Chavez offers cheap oil to US poor

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez recently attacked the US in a speech at the UN: he blasted US foreign policy; accused the Bush administration of trying to hijack the UN summit; and described them as a terrorist nation for harbouring the televangelist Pat Robertson, who recently called for Chavez's assassination. He also accuses the US of being behind a failed 2002 coup against him. Despite this, he wants to help the poor of the US. Interview by Amy Goodman

AMY GOODMAN (AG): You have come to a country whose government, the US government, you have accused of trying to assassinate you. What evidence do you have of this and of your other charge that it was involved with the attempted coup against you? PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ (HC): Let's talk about life, rather than death, because we are fighting for life. However there are always threats, those who are devoted to the struggle for life and use the truth as a flag and or principles as a lifeline. There is no doubt whatsoever that the US government, led by Bush, planned and participated in a coup d'etat in Venezuela in April, 2002. There is a lot of evidence of this. There is a US lady who wrote a book called Chavez's Code, Eva Golinger and she was sitting here not too long ago, and she is very close and there are declassified documents that she has found thanks to an effort to investigate the situation. I have proof that my assassination was ordered on 11 April. More precisely on 12 April, and I was ready to die, however thank God and thanks to the Venezuelan people and thanks to the soldiers, Venezuelan soldiers, this order was not accomplished and this order was given by Washington. And there are many witnesses, however I would like to talk about life and greet the US people with a lot of affection, with a lot of love and with a lot of pain due to the tragedy in New Orleans and the gulf states. We've been accompanying these states from the very beginning, and we've been watching TV and receiving reports by our ambassadors and the CITGO people from the very beginning, cooperating very humbly trying to save lives and assist the homeless. We have offered assistance, up to five million dollars, a very modest sum, but I guess it would be useful. We have offered medicine, water, and electric power plants, the same way Cuba offered doctors. So far we have not been authorised to reach the area. However, we hope the best for the poor, the poorest of these countries. AG: And televangelist Pat Robertson, his call for your assassination. What do you demand now, what is your response to that? HC: Robertson is not acting alone. He's just conveying, in a perhaps desperate manner, the thinking of those people closer to Bush. This is the voice of the most radical - of the extreme right wing in the US, I am totally convinced that is the situation with Pat Robertson. And as you can see, so far there has been no reaction by the US government in this regard. There's nothing being said about these terrorist remarks that are in full breach of international law and breach the laws of the United States. But it's not only Robertson here. For some time, for some months, people who participated in a coup attempt in Venezuela are living here in the United States. And from TV stations in this country, these people are calling for my assassination. A week ago, in another TV show, people in uniform, in fatigues, like terrorists. Venezuelans and Americans and Cubans exiled in the United States, and a former agent of the CIA, very recently said on TV that Chavez should be dead already. That Robertson is right. So this is the desire and the voice of the ultraconservative right-wing elite of the United States. They threatened Chavez. Chavez is nothing. Who am I? I'm nothing. They are threatening the world. That is serious. They invaded Iraq. Without any reason whatsoever. They violated international law and are ignoring the rules of the UN. Terrorists bombard complete cities, such as Fallujah, Baghdad, innocent women and children. They do not represent the people of the United States. They are part of the imperialist dictatorship that the US people are suffering today. MARGARET PRESCOD (MP): Many people in the United States have been shocked at the racism they have witnessed against low income people in New Orleans and the other gulf cities and we wonder how Venezuelans view what has happened. And also you are clearly working to unite people of color throughout the world. You are the first Latin American president we know of who identifies as black and indigenous, and this breaks a long tradition of racism in the Americas. You've also identified with the people of Haiti who are fighting to defeat a brutal coup against their president. How crucial do you think the defeat of all racism is to making the fundamental economic and social changes needed to save the world from the destruction of the market? HC: When we were children, we were told that we have a motherland, and that motherland was Spain. However, we have discovered later, in our lives, that as a matter of fact, we have several motherlands. And one of the greatest motherlands of all is no doubt, Africa. We love Africa. And every day we are much more aware of the roots we have in Africa. Also, America is our motherland. Africa, America - and Bolivar used to say that we are a new human race in Latin America, that we are not Europeans, or Africans, or North Americans. That we are a mixture of all of those races, and there is no doubt that Africa resounds with a pulse like a thousand drums and happiness and joy. But, also there's a lot of pain when you think of Africa. Recently, I met with the president of Mozambique, because fully aware of these roots and these realities, we have designed an agenda for Africa in Venezuela. And we have spoken to other South American leaders. Lula for instance, is fully aware of the African roots of brazil and South America, and I want to share the African agenda with other leaders in South America, but Venezuela has also it's own African agenda, in the case of Mozambique. The life expectancy in Mozambique is 38 years old, and going down, because AIDS is causing havoc in the population. It's terrible, it's a tragedy, it's a million Katrinas hitting this country. The president of Mozambique told me the number of children, orphaned children, whose parents have died as a result of AIDS. The teachers are dying, the doctors are dying. That's a tragedy, and it's a disgrace, and that's why it hurts. It hurts so much to see the UN opening its doors to listen to speeches and speeches and more speeches, while at the same time, every year a population equivalent to Argentina, or Columbia, or Venezuela die of hunger, and those deaths could be avoided. Most of them are children, little girls, little boys, and most of them are in Africa. So, we need like a shaking of the world. To shake up the world. That's why when people talk about my style - my style - that's why the speech I delivered before the United Nations Assembly – because it doesn't work! It's not working. If we reduced the military expenses in ten per cent of the world, we would have enough money to save millions of lives. In Venezuela, with the little resources- few resources - we have initiated a program to bring food to feed the poor people in Venezuela, and we are covering today 15 million people in Venezuela - receiving this food distribution and assistance. And most of them receive this food for free, and others a percentage, they have to pay only 50 per cent of the total amount for the food they eat. Of course this is possible only if the people themselves, participate and with a new awareness. Racism is very characteristic of imperialism. Racism is very characteristic of capitalism. Katrina is - indeed, has a lot to do with racism - no doubt about it. Hate against me has a lot to do with racism. Because of my big mouth, because of my curly hair. And I'm so proud to have this mouth and this hair, because it's African. So we need a new morality, a new ethic at this point. And from my Christian point of view, we need a revolution of the ethic. And in the political and economic fields we need to take back the flag of socialism, in my view - in order to be able to defeat - with the will of the people, with the participation of the people – to beat those ominous phenomenon such as racism. JUAN GONZALEZ (JG): Mr President, your democratic revolution has a different aspect to it, in that you're rich in oil, and the world badly needs oil. What do you do in Latin America to use oil as a weapon to assist the poor - can you tell us a little more about what you are offering to the communities of the United States who are also suffering from high oil prices. HC: In the year 2000, we started a cooperation program especially with the Caribbean and Central American countries, and some of the South American countries, with the Caracas Energy Accord, and there for the first time in history we included Cuba, because Cuba is considered like a country that is not part the Americas, and we think it is part of the Americas. This mechanism includes the sale of oil and oil by-products with a discount of up to 25 per cent. This discount becomes in the end a donation we give these countries, however, when the price of oil starts increasing, in the year 2000 we signed the Caracas Accord and the price at that time was 20, 25 dollars a barrel. When we realised that the prices started to increase and it goes beyond 40 and beyond 50, and I doubt very much the price is going to drop any time soon because this is part of the structural crisis, the world has to face it, it is a reality. There is a drop in the oil reserves, there is an increase in consumption and demand. The refining capacity is low. The consumerism of the world is unbearable. The US people must come to understand, how this country with five percent of the world population only, consumes 25 per cent of the oil and the energy of the world. I mean that type of consumption is totally unbearable and this planet cannot stand it any more. When we realised that the price of oil went up beyond 50 dollars, we initiated another cooperation scheme. We have created, therefore, Petrocaribe and we are going to start with small Caribbean and Caricom countries, and the larger Antillas such as Cuba, Jamaica, and Dominican Republic. So, we're now providing, first we're ensuring the supply of oil, direct supply of oil from state to state, in order to avoid the speculation of multinationals and traders. They buy gasoline in Venezuela and then they go to a Caribbean country, and they charge double so we are selling the products to the states directly. We are not charging for freight, we assume the cost of freight. But apart from that, this discount is not just 25 percent, it is 40 per cent of the total, and this money will be paid back in 25 years time, with 2 years of grace and 1 percent interest rates. So if you make all of the mathematical calculations, the donation percentage is almost 70 percent because it's a long term adjusted one per cent. So what Venezuela's doing is supplying 200,000 barrels of oil to the Caribbean and other Central American and South American countries such as Paraguay, Uruguay and smaller nations in South America. Two millions of barrels, if you apply calculations, 1.5 per cent of the GDP is devoted to this cooperation. It means our financing of these sister nations next year will reach 1.7 billion dollars a year, in ten years is 17 billion dollars. It's a way for us to share, to share our resources with these countries. And what about the US population? Well after many meetings with the US citizens, we decided to propose a scheme for poor populations and low-income populations in the US. We've seen that poverty in the US is growing everywhere. It's close to 11 per cent poverty according to some estimates, and instead of the figures you have to go deeper into it because if you see Katrina, and you saw what's happened, 100,000 people were abandoned and they are abandoned, and they're just surviving. We have the CITGO company here in the United States. This is a Venezuelan company, we are present in 14,000 gas stations in the US, and here we have eight refineries, the plants for filling units, terminals, and so on. We supply every day to the US 1.5 million barrels of oil, crude and product, and we refine close to 800,000 barrels a day here in the US. So we would like to take ten per cent of what we refine, and to offer these products in several modalities to the poor populations. The pilot project will be starting in Chicago. Well let's hope that there's not going to be any obstacles imposed by the government to this project being implemented, but we will be working in those poor populations. We are going to donate some heating oil, because the winter is close, and for the school transportation, for the Mexican neighborhood which is the largest in Chicago, La Villita, with close to 900,000 inhabitants. On 14 October, we're going to start with these pilot projects, but there are other pilot projects that will start in November in Boston, and here in New York. So we are very pleased to announce this. And to help just with a drop, and a grain of contribution to help these low-income populations, blacks or hispanics, or also white populations.p ©Democracy Now