Mike Whitney: The US media is very critical of Venezuelan President
Chavez. He's frequently denounced as "anti-American", a "leftist strongman",
and a dictator.
Can you briefly summarize some of the positive social,
economic and judicial changes for which Chavez is mainly responsible?
Eva Golinger: The first and foremost important achievement during the Chávez administration is the 1999 Constitution, which, although not written
nor decreed by Chávez himself, was created through his vision of change for
The 1999 Constitution was, in fact, drafted - written - by the
people of Venezuela in one of the most participatory examples of nation
building, and then was ratified through popular national referendum by 75%
of Venezuelans. The 1999 Constitution is one of the most advanced in the
world in the area of human rights.
It guarantees the rights to housing,
education, healthcare, food, indigenous lands, languages, women's rights,
worker's rights, living wages and a whole host of other rights that few
other countries recognize on a national level.
My favorite right in the
Venezuelan Constitution is the right to a dignified life. That pretty much
sums up all the others.
Laws to implement these rights began to surface in
2001, with land reform, oil industry redistribution, tax laws and the
creation of more than a dozen social programs - called missions - dedicated
to addressing the basic needs of Venezuela's poor majority. In 2003, the
first missions were directed at education and healthcare. Within two years,
illiteracy was eradicated in the country and Venezuela was certified by
UNESCO as a nation free of illiteracy.
This was done with the help of a
successful Cuban literacy program called "Yo si puedo" (Yes I can).
educational missions were created to provide free universal education from
primary to doctoral levels throughout the country. Today, Venezuela's
population is much more educated than before, and adults who previously had
no high school education now are encouraged to not only go through a
secondary school program, but also university and graduate school.
The healthcare program, called "Barrio Adentro", has not only provided
preventive healthcare to all Venezuelans - many who never had access to a
doctor before - but also has guaranteed universal, free access to medical
attention at the most advanced levels. MRIs, heart surgery, lab work, cancer
treatments, are all provided free of cost to anyone (including foreigners)
Some of the most modern clinics, diagnostic treatment centers and
hospitals have been built in the past five years under this program, placing
Venezuela at the forefront of medical technology.
Other programs providing subsidized food and consumer products (Mercal,
Pdval), job training (Mission Vuelvan Caras), subsidies to poor, single
mothers (Madres del Barrio), attention to indigents and drug addicts
(Mission Negra Hipolita) have reduced extreme poverty by 50% and raised
Venezuelans standard of living and quality of life.
While nothing is
perfect, these changes are extraordinary and have transformed Venezuela into
a nation far different from what it looked like 10 years ago. In fact, the
most important achievement that Hugo Chávez himself is directly responsible
for is the level of participation in the political process.
of Venezuelans previously invisible and excluded are visible and included.
Those who were always marginalized and ignored in Venezuela by prior
governments today have a voice, are seen and heard, and are actively
participating in the building of a new economic, political and social model
in their country.
MW: On Monday, President Chavez threw a Venezuelan judge in jail on charges
of abuse of power for freeing a high-profile banker.
Do you think he
overstepped his authority as executive or violated the principle of
separation of powers? What does this say about Chavez's resolve to fight
Eva Golinger: President Chávez did not put anyone in jail. Venezuela has
an Attorney General and an independent branch of government in charge of
Chávez did publicly accuse the judge of corruption and
violating the law because that judge overstepped her authority by releasing
an individual charged with corruption and other criminal acts from
detention, despite the fact that a previous court had not granted
conditional freedom or bail to the suspect.
And, the judge released the
suspect in a very irregular way, without the presence of the prosecutor, and
through a back door. The suspect then fled the country.
This is part of Venezuela's fight against corruption. Unfortunately - as in
a lot of countries - corruption is deeply rooted in the culture.
struggle to eradicate corruption is probably the most difficult of all and
will probably not be achieved until new generations have grown up with
different values and education. In the meantime, the Chávez administration
is trying hard to ensure that corrupt public officials pay the consequences.
That judge, for example, engaged in an act of corruption and abuse of
authority by illegally releasing a suspect and therefore was charged by the
Public Prosecutor's office and will be tried.
It has nothing to do with what Chávez said or didn't say, it has to do with enforcing the law.
MW: Why is the United States building military bases in Colombia? Do they
pose a threat to Chavez or the Bolivarian Revolution?
Eva Golinger: On October 30th, the US formally entered into an agreement
with the Colombian government to allow US access to seven military bases in
Colombia and unlimited use of Colombian territory for military operations.
The agreement itself is purported to be directed at
operations and counter-terrorism. But a US Air Force document released
earlier this year discussing the need for a stronger US military presence in
Colombia revealed the true intentions behind the military agreement.
document stated that the US military presence was necessary to combat the
"constant threat from anti-US governments in the region". Clearly, that is a
reference to Venezuela, and probably Bolivia, maybe Ecuador. It's no secret
that Washington considers the Venezuelan government anti-US, though it's not
Venezuela is anti-imperialist, but not
The US Air Force
document also stated that the Colombian bases would be used to engage in
"full spectrum military operations" throughout South America, and even
talked about surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance missions, and
improving the capacity of US forces to execute "expeditionary warfare" in
Clearly, this is a threat to the peoples of Latin America and particularly
those nations targeted, such as Venezuela.
Most people in the US don't know
about this military agreement, but it they did, they should question why
their government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner
Barack Obama, is preparing
for war in South America.
And, in the midst of
an economic crisis with
millions of people in the US losing jobs and homes, why are millions of
dollars being spent on military bases in Colombia? The US Congress already
approved $46 million for one of the bases in Colombia.
And surely more funds
will be supplied in the future.
MW: What is ALBA? Is it a viable alternative to the "free trade" blocs
promoted by the US?
Eva Golinger: The Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas - Trade Agreement
for the People, is a regional agreement created five years ago between
Venezuela and Cuba, and now has 9 members:
ALBA is a trade agreement based on integration, cooperation
and solidarity, contrary to US trade agreements which are based on
competition and exploitation.
It promotes a way of trading between nations
that assures mutual benefits. For example, Venezuela sells oil to Cuba and
Cuba pays with services - doctors, educators and technological experts that
help to improve Venezuela's industries.
Venezuela sells oil to Nicaragua and
Nicaragua pays with food products, agricultural technology and aide to build
Venezuela's own agricultural industry, which long ago was abandoned by prior
governments only interested in the rich oil industry. ALBA seeks to not just
provide economic benefits to its member nations, but also social and
cultural advances. The idea is to find ways to help members develop and
progress in all aspects of society.
ALBA recently created a new currency,
the SUCRE, which will be used as a form of exchange between member nations,
eliminating the US dollar as the standard for trade.
MW: Are US NGO's and intelligence agents still trying to foment political
instability in Venezuela or have those operations ceased since the failed
Eva Golinger: In fact, the funding of political groups in Venezuela, and
others throughout Latin America that promote US agenda, has increased since
the April 2002 coup against President Chávez.
Through two principal
Department of State agencies,
USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy
(NED), the US government has channeled more than $50 million to opposition
groups in Venezuela since 2002. The USAID/NED budget to fund groups in
Venezuela in 2010 is nearly $15 million, doubled from last year's $7
This is a state policy of Washington, which the Obama
Administration plans to amp up. They call it "democracy promotion", but it's
really democracy subversion and destabilization. Funding political groups
favorable to Empire, equipping them with resources, strategizing to help
formulate political platforms and campaigns - all geared towards regime
change - is a new form of invasion, a silent invasion.
Through USAID and
NED, and their "partner NGOs" and contractors, such as,
International Republican Institute
National Democratic Institute
Pan-American Development Foundation
Development Alternatives, Inc.
hundreds of political groups, parties and programs,
...are presently being
funded in Venezuela to promote regime change against the Chávez government.
US taxpayer dollars are being squandered on these efforts to overthrow a
democratically elected government that simply isn't convenient for
Remember, Venezuela has 24% of world oil reserves.
That's a lot!
MW: How hard has Venezuela been hit by the economic crisis? Do the people
understand Wall Street's role in the meltdown?
Eva Golinger: Actually, the Chávez government has taken important steps to
shelter Venezuela from the financial crisis. People here in Venezuela
absolutely understand Wall Street's role in the crisis and know that the US
capitalist-consumerist system is principally responsible for causing the
financial crisis, but also the climate crisis that the world is facing.
Venezuelan government took preventive steps against the financial crisis,
such as withdrawing Venezuela's reserves from US banks two years ago,
creating cushion funds to ensure social programs would not be cut and
diversifying Venezuela's oil clientele so as not to be dependent solely on
Recently, several banks have been nationalized by the Venezuelan
government and others have been liquidated. But this was more due to the
mismanagement and internal corruption within those banks.
government reacted quickly to take over the banks and guarantee customers'
savings would not be lost. In fact, it's the first time in Venezuela's
history that no customers have lost any of their money during a bank
liquidation or takeover.
This is part of the Chávez Administration's policy
of prioritizing social needs over economic gain.
MW: Here's an excerpt from a special weekend report by
"Americans have grown gloomier about both the economy and the nation’s
direction over the past three months even as the U.S. shows signs of moving
from recession to recovery. Almost half the people now feel less financially
secure than when President Barack Obama took office in January...
1 in 3 Americans think the economy will improve in the next six
months... Only 32 percent of poll respondents believe the country is headed
in the right direction, down from 40 percent who said so in September."
The frustration and disillusionment with the US political/economic system
has never been greater in my lifetime.
Do you think people in the United
States are ready for their own Bolivarian Revolution and steps towards a
more progressive, socialistic model of government?
The rise of Barack Obama neutralized a growing sentiment for
profound change inside the US.
Hopefully, the slowdown in US activism will
only be temporary. South of the border, there is tremendous change taking
place. New social, political and economic models are being built by popular
grassroots movements in Venezuela, Bolivia and other Latin American nations
that seek economic and social justice.
I believe strongly that models in
process, like the Bolivarian Revolution, provide inspiration and hope to
those in the US and around the world that alternatives to US capitalism do
exist and can be successful.
The US has a rich history of revolution.
There are many groups inside the US
dedicated to building a better, more humanist system. Unity and a collective
vision are essential aspects of building a strong movement capable of moving
forward. Every nation has its moment in history.
This is the time of Latin
But there is great hope that the people of the US will soon unite
with their brothers and sisters south of the border to bring down Empire and
help build a true world community based on social and economic justice for