EspañolLast Friday, President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro lost an excellent opportunity to try and sway international public opinion and convince the world of the virtues of his supposed democratic and peaceful government.
The supposedly democratic nature of this regime has come into question over the last four weeks for a variety of reasons: the violent and abusive manner in which the National Guard, intelligence agents (SEBIN), and Chavista paramilitary groups have acted against protesters; the erratic conduct that led to the expulsion of CNN en Español and other international media; breaking relations with Panama and further worsening ties with the United States; and the rejection of any collaboration with the OAS to benefit a national dialogue.
The opportunity for Maduro could not have been better. The program hosted by renowned journalist Christiane Amanpour, chief correspondent and anchor for CNN International, is one of the most watched and appreciated shows in the United States. It is recognized around the world for its professionalism and objectivity. However, during the interview, Maduro instead chose to demonstrate his authoritative stubbornness, as well as a clear lack of intellectual preparation and verbal expression. His conduct only further reinforced the many doubts regarding his “revolutionary” government that have prevailed throughout the international community since the start of his presidency on April 14, 2013.
Lacking the charisma and personality of his mentor Hugo Chávez, President Maduro was unable to put forth a solid argument in the face of Amanpour’s informed questions. Instead, the president limited himself to simply denying everything she asked, without offering much explanation.
As such, Maduro denied that Venezuela lacked freedom of expression, or that international media and CNN were unwelcome by the government. He denied that journalists and students had been assaulted by the military and police forces. He denied, of course, that the country was in a state of dissatisfaction or chaos, or in constant violation of human rights and the constitution. To the contrary, said Maduro, “we have led a peaceful, democratic, and constitutional revolution for the last 15 years,” and he emphasized the importance of voting as the principal element underlying the Bolivarian process.
In his opinion, all the blame for the current wave of violent protests rests with “a minority of the opposition,” which he calls “fascist,” led by recently imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo López. When asked if he would release the Popular Will Party leader, Maduro stated that López “charted a course to overthrow the government in violent fashion and for that he went to prison,” therefore his reason from prison “is in the hands of the attorney general and the courts.”
The president also denied that the country faced any serious economic crisis. He recognized that it had “some problems” like any other country, but that Venezuela has experienced a rapid process of growth in the last 15 years that includes a notable increase in GDP. After all, any economic problems are the result of the “savage capitalism” that the government is working toward overcoming through a socialist economic model currently “under construction,” as though “economic warfare” had put an end to the national private sector.
During the interview, Maduro even denied having bad diplomatic relations with the United States. “They are very good,” he said, while noting the existence of a “powerful elite” that seeks political hegemony and economic control in Latin America. As expected, he similarly rejected the possibility of any external mediation within the country. “Venezuela does not need any mediation … I believe we need collaboration. Venezuela is not desperate. Perhaps that is the image that is projected to the outside world, to try and demonstrate from a moral point a view, a revolution in favor of the poor,” he said.
After a series of denials from Maduro, Christiane Amanpour concluded her interview by asking the president how he sleeps at night. As expected, Maduro assured the reporter that he rests just fine, and has the “peace of mind” that he is fulfilling the “legacy of Hugo Chávez.”
As a result of the interview, Nicolás Maduro received ample criticism nationwide. This surely explains why, two days later, Maduro publicly questioned Amanpour — who he considers part of “la gusanera de Miami” (Miami rathole). He claims the journalist edited out “key responses” he provided, and that of the 50 minutes that were recorded, only 30 minutes were broadcast.
He also believes to have been intentionally “provoked” by Amanpour, referring to the moment she pulled out a roll of 20 bolivars to illustrate and further question the country’s high inflation rate. For Maduro, this showed a clear lack of ethics and made him wonder if she would have done the same to President Barack Obama.
It is obvious that President Maduro does not know how to deal with the free press, let alone a veteran journalist like Amanpour, who has had a long career making presidents and world leaders sweat.
Translated by Guillermo Jimenez.