Translation by Lawrence Pirela.
President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Good afternoon (said in English).
Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone So here we start, and I would like to get the first question from radio and television, after that maybe the domestic press and after that the press and media of Venezuela. Is there someone here from radio or television? Please state your name and the organizations that you represent and wait for the microphone.
Reporter from CNN President, you have come to this country and you have not been invited to Downing Street. Is the reason that you have not met with Tony Blair because you did not want to meet with him or he did not want to meet with you? What is the current situation? How do you think that you will take advantage of your power as an oil-producing country to influence the foreign policy of other countries?
Presidente Chavez From which media?
Presidente Chavez Ah! My esteemed friends from CNN. Alright, thank you for your question, eh!
It has been a matter of speculation at a global level, the simple fact, simple and that everyone understands, of my private visit to London, thanks to the invitation of Mayor Livingstone, and a group of labor unions, as you know, and a significant number of Members of Parliament from the Labour Party, and many friends that we have here in Great Britain.
Then last night, see, I read the main stories of the world press, and in a very large percentage of them it was repeated, with very little creativity, an article that without doubt pretends to manipulate, pretends to diminish the importance that this meeting in London has, starting with the human aspect of it.
We have come to give thanks to the Mayor for his support, to the Members of Parliament from Labour for their support, to the labor unions for their support for the Bolivarian Revolution; and also to give my regards to the British people, to meet with business leaders; this afternoon we will have some good meetings with business leaders; there are some very important British investments in Venezuela, as you should know: Venezuela is today an ideal country to invest in, to continue investing in and to strengthen our mutual relations.
Finally, this is a new approach to Great Britain, to its history, to the 200-year relationship that we have, from the time that General Miranda and Bolivar where here.
So then, there has been an effort to manipulate something that is so obvious that I do not know how you forgive me, I can see that you are an experienced journalist, and that you would ask this, something so silly, I am not calling you silly, but the question is silly.
Presidente Chavez It’s as if I were to go I am going to give you an example, as if I were to go to Madrid, any, any person that were to go to Madrid to visit some family, and he were asked, I don’t know, why he did not visit the palace, the King Juan Carlos. I came here as a private visit, you must know, especially those of you who move in these circles, that there are several levels of visits. There are State visits. There has been talk that I did not visit the Queen, I give my regards for the Queen, my respect and affection for the Queen; I will never forget the meeting I had with her, very kind. That I did not visit the Prime Minister, I give my regards to the Prime Minister. Now, I did not come for that, simply put, thus the stupidity of the idea, I came in a private visit and you all know that: I did not come as part of a State visit, nor did I come in an official visit, nor even a work visit; there are three levels of visits, as you should know, and whoever does not know it look it up in the manuals of protocol of the world, in all the world there is a protocol in the relations between governments and states, eh! This is why I say that it is stupid the idea that has been manipulated I don’t know in how many newspapers, on the first page, and main stories on television, trying to diminish this very affectionate visit, so joyful, this very important meeting here today in London. Do you understand?
Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone I can see that we are both on the same wavelength.
Is there another? From Reuters or DPA, or from another outlet? Please wait for the microphone, with Reuters or DPA.
Reporter from DPA Mr. President, is the government of Venezuela disposed to cut the flow of oil to the United States in the case that the United States attacks Iran? And my second question is: do you want to have a gas monopoly with Venezuela, Bolivia, and Peru? And another question, you spoke a lot last night
President Chavez Right there is another idea that has been used and that one finds everywhere. Venezuela is now accused of being an imperialist nation. There would be now an imperialist Chavez who is going around monopolizing and who is using oil to dominate other countries; I have no doubt that this is a story line manufactured in Washington, a story that is sent all around the world so that it is repeated by journalists, analysts, and political leaders. No? This morning, a political leader from an opposition party in America Latina was saying: “Chavez is promoting a policy of domination”; I am now the empire. How absurd!
First of all, we are putting forward an international policy of respect for the sovereignty of states, of the people, and also opening channels to establish a new mechanism for integration, based on solidarity, above all solidarity; based on true cooperation, on economic complementation, with respect for institutions, for international law, which is what is not recognized in Washington: how they violate international law, how they dominate, how they commit aggression against the world from Washington! That is were the real empire is, and now they want to accuse Venezuelans as imperialists or of launching strategies of domination, or monopolies. Monopoly us? We are fighting against monopolies, we are fighting against imperialism.
They pretend to twist the truth, and not only twist it, but invert it. They will not be able to do it, they will not be able to do it because we know, as it is happening here in London, here in Great Britain, how much support we receive in the streets, the youth, the students, labor unions, members of parliament, mayors, like Mayor Livingstone: despite all the lies about us that circulate in Great Britain, the “tyrant” Chavez, the “dictator” Chavez, the “oppressor” Chavez, and even so the people know that those are lies. We do not have any plan to monopolize gas; we are only designing plans of integration just like in Europe. The European Union started with the integration of iron and coal; likewise we are proposing to South America, especially South America, using the great reserves of gas that Venezuela has, 150 trillion cubic feet, verified, and that will likely be doubled in the next few years; which is the largest reserve of gas in the whole American continent, and one of the largest in the world.
Venezuelan oil, we have the largest reserve of oil in the whole world, more than 300 thousand million barrels of oil there, verified reserves, and this we want to share with the people of the world; so that it doesn’t just benefit an elite in Venezuela or other parts of the world. And now we have proposed to South America, and we are working hard and fast with Lula and Kirchner in particular, and now with Evo, on the plan of the Great Gasoduct of the South. We invite British and European investors to look at this project with interest, it will be a great gas pipeline 8 thousand kilometers long, to ensure a gas network from the Caribbean to Patagonia, to guarantee cheap, clean, and low cost energy to all the countries and people of South America; energy for at least 150 years; this is our project, this is a project of social liberation to promote, well, the fight against poverty and a sustainable and integral development.
You ask me about oil and the relation, or better said the situation, the threat against Iran.
I believe that the world needs to do everything possible to avoid the madness that would be a military attack against Iran, the results of which are unforeseen. From here. we call upon the government of the United States to halt its warmongering, which intends to throw the world into an abyss of more wars, more terrorism, more death, and more desolation. I believe that Europe has a very important role to play in this, and instead of supporting this bent for war, it should help to halt it, Europe has the power to do it, the world has the power to do it.
You ask me if Venezuela would suspend oil exports to the United States in case of an attack against Iran. I cannot answer that question because that would depend on the circumstances.
I have said that we do not want to suspend oil delivery to any country of the world, because we are people that act responsibly: despite the aggressions by the American empire against us, we have never stopped delivering a million and a half barrels of oil per day to the people of the United States, to the economy of the United States; we have over there a large company which is Citgo, that refines 2 million barrels of crude and has 14 thousand gasoline stations where we provide gasoline to the people of the United States, this is a responsibility and we want to continue to meet this responsibility.
I have said that if the United States were to launch a military attack against Venezuela, then they can forget about Venezuelan oil, this is the same thing that Iran has said, Iran said that if there is aggression against them, the world can forget about their oil.
Now, I am going to tell you something, given the rising price of oil, if there were an attack against Iran, the price of oil is now around 70 dollars per barrel, well, the price could rise above 100 dollars per barrel! And Londoners, instead of paying I don’t know how much is being paid for a gallon of gasoline, this would possibly double, and in all of Europe and the world.
In addition, in addition that we would come to a situation of greater world destabilization, this is why we have to avoid a new military aggression by the United States against anyone, we want peace and respect for international law.
Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone Please, one more question. Wait for the microphone. This is only for you, they see me every week.
Reporter from VTV, Boris Castellanos After meeting, after speaking, what are the specific points that could be implemented to attain the goal of energy cooperation between London and Venezuela? And for President Chavez, what would be the implementation of this agreement with the idea that was proposed in Vienna, of Petroeuroamerica? Would you consider this a step in that direction, or a separate idea? That is all.
Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone There is no doubt that the President can do many things to ease the burden of oil cost, and anything that he does will be welcomed; but we are aware, and are very conscious of the fact that in the West we have to scale back, we have to reduce the consumption of energy, to be more efficient and pollute less, because, as it is happening in China, India, and other countries where they are coming out of a difficult situation, they are experiencing a shortage. The poorer countries are trying to come out of this, so then America also, and Europe, have to curtail a bit the use and abuse of their resources, this is a long term goal, which would be to avoid that there be a greater climate change and the terrible consequences that this could bring.
We have been talking me with my staff, about what measures we could take; but this is only a part, the Mayor of Caracas will be welcomed here, together with the President, and my staff has been speaking with him. As I have said, in September there will be several cultural events, primarily a Venezuelan event in Trafalgar Square, and in Caracas the next year; and this is sort of a first step for a mutual understanding, for a mutual respect between our cultures, between cities. Caracas, a large population lives in Caracas, the same as in England, these are immense urban areas, so we have to learn a lot from each other, we are already taking strong steps to control traffic, to control all these things. Anything else that you wish information on we can provide it.
President Chavez Thank you, Livingstone, I would only add that the cooperation between us, which already exists at a first level, politically, socially, now, with this visit, we aspire to reach a higher level, not only in the matter of energy, but also an integral cooperation. Mayor Livingstone already indicated some plans that have been under development for quite some time with Mayor Juan Barreto.
There have been staffers from the London City Hall that have been in Caracas on various occasions, evaluating alternatives, evaluating projects that have to do, for example, with traffic, transportation, public transportation there in Caracas. Mayor Juan Barreto is here with us.
Well, the environmental problem, and everything to do with waste management. London is a good example of it; a whole transportation system, and public safety. I was explaining to Livingstone that Caracas, well, is a city that one has learned to love over the years; and to me, to us, it pains us Caracas, because Caracas, as well as the great capitals of Latin America suffered greatly during the 20th century under a model; better said the lack of a model, the growth of the cities was never planned like in Caracas, the exodus from the rural areas, hundreds of thousands of rural people who found themselves abandoned moved to the cities and there we see Caracas. Caracas, a Caracas where a minority of very wealthy people live, and a Caracas where a large majority of very poor people live.
Then, one of the dreams that I have, I was commenting to the Mayor, is to transform Caracas, together with the people of Caracas, the metropolitan mayors, and the Greater Mayor; this is something that will require a great effort and vast knowledge; and the City Hall of London has a lot of experience and a will to help us, something which we all give thanks for in the name of Caracas, in the name of the Great Caracas.
It was an integral cooperation, where the possibility was opened. I have just proposed the idea, as you were commenting about our proposal in Vienna of a Petroeuramerica. What is the reason for this? We believe that the energy crisis will continue to increase. The Mayor spoke with great awareness about the model of energy consumption. I believe that the societies that most consume energy in the world, especially the countries of the North, need to take time for self reflection. Look at the good example that this building provides, because the building, the structure takes advantage of solar power. You will see other buildings that are closed everywhere, not even the smallest window, eh! Or the windows are dark so the sunlight does not enter; so you have to have, I don’t know how many, light bulbs and reflectors on 24 hours a day. And all the electricity that is consumed; and all of this requires energy from thermo-electrical plants, oil, or the hydro-electrical plants.
On another side, well, the energy, solar and wind energy. Look at the temperature here, there is no air conditioning here, a good example, the architect that built this, you told me who it was Norman. But then you see an architecture that is completely contrary. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center consumed more energy than various African nations.
Another matter that has to be analyzed is vehicle use. I learned that the Mayor has taken a special measure to try to reduce the consumption of gasoline in the center of London, and to give incentive for the use of public transportation.
Look, in Vienna we took a poll, on the fly, also in New York. Like us, Venezuela is an oil-producing country, we know the subject and study it a lot, we have centers of study and investigation in the OPEC also, how we waste energy, and oil is not a renewable resource; and we waste it, we do not have conscience in the world of what we are doing. In the last 20 years more oil was consumed in the world than in the 200 year prior. A madness of waste! And there will not be more energy to continue to waste it. How many vehicles circulate the streets of London, and of Vienna and Madrid, and New York City, and also Caracas? Even though to a lesser degree.
You see the vehicles: in more than 90 percent you see one person, the one driving, one person occupying a space of three meters by two, this is something stupid, eh! This is capitalism, the extreme individualism. One can see the people that go driving at a turtle’s pace, stopping constantly, they listen to music, and take two or three hours to go a distance of five kilometers, which they could walk in 20 minutes, in half an hour, or on bicycle, or on the bus, or the subway, or the streetcar; but no, everyone wants to have their own car, well, a car for everyone, our planet cannot support this, brothers.
This model, the so called American way of life, the extreme capitalism, is not sustainable, life on this planet will come to an end if we continue down this road, that is why we are motivated to seek socialism and abandon capitalism, the individualism, the selfish consumerism, the so called destructive development that is destroying this planet, we are all in danger, and not so much us, our children and grandchildren!
Some time to think about this and the interesting things we have seen here in London, in the City Hall.
Well, so we are opening channels to seek mechanisms of cooperation which may include energy aspects. I was commenting about it last night, we would like, as we have investments here in two refineries, one North and one South, these are small refineries, but are long-time investments by Venezuela, we could use these refineries as a starting point to help in some manner the poorer communities in London, in Great Britain, especially during winter, and if the price of heating oil increases much more.
For example, there are poor people who may not have enough to pay for heating when winters here can have a temperature of what? Minus 20, minus 30 degrees (Celsius) sometimes, and there are people that freeze to death, the poor. We are doing this in the United States, in New York, in Houston, in Philadelphia, in Chicago; hundreds of thousands of people who are benefiting from a program of the Venezuelan government to provide heating oil at low cost, or in some cases as donations when it comes to retirement homes, schools for poor children, and the poorest communities, etc. Thank you very much.
Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone Two questions here. Two questions.
Reporter from the BBC of London, Lourdes Heredia Welcome to London. I am Lourdes Heredia of the BBC in Spanish. Two questions. One is if we see the news media here, how they see you, how they see you in Europe, it is as one voice, one What I want to ask you about is about the electoral process in Latin America. There are elections in Peru, elections in Mexico, but also when we see the criticism against you by the press, they say well, that you are doing the same thing that you criticize Bush of doing, in other words, you are either with me or against me, so those are the two questions. What do you think of the Latin American process? But also the fact that you sometimes take the same positions as President Bush.
Reporter I am from the newspaper, The Independent. You have spoken passionately about your opposition to an attack by the United States against Iran, could you clarify, is it because you do not believe that the Iranians are developing nuclear weapons, or is it that you believe that they will develop nuclear weapons, that Iran should be allowed to produce nuclear weapons? Which is the reason that the United States should not attack Iran?
President Chavez This is the first time that I have been insulted like this in public, to be compared to the worst genocidal leader in the history of humanity, the President of the United States, an assassin, a mass-murderer, who should be sentenced to jail by an international criminal court. I do not know what you are referring to when you compare me with President Bush, no, but you could clarify, I have a right to ask for clarification. What are these attitudes that you say I take? What makes you ask this question? Could you clarify this? Which, for example? Have I invaded a country? Have Venezuelans invaded somewhere? Are we bombing some city? Are we promoting coup d’etats? Are we using the CIA to kill presidents? Are we harboring terrorists in Venezuela?
President Chavez That is Bush! That is why I think that I have the right, as a human being, to ask you to clarify your question, please. Yes?
Reporter from the BBC of London, Lourdes Heredia No, it is simply that “You’re with me, or against me”. For example, to qualify the question which my colleague from CNN made as “silly”, well, why is a question silly? It’s that attitude, “Either you’re with me or against me”. So, it is about that attitude; and a little about what is read. If you want my personal opinion, why not grant me a personal interview and I will answer you.
President Chavez I hope so! Come by Caracas when you wish. You are invited, please.
Now, I am not against the reporter that made the question, but I have the right to reflect, just like you have that right, freedom of thought, well, freedom of thought, and I have a right to give my opinion about a question, but I answered it, I did not ask security to remove him, I would never do that, or have attacked him. I even clarified, so that no one would misunderstand, I said: “I am not calling you stupid” it’s the idea that ran all over the world yesterday, in almost all the large newspapers and media: “Chavez visits London, he is received by Mayor Livingstone, but will not be received by Blair or the Queen”, then that is manipulation, clearly so, and what I am doing is confronting the idea.
Now, from that point to you comparing me to the President of the United States, what a leap! No?
One time Fidel Castro compared me to him and I told him: “Do not insult me”, because we were coming from Africa and I called him from the airplane and I tell him: “Fidel, wait for me over there, I am landing in Havana in three hours, I want to speak with you”; and he told me: “Where are you?”, I am here flying, in the air; “Ah! You are on the plane, yes. Only you and Bush he said can make calls from the phone, which is false. But I told him, “Look, please, do not offend me, do not take advantage of our friendship to offend me”.
Well, now, I am not the one that applies that principle that if you are not with me you are against me. I have great friends that are not in agreement with me.
I will give you the example of the President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, he is a good friend of mine, we talk to each other on the phone, we discuss, converse, and the world knows that Alvaro and I have different views on the economy, on politics. Alvaro Uribe, well, he is a right wing president, and he has signed a Treaty of Free Commerce with the United States, and he has permitted that United States troops base in Colombia; all of this. Despite all of this, look, one call President Uribe, let’s meet on the border, let’s meet tomorrow, etc.
We will soon inaugurate a gas pipeline through the border between Colombia and Venezuela, a two-nation gas pipeline and many mechanisms of cooperation, just to give you an example, and many in the world, many people, not only presidents and heads of state. I respect others. I think it is fundamental so that we can live in society, that we respect one another, and not attack each other, no one has the absolute truth, only fundamentalists and irrational people.
Of course, it is possible that you or someone, and I would not fault them, to have a different idea about me, victims of the Goebbelian strategy of repeating lies one and a thousand times so that some people come to believe that Chavez is a tyrant, he who is not with him is against him, is a fundamentalist, a terrorist, he is buying everyone with his oil money, he is harboring Bin Laden, etc. All of that some people may come to believe, victims of permanent media campaigns every day around the world without rest, which is part of the imperialist aggression against us.
About the elections in Peru and Mexico, I am not going to speak about specifics, only that we wish the best for the people of Peru and Mexico and of Latin America, may it be that the turn to the left continues! Thanks.
There was another question, yes, another question was made, sorry, about Iran. We base ourselves on the respect for international law, we do not believe that the United States, or anyone, has the right to forbid a nation to have nuclear energy. How many countries in the world have nuclear energy? Venezuela, unfortunately, does not have it. About 40 years ago, they started to develop it and later stopped the project. Brazil is developing it, Argentina also, and many other countries in the world.
I am sure that the Iranians are not developing any atomic bomb, they are not using nuclear energy thinking about war. Iranians, just like us, want peace, we want interchange with the world, we want the dialogue between civilizations. From Iran, by the way, came the proposal, in 2000, of the dialogue of civilizations, but from Washington we get the proposal for a clash of civilizations, war between civilizations.
Therefore, this is our criteria and we ask that the rights of the Iranian people be respected.
Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone I must say that we have run out of time. Unfortunately, there is no time for more questions. Now, all of you will be able to attend my regular press conferences. Maybe you will want to know about my opinions on George Bush, but well, I don’t get as much attention, I do not receive as much attention as my friend, Hugo.
Reporter from VTV, Boris Castellanos Well, in this manner ends the press conference held by the President of the Republic, Hugo Chavez Frias in the City Hall of the City of London, capital of the United Kingdom. With this we finalize this special transmission of Venezolana de Televisión and Radio Nacional de Venezuela. A million thanks for your attention.