Augusto Montiel: ‘The US wants Venezuela to be its oil supplier’
In a conversation with Hardnews, the Venezuelan ambassador, Augusto Montiel, talks about the steep challenges that the South American nation faces
The NAM summit in Venezuela took place under very difficult circumstances. You had an agitation and protest by the opposition. How would you describe the outcome?
The outcome of the NAM summit in Venezuela can be described in two points: 1. Very successful 2. Successful and universal. The success was not only because it gathered 120 countries and delegations, heads of state, heads of government and external affairs ministers, but more because the western powers and the NATO countries led by the US were trying for it not to take place. They decided to create a complete blackout of the information related to NAM. And they made sure that everything presented about the summit had the negative side of it. The success of NAM comes from the fact that in Venezuela over September 1-8 there were a whole lot of people supporting the government and wanting the NAM summit to take place. The 21-point declaration that came out of the summit was the result of months of discussions and debates.
The summit portrays the importance of a majority of countries of the world and how they intend to express themselves at the meet. So, expressions of sovereignty, peace and solidarity were described as the most important elements to reactivate the debate and to deepen the debate on reform at the UN for it to become an instrument of a joint global governance system. Anybody who wants democracy around the world needs to explain why they don’t want countries to organise themselves and to express their views and interests. Because what it means is a fight for equality and sovereignty around the world. The most important point in the charter of the UN states every country as equal no matter how big, powerful or small it is. So, the motto of the NAM summit in Venezuela was peace, sovereignty and solidarity for development. What we are thinking about is democracy and the right of every country to develop capacities in state, population, institutions, etc to be able to participate in world affairs through cooperation rather than domination. So, if we want a joint global governance system where there is inclusion, transparency, fairness and effectiveness, we need a world where two-thirds of its population are respected. Can you imagine if NAM didn’t exist? I mean, they would not have just invaded Iraq and Libya but half of Africa, Latin America and some parts of Asia. They would have repressed all these populations only to become consumers and slaves of their markets. And that is not the way to secure a future for global existence.
You talk about democracy but there have been large-scale movements in your country where the NAM summit took place. Your government seemed very fragile. The protest that took place on September 1 and President Maduro’s rally. What about that?
According to world coverage, corporate news agencies and so on, the world is only there if it matters to the developed world. Either it matters to the US government or to some of the European governments. So, if it matters to them or is beneficial to them they emphasise and publish it. There is a hunger for resources and a thirst for world domination! This is a political battle. And, obviously, they’ll hide the fact that governments of the world are trying to defend interests which are not the interests of the US government. Because we in Venezuela try to defend the interests of the poor people in the north of the US who would die without the subsidised heating oil that Venezuela cooperates and contributes to and sends them every winter annually for the past 12 years since the decision of President Hugo Chavez.
Tell us about the protest. An impression was created that President Nicolas Maduro’s government would fall. Why didn’t it?
The government did not fall and the summit took place because the majority of the citizens understand what the US government is financing and organising. Its support to the violent opposition in Venezuela is a crude attack on the President, on democracy and the institutions of Venezuela. They use corporate news platforms that only project the interests of the US government to communicate with people around the world. For instance, what does CNN represent but the interests of the corporate and military in the US?
So, they told the world that the opposition in Venezuela was going to take Caracas on September 1. And what we saw on corporate news outlets was that the opposition had a massive rally, whereas two massive rallies took place in Caracas – one by the opposition and the other by the Chavistas. But the Chavista rally was not on a single television channel or newspaper. They completely blacked it out, because on that day they were planning an attack by thousands of people on the streets to create violence and surround the centre of Caracas. Fortunately, they couldn’t succeed in their terror activities as the intelligence agencies of the Bolivarian government got to know about their plans. In the last four years, these terrorists have killed army generals, police officials, government supporters and Bolivarian citizens. The government managed to keep order through legal and constitutional amendments. Also, the majority of the Venezuelan population supports the government and not what is being portrayed. The corporate news agencies like CNN, BBC, Reuters, etc never portray the truth about Asia, South Africa or South America. They tell the Latin Americans all the bad things or lies about Asia, India.
The US government doesn’t want our countries to have a strong State that can defend. They want corrupt States and governments so they can get hold of all the natural resources and, of course, they don’t want governments which speak for their people or support their interests, for example, commercial interests, economic interests, industrial, technological and scientific interests. The corporate news agencies are part of the instruments of big countries like the US, the UK, France, etc. They want to control world opinion like they did in 2003-04 when they invaded Iraq. They claimed that Iraq needed to be invaded because they had weapons of mass destruction
It is suggested that the protest of September 1 is the outcome of discontent in Venezuela because of shortages of food and medicine and the collapse of the healthcare system. Thousands are crossing over to neighbouring countries like Colombia.
This again is a big lie. There is no illiteracy in the countries of Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela. Our people read in every public space and square where you get free wi-fi. All the young people (students) and everybody can get information from the internet. This is the essence of President Chavez’s philosophy and our national Bolivarian Constitution which believes that people shall and must handle information in order to be free. You can only have free people when they handle information and know where their point of existence lies. If you know your rights you can defend them. That is the essence of Venezuela. You cannot topple the government of Venezuela because there is an enormous and a very powerful, knowledgeable conscience, well-read and informed people…
But President Maduro’s party lost the parliament last time!
It is due to the propaganda launched by the oligarchs that own the newspapers, TV and banks. That in itself is a sign of a vibrant democracy in Venezuela. I would certainly invite any reader of Hardnews or the citizens of India, through the internet, to enter the web page of any newspaper, television channel or radio station in Venezuela and you will see how every day the government and President of Venezuela are insulted. People use violent expressions to refer to the government which would never be allowed in any so-called democratic developed country of Europe, Canada or the US. They immediately put people in jail without any recourse to trial or jury. In Venezuela there is a very strong state of freedom of information and expression, so much so that former US President Jimmy Carter, who is also the president of the Carter Center, has said quite a number of times, “In Venezuela there is a surplus of democracy.”
So there is no scarcity of food items?
There is scarcity but it has been induced. There is an organised state of things to create it. There are three major economic problems in Venezuela. The point is that the news media does not say why the crisis exists. And the government of Venezuela understands that the population of Venezuela knows who is actually creating the scarcity of food and medicines. Because, for example, why is it that in the neighboring country of Colombia, in one-third of its territory you can find all the food items that are unavailable in Venezuela? Why does it happen that the food and medicines produced and imported in Venezuela are found in one-third of the territory of Venezuela? The answer is simple: the distribution channels belong to the oligarchy and MNCs in Venezuela. Not only do they stop the production in order to create these scarcities, they also systematically, through the 2,000 km of border which is very difficult to cover, use the distribution channels to deplete Venezuela of these essential items. So, how can you not have scarcity?
It is also because of the falling oil prices that you have had…
Falling oil prices directly affect the budget of marginal commodities.
You have now less money…
We have less money. The oil prices are one-third what they used to be one-and-a-half years ago. Even Saudi Arabia nowadays is in deep trouble. The UK, Norway, Greece, Spain, Italy. So, according to that logic those countries should be invaded or intervened in…
Do you think there is a great design to bring down President Maduro?
The great design here is that the US government and its allies are trying to gain back control of natural resources in Latin America and their main military objective is Venezuela. They want to gain control of the number one oil reserve in the world. Venezuela has certified, proven oil reserves above Saudi Arabia’s. The US wants to have that one big asset as, for them, oil is one of the ways for world domination. I am going to get back to this point but Venezuela was the only country that was able to achieve the millennium goals in only eight years. All countries signed the millennium goals in 2000, and by 2015 they were supposed to have been covered. Venezuela did it in eight years, it was certified by the UN in 2008.
England was an empire, so was Spain. And right now the US is an empire. They want to control sections of the world by imposing their rules, plans and strategies and by doing so they disrespect the essence of democracy and existence of our multinational community. They do not want the existence of an international community. Instead, they expect an international group of people to abide by their rules. That is not democratic at all. So they use their means of communication and cultural operators to convince the world that life should be the way they look at it. When I say they, it means the US government. They have been conspiring and using their budgets to discredit the democracy in other countries which do not bow to them. We cannot accept interference in our internal matters by countries like the US, simply to satisfy their needs and interests. They are imposing their values on Venezuela, through thousands of non-governmental organisations which receive money directly from agencies of the US government and other governments (NATO allies). They receive money to destabilise the political system, society and institutions.
Venezuela is a democratic country which has built a constitutional system where people express themselves like no other place and certainly in a much clearer and more vibrant way than in the US. In Venezuela, we elect our governors while in the US there isn’t a direct democracy. In Venezuela, a majority of the people elect mayors, members of parliament, members of the council, and members of the legislative assembly. In our country, people discuss and are informed about their rights and interests. That’s what we have in Venezuela. And if you have that then the State becomes a stronger instrument of defence of your rights. The US government doesn’t want our countries to have a strong State that can defend. They want corrupt States and governments so they can get hold of all the natural resources and, of course, they don’t want governments which speak for their people or support their interests, for example, commercial interests, economic interests, industrial, technological and scientific interests. The corporate news agencies are part of the instruments of big countries like the US, the UK, France, etc. They want to control world opinion like they did in 2003-04 when they invaded Iraq. They claimed that Iraq needed to be invaded because they had weapons of mass destruction. Twelve years down the line, we all know that they were constructed lies, scientifically, technologically using mass media to convince the world – all because of their thirst for control of oil in the Middle East. So the misery of those countries at the moment is the consequence of invasion by countries which do not promote democracy but domination and creation of misery around the world. There is enough knowledge, scientific development and enough food around the world to create conditions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America for poverty not to exist. That is why Venezuela has become a model for development. In the last 15 years we have tried to systematically diversify the economy which the US forced for the past 100 years so that we would simply be a supplier of oil. We have tried to end that situation of being an exporter of oil to the US. President Chavez made an effort to create new forms of production in agriculture and so on. In the last 100 years it was impossible. Venezuela never had an indigenous or technological industry. Because the mission assigned by the imperial powers was that Venezuela should simply produce oil for them. And that’s why India never received oil from Venezuela until President Chavez came to power.
How much oil do you export to India?
We are the third largest exporter of oil to India after Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
And you also have Indian companies investing in Venezuela.
We have ONGC and Oil India having association in the production of oil in the largest oil reserve in the world which is the Orinoco oil belt.
And what about any private sector company?
Yes, we have excellent and growing business with Reliance, Essar, but mainly in the processing, in the downstream of oil refining and the origin of the oil derivatives. For example, 80 percent of the oil that Reliance refines comes from Venezuela. Now we have an agreement that Indian public sector oil refineries will also refine oil from Venezuela.
What is the travel time for an oil tanker from Venezuela to India?
It takes around 30 days and that’s why the US wants to gain control over it. Venezuela for them means their backyard. They want to have control of their backyard i.e. Latin America in order to have access to the big barrel of oil which is Venezuela. If they have to use military force, which they are now planning, they have thousands of troops in Central America and Colombia waiting for a moment to intervene in Venezuela. That’s why they are using international institutions like the Organization of American States (OAS) which does not represent Latin America.
The OAS used to be until 50 years ago the ministries and colonies of the US. They excluded Cuba in the Sixties and they have always got the OAS to approve their invasions of Grenada, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. They approved the bringing of military dictatorships in Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. But 15 years ago they lost control because the new model of development which was brought by the diplomacy of peace proliferated. That’s why they are angry.