Venezuela is prepared to defend itself against fraud allegations and right-wing attacks ahead of July elections, says foreign minister

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yván Gil Pinto speaks about how people’s power continues to triumph against US imperialist meddling in the country

June 15, 2024 by Peoples Dispatch
Venezuelan FM Yván Gil Pinto with Carlos Ron and Manolo De Los Santos. Photo: Wyatt Souers

Venezuela is just over one month away from its presidential elections. The country which has held over 30 electoral processes in the 25 years of its Bolivarian Revolution is accused by officials of the US government as well as by mainstream media of being anti-democratic and authoritarian. With this justification, the United States has, for the last 10 years, levied one of the most restrictive and aggressive regimes of unilateral coercive measures against Venezuela’s oil sector and financial sector. The impact of these measures, also known as sanctions, has been devastating with Venezuela suffering a dramatic 80+% fall in its GDP in 2019. The economic war has also been accompanied by a political destabilization campaign. In this same time frame, Venezuela has defeated coup attempts, attempts to assassinate President Nicolás Maduro, attacks to critical infrastructure, and violent street riots promoted by the right-wing to instill chaos.

However, Venezuela has managed to defend itself against these attacks and today has not only seen growth in its GDP for the past several years but also increased popular support for the Bolivarian Revolution.

On the sidelines of a visit to the United Nations, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yván Gil Pinto sat down with movement leaders in New York City at the People’s Forum to discuss how the Venezuelan people have been able to thwart the US-backed hybrid war and the role of Venezuela on the international stage.

Manolo De Los Santos: The over 30 elections in the last 25 years demonstrate how strong the democratic process is in the country. It’s been remarked upon and observed by international organizations all over. This year is significant as the presidential elections will take place 10 years since the US first imposed unilateral coercive measures, or so-called “sanctions”, on Venezuela that have greatly affected the economy. How do these coercive measures affect the electoral process?

FM Yván Gil Pinto: Venezuela is entering its 30+ election in 25 years. It’s part of our revolutionary democracy. And we do this in a hostile context of aggression coming from US imperialism.

In these 25 years, we have been victim of a whole wide range of diverse attacks. The objective has been to break the revolutionary unity, to break the revolutionary democratic national unity itself. Imperialism hasn’t been able to succeed in any of these objectives precisely because the bases of Venezuelan democracy are created by the people themselves.

To understand how we’ve been able to withstand these so-called sanctions and all these attacks, we have to go back to 1998 when Commander Hugo Chávez called on us for a popular revolution to rebuild and reconstruct the nation. And since then we started a great struggle to reconstruct the basis of the state. If we remember, President Chávez got to power because he promised to rebuild and reconstruct the state, to rebuild Venezuelan politics. He didn’t offer other types of housing projects or material incentives at the moment. He offered to rebuild and reconstruct the state. The great promise that President Chávez made in 1998 was the Constituent Assembly, and then began a process of discussions at all levels, all sectors of society, of what we wanted to get out of our Constitution.

I don’t know much about other constituent processes around the world, but I know that ours is one of the most democratic processes that has taken place in the history of humanity. And the call for meetings and for discussions was made at all levels, all possible spaces, all communities, at universities, and at open air gatherings. I doubt that there was any wider call for discussion in any other place. And as a result we got out of the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela the tool that allows us to advance to the point we’ve gotten to in.

At that point, we used to say that that Constitution was sort of bulletproof against any attacks, whether it be from inside or from outside, but we couldn’t really see then what were the types of attacks that we were envisioning. We already saw the start of these attacks and attempted coups against the Constitution.

The most famous one was the attempted coup of April of 2002 when President Chávez was removed from office. But that coup attempt only lasted 47 hours. The [defeat of the coup] was possible because of that constitution and because of that civil military unity. That is the doctrine that actually sustains the Bolivarian Revolution. That has been the backbone of the revolutionary process in all these years. And because of that, we’ve been able to resist all the series of attacks that we’ve encountered.

We also remember 2019, where there was a fake government that they attempted to recognize. We all remember that gentleman whose name was Juan Guaidó. And together with was a set of measures against Venezuela that were aimed at attacking our stability, our economy.

And we were able to withstand all this because of the unity amongst ourselves, because of the strength of our institutions and the cohesion of the people to resist these attacks. At no point were they able to attack the Democratic renewals of our authorities or basically the election processes; there was no change in whatever was mandated in the Constitution. We were able to fulfill them every time. The Bolivarian Revolution is a political and doctrinary system, based on political theory that is grounded in the grassroots and is grounded in the people. And despite the attacks from mainstream media, the process is grounded in and held together by the support of the people.

And I go back to 2004, when the first recall referendum was called for and it was against President Chávez. Despite all the calls that had been made by the right-wing to bend the will of the people to create a situation of economic war, they weren’t able to change the outcome and the choice of the people. The Venezuelan opposition in 2004 didn’t even gather enough requisites so that they could convene the recall referendum. They didn’t have popular support to call for the recall referendum. That’s the truth.

But Chávez, despite them not having the strength and the requisites to call for the recall referendum, actually forced the referendum on so that he could legitimize the process and have people actually participate. This means that at the most critical moments of the Bolivarian Revolution, it has always appealed to the wisdom of the people, to the wisdom of the majority. And that has been the strength of the Bolivarian Revolution. Today we’re engaging in constitutional elections. There’s constitutional presidential elections every six years, and we’re going to face them with the same enthusiasm as we have in the past, because we continue to believe in the people. We continue to believe in the people’s support, to drive them through. We believe in people in this type of revolutionary democracy that was created by the Constitution of Venezuela.

But in our case, we’ve founded this process on bases that allow us to know that this is the route for our movement. That’s why I’ve made this long narration, to say that we’re going to elections in the middle of the worst attacks and the worst sanctions that we’ve seen throughout our history, and the only way we can keep people mobilized and attentive in the middle of these sanctions is to always say the truth, to always speak frankly and face the people. We have to do this through different types of outlets because today’s media war is very strong. President Maduro has had to actually go to the streets and talk to people face to face, house to house, face them directly so they can reach out to the majority of the people.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has traveled all over Venezuela ahead of the July elections. Photo: X

And the whole United Socialist Party and the other allied parties are in the streets with the people, talking to the people, sharing the suffering of the people, because there’s a lot of suffering and difficulties that we have to discuss together with our people. The sanctions were always meant to create adverse conditions for the revolution. The economic effects have been great. We went from having the highest minimum wage in Latin America with around USD 300 to 400 a month, to a monthly salary of about a dollar. It is really difficult to face having lost about 99% of income in a year.

And despite that, we’ve continued to advance and the revolution has not lost its support. Because very early on the revolution learned to identify who its enemy was. Our enemies are not the small parties of the far-right in Venezuela, which may still have some people. Some of these are allies of the US that have done a lot of damage because they’ve asked for sanctions, they’ve asked for aggressions. They’re allies and tools of imperialism, and they have ties to those people who have historically been corrupt. Many of them made their fortunes out of expropriating Venezuela’s oil wealth. And they haven’t had any shame in selling all that to the United States so they can attack us. But those political lowlifes, they’re not really our enemies. Those are tools of the United States to harm us.

But like I said before, since the beginning of the revolution, we understood what was the entity that was really against our development. The daily difficulties, difficulties in health care access and access to education, access to food, I mean these are difficulties that any country may have, but when you identify the origin of those difficulties, then the people can move forward. Because it’s not the same to live under the difficulties that we have been going through and then being able to overcome them.

That’s different from seeing a place like Argentina, where we see that without any sanctions, without any aggressions against the country, you see people losing their standards of living and being robbed by a political class. We’re going to continue through the electoral path. President Maduro is going to win the elections on July 28th, and he’s going to win with a large difference of votes. That’s a big task that we have. We can’t win the elections by 100 votes without some votes or a few hundred thousand votes. We need to win by more than a million votes. We need a strong difference of votes to legitimize our victory. And to give a short answer to Manolo’s question, we can win the elections because we have a conscious people and we are committed to win the election.

MDS: We’ve seen in the past year the signing of agreements between the Venezuelan government and a wide array of the opposition forces. These agreements, in theory, would have allowed for an easing of the sanctions in exchange for full democratic participation of all the opposition forces. Despite having signed those agreements, we have not really seen any major changes in US sanctions towards Venezuela. But we’re also now seeing another phenomenon: the opposition figures, some factions of the opposition at least, are promoting the non-recognition of the results of the elections. They are saying that these will not be democratic elections with no evidence to that, and many of them are also beginning to threaten violence. In fact, we’ve seen in the last year there have been at least five attempts to assassinate the president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro. There have been threats leveled of re-enacting some of the guarimba violence or the street riots of 2017. 

How does this affect voter turnout? Will this intimidate the Venezuelan people to not participate in the electoral process? And how likely are these violent actions to play out in these elections?

YG: First of all, when I speak of the opposition, I have to speak of it as the opposition plus the United States, because it’s the same entity. Now there’s the beginning of a few patriotic opposition parties that start to present themselves as alternatives. These are groups that got tired of the blackmailing that they were receiving from the United States. Their ideas are very different from those of the revolution but at least they’ve marked their distance from people that represent the United States. But they don’t have any popular support. They don’t have any political work or construction. It doesn’t have its own will.

In our confrontation with the United States, they’ve used these puppets in order to create a national confrontation. So we’ve had the whole series of puppets, you know at one point it’s Maria Corina Machado, but before it used to be Guaidó, and before that it was Leopoldo Lopez and all these different figures, Rosales, etc. At the end of the day, they’re all the same. They are basically puppets of the United States. They have no social backing and they have no political construction.

We call them the right-wing. But in truth they don’t even have a right-wing thought. It’s what we’ve called at one point in time in Latin America, the lumpen bourgeoisie. They have personal interests and they sell themselves to Washington, but they have no political backing whatsoever. No projects that are led by any of these people can ever have success. The United States, through its process of sanctions, has wanted to create the appearance that there’s a negotiation process with these actors. The Venezuelan government has said very clearly that here we have the electoral guarantees, which are the same guarantees that are in the Constitution. We know that there’s no credible negotiation process with the United States. However, we have the responsibility of maintaining open negotiations always.

It’s never going to be the responsibility of the Bolivarian government if there is a confrontation, despite the fact that we’re prepared for any confrontation. But we’re not going to create it. We’re not going to stimulate it. As long as there’s respect for the constitution, for national dignity, for national sovereignty, we’re going to talk to whoever we need to talk to, because it involves the well-being of the people.

But we know the United States plays in all courts. While they’re negotiating, they’re planning assassination attempts. Where they’re negotiating, they plan sabotages. While they’re negotiating, they’re planning coups.

Every time we were reaching a point of normalizing relations with the United States, which basically has been our interest to get to a point where we can normalize diplomatic relations. At the same time that was going on, there was the planning of an assassination attempt against the president. The same actors that were sitting on one side of the table negotiating, were also sitting in Miami and Bogotá and other places plotting assassination attempts against the President.

We know imperialism acts in this way. We are not naive. But we also play in all courts. And they haven’t been able to fulfill their plans of sabotage and violence because, precisely because we are ready to confront them. The United States is convinced that the way to normalize the relations between Venezuela and the US, between two states, is by favoring certain sectors of Venezuelan politics. The sector that calls itself the opposition. And what we say is that the true path to negotiation is mutual respect and respect for the systems that people have built for themselves.

And that’s basically what the agreements that we have signed with the United States have meant. It is essentially complying with the Constitution, that everybody, every side, complies with the Constitution. All recent polls already predict strong defeat for the Venezuelan opposition. We have those polls. They have those polls. The Americans have them as well and they’re not going to surprise us with their attitude. Their attitude is going to be to call the election fraudulent starting now. That opposition has not recognized any of the election results. And of all 31 elections, they only recognize two of them. The rest of the elections, they haven’t recognized the outcome. And we know that they’re not going to recognize this one either, and we’re prepared for that.

Read more: Venezuela’s election in the crosshairs of new US regime change scheme

We are confident that President Maduro is going to win. It’s not because I can see the future, but because I know from the spirit, from the atmosphere that you can smell in the country that he’s going to win.

But from the first minute, they are going to call and say that it was a fraud. It may even be the case that they actually leave or drop out of the race. But really they may just pull out because they don’t think they’re going to be able to win, because they’re cowards, because they have no popular backing or base to support. Their base is founded in the lies that are spread around in social media. But we’re defeating this and it’s very likely that the fall of the opposition is very significant. And it has become very evident to the United States that there is no serious opposition. Surely other oppositions will grow in the future. But in light of that evidence, we have to expect the worst from them.

So one of those things could be that they pull out days earlier or the same day of the election. We have to be prepared for everything and our friends around the world and social movements must be also aware and ready to defend the results in any circumstance. These elections will be won starting July 29. The first part was the actual electoral process, which is very difficult and requires a lot of work, but we have a very solid plan and strategy and we’re going to win. But then comes the most important part which is to legitimize the electoral victory and to legitimize it against lies and against manipulation, and that we have to start fighting that now.

MDS: One of the big talking points used by the US foreign policy establishment of both parties, Democratic and Republican, has been to talk about the fast growing number of Venezuelan migrants who have come to the United States. They cite over 200,000 in the year 2023. They say that number is possibly even bigger this year. And they use it both to justify keeping sanctions on Venezuela because people are fleeing an evil, dictatorial regime. But they also use it to justify anti-immigrant legislation. They use it often as blackmail in their negotiations with Venezuela. What is the position of the Venezuelan government in regards to these migrants?

YG: Well, first of all, we know that the US has no regard for human beings. The government of the United States has been willing to use immigration as a tool to attack other countries. And Venezuela, for example, has been the victim of the instrumentalization of migration. And of course it’s a very important political debate within the United States. The truth is that Venezuela didn’t really know about the phenomenon of migration, of leaving Venezuela. We began to experience the phenomenon of migration after the implementation of sanctions against Venezuela. Then we saw a process begin of people leaving, trying to find a better economic income, because, of course, the sanctions have had an enormous economic impact on the country.

And different for what takes place with other nationalities, in that they would close doors for those migrants. In the case of Venezuela, other countries started to open the doors and actually promote that migration. They open the door for Venezuelan migrants without any real requirements, both during the Trump administration as well as the Biden administration. And with no conversations with Venezuela, because they didn’t recognize the Venezuelan government. Then there was a large group of migrants, Venezuelan migrants that entered other countries and entered the United States precisely because they were stimulated to do so. And then, since it’s a country that hates migrants and that hates migrants that are poor and the issues related to poverty, now it has become an issue of national concern because there’s a public opinion again regarding migration.

Depending on who you ask, the number can vary. You can talk about, they say maybe around 700,000 migrants, of which 200,000 arrived to the United States. They are located in different cities. But it is far less than numbers that can compare to other nationalities that have migrated to the United States. It’s a concentrated migration, but it’s also highly politicized. Which is the problem. Not that the people are politicized but that the issue is highly politicized. And now they’ve wanted to transform it, like everything to do with Venezuela, into an internal issue for debate in the United States.

The truth is that the issue of migration, or the problem of the migration of Venezuelans in the United States, is a problem created by the Republicans. And now they’re using it against Democrats because of the way that the Democrats have handled it. What the two parties are really doing is fighting over who is going to actually get the most benefit out of the issue of migrants, and the people suffering are the migrants. Well, we’ve begun a plan of actually helping some of these migrants to voluntarily return to Venezuela. In the last few years, Venezuela has returned over 500,000 people from all around the world, many of them from the United States.

Today we could probably talk about an influx of migrants coming back to Venezuela than the number leaving the country. For every two Venezuelans that are leaving the country, three of them are coming back. That’s a reality. Because as long as economic conditions are beginning to improve, then people are coming back. And President Maduro has tasked us with a plan called “Return to the Homeland”, that is basically set up in two levels. The first level is to have the greatest number of compatriots come back. And the Bolivarian Revolution always surprises us. I think Venezuela is the only country that has a program that is of voluntary return, where we’re actually going out and finding people that actually want to return to the country and helping return them to Venezuela.

Out of these 500,000 people who have voluntarily returned to Venezuela, the great majority of them has actually been assisted by the Venezuelan state. And it’s not only about returning to the country, but it’s about reintegrating them. You know, we’ve reinserted them into Venezuelan society. So we’re going to continue to work on that dimension. And hopefully that will allow us to return the greatest number of possible people. The second task is to work with that population that has decided to stay in those countries so we can provide them with some support and some help for them to maintain themselves there. Our constitution doesn’t discriminate whether the citizen lives in or outside of Venezuela. So we have to tend to them, and one of those obligations of the state is, for example, education.

And now we can do that via remote access. The other thing that we are going to help with is for Venezuelans to defend themselves against the xenophobic attacks that they’ve been facing outside of Venezuela. And we’ll continue to denounce how the United States and Europe continue to promote this migration, only to use it for political gains. We consider that migrating is a human right and that people should be able to do so with the guarantees that their human rights are respected. But we are completely assured that if, as President Maduro has said, that if tomorrow  the sanctions were to be removed, we will have massive returns to the country. And we’re ready for that.

MDS: So I would say that Venezuela in global politics plays a very particular role. I would say that Venezuela is part of the axis of solidarity, of countries that propose a different model of economic development, that base their relations on sovereignty and dignity, on respect, mutual respect. You just came back from a tour that’s brought you through China and to Russia. What would you say is Venezuela’s role and how would you define Venezuela’s role in today’s politics?

YG: We have several roles. First there’s an actual physical issue that is that Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world. This gives us a huge responsibility in the face of the world. These resources, which are important for the development of the world. Like I said, it’s a huge responsibility. And also the income that comes from these reserves must be to benefit the people of Venezuela and not large industries. In this sense, we’re also rich in other important minerals and resources: water, etc. And that I think is something that we can and we should be working on, Venezuela as the guarantor of energy and provider for the world.

It’s not a small thing to be the administrator of the largest reserve of energy in the world. No matter how we listen to discourse about alternative energies, the truth is that at least for the next 100 years, what moves the world is going to be oil. And then when oil runs out everywhere else around the world, there will still be oil in Venezuela. That’s the truth. This could be very positive in terms of income, but it’s also very negative in terms of the attacks that we’re receiving.

The second role has to do with what Venezuela has been known for since its foundation, and it’s our Bolivarian commitment to the construction of a new world. Believe me that every Venezuelan has internalized that role of being an actor in the construction of the new world. It was the first time that this continent saw in itself, the opportunity of building a confederation of united countries as a single entity in the region. If Latin American countries want to really build a prosperous future for themselves, then we have to join together our labor force, our geography, our resources and do something together to build ourselves. Bolivar understood that 200 years ago and at that time he confronted the Monroe Doctrine. Even though at that time, that part of the American region and the Latin American region was stronger and had much more knowledge than its northern counterpart.

But the truth is that irrationality and strength have imposed themselves until now. But that struggle is still going on. We haven’t lost Venezuela and it’s clear that Venezuela’s role in the vanguard in this struggle is fundamental. And that experience the country has had allows us to insert ourselves into other experiments that are coming up in the world right now. The relations and communications and or commercial relations have changed a lot given the new technological advances. And today we see integration processes that are not only based in regional and regional aspects of BRICs. For example, Venezuela is asking for admission to the BRICs precisely to contribute with that experience. But if it’s not BRICs it will be other organizations or associations, because there’s a network of movements that are getting together to oppose imperialism. Venezuela knows clearly that its first area of integration is in Latin America. But it’s also conscious that new integration scenarios can be built.

And the third role that we have has to do with the experience of our social movements and our solidarity movements, that we also should be in the political vanguard of any process of justice around the world. Today. Palestine, of course, calls on us to be there immediately. The Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement has as a task the fight for Palestine and achieving Palestinian freedom.

Yván Gil Pinto wearing a Palestinian kuffiyeh. Photo: Wyatt Souers

And just like in Palestine, we need to support and advance in all the just causes around the world. And there you will always find Venezuela, at the front line. Those are our roles. And maybe there are others, but those are the main ones that we have. Of course, that in order for us to fulfill those roles, we have to build strong, productive economic internal strength so that we can fulfill those roles outside of the world. And Venezuela has not seen this only as a Venezuelan responsibility, but actually has always thought about building itself so that it can fulfill these responsibilities to the rest of the world. Thank you.

MDS: My last question. Our last question is actually about the future. The Bolivarian Revolution this year commemorates and we celebrate with you 25 years of revolution, which is not an easy feat. 25 years in which the Bolivian revolution has advanced the rights of working people, of poor people, has executed some of the most impressive programs in education and housing and health care. It has raised the standards of living of millions of people, not just in Venezuela, but around Latin America and in many other parts of the world. Now what is the future of the revolution? What is the project that Maduro and the leadership of the country are proposing for what I assume will be a new phase in the political struggle post elections?

YG: Well, the future is victory. You have to build victory. When President Maduro created a plan for the next six years, which he has called the plan of the seven transformations, which is nothing more than retaking the banners that President Chávez implemented in the plan for the homeland. We had a tremendous development in the years of 2012 and 2013 that was the envy of others. And now we have to retake that plan. But with the murder of President Chávez, because we are convinced that he was murdered, then began this new stage of attacks against the Bolivarian Revolution. And since 2013, we’ve been in a stage of resistance.

President Maduro has been resisting all types of attacks, assassination attempts, attempts of sabotage, assassination attempts against him. Today we can say that we have defeated most of those attacks and now we’re preparing ourselves for a revolutionary offensive.

Tens of thousands of projects have been received and evaluated by our society. President Maduro has turned that into his electoral platform for this election. So the people of Venezuela are not going to vote just for a candidate. They’re going to vote for a project. It’s not an election of a person. It’s an election of a political project for the next six years, for the next 20 years, for the next 30 years. When we win on July 28, we’re going to say that we have the necessary conditions for continuing the path of victory, of development and for the future. This is the plan of the seventh transformation, which spreads through all areas of political, economic, social development, etc..

It has a first horizon aimed for 2030. And the idea is to turn Venezuela into a power, a power, a political power, a moral power, a power that has the economic conditions to improve its people. And being lovers of history as we are, in 2030, we are going to begin a new historical cycle, which is a cycle of the tricentennial. We will close the bicentennial era in 2030 with the commemoration of the 200 years of the death of Simon Bolivar. And now we’re looking towards 2050 which will be the tricentennial of the birth of Miranda. 2083 would be the tricentennial of the birth of Bolivar.

We’re looking forward to that. That is our future. Our future of victory. A future for the youth. It’s going to be up to them to build this. It is our task to preserve this and maintain it so that they are the ones that can celebrate the tricentennial of Bolivar in 2083. Thank you.