The Sao Paulo Forum (conference of political discussion of progressive and leftist movements, founded in 1990) has met in Caracas. The deliberations at its XXV Meeting conclude today, thus, I would like to welcome its presence in our country, in a context of very difficult circumstances for our region and, in particular, for our people.
I address you from the exile, as I am being persecuted by maduro’s government. This is happening after holding for 14 consecutive years, the highest responsibilities in the State and the Bolivarian Revolution, alongside President Chávez: minister of Oil; president of PDVSA; territorial vice-president, responsible for countless tasks in the political and international sphere; and, of his most beloved projects and Missions. I was also a member of the National Directorate of PSUV and the political team that accompanied him until the day he died.
During maduro’s government, I left the Ministry of Oil and PDVSA, because of the intentions of the madurismo of controlling this strategic sector of the country, as well as the clear differences we had concerning the conduct of the economy, where I warned about fast coming storm; however, for the sake of “unity and discipline”, I accepted to be Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the UN, and member of the Security Council.
I did not notice that what was happening was that the government was taking a sharp turn to the right, and this happened as a consequence of sidelining Chávez’ former ministers, especially those of the economic area, in addition to a systematic detachment from the path set by the Commander and the historical objectives of the Homeland Plan. A betrayal to Chávez.
As of 2017, I began to publish my views and differences with maduro, exercising my rights and historic responsibilities; we, the revolutionaries, cannot remain silent, we need to warn, alert, point, orient; we cannot witness idly the destruction of the dreams and conquests of an entire people.
On December 4, 2017, after having previously rejected the proposal of becoming UN Ambassador in Geneva, I resigned as Ambassador to the UN and severed all the ties with the government. I did so without taking advantage of my position as0020ambassador to making statements or taking part in any scheme against the country from within such an important organization. I did it instead from within the revolution. However, a fierce campaign of political persecution, directed by maduro himself and enforced by his prosecutor, was immediately unleashed against me. I could not return to the country, I was warned by Chavista officers of the Bolivarian Armed Forces, who were concerned about my physical integrity, that maduro had ordered to capture and bury me in their prisons.
This persecution, initiated by intentional and agreed omission of actions even before my resignation, has not only been accompanied by all sorts of accusations and insults with the purpose of tarnishing my name and breaking my spirit, so to facilitate any sort of attack against me; but they have also tried, in absurd way, to disassociate me, to no avail erase me from the political and oil history of the country, from the heart of the Chavismo and the militants of PSUV, while, at the same time, charging against PDVSA and its workers, by imprisoning those workers they consider “ramiristas” and destroying this once stronghold of our sovereignty and economy. They have used us as «scapegoats» for their own mistakes and blunders in leading the country.
The interests and actions of the madurismo and the country’s extreme right coincide in the persecution against me and the destruction of PDVSA, but it is not me as a person, it is about vilifying the work of Chávez and what the oil sector meant for our Revolution. The madurismo has made a grave strategic mistake by lashing out against the Chavismo itself.
Two countries, two realities.
The last meeting of the Sao Paulo Forum in our country was held in July 2012, and at the time we still had the presence of President Chávez. We were campaigning for that year’s election; however, the cancer that finally led him to the tomb had already made its appearance.
You, fellow comrades, are able to see and compare two absolutely different realities: the country under the leadership of President Chávez, in which the economy, sovereignty, living well of the people, their enthusiasm, participation, and the political and social progress were a beacon of hope for the world; and the chaotic country under the rule of maduro, in which the destruction of the economy, the social regression, all types of deprivations, the injustice, the demobilization of the people, the absence of freedoms, and the fear that has taken root in the society, must leave them with an aftertaste that a complete recession has taken place in the nation.
You, experienced politicians, thinkers, revolutionaries, critics by nature and training, honest, if you could see just a little beyond the “fair” and the protocol fencing, if you went to the core of our people, if you had more access to information, to reality, it would not take you long to reach the same conclusion that we have been denouncing and that it is an undeniable truth: this is not a Chavista government and much less a socialist one; maduro has betrayed the political legacy of President Chávez and the destruction of his work has led us to the abyss, where our people have seen how, just short seven years after that meeting you held in the country, all the progress achieved with Commander Chávez have been curtailed.
This reality, besides being a subject to ponder and become aware of the role of revolutionaries in it, it also weighs an immense burden for progressive, leftist movements, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean where there is a clear political regression, a shift towards the right.
The absence of Lula, Dilma, Cristina, and Correa, their removal from power and the persecution to which they are subject; the death of Commander Fidel Castro and President Hugo Chávez are concrete factors that have marked the reflux of the popular and revolutionary movement in the region.
However, the Venezuelan tragedy after the death of Commander Chávez and the rise to power of the madurismo has been a decisive factor in the set back of the left in the region, not only because it has extinguished the light of the Bolivarian Revolution, the beacon of consciousness and role model, but because the defeat of the Chavismo and the destruction of the work of President Chávez have turned Venezuela into a bad example for our peoples.
Maduro’s bad government has given the right arguments, like never before, to lash out against the Chavismo and socialism as options or successful experiences, an alternative to the disaster of capitalism in the world.
The governments and right-wing parties in the region take advantage of the terrible consequences maduro’s government and the dismantling of President Chávez revolutionary work have had on our people and homeland.
Every error, mistake, and inconsistency of this government is attributed to President Chávez, and maduro remains silent. He does not even have the sense of responsibility or honesty to assume that the problem is his government, his decisions, his mistakes, throughout these seven years of absolute power, unprecedented in the country. He does not tell the truth to the people, he is incapable of accepting criticism, always looking for an excuse, a culprit.
This is not a revolution, neither it is chavismo and much less socialism
It is hard to define what exactly the madurismo is, how this has been subverted: it is an authoritarian, violent government, with a rightist economic agenda, incompetent and sellout that nonetheless uses rhetoric from the left and manipulates the Chavista feelings, abusing at their convenience the name and image of Commander Chávez, as if it were a franchise.
To stay in power, in addition to resorting to violence and repression, they need some sort of emotional support from the people, hence the manipulation of feelings deeply rooted in the heart of the humble: the name of Commander Chávez and his epic. Of course, it is a story they edited themselves, one cut and segmented for convenience, truncated with pyrotechnic devices to make another story. The reality is that, like Herod, they have betrayed and razed the Bolivarian Revolution. Let us take a look at only some aspects.
The economy is in shambles
The government has promoted an economic package that, in terms of its goals and results, is nothing but a right-wing project with a strong dose of improvisation and inefficiency, resulting from its own internal contradictions: a hyperinflationary process that has reached levels beyond 1,000,000% of annual inflation; a mega devaluation of our monetary currency, which in 2014 was $1=6.3 Bolivars, and today, in 2019, $1=11,866 Bolivars; and, if we add the eight zeroes that have been artificially removed, it means that $1=1,186,600,000,000, a failure that has expropriated the wages and work. A minimum salary of 5.6 dollars a month, the lowest in our entire region; a chronic shortage of food and medicine; a looting of our gold reserves, tons of monetary gold extracted from the BCV vaults have been secretly sold; a cumulative fall in GDP of -64%, that is, the paralysis and destruction of our productive apparatus, of labor as a value of society.
The government has destroyed PDVSA, handing over the homeland’s oil and gas
The madurismo lashed out against PDVSA, it wanted to control it and eradicating from its core the workers and the technical and political cadres that accompanied me in leading the sector during Chávez’ administration. It accused it and defamed it, imposing fear and terror; over 30 thousand workers have left the company and the country.
The oil production fell from 3.010 millions of barrels of oil per day as it was in 2013, to the scarce 600 thousand barrels of oil per day that it currently produces. The refining system that in 2013 had a capacity of 1.2 million barrels of oil per day in the national circuit, which supplied the domestic market and allowed us to export, is now operating at only 30% of its capacity, its best managers are imprisoned and there is no gasoline or fuels in most of the country; the homeland gas that until 2013 supplied the entire country, the electric and domestic sector, and whose developments offshore allowed its petrochemical use and exportation, has currently been handed over to former transnational companies such as Shell and to new Russian and European transnationals, so these can extract it from the country. There is no gas for domestic consumption nor for electricity, and no fertilizers not even for their industrialization.
The destruction of PDVSA paved the path towards its privatization. Several decrees have been signed and the NCA has passed unconstitutional laws used to privatize the company. Through the so-called “Service Contracts”, the oil fields that were operated by PDVSA, which were recovered by the Revolution, have been reversed to the private sector with ties with the madurismo. Areas and operations in the Orinoco Oil Belt, which were nationalized by President Chávez in 2007, have been given to Russian and Chinese companies. The terminals, drills, vessels, facilities, operations have been handed over. Our sovereignty has been ceded, and oil and gas have been given away.
The deepening of the extractive mining model
The Mining Arc has been led to the commission of a crime against the environment and our indigenous people, who have been displaced from their ancestral lands, by allowing the uncontrolled and massive extraction of our strategic minerals: gold and coltan. Mafias and paramilitary groups of all kind have settled in the area, destroying our wealth and bringing violence to the region. Nowadays, the economic factors of the madurismo have become the major traffickers of Venezuelan gold in the world.
The Mining Arc and other areas open to mining activity throughout the country backtrack us to the country of the transnationals of the twentieth century, to the return to the extractive, deeply dependent mining model.
The country of hunger, poverty, and inequality
The most recent report by FAO indicates that 6.8 million people suffer from hunger in our country. The report scientifically confirms what we see on the streets: children digging in the garbage, a thin, malnourished people, whose minimum salary is not enough not even to buy food from the basic basket or to eat more than twice a day.
The government has dismantled the Misión Alimentación (Food Mission) and has given its assets to the private sector linked to the madurismo so to open the “Bodegones”, where products are sold in dollars. The poor Venezuelan people have been forced to run behind a “Clap” box with poor quality products imported by the madurista bourgeoisie
The hunger of the people has been used to establish mechanisms of social control and major food importing businesses. The country is not capable of producing food.
Poverty rates have skyrocketed to levels worse than those before the Bolivarian Revolution. Poverty and extreme poverty, ended by the government of Chávez, are today a harsh reality that reaches 80% of Venezuelans, one that the madurismo tries to conceal. Hyperinflation, mega devaluation, shortages have devastated the Venezuelan people, their salary, their savings, their social security.
Some studies done by national universities using the Gini Coefficient reveal that our country went from being one of the most equal in the world, only surpassed by Uruguay in 2012, to be the most unequal country in the region in 2018, even more than Haiti, our brotherly nation ravaged by injustice and calamities of all kinds.
That shows a stark contrast between the immense impoverished majority and a minority, the Bolibourgeoisie, the sectors that support the madurismo, those that have taken over the assets and national economy.
The latest report by UNHCR indicates that more than 4 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2014. It is not the bourgeoisie leaving or a sector involved in armed conflict. It is an entire people, the youth, the professionals, doctors, engineers, musicians, workers, the youth of today that were the same children protected by the educational system of the Bolivarian Revolution.
The “Gold Generation” that President Chávez talked about, is now desperately fleeing the country, in any way it can. Some cross the Andes by foot, as a sort of defeated army, some others die drowned in the waters of the Caribbean; most of them suffer the disdain and scorn of the oligarchies of the region, reprimanding them for supporting Chávez, abusing them.
It is rather sad and concerning when the youth tries to abandon their own country, their loved ones, their homeland. The government does not only denies this but it offends them, it belittles them, ignores them.
To me it is clear evidence that the situation in the country is on verge of collapse and that this government, and the madurismo, has no reasons or epic, it does not excite anyone, it lacks passion, there are no reasons to make sacrifices that an obese leadership does not make, there is no hope.
Human Rights Violations, Torture, and Violence against the People
The report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, former President Michelle Bachelet, a woman of progressive views, well respected, unveils the violent, authoritarian, and intolerant nature of this government.
Said report, based on interviews and well-documented information, demonstrates once again the terrible reality in our country: the violation of human rights, including the social and economic rights, which are an ineluctable responsibility of the State, regardless of the existing political or economic situation.
The report notes the use of violence and repression as a policy of the State, where the Executive, through the president himself, the prosecutor, and the judiciary are systematically involved.
The judicialization of politics as a mechanism to silence political dissent has been established in the country; kidnappings, arbitrary detentions, prisoners without trial, presentations, or right to defense are revealed as usual practices; the existence of torture and punishments of all kinds to the prisoner and family members are denounced, and political crimes have been documented, both for repression in the streets, and for death due to torture, “suicides”, blasting, as well as, death of prisoners while in custody.
The repression reaches the entire political spectrum, from right-wing opponents to Chavistas opposing maduro, to repression against workers or people who simply express views or criteria that are contrary or upset the government.
With the aggravating fact that the madurismo and its intimate circle have the ability to use the security or police forces to fulfill their own political revenge or even business disputes.
The repression against Chavistas is carried out with special cruelty, as is stated in the report; the list of PDVSA workers kidnapped by the government, as well as the military officers, workers and grass-root leaders imprisoned by the government, which seems to be terrified of the Chavismo, has been duly documented.
The report reveals and documents the violence against popular sectors, a fundamental element of “social control” exerted on sectors that used to be militant, the traditional basis of the Chavismo.
The activities carried out by FAES, a vigilante parapolice created by maduro, masked policemen that execute raids in the slums and popular sectors, foreshadow a fascist and criminal behavior. The report indicates, based on testimonies given by the families of the victims and the official figures, that over 5,800 citizens have died for “opposing the authority” of police forces. In other words, a death penalty executed by police forces which act with total impunity, and are being encouraged by maduro himself, has been established in the country.
Nothing can justify torture and extrajudicial executions. The respect for life and human dignity must be fundamental elements, boundaries that cannot be crossed by a revolutionary movement. Torture and cruel, denigrating treatment cannot be justified, much less the kidnappings, the retaliations against families of political persecuted, the blasting of a surrendered armed group, and of course not letting a sick person die in prison or torture a human being to death.
Those who justify, celebrate or feed these kinds of behavior are opening the doors to fascism and have not noticed that they have crossed the ethical and moral boundaries of a revolutionary.
The duty of a revolutionary
Commander Fidel Castro said, from the Columbia military camp in 1959, that “Telling the truth is the first duty of all revolutionaries. Deceiving the people, raising false hopes, always brings the worst consequences, and I feel it’s necessary to warn everyone against over-optimism.”
Allow me to add that, it must be done at the risk of anything, sacrificing it all, even one’s own tranquility or safety.
Such reflections are formulated from a Chavista, revolutionary perspective, of a life commitment with socialism and the need to bring forth political, economic, and social transformations, essential to guarantee harmony in our society, the satisfaction of spiritual and material needs of human beings with social justice, sovereignty, independence, and the right to live in peace.
I believe that the Sao Paulo Forum must be a platform to critically and constructively debate reality and the true nature of the situation in Venezuela. Considerations of “State” “diplomatic conveniences” or limitations related to interests of particulars or power groups, should not be imposed in this stage, or the fear to debate nor blackmailing or silence.
The revolutionary parties and movements must be the reservoir of consciousness, the vanguard that is above any other interest than to preserve and keep in force the principles and ideas of socialism, always so exposed to distortions and deviations resulting from the very political dynamics, more so in a globalized world with an evident hegemony of capitalism.
The revolutionary party, whose practice, behavior and values must be the role model of the society that is to be developed, should be capable of stopping or fighting the deviations or vices of power, especially when these are peaceful process that goes against powerful interests that are able to conceal themselves as part of the process.
The party must be at the center of the criticism and debate par excellence; a revolution is nourished and strengthened with criticism and self-criticism, with the confrontation of the theory and the practice. Only in this way, putting the supreme interests above the particular ones, can the pulse and revolutionary impulse, the permanent transformations of the society, and the progress of the human being persist.
When a party renounces its role, as it is the case of the PSUV leadership that has imposed the logo “whatever maduro says”, it gives in its leading role, killing, sterilizing its revolutionary, critical, and transformative nature. Chávez insisted and rallied the PSUV so much to avoid what is happening today from ever happening: the party subordinated to the government, to particular and group interests.
This has been a dilemma of all revolutions, how to prevent the once leadership from becoming the new dominating factor, from succumbing to the restorative mechanisms of the system which seeks to overcome. In “Animal Farm” and “1984”, George Orwell masterfully depicted this phenomenon.
The Forum must not, or should not, remain silent before what is happening in our country, or at least not the parties and movements that comprise it because far from contributing to socialism with their silence, they are destroying it.
The stance taken by each country, government, party or movement regarding the situation in Venezuela will be definite for its own struggle and to maintain its profile and role as revolutionary parties or movement. What is happening in Venezuela will affect the revolutionary or transformative possibilities in Latin America and the Caribbean. A broad, constructive, democratic but stark, critical, and self-critical debate of ideas is an imperative, imperious need for this Forum to continue to have validity.
There is an attitude that has been extended in certain left sectors, at least in our country, where the criticism to the government or the conduction of the country are silenced with allegations of “doing the enemy’s dirty work”, so silence is imposed and the unthinkable is accepted by blackmailing not to favor the extreme right. Or even worse, whoever says something different to “whatever maduro says” is immediately accused of “treason” of “playing the imperialism game” or of supporting a “military intervention”.
Thus, they make the revolutionary or Chavista followers fall prey of the false dilemma of supporting this disaster or losing the revolution, when the reality is that this is no longer a revolution and what is left of the homeland will be lost in the hands of maduro. maduro surrenders the country to the extreme right, opening the doors of fascism.
Allow me to clarify (just in case), that we do not want the extreme-right opposition to rising to power in the country, and I do not believe that us, Chavistas, should seek with them the solidarity or receptivity that we did not find in the madurismo. Much less I am a supporter, nor would I support, any sort of foreign military aggression against our homeland, on the contrary, I would fight it with all my strength. Throughout my political life, my stance has been very clear in this regard, since I was a militant of PRV-Ruptura and then during my tenure at the front of the high responsibilities in the Bolivarian Government and the oil sector, in the front line of battle, always alongside President Chávez and the interests of the people.
But, since now the madurismo insists on changing history, with its technological skills bought in a Stalinist store, capable of deleting photos, statements, videos, everything, with the help of a minister who has a battery of paid informants and specialists in false positives, I then have all my articles and interviews published, despite the inconveniences and obstacles, the censorship and attacks, to make clear a position in the current juncture.
This false dilemma is used or acts, at least, in three different spheres: those who use it to blackmail with the purpose of silencing any sort of criticism, which is obviously what the government and the high command of the madurismo do; then, the leadership or countries that make a simplistic reduction of the problem, burying their heads on the ground, convincing themselves of the impact of sanctions, although successfully overcome by President Chávez, or the alleged unparalleled oil prices, while repeating over and over again the arguments to make peace with the silence they keep regarding the situation, looking the other way for whatever kind of “tactical convenience” or political calculations; and, of course, there is the militant people, the ordinary citizen for which these risks, real by the way, are fueled, so fear paralyzes them and prevents them from thinking.
Those who follow this false dilemma to “conceal and forego” the actions of the madurismo, whether for political calculations, tactical interests or because they believe in it, are committing a serious mistake.
It is precisely the madurismo, the dismantling of the Bolivarian Revolution, the State institutions, the sovereignty, the economy, and the demobilization of the people what has rendered our homeland in such a state of vulnerability and deterioration that will have grave consequences not only for the Chavismo as a political movement in risk of disappearing or being reduced to ashes, but to all the people, by leaving a paved road for the extreme right to take over power in the country.
Maduro has cultivated both intolerance and violence, in addition to his incompetence to govern and his absolute disregard for the Constitution and the laws, which has led to a wave of resentment, hatred, and disgust of the majority of the country, its population, of any social level, just like in “the serpent’s egg” In which in any given moment, there will be a grueling ending, where anything can happen.
It is maduro’s weakness, incoherence or servile attitude regarding the interests of his economic groups and the major world powers which will cause not only that the great powers decide our future according to their own interests, but also that such vulnerability will provide an opportunity for foreign aggression. Already today, Exxon Mobil announced that it will produce oil in waters of the Essequibo, right under maduro’s nose and with a sort of a tacit agreement of letting this flagrant violation of our sovereignty go. Maduro hands over everything he can, he negotiates to save himself and save his people.
What it is then imposed, just as Cuauhtémoc’s gesture went down in history in Aztec Mexico, once the elite surrendered before the cruel conquistador, is to unmask the weakness and contradictions of the country’s leadership, of those who have sequestered the popular sovereignty and are willing to give away the homeland.
A Patriotic Government Junta is the last chance, not only of the Chavismo, but of the nationalist, patriotic, and honest sectors of the country to find a way out of this trap, this abyss, with our own feet, regaining hope and the historic goals of our Homeland Plan, and the flags of redemption and justice that mobilized our people.
Return to Chávez.
I celebrate today the birth of President Hugo Chávez Frías. All my affection and respect goes out to the memory of the President Commander, a good man, a man of justice, the Boss, the friend. My appreciation and fond memories reach out to the teacher Reyes, to Mrs. Elena, to Adán, María Gabriela, Rosa, and Huguito, to all the relatives of the Commander. To all men and women who like me were at his side, in that beautiful, collective endeavor with the poor of the land.
I cannot be in my homeland, Commander, I cannot be there in the Cuartel de la Montaña, but I reiterate to you the oath I made to you in life of working honestly and without rest to reach the possible country, the collective dream, to complete your work, to always work for the rights and hopes of an entire people who filled with hope decided to follow you and join you in all the fights behind the flags of Bolívar’s dream.