Rocío Maneiro makes bald statements: her country is confronting the US blockade with a lot of pain and energy, and it is harming Venezuelans; in politics today there is a swing to the right, but it would be difficult for the left to return to its former, secondary position; there have been many attempted coups in Venezuela, but they have all failed; there is an international strategy attacking Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution; today’s interventionism is more sophisticated as it is based on the use of International Humanitarian Law as a political weapon.
Virginia Moreno Molina
Rocío Maneiro is a woman with clear, firm ideas about Venezuelan politics. In these times, where the media have monopolised the issue of Venezuela by showing only one side, the ambassador is keen to clarify what is happening.
Even when the embassy is shut, work continues outside office hours. With over 37 years working in diplomacy, Rocío Maneiro is the current Venezuelan ambassador to London.
During the interview, Maneiro outlines her view of the Venezuelan community here in London: “Although the number of Venezuelans has risen in the past few years, the community is quite peaceful and well-established in their jobs”.
She comments on how Venezuela has become “the target of a clear strategy on an international level: an attack against the Bolivarian Revolution.”
Ambassador Rocío Maneiro talks to The Prisma about constant US interference in Venezuela, Venezuelan-UK relations, the present reality in Latin America and the recent elections in her country.
Over the last few years, have relations between Venezuela and the UK strengthened or weakened?
Our relations follow a stable pattern, although they are not of primary importance, like others are. Nonetheless, there is good cooperation on important issues, for example on drug trafficking, and we have a good political dialogue with understanding. In general, our political and economic relations are stable.
However, we do not have the same level of relationship as that which exists between the USA and the UK or, in the case of Latin America, that the USA has with Chile, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil.
What is the reason for the resurgence of the right wing in Latin America?
There are many reasons. Firstly, there was a resurgence of progressive governments on the continent, based on the political ideological roots typical of Latin America’s historical memory and based on the great political thoughts of Simón Bolivar, José Martí and Augusto César Sandino. It was, and still is, a movement that represents the roots of Latin America.
Both Evo Morales and Hugo Chávez were products of this movement. It has experienced a revival, which continues and is strengthening, although not visibly. Because it is a people’s movement, it cannot count on the support of the international media or the propaganda and systematised information that other movements have. But the movement is not weakening, it is being reinvented.
It is not the time of Chávez, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner or Rafael Correa, whose governments bore the brunt of resistance from an international system that does not want change.
However, the seeds have been sown, and this is difficult to reverse. This is no more than a phase. Nonetheless, a lesson needs to be learnt; Latin Americans are not the same after Chávez, Fidel Castro, Evo or Sandino. A process of political awareness has occurred, which is being reinforced.
Currently, ‘Lawfare’ [the use of the law as a tool for political persecution] is often talked about. Do you think that Lawfare has played a critical role in the swing to the right?
Today, interventionism is more sophisticated. It is based on the use of International Humanitarian Law as a political weapon.
It is not the same entering a country by force; this is not necessary now because there are other mechanisms that enable you to create conditions that will topple a government, even though it is democratic and not violating human rights.
There are very concrete political and economic motives in a region like Latin America, which has vast resources. To be precise, Lawfare is the use of a combination of a number of regulations and concepts, used often, and always against specific governments. It is a very successful weapon.
Is Brazil an example of Lawfare at work?
What happened there is a perfect example of Lawfare. The Constitution was overthrown, destroyed, parliament was taken advantage of, one head of state was not recognised in order to impose another… it is unspeakable.
Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourao said that “there will be a coup in Venezuela and the United Nations will have to intervene using a peacekeeping force…”. Is this true and how is democracy being defended?
There have been many attempted coups in Venezuela. It would be good to know why he said that, and for him to say whether it would be a success or a failure. Until now, the coups have all failed.
It is quite bold to mention the Blue Helmets [UN Peacekeeping Forces]. These decisions are the responsibility of the United Nations Security Council. Furthermore, the Permanent Five make the final decision, and I don’t think that they will send the Blue Helmets to invade Venezuela. The Blue Helmets were created for other targets.
For Brazil, Venezuela is a fairly obvious target…
They have a clear strategy at an international level: to attack the Bolivarian Revolution.
The EU has a well put-together strategy, and the statement from the Brazilian Vice President is unfathomable.
How are relations between Latin American leaders?
Before, there were more progressive governments than there are now. We are all equal, and Latin America has always been diverse. What we have at the moment is a new balance in the relation between powers. But there are concepts and principles that unite us, above all the principle of non-intervention, something that is very important for Latin American countries.
Before, there was a swing to the left, now it is moving to the right. There have always been differences between us but unity is more important, and this will thrive. I think everything will turn out well.
How is Venezuela dealing with the US blockade?
With a lot of pain and energy. Venezuela has not experienced a blockade since the 1902-1903 blockade, which had its origins in the Monroe Doctrine [the Doctrine is the US idea that European powers should respect the Western hemisphere as the United States’ sphere of interest].
Now, we have found ourselves in the position where sanctions are being imposed on government officials and we are facing an economic blockade that is doing a lot of harm; the Monroe Doctrine has returned.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, Venezuela has been an oil-producing country, so its agricultural and manufacturing industries are not very developed. For this reason, we now have a big problem, as a large part of what we consume and the materials we need to produce with come from imports; we now have shortages created by the blockade.
Regarding the municipal elections, the turnout was 27.6%. What was the reason for this low figure?
Firstly, these were elections of city councillors, which, by their very nature, always have high abstention rates. Added to this is the economic issue and the problem of public transport, which has been hit hard by the blockade.
The major outcome of these elections is that they exposed the opposition’s divisions. 92% of the councillors elected are allied with the government, showing our country’s reality.
This is a long-term revolution based on elections, on the popular vote. We have had 24 elections in the last 20 years, since Chávez won for the first time with 56.9% of the vote.
As a democracy, Venezuela finds itself in a dilemma as the opposition abandoned the electoral route in 2005, when they did not gain any seats in the National Assembly. And they have continued to undermine the situation; even though they gained seats in 2015, they do not realise that it is necessary to participate in elections to change things.
But other sections of the opposition maintain that voting is necessary. This internal conflict is very serious. Democracy means that there needs to be an organised opposition. The problem in Venezuela is that there isn’t one; it is divided into many sections that are all fighting amongst one another.
The media play an important role in disseminating information about Venezuela, what are your thoughts on this?
They have a lot of economic power. There are newspapers that try to be more objective, others that misrepresent matters, and others that are alternative. The way to fight is by talking to alternative, independent media, and to ask people to write to the media or use alternative media. The power of the UK Parliament is very important. To those who are involved in Venezuelan solidarity movements, I urge you to contact your MP about these issues.
Countries like Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have a lot to offer the UK and can show the UK that things are not how they have been portrayed.
Do you think Maduro will visit England?
In the medium term, Venezuela’s stability is his priority, so this would be some time in the future.
(Translated by Zosia Niedermaier-Reed)