Augusto Monteil, 54, Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to India, is an academic-turned-political activist-turned-diplomat. During his stint as a Professor of Public Management at the Central University of Venezuela, he became increasingly associated with the idea of liberation of Latin America from “forces controlled by imperialist politics of the United States”. He was elected to the national parliament and rose to become vice-minister of Interior (deputy home minister) during Hugo Chavez’s tenure as president. In the context of the upcoming NAM (Non Aligned Movement) summit in Venezuela as well as ongoing attempts by “US-sponsored stooges” to sabotage the democratically-elected government led by President Nicolas Maduro, he shares his concerns on political conditions in Venezuela and future of Latin American politics with Nidheesh J Villatt. Excerpts from the interview:
Q : I happened to read an official communique (dated August 30, 2016) from the Venezuelan government which “alerted” international community about a possible coup in Venezuela by pro-US forces in the first week of September. What’s happening?
A : Your information is correct. The United States is collaborating with anti-democratic opposition and other international right wing forces to sabotage democratically-elected Venezuelan government. I would dare to say that by attacking the sovereignty of Venezuela, the Barack Obama administration is behaving like an international terrorist organization.
Q : Terrorist organization…..Why such harsh terminology? What kind of terrorism is the USA involved in?
A : Venezuela is hosting the 17th NAM Summit, scheduled to begin on September 13. Our government is busy with its preparations. All head of nations from member countries are supposed to come for the Summit. But the US and its right wing opposition allies are trying their best to overthrow the government before the summit happens. On March 4, Obama renewed an executive order that declared Venezuela as “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”. We also completely reject the recent insolent declarations by John Kirby, Spokesperson of the US Department of State. As pointed out in our recent communique, senior officials are directly involved in sabotaging democracy in Venezuela.
Q : Fine. But what kind of “terrorist” activities did you mean are undertaken by the Barack Obama administration?
A : The US wants to tell the world that Venezuela is not respecting democracy. They want to create an impression that Venezuela is violating human rights. You remember the US-led invasion against Iraq? The US publicly said that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. They ‘manufactured’ consent for Iraq invasion by spreading this lie. But later it was clear that Iraq didn’t have weapons as alleged by the US. But by that time, thousands of innocent people were killed. Apart from killing people, the US also killed the beautiful culture in that belt. A typical strategy of the US is to brand independent countries as violators of human rights and then organize coup. They use all possible methods to sabotage those elected governments who won’t dance to the tunes of the US imperialism. The US is pumping billions of dollars to fund NGOs (non-governmental organisations) in Venezuela. These NGOs make fake claims about human rights violations. In reality, some of these NGOs are involved in providing arms and ammunition to criminal gangs.
Q : Are you saying that the US is trying to replicate the infamous coup attempt in 2002?
A : Yes. Exactly. They are doing groundwork for it. The CIA is actively involved in this. They don’t want an autonomous, independent Latin America. They want to install their stooges in all Latin American countries. They are widely using corporate media to spread lies about Venezuela. Leading corporate media groups like CNN are writing new chapters in the history of biased journalism. They fabricate reports and fake human rights NGOs give publicity to it. The US is using information as a weapon in the war against people of Venezuela. Corporate-owned Venezuelan media is also involved in this war. They compete with the US media to fabricate news.
Q : What is the US obsession with Venezuela?
A : The reason is primarily political and economical. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves. After becoming President, Chavez nationalized oil production. The socialist government of the Venezuela decided that our oil wealth should be used for eradicating the suffering of Venezuela’s poor as well as poor people in all other countries. We believe that international solidarity is a prerequisite for international peace. Based on this principle, we have established oil exploration projects with several third world countries, including India. This is what we call as constructive cooperation. We love to cooperate with all countries without dominating them. We also expect vice versa. We are even supplying free heating oil to the poor citizens of US. US corporations, which were controlling and looting our oil resources, went mad after the nationalization project. The US is trying to sabotage our government on behalf of these corporations.
Q : You may be right. But do you think people are completely satisfied with your government?
A : It is true that the crash of oil prices had a serious impact on our economy. We are making genuine attempts to diversify our economy. But the economic war unleashed by the US is troubling us. The US is playing all dirty tricks to devalue our currency. The US ensures that there is a massive hoarding of consumer goods by wholesale distributors and retail supermarkets. Our government is committed to address this artificial crisis created by the US and its stooges.
Q : But the Western media releases visuals and reports pointing that more people are joining the protests against the government?
A : As I told you, the world is getting distorted information about the happenings in Venezuela. It is a completely one-sided picture. Venezuela’s poor are not protesting. People who protest are basically Venezuela’s upper class. Poor people are with the government. But the Western media is ignoring this. Earlier, they ignored our unparalleled success in providing welfare measures to the poor. For instance, Venezuela achieved millennium development goals set by the UN within eight years, instead of 15 years. These kind of stellar achievements were completely ignored.
Q : So you are confident that you shall overcome coup attempts?
A : Yes. Because majority of the people are with us.