By Vakkas Dogantekin
ANKARA (AA) – Despite having the world’s largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela is waging a war of independence and survival against US sanctions and blockades, trying to save its rapidly devaluating currency, alleviate abject poverty and stop the brain drain.
Venezuelans say ‘Más raro que un perro verde’ (stranger than a green dog) to describe weird situations such as this. Venezuela's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for North America Carlos Ron explained how the oil-rich country is facing so many challenges to Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
– Juan Guaido out of Venezuelan politics
Ron said Venezuela's National Assembly has finally become national in its true sense after the Dec. 6 elections, which were observed by international and regional bodies but boycotted by 27 anti-government parties led by opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and aliied parties gained control of the assembly after securing 67% of the votes.
Guaido, 37, has been recognized as president of Venezuela and backed by the US and dozens of other countries allied with the American foreign policy since January 2019 to overthrow elected president.
''It's been an important election for Venezuela, because I think it's the chance to reconstitute our national assembly into a National Assembly, that is really working for the people, that is really there to legislate and to do its job and not to try to attack the country,'' Ron said.
Because what you have seen in the last five years is a group of politicians that have used the National Assembly as a platform, Ron added, ''so they could ask for outside intervention in the form of unilateral, coercive measures or even invasion and ways to suggest that.”
He also accused those opposition politicians of insisting on unconstitutional means of action against the government such as an invasion and coup d’état as well as stealing ''important resources from the Venezuelan people to use for themselves.''
Responding to the low turnout claims of countries and media that support Guaido, he said those are attempts to delegitimize the will of the Venezuelan people and 30%-35% is the ''average [percentage of] voting for parliamentary elections everywhere, Venezuela in particular.''
Presidential elections and national referendums motivate voters more, he said, not legislative ones.
''So I think it is a new moment for Venezuela, and it is a strong moment for the Venezuelan people in their hopes for more stable politics and a more correct type of discussion between the government and opposition,'' Ron added.
He said most Venezuelans today view Guaido ''as a traitor or somebody that has promoted hardship for the entire country in order to have personal gains.''
''So I think he is probably out of Venezuelan politics. It's not up to us to say what would be next'' for him legally, Ron stated, referring to judicial cases of high treason brought up against Guaido.
– Summary of political conflict since early 2019
Ron said the US created a notion in early 2019 that there would be some sort of dual power in Venezuela by recognizing Guaido, who is self-proclaimed with no basis in national law.
''Then the United States started pressuring other countries or allies to give this man this recognition and has tried to conduct a policy of isolation against the Venezuelan government,'' he said.
''They know they cannot win an election …because they cannot convince the Venezuelan people to go back to privatization of health care and our schooling or housing, or to think of these policies that will take away the achievements that people have gained in the last years. Well, then they're opting for solutions that are out of the law, that are unconstitutional.”
First they claimed the presidency, then attempted a coup d’état in April and then carried out failed assassination attempts against the president, he said.
''Recently, this year, we saw an attempt by mercenaries to come from Colombia, including two American citizens. So all these attempts are outside of politics, outside the realm of legality, and in a desperate attempt to change the government of Venezuela,'' he said.
However, most of the people — even the people in the opposition — do not want this type of change, Ron added, defending a ''democratic system as the best option for politics,'' not ''adventures.''
In early May, Maduro confirmed the detention of two US mercenaries among 13 attackers involved in two failed maritime raids to overthrow the Venezuelan government and capture the president, also known as ‘Operation Gideon.’
"In this group were members of [US President] Donald Trump's security team: Airan Berry, a professional mercenary of the United States, and Luke Denman. They are already declaring," Maduro said in a televised speech regarding the second foiled "terrorist action" against his government.
The president accused the US and Colombia of being the perpetrators of the raids and said Venezuela had already submitted the latest evidence to the UN.
– Venezuela-Europe relations
Asked if there is a united opposition to the Venezuelan government from the European continent, he said they are “lost in a trap.”
''Well, the problem is, I think that when you speak to different European countries, I mean, they're sort of lost in a trap because the United States promised them that with recognizing Juan Guaido, in a question of weeks, the national government would collapse and he would be supported by the people, and that never came through. And you know, years went by and nothing. Now his mandate actually ends and now he has nothing to back him up,'' Ron said.
''We know the US is in a regime change logic like it has done in the past, but where is Europe going to position itself?'' he said. ''Is it going to continue defending something that has no legal basis? It is a dead end,'' he said.
''You can't just declare a government that doesn't exist. They have to reevaluate their policies and make sure that they have a more realistic approach to Venezuela.''
Ron said Venezuela is under attack because it has the largest proven oil reserves in the world and also because it promotes a foreign policy agenda that does not surrender to the ''dominant system.''
Earlier this year, US officials were speaking about a Monroe Doctrine 2.0, a new set of policies that would kind of block the presence of any other country in the Latin American region, he said.
''And I think their position really has to do with their fear that they're losing space worldwide,'' he added.
The Monroe Doctrine is an essential component of US foreign policy enunciated by President James Monroe in his annual message to Congress in 1823. Monroe basically argued that the Old World and New World had different systems and must remain distinct spheres, rejecting any future European meddling in the affairs of countries located on the American continent.
Ron said the US does not want any country in the region to engage with countries like China and Russia, ''but that doesn't respond to the needs of the Venezuelan people or of the Latin American people.''
''And we're not doing what we do because we're anti-US. We do what we do because we're for Venezuela. And we have to make sure that we provide for our people and cover their needs. When we have a strong relationship with Turkey or with Iran or with China, it is because those relationships are leaving something for the development of the Venezuelan people. They don't understand that,'' he said, referring to the US.
– Expectations from Biden administration
Ron said he hopes the administration of US president-elect Joe Biden will reconsider the ''unrealistic policy'' against Venezuela and drop narco-terrorism charges against President Maduro and other sanctions of the Trump administration that ''come out of unrealistic accusations with no proof.''
“I don't know what they [the Biden team] are thinking. I can only tell you that Venezuela has always been ready for dialogue with the US, as long as it is a dialogue based on mutual respect,” he added.
''If they decide to continue a policy of aggression against the Venezuelan people, then we will continue our policy of defense of Venezuela.''
– Oil crisis in Venezuela
Responding to a question on whether China and Russia avoid doing more business with Venezuela in fear of violating US sanctions, Ron said those media reports are not true and they continue their strong relationship with both China and Russia as well as with Iran.
''Currently, we're finding ways to increase our cooperation,'' he said.
Ron went on to say that the US blockade and its policy of threatening companies and countries against doing business with Venezuela are responsible for the lion's share of his nation's economic problems.
''Spare parts are not easy to come by. When they stole Citgo from Venezuela and gave it to the hands of the opposition, we lost certain capacities of refinement of gasoline. –So now we've had to import some components of the refinery process takes place in Venezuela, not in our refineries in the United States,'' he said.
Citgo Petroleum Corporation, or Citgo, is a US-based refiner, transporter and marketer of petroleum products headquartered in the Energy Corridor area of Houston, Texas. It is majority-owned by PDVSA, a state-owned company of the Venezuelan government, which has not had access to it since 2019 due to US sanctions.
''But China in particular and Russia have been very, very strong in maintaining their relationship with Venezuela. Other countries and other companies may have retreated, but not those two countries, I think they are finding the way and we're being creative,'' he added.
He said Venezuela is promoting an anti-blockade law, which would be strengthened with the start of the new legislative period in January, precisely to find ways so that ''we can avoid this blockade and strengthen Venezuela’s national production industry.'' The main agenda of Venezuelan foreign policy in 2021 is to defend Venezuela against this aggression by the US, using every diplomatic tool multilaterally, Ron said.
''We have brought up the case in the International Criminal Court against the public officials from the United States who are responsible for this aggression because these constitute a crime against humanity,'' he said.
-Venezuela's relations with Latin American countries
When asked why Bolivia, Mexico and Argentina haven't rushed to congratulate Maduro after the Dec. 6 elections, he said in this type of election, ''what is normal is actually non-interference.''
''So I mean we shouldn't be surprised by the fact that they don't interfere. But actually, that should be the norm,'' he said.
''Latin American relations are still strong, despite whoever is in the presidency. We come from a group of movements, political parties and intellectuals who are convinced that Latin America has a united destiny, that has a united project like it was the dream of [South American soldier and statesman] Simon Bolivar to strengthen and unite the continent, and we will continue to work towards that,'' he added.
However, he complained of the Colombian and Brazilian governments being ''unpopular, reactionary governments promoting the strangulation of Venezuela.''
''The Colombian government needs to hide the repression that it has had against [FARC] leaders after the peace process…Now over 900 leaders have been assassinated in Colombia after the peace process,'' he claimed. ''And on the other side, you have Brazil, whose president [Jair Bolsonaro] is every day weaker. Recent elections there took a lot of support from his base. And you know, there's a new political alignment going on in Brazil. So the two governments are falling apart, like others that have fallen apart,'' he added, referring to the neoliberal Mauricio Macri government of Argentina.
– Venezuela's fight against COVID-19
Ron said if Venezuela hadn't enjoyed strong relations with certain countries like Turkey, China, Cuba, Russia and Iran in all fronts, including the securement of medical supplies, the country would have been in a stronger crisis than its neighbors. Strong state infrastructure along with strong popular community organizations that carried out tracing the disease and attending to the needs of COVID-19 patients played a key role in containing the pandemic, he said. Venezuela has less than 1,000 deaths and a little over 100,000 infections.
“Venezuela has been working with the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia, and we're part of the testing trials,” he said, adding vaccinations will start as early as the first months of next year if everything goes well.
– Venezuela's relations with Turkey
Elaborating on Venezuela's relations with Turkey, Ron said the two countries have found that they share common interests.
Besides the growing commercial, business, diplomatic and political exchanges with Turkey, “we also have to bring people together and learn from each other,” he said.
''We respect Turkey, as Turkey respects us. Sometimes we have common views and sometimes we may not, and that doesn't matter, as long as the two countries can be set on common projects and ideas.”
Talking also about the phenomenal Turkish series ''Ertugrul,” Ron said he hasn't been able to watch it as much as President Maduro.
''It is interesting that people in the streets of Venezuela talk about it,'' he said of the epic show, which sheds light on the roots of the Ottoman State.
''These are the best type of ties you could develop, because we can talk all day between diplomats and between politicians about ties, but when the people have things to relate to and to show together, that's even better. So it's wonderful that our societies are ever more integrated.''