that is, how is the President? What are the latest developments in the health of President Chavez?

Executive Vice President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro: Well, I am very grateful for this interview. The President is in a process of prolonged post-operative recovery. As we have continually informed people, the operation was quite complex, difficult, and high risk. It resulted in internal bleeding that was fortunately controlled, but that produced a situation, shall we say, more difficult and complex than had been anticipated before the operation. We’ve seen him, I’ve seen him several times, recently on January 14, as part of the political team who went to visit: Diosdado Cabello, Cilia Flores, Rafael Ramirez. Adán Chávez is also part of the team and the older brother of President Chávez; Jorge Arreaza, a government minister who is also part of the Chávez family, the husband of the eldest daughter. We went to visit. We stayed with him for a while. We talked and updated him on various issues within the country. In general terms we saw him very calm, at peace, very aware of all the post-operative phases, the consequences of the operation and the impact it had on his respiratory system. We can tell the whole international community and all people of good faith who are interested in the health of President Chávez that he has the best medical equipment, people at the highest level in all specialties, a multi-disciplinary team, but also that their expertise is applied to him with great care and love. That really is a distinctive aspect of the treatment - loving and scientific - that our president receives.

José Luís Paniagua: Has he recovered from the respiratory complications?

Nicolás Maduro: Well, these are medical details that we have been reporting. The infection has been controlled and the doctors are now attending to respiratory complications that arose from the operation and from infections that were very serious.

José Luís Paniagua: In the days following surgery, during the last days of December, you reported on the status of the President in a somewhat sombre tone. It seemed that these were particularly difficult moments. Is that so?

Nicolás Maduro: Yes, we have advised our public continually and truthfully. There difficult situations that we lived through during the final days of the year. We visited him. We talked with him, but there were complications, respiratory deficiencies and infection that required complete rest and very intense treatment and great discipline by President Chávez. Fortunately there were positive results. He always demanded that we keep the people well informed in a manner that is objective, calm, and yes also respectful to him as patient. All patients according to universal medical ethics have a right to privacy and, well, Chávez is not an exception. He is a human being with the right to privacy and rights as a patient including respect for the rights of his immediate family. We have sought a balance point that allows us to tell the truth to our people with great serenity, with the peace of mind, but also reveal the hardest truths that have to be said at the time. We will continue to do this as the medical condition of President Chávez evolves.

José Luís Paniagua: You have defended the way the government has provided information regarding the President’s health. You’ve issued 29 statements, if I recall correctly, updating on President Chávez’s situation, but some people still think that technical details are missing, that more explicit medial information is required. Why not opt to divulge excerpts of medical reports while also, somehow, safeguarding the dignity and privacy of President Chávez while his medical condition evolved?

Nicolás Maduro: Well, you know that President Chávez is one of the world leaders of the revolution, a global social revolution, a socialist revolution that seeks a new era, and not only in our country and in Latin American. It is pursuing a world without empires and the president has confronted world powers including the transnational media companies. He has told them off directly. In our country, the revolution has rescued our natural resources. Oil is now at the service of the Venezuelan people. He has faced the powers that be in the world and confronted, as the world knows, the main power that exists in our world, U.S. imperialism.

I say this because President Chávez is not any citizen, or an athlete, or a famous artist or a president of a government elsewhere in the world, which we respect, who could manage this by divulging medical reports. The management of the medical information has taken into account the role of President Chávez. We have had to face a really miserable media war over the life and health of the President. We’ve faced the most abject, morbid journalism. You cannot even call it tabloid journalism. This is journalism full of evil that has been propagated worldwide, particularly in Spain. In the newspaper ABC, for example, that everyone who in Spain knows to be a newspaper of the Franco era. It still defends the heinous crimes of Franco, a despicable dictatorship repudiated by the Spanish people and by the world. ABC has acted as an attack center around the topic of the president’s health and right wing media around the world have propagated those attacks on television, radio and print.

Recently we had delegations from 27 countries here in Venezuela, on January 10, and all countries, all in different languages, English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, other brothers in Latin America and the Caribbean told us the same thing - that in the print media of all these 27 countries they see the articles of garbage outlets like ABC or El País. For example, in the newspaper El País, in Spain, 56% of the articles are written in Miami. Amazing, a newspaper that is published in Spain talks about President Chávez and Venezuela and its articles are written from the city that is the inheritance of the vilest counter revolutionary worms.

We have made what we consider the right choice. We’ve incorporated the political and human defense of President Chávez and his family with the medical information. That was really needed to step up against such evil aimed at a world leader who has constantly grown in stature. In fact, in this stage as in other difficult times, President Chávez has grown in the sympathy and the love that many feel towards him. Well beyond the left, well beyond the progressive movements in the world, there are many worthy people of other ideologies, right and center-right, who respect Comandante Chávez. and our news reports go out to all and convey the absolute truth.

José Luís Paniagua: Well, to your point, the type of reports that have emerged from different places suggest that the Venezuelan government could not deal with, or has not found a way to deal with, conflicting unconfirmed reports distributed through social networking sites, or on the internet generally. Is there something that you’ve re-evaluated, or thought "maybe I could have done better job" in terms of communication about the President?

Nicolás Maduro: Deal with, for example, the ABC newspaper in Spain? How does one deal with fascists? They make things up. They live off malevolence, off bad intentions. They live in their own world. It is up to the Spanish public, the readers of the press, the mass media consumers in the entire world to figure out where you find truth and where you find lies. I think the big losers, from an ethical point of view, are the liars, not the public nor the truth which we have always conveyed.

José Luís Paniagua: How long do you estimate that the president will be convalescing in Cuba? Is there some kind of date expected?

Nicolás Maduro: At this time it would not be possible to establish because his recovery process is stable. He has overcome various post-operative problems. The medical treatment at this time is focused on overcoming the ravages of respiratory deficiencies. Maybe in the next few days, after meeting with the medical team as part of our ongoing collaboration, it may be possible to answer with more clarity about the president’s prognosis for the coming weeks and when he may be ready to return to Caracas.

José Luís Paniagua: Within weeks, not months ...?

Nicolás Maduro: It would be speculation to go into that. We hope to be weeks away from a great happiness, and as we strongly believe in God and know that our prayers are heard, hopefully that is what will happen.

José Luís Paniagua: What if, for whatever reason, the president is unable to resume the leadership of the state? I do not know if this is a possibility. He mentioned it himself before leaving for Cuba. What would happen in that scenario?

Nicolás Maduro: Well, President Chávez in this regard has been very clear. In his speech of December 8 he mentioned various scenarios that at this time are being evaluated and re-evaluated. On December 8, he said he was ready to undergo an operation that clearly was high risk. With that courage, serenity, tranquility he met with his political team and laid out different scenarios. He had already thought of different ways to deal with any situation that might arise, even the worst. He laid it on the table what could happen during the operation. Thanks to God and the physical strength of President Chávez that scenario did not take place - the scenario in which he did not survive the operation. It would have been a huge blow to our country, our people, for all of us, very painful. Fortunately we are in the post-operative scenario and evaluating him.

The constitution is very clear. First, in the situation that the president at some point thinks he is unable to continue, the constitution establishes the mechanisms and time periods for the political and institutional life of the country to maintain stability and for elections to be held. As it says in our constitution, in 30 days our people would decide at the polls. Now as for political rhythms of political strength in Venezuela, as you well know, today the revolutionary forces have acquired enough strength, sufficient capacity, to deal with any scenarios that could occur. Presently, here as I sit in this chair, the situation which we are in is that President Chávez is the President of Venezuela, and has started the 2013-2019 term and will remain President of our country. I’ve merely been reviewing scenarios that you have raised, that President Chávez has raised and, well, they’re in the public debate.

José Luís Paniagua: And he is giving instructions from Cuba. On Tuesday it was announced that former Vice President Elias Juan was appointed Foreign Affairs Minister by instruction of President Chávez. I have to ask you about the famous signature on the decree, if it was signed personally by President Chávez or if it was done electronically.

Elías Jaua, Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, in office since 15 January 2013.

Nicolás Maduro: [Laughs] Look, you can see that the Venezuelan right is so clumsy. Right now they are divided into four groups fighting against each other and competing to see who is bolder. They have now led themselves to a dead end street, as always, by saying that the new foreign minister, Elías Jaua, was not appointed by President Chávez, despite the document bearing his signature. The only ones who have forged a letter and a signature in Venezuela’s recent history were this very opposition. They forged a letter from President Chávez saying he had resigned between April 11-13, 2002, and they forged his signature. Now the forgers question an appointment that, with all seriousness and solemnity, was made by the Bolivarian government and by the person who actually can make the appointment, the head of state. He is the one who runs foreign policy and he appointed a truly illustrious Minister, Elías Jaua, to one of the most powerful positions, Elías Jaua is one of the most beloved members of President Chávez’s political team. The opposition has led themselves into a dead end street and they will crash. And when the day of the crash comes they will not apologize, nor will they self-criticize. They will continue, as always, going from one defeat to another. Unfortunately, that is the Venezuelan right that we have.

José Luís Paniagua: But the signature on the decree, was it signed by hand by President Chávez or was it done electronically?

Nicolás Maduro: Well, I think that’s a debate without any real substance. President Chávez has given an order and signed a decree and the decree has gone through as hundreds of others have gone through during the year. In any case, they want to debate something that is of no importance to the country’s political life. It does not bring anything positive. President Chavez, as head of state, gave an order to appoint Elías Jaua. The decree was signed. The decree was published. It is as simple as that, as it always has been. If you want to review the thousands of decrees that have been signed since 1999, it doesn’t add anything of substance to a discussion of Venezuelan democracy, or the political situation we are living through. It is a perverse whim of the decadent right wing in Venezuela.

José Luís Paniagua: On January 8, the Supreme Court ruled on the situation that had arisen because of the inability of the President to attend the swearing in ceremony for his new mandate. There was a dispute about the correct constitutional process. The Supreme Court ruled that the President could take the oath later once he recovers and that the previous government could, for administrative continuity principle, continue in office, but the opposition argued that it should be the President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, who should become head of state. Why not Diosdado Cabello?

Nicolás Maduro: Because the constitution is very clear. First, in Venezuela, as with all issues, they were discussed freely and democratically. In fact, this debate even extended beyond our borders. There appeared a constitutionalist [laughter] from elsewhere in the world to tell us what was in Venezuela’s constitution. Our constitution is very clear. It is also very simple. Our constitution was made in 1999 by a constituent assembly which involved thousands of Venezuelans and its editorial style is far removed from elite legalese that one typically sees in law, particularly public law and constitutional law. It was written in clear language for regular people.

Anyone who wants to see the Venezuelan Constitution, approved by the Venezuelan people in a referendum, can go to Article 231 and 235 for those who want to deepen their understanding of the issue. There it is all very clear. First, the President is out of the country with the permission of the National Assembly, requested and then granted by the National Assembly unanimously, i.e. all parliamentarians in Venezuela, both the revolutionary bloc and the opposition voted in favor of that permission. Second, reiterating what the Supreme Court ruled, in the event that unforeseen circumstances did not allow the President to be sworn in, it could happen on another date before the Supreme Court. The President is a President in office, re-elected, ratified several times. There was and is administrative continuity. The only circumstance in which comrade Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Assembly, would take over as head of state is in the case of an absolute absence as stipulated in Article 233.

For those who want to read, 233. if an absolute absence is declared before the inauguration, Diosdado Cabello would take over and elections would be held in 30 days. So the opposition in its different variants, because some said it was an absolute absence while others said that it was a temporary absence, others that there was no absence, others that things could continue, the different versions that the Venezuelan right asserted were discussed and the Supreme Court made its decision. Like anywhere in the world, the Supreme Court’s ruling is gospel. The dispute about the interpretation of the constitution was settled and our country has done what it had to do correctly. There is a functioning government, The President is out of the country constitutionally and we are working with the Vice President, the ministers, to maintain the country on a correct and constructive path.

José Luís Paniagua: It is nevertheless hard to explain, Mr. Vice President, why if President Chávez was unable to attend the swearing in ceremony, and unable to submit the report the other day before the National Assembly, a temporary absence has not yet been declared. If not a permanent absence, a temporary absence is also well established in the constitution, why has a temporary absence not been declared?

Nicolás Maduro: First, because the circumstances do not exist for a temporary absence. There is a government in office working. Over the course of history, the accumulation of experience has led us to create an institution like the vice presidency, which is an institution to support the presidency, coordinate the cabinet. That allows us, as we have for almost 18 months during the presidents constitutionally approved leaves from the country, to continue through the Vice President and the government team implementing his orders, governing the country with the country’s head of state.

In Venezuela, as you know, legitimacy for running the republic rests with Hugo Chávez. We just are his collaborators. In acknowledgement of that political reality, the immense power of leadership, moral power, ethical power, political influence, decision making ability, contained in the leadership of Comandante Chávez, in recognition of this reality, we have chosen this approach that has been successful, very successful. The president is in charge and his team supports him. You should also know that the president created new positions for better coordination.

We have a Vice -president for financial economics, a Vice-president for the productive economy, a vice president of policy, a vice president of social policy, and a vice president for territorial policy and an executive Vice-president, All vice presidents formed a council, so we have a system of government that has proven successful for situations like the ones we are living.

José Luís Paniagua: In these circumstances, to follow up on my question, as Vice-president what things can you do and not do? How far does your power extend at this moment?

Nicolás Maduro: Well, the list is long, [laughs] for an interview like this.

José Luís Paniagua: [Laughs]. Evidently your power does not extend to the appointment of ministers.

Nicolás Maduro: No, not here.

José Luís Paniagua: And if there was some kind of reason at any given time to substitute a minister, the president would have to do it?

Nicolás Maduro: It is a power vested in the president, of course. The president has the authority to add, remove, or replace ministers; the conduct of foreign policy; the delegation of certain administrative matters, tax exemptions if necessary; the management of some resources, say, national funds to finance work at the level of states, regions. But he keeps driving the state. There are a set of functions that are managed from the vice presidency if they are constitutional and they are getting done - the coordinating function. The key function is the coordination of good governance of the vice president for their respective areas, ministers and, well, the direct contact with power popular. In Venezuela we have the democratic concept of popular power and our direct contact with it is meant to deliver it power: economic or social power, political power. The country continues to operate within the course proposed by the president and approved by the nation - the Socialist Plan of 2013-2019.

José Luís Paniagua: You have traveled, and other vice presidents have traveled regularly during these last weeks to Cuba. I imagine they have taken work with them on those occasions and have met with the Cuban government, with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and with President Raúl Castro. Is it possible to say something about what was said in those meetings?

Cuba’s Fidel Castro and ailing Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in Havana.
(File, AP)

Nicolás Maduro: Well, the first thing to mention is the extreme devotion of Fidel Castro to the care of Chávez, to the care of the Chávez family. He is in direct contact with the doctors. Almost daily Comandante Fidel Castro is in the hospital, near the doctors, close to the family, attending to and greeting President Chávez. We have to be thankful for that as human beings. He has given us courage, strength, sharing conversations with us - his long experience in history. He is undefeated against the most powerful imperialist aggressor that has ever existed – US imperialism. He has acquired a truly privileged knowledge of the history of Latin America, of what has happened because he has lived it for 60 years in the struggle for the independence of Latin America. They are talks of great human value and that impart tremendous historical learning - and with President Raúl Castro as well.

We have implemented, as you know, a number of plans for cooperation on health, on education, sports, cultural matters, economic matters. We have economic projects that President Chávez has called “empresas morochas” i.e. a set of joint ventures. In other words, Cuba and Venezuela have, within the framework of ALBA, a very dynamic and multidimensional relationship. We take advantage during our visits to see President Chávez to also address these issues - to discuss and perfect them. We never stop, not for a second, profoundly thanking the Cuban people, their doctors, and Fidel and Raúl for the deeply humanitarian attention they’ve provided our president.

José Luís Paniagua: When you hear these accusations that Havana runs Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, as someone who is close to the Cuban government, what do you feel at that moment?

Nicolás Maduro: Well, that’s their campaign. It is up to them to lie. It is up to us to work and tell the truth, plain and simple. They have their lies, we have inherited the glories of the Liberator Simon Bolivar, of his apostle José Martí. Cuban independence cost so much because the nineteenth century was ravaged by the presence of the most powerful army that left Spain. More than 300 000 Spanish troops tried to keep Cuba as their jewel in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico as well, but especially Cuba, which has always been a point of great strategic importance to empires and remains so.

Independence cost Cuba wars throughout the nineteenth century, including the war that independence fighters initiated in1895 but that was then frustrated by the U.S. military intervention and the imposition of the Plat Amendment. That was the beginning of the neo-colonialism in Cuba which ended with the victory of the bearded ones on January a, 1959. Cuba acquired its independence at immense cost and if you find anything in Fidel Castro it is that heritage of anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism. It is the same with our country. How dearly cost the independence that the liberators won us. Nobody made a present of independence for us in the nineteenth century, no one. It cost 20 years of war here in Venezuela and our armies came from across the Americas to fight for independence. We are two peoples who have the same anti-colonialist tradition, the same pride when we find ourselves as brothers. This is one thing the right can never understand.

We say dig into the ground to defend independence. The right says drops to your knees on the ground when you see a gringo. There is a big difference between saying drop to your knees before the US Empire and saying dig into the ground to defend independence - worlds apart, different ideas, and different values. So, yes, the comments of the right are offensive, but, their offenses aside, we work with dignity and our brotherhood between Cuba and Venezuela is ratified daily – in ALBA, and among all our brothers and sisters in Latin America and the Caribbean.

José Luís Paniagua: Let me return to the constitutional issue. The OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza has said that he fully respected the view taken by Venezuelan institutions. I do not know if it deserves some sort of response but I will not neglect to ask what happened yesterday – the comments made by the Panamanian Ambassador, the retraction made by the Panamanian government, and the Canadian government proposed sending an OAS commission to Venezuela.

Nicolás Maduro: Starting with the latter, the proposal of the Government of Canada is a miserable proposal that has relevance to the independent democratic life of our country. Unfortunately the far-right is governing that country and has taken positions that have been isolating Canada from the international community and disgusted progressive governments around the world. We reject - as our ambassador has - that position of Canada, the Government of Canada that is, because the Canadian people have all our love and our fond memories always. As for the debate that occurred in the OAS, well, our Ambassador Roy Chaderton was very clear – we congratulated him privately and now publicly - because he spoke the truth with dignity and intelligence in response to a disproportionate aggression by a person who has been disowned by his government. We thanked the President of Panama, its foreign minister, who disowned the position very quickly, and spoke privately with our foreign minister, Elías Jaua. The president of Panama yesterday offered his apologies and said that he would do so publicly. So thank you very much to the government of Panama, our brothers with whom we will continue to cooperate in projects related to trade and energy.

José Luís Paniagua: By the way, how is the exit of Venezuela from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission coming along?

Nicolás Maduro: It is coming along. A year has to pass before we totally are out of that system. During the early months of that period Venezuela has been appointed - by the vote of 154 countries – to the UN’s Human Rights Council which is where we should be. That is the system that currently must be strengthened, that has demonstrated capacity to renew itself, to change when challenged. The Inter-American System of Human Rights has not. It has been kidnapped by an elite beholden to the worst interests of the ruling elite of the United States- totally kidnapped and subordinated. Every day they violate the Convention on Human Rights. Thank God we are each further away from that system and trying to build a new system of human rights in Latin American.

José Luís Paniagua: So there is no turning back on that decision by Venezuela?

Nicolás Maduro: No, it’s the correct decision that we should celebrate as often as we can.

José Luís Paniagua: Days earlier you accused elements of the opposition of looking for a death, of seeking instability in Venezuela and even said that before the Federal Council of Government. What information does the Venezuelan government have to base that kind of accusation on, to raise that kind of scenario?

Nicolás Maduro: What we said on January 10 in front of thousands of compatriots who came to the swearing in of the people on Urdaneta avenue, here in Caracas - an extraordinary ceremony attended by 27 of our close allies on the continent – is that we had information that small groups within the extreme right would perpetrate violent attacks on property that would be magnified by the private media both nationally and internationally in an effort to create destabilization and international alarm over Venezuela. On January 11, a day later, in the afternoon, the first violent event took place. A small group (that has been identified) destroyed offices of a foundation to serve children who have problems: orphaned girls, children who have AIDS, children who merit special protection. They destroyed the offices in an act of vandalism that has been repudiated by the entire country. It was the first attack. Action was taken quickly and performed well by the security forces and measures have been taken in other cities that prevented attacks from spreading.

Measures in other states have also given us the time to prevent these actions of small violent groups of the extreme right. So these groups, and there are others who are working on scenarios of destabilization, were reported about responsibly. We will continue to denounce them. Some of these pseudo-right leaders are going really crazy in Venezuela, and competing with each other because they do not accept the leadership of their former candidate presidential. They believe their former presidential candidate is a person who, as we say in Venezuela, is weak, weak in his message, in leadership, and they not recognize him and so they’ve gone crazy. This group surrounding the former presidential candidate has not had the courage to condemn the violent groups. Hopefully they will. It is never too late to do things that foster peace in the republic. I hope they do, but the divisions within the opposition that encourage these extreme right-wing groups that have always existed. They were responsible for the terrorist attacks that were against the consulate of Spain in 2003 (in 2004, sorry) and also against consulate of Colombia. These are terrorist groups like the ones Colombian paramilitaries brought to Venezuela to attack the palace presidential and the President. Now these groups are riled up again. We are going to ensure peace in the country and that law and order is maintained. If these groups break the law, they will be arrested.

José Luís Paniagua: You commented about former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles. You greeted him the other day.

Nicolás Maduro: Yes.

José Luís Paniagua: Did you get to chat with him, say something about a specific topic?

Nicolás Maduro: No, the government of President Chávez, through the Vice presidency convenes the Federal Council of Government, which is an instance where the entire government participates: all ministers, all governors, a group of mayors and designated spokespeople of popular power. That session of the Council of Federal Government, which is constitutional, is convened to review a range of issues and officially convened functioning governments. In this 2013-2019 term they came, the three opposition governors. You know that of 23 governors who were elected on December 16, the revolution won 20 and the opposition was left with three governorates: the state of Amazonas, Lara and Miranda. The three governors came and we greeted them, of course. The most newsworthy was the picture where we greet former presidential candidate for the opposition, the governor of Miranda. He was there for the entire session, participated in the decision making process there, was included in some working committees. That is how democratic life has to be. One recognizes the instructions, the Constitution, the laws and work. That is one of the reasons why the extreme right tries to blackmail him and the other governors who came to the session. The far right wants to delegitimize the government of President Chávez and they plan a violent insurrection to overthrow the government. These are the lunacies of an extreme right that lives within the opposition and sometimes imposes its speech, political line and everything.

José Luís Paniagua: Vice President, the opposition had called for a march on January 23 and the government decided the same day to convene another march. Does it not generate a risk of some kind of confrontation? Is it not a risk to march on the same day?

Nicolás Maduro: No, January 23 is an emblematic date in the contemporary history of Venezuela and if you check you, we all have always, on January 23, done activities that involve a mass mobilization of the people, as has the opposition. It is an opportunity for the opposition to express itself, as it always has, with marches, with public events with all guarantees. They are welcome to get out to the street, and we are also welcome. Let us make that day a great mobilization that will culminate in the street named “January 23”, which is one of the emblematic streets in the city of Caracas. We do what we must do, reclaim the civic-military spirit that overthrew the last dictatorship that existed in Venezuela and focus on where we were. We say that the spirit of Colonel Hugo Trejo and the journalist Fabricio Ojeda, the military and civilian leaders of that civil-military uprising that toppled the dictatorship is alive and is part of the spirit with which President Chávez - as Commander on 4 February ’94 - took up arms against the International Monetary Fund. It is part of the spirit of the Bolivarian revolution. We have a right to do that. The opposition also claims that date. Welcome. We have all guarantees to mobilize and demonstrate in our country.

José Luís Paniagua: I do wish to ask for statements that you made ​​recently made about slight warming of relations we have seen with the U.S. government. Do you foresee an improved relationship that eventually could produce a return of the ambassadors to the respective countries?

Nicolás Maduro: Well, President Chávez gave us precise orders which he has now given to his new Foreign Minister, our dear comrade Elías Jaua, (also vice president of the political area), that we are always ready to have a relationship based on respect and equality among states with the United States. We have always said that sooner or later the ruling elite of the United States - the elite that runs the military industrial elite media apparatus that is the power true in the United States and over its various governments, now the Obama administration- must learn to recognize the new independence that exists in Latin America and the Caribbean. It must give way to a new relationship of respect. Latin America and the Caribbean is no longer the backyard of the United States. Latin America has taken its own path in economic matters, political matters, in reclaiming the glories of our independence, culturally, educationally.

We have an identity which has enabled a step in the founding of the Union of South American Nations, Unasur, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean, CELAC, ALBA, Petrocaribe. There is another reality and within that new reality we are always willing to have good relations with the governments of the United States - at any time, but always on the basis of absolute respect, non-intervention in the internal affairs of our country. We have also said that sooner or later humanity wil see - in the decades to come – the final decline of imperial hegemonic power has been exercised by the elites of the United States in the last 150 years. The world to come has to be a multipolar world, multipolar, multicenter, without imperial hegemony - a world of peace and respect international law, respect for the right to economic and social development and for the lives of the peoples of the South. Respect for the right to independence, to democracy, to life. This has to be the world, for that world we are struggling and President Chávez has made ​​great contributions as a driving intellectual force towards this world that is being born.

José Luís Paniagua: Let me finish by asking about relations with Spain. How are relations with the government of Mariano Rajoy?

Nicolás Maduro: They are respectful relations, good relations. Our ambassadors in Madrid and the Spanish ambassador in Venezuela have close relationships with the government, our government. We hope that these features of our relations persist. Spain is facing a very difficult time from an economic point of view. We wish the best to the Spanish people, the best from our hearts. Spain is in our history by many circumstances and we have a great love for the history of Spain, life in Spain, to the struggle of the Spanish and have a great respect for the Spanish culture, the identity of Spain. We hope that relations with companies that have such important life here…Spain has large oil investments here that guarantee of energy for the next 100 years. As President Chávez said, here is the energy security of Spain, here on Venezuelan soil, in oil, gas. We hope that this is remains so and that new investment comes. Telefónica is here. There are major companies. May they continue to come and continue to work together on a basis of respect and for the welfare of both countries and both continents.

Latin America and the Caribbean have taken a distinct path after getting rid of the neoliberal formulas of the IMF and World Bank. We cast them off because they led us to misery, hunger, need, backwardness. Europe has its own way. Spain and Europe have their way. We respect the way of Europe and give a big shout out of respect to the Spanish people.

José Luís Paniagua: Thank you Vice-president.

Nicolás Maduro: Thank you.


Translation by Joe Emersberger