USA: 5+, VENEZUELA: 0
Cindy Sheehan’s Interview with Temir Porra
(Foreign Vice Minister of Venezuela)
Note: What follows is my March 2010 interview with, Temir Porras. Temir is Vice Foreign Minister of Middle Easter Affairs in Venezuela. The only thing that has really changed since this interview is that the US has invaded the sovereign countries of Pakistan, Yemen and Libya.
CS: Hi, welcome to this Special Audio and video broadcast of Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox. Our guest today is Temir Porras who is the Vice Minister in charge of Middle Eastern affairs welcome to the soapbox tamir
TP: Thank you Cindy
CS Thank you so much for your time
TP: Thank you
CS: The reason I wanted to have you on the show and on the documentary (book) is to really expose the differences of the foreign policies of the empire, which is the United States of course, and Venezuela. My first question to you will be very easy, How many wars of aggression is Venezuela currently in, in the Middle East?
CS: Okay, and how many wars of aggression is Venezuela currently in anywhere?
CS: And how many wars is Venezuela currently in?
CS: Zero. Okay, that was very easy.
TP: Well, probably one.
TP: The war of aggression on poverty.
CS: Well, we don’t like to call that a war In the United States because that is something that never ends and the resources are just privatized, like the war on drugs which is a similar case down here in South America. Especially that, I know you are not the Charge for South America but there is border skirmishes along the Columbian border are there not?
TP: No, well we don’t have skirmishes between the Venezuelan Army and the Colombian Army. What we have is a very large border, which is about 2,000 kilometers long, and as you know in the United States, Colombia has gone through an internal war for about 60 years. War between the Government, the Guerilla movement and the Paramilitary who have been struggling in an internal conflict for 60 years, and of course Venezuela is a neighboring country has been suffering of the consequences of that war.
Our policy has always been that we have to solve the origins of the problem, which means we have to reach peace in Colombia. Which is why we are opposing all the policies that tend to intensify the conflict in Colombia. But of course, from time to time it is inevitable that the Venezuelan people living in the borderline that they suffer from the consequences be it because there are skirmishes on the Colombian side. Because one of the parties goes through the border to the Venezuelan side. Or the most tremendous and dramatical consequence of that conflict, and that is that there are currently 3 million Colombian citizens living in Venezuela because they are running away from that conflict and they come to Venezuela just to live in peace and normally.
TP: Yes, that’s right.
CS: Well this is a little off the subject of why I brought you here, but it’s really not, George Bush, of course Chavez called him the “Devil.” Most of the people of the world agreed with that, but George Bush wasn’t as aggressive towards Venezuela and South America as Obama seems to be. I mean, Obama has reactivated the 4th Fleet; he has put a lot of troops in Haiti after the earthquake with seems to be excessive for controlling crime that would happen after such a natural disaster. We have troops now in Columbia and we are planning on sending more troops to Columbia. It seems to me that, and one of the reasons it felt so urgent for me to come down here and do this, it seems of course that the United States under the Obama administration is intensifying the hostilities in this part of South America. And, it seems like with the drones flying over, I think the drones and planes may be coming from Columbia but I think maybe also Aruba flying over Venezuelan airspace to provoke some kind of reaction from Venezuela.
TP: Well, our reaction is always a political one. I mean Venezuela is not an aggressive country and we’re not looking for have a war with anybody. But, you’re right. Lets remember nevertheless that during the Bush administration we had a Coup d’ tat in 2002 that was organized and promoted by the Bush administration. So, but it’s true we weren’t really surprised by it because we knew who we were dealing with.
Now as President Chaves has said we have this enigma of the two Obamas. At the beginning and during the campaign, and we were very excited about the outcome of that election because we tend to believe what politicians say. So we truly believed there was a possibility of having a change in the foreign policy at least. That’s what concerns Venezuela with the United States and during the first month of his administration we had what we believed at the time to be a historical moment of President Obama attending, in Trinidad, the summit of the Americas. Attending each and every meeting. Being humble, speaking to each and everyone respectfully, etc, even to President Chavez they had the time to exchange words. But since then lets remember. We had a coup d’ tat in Honduras.
Second, in July we had seven military bases installed in Colombia and they have been saying this is to fight against drug trafficking but given the characteristics of those bases anyone can know that is not the final purpose of those. And, of course Venezuela being criticized and attacked on a daily basis by spokespersons of the Department of State of the United States, being criticized by military spokesman on a daily basis. Once again, we tend to believe that this is a stamp giving by the US Administration to threaten Venezuela because we are an oil rich country, a strategic country for the United States and because the Venezuelan government does not comply with the instructions given by Washington.
So of course we still have hope and we do believe in the American people and their capacity in reacting putting pressure on their government. We still believe that maybe President Obama is maybe somebody more reasonable than President Bush. But so far what we have had does not mean we are having a change. The policy of the Empire is intensifying in South America and I don’t know the reasons. That is the problem of the American people, of the American society to solve. But the truth, the reality is we have had no change with this administration.
CS: Thank you for the explanation of what the Empire is doing here in South America. I think you might have a little more confidence in the American people than I do because there actually was a Coup d’ tat a long time ago in the United States of the ruling class elite and their absolute control of the propaganda and so that’s why this documentary (now, book) is so important to get to the United States to tell the truth and why it’s so urgent. But you are the Vice Minister in charge of Middle Eastern Affairs, which of course is where I think a lot of the US resources, and Empire is being used in my opinion, incorrectly.
Now, Afghanistan and Iraq obviously have US puppet governments installed there. But Venezuela I think has relations with Iran and of course the rhetoric in the United States against Iran has been very, very hostile and they’re working in collaboration with the United States to put tougher sanctions on Iran because they want a nuclear bomb. Which in fact I think that may have been admitted to by Ahmadinejad. Can you tell from a Venezuelan perspective of the relation between the Empire, Iran and Venezuela?
TP: Yes. From a Venezuelan perspective Venezuela has relations with almost every country in the world. That’s the first thing. We do respect the national sovereignty of each and every country in the world. The first big difference of view is that we do not go in to a region to attack other countries to remove or install other governments because Venezuela lives in the Venezuela space. We have relationships with other countries but we do not tend to tell them what to do or go in to their territories to change the course of history or politics. So this is a very very big difference.
The second difference is we do respect the right of every country to organize it’s self internally and externally as they think it is appropriate for their society. Therefore we do have a relationship with Iran as we do have relationships with other countries that are allies of the United States such as Saudi Arabia. I don’t know, even Colombia neighboring Venezuela.
The problem is the United States has been accusing Iran of some amazing things that they tend to be selective in their accusations.
Why don’t we worry, how can we say that Iran is a threat to the United States if the United States has been occupying military, the geo-strategic space surrounding Iran? We should remember that there are US troops in almost every country that surrounds Iran. We should remember that a neighboring country of Iran, which is a strong ally of the United States, has developed a nuclear bomb. That would be Israel. The nuclear program developed by Israel is not more legal than the eventual nuclear program that the United States is accusing Iran of being developed. So, well it is a terrible misunderstanding and there is a huge propaganda given to the western society particularly to the US people. But why do we say, let’s try to do this game? Why don’t we say, why don’t we invert the terms of the accusation and say, well lets worry for the Iranian people who are being threatened by the government of Israel, who has already a bomb, who has invaded Lebanon in 2006, and they’re occupying illegally Syrian territory and Palestine.
So, you know from time to time we think, and it depends on perspective I guess, it is amazing how the terms of a problem can be inverted and of course this crusade that is in progress in the Middle East against the countries that don’t comply to the orders of the Empire are presented to US opinion and to the western societies in such amazing terms.
CS: Well, do you think that the hostile rhetoric, the imposition of sanctions like you pointed out which really hurt the people during the sanction period of the United States on Iraq, at least 2 million civilians died during that sanction period, and of course all it does is strengthen nationalism and the resolve to survive under these horrible sanctions. Do you think that this hostility towards Iran is because of Israel? Is because Israel does feel threatened because Iran is a strong country that might be able to defend it’s self against the aggressions of Israel? Or do you think it is because of natural resources that Iran has?
TP: Both, there is both.
TP: There is both reasons. Lets remember, the US people should bear in mind, the American People should bear in mind, the fact that in the whole Middle East with the exception of Israel, that Iran is probably the only country that elects it’s officials. There is a political system in Iran. They’re in a Republic. There are elections in Iran. They have seen through the media the huge protests that occurred last year and at the same time there is this contradiction. They say you are living in a dictatorship in Iran. But at the same time you are able to see on the media those protests. You can see that there are different tendencies struggling for power and that they oppose each other in elections. If one of the tendencies is not happy because they lost they go and protest. I don’t know if you can say the same thing for some other countries that I won’t name who are very close geographically to Iran and they are very close allies of the United States. So Iran is a very complex society. I have been to Iran tens of times.
CP: Well we have to realize that whatever system is in place in Iran right now is in direct result of the United States overthrowing a democratically elected government in the early fifties, Mossadegh?
TP: Yes, of course and nowadays Iran is a highly productive economy, is a very complex society where people having different points of view live.
You can find in Iran a strong industry. If you were to find a comparison, I would say in the Middle East Iran is the Brazil of South America. I mean it is a highly populated country, very well trained population, highly educated with a complex political system, with a productive industry and of course a strong armed forces.
So of course when you have an Imperialistic plan for that region Iran is an obstacle to your plans, and Iran has resisted the policies implemented by the United States in the last 30 years. But once again, you say Iran is threatening the US interest but the United States are a thousand kilometers from that region so once again, who is coming to the others region?
The United States is occupying that region and they say Iran is a threat. Iranians live in that region and it is normal that Iran has an importance in that region and has an influence in that region. So once again from a Venezuelan perspective we don’t understand that language. We don’t understand and we don’t share those values and of course we will support Iran in their right for developing their industry, including nuclear program if that nuclear program is not meant to develop a nuclear weapon. But once again let’s remember those who have a weapon in that region are not
Israel has a nuclear weapon and of course Iran has the right to feel threatened by that nuclear weapon in Israel.
CS: I think one of those countries you wouldn’t mention but I will is Egypt. Egypt is, of course, a dictatorship. It’s been a dictatorship for many decades now under Hasni Mubarak. It’s gets the top amounts of military aide from the United States and helps Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people being the border of Gaza right there. But nobody in the United States is putting sanctions on Egypt. That’s the hypocrisy of the United States—Saudi Arabia is a horribly oppressive and violent society also against the people. One of the reasons I think the Middle East is so destabilized, and I am not the expert, you are, of course is our support of Israel in it’s oppression of the Palestinian people. Many US regimes have said that we are going to solve the Israeli/Palestinian problems. It’s never ever been solved. What is the Venezuelan position on Israel and Palestine?
TP: First of all, Cindy, maybe as a citizen I can have of course have an opinion, as a foreign policy official and that’s a very core difference between the United States and Venezuela. We do respect each and every country. We do respect Egypt as we respect Iran. We can have our private, our own conception of how organizing a democratic society. But it is not to the Venezuelan government to say what the Egyptian government or the Iranian government should do to organize their societies.
CS: That’s the difference from the United States. The United States would say, Iran you have to organize your government this way but Egypt, hands off, you can do whatever you want.
CS: Very selective, the United States is very selective with what dictatorships it supports and what “dictatorships” it overthrows.
TP: Absolutely, and we do not have the definition of democracy and dictatorship that is to be applied to each and every people in the world. We humbly try to build our own democracy and we intend to do it in a sovereign way.
The second thing is that of course Venezuela supports the struggle of the Palestinian people.
Let me very clear because we have been accused of being anti-Semitic because we do support the Palestinian cause and because we have criticized the government of Israel for what we believe is just a horrendous oppression of the Palestinian people.
First in 2006 Israel attacked Lebanon, once again illegally. I have a problem saying “illegally” because I don’t believe there can be legal attacks. And when they say there were civilian casualties in those attacks, I mean, who has the right to kill someone else and who has the right to say that this death is legitimate and the other is the death of an innocent person?
I mean, this was just a military attack an illegal attack that should be condemned by each and every country in the world. But unfortunately the Venezuelan government was almost alone in condemning that attack and we withdrew our ambassador from Israel in 2006 when the Israeli’s attacked Lebanon with no reason.
The second moment was at the beginning of 2009 when Israel massacred Palestinian people in one of the most horrendous war crimes that we have witnessed in this last decade. So that was the moment Venezuela decided to expel the Israeli Ambassador and, of course, to close our embassy in Tel Aviv and break diplomatic relationships with that government. That was in Gaza, when Israel attacked Gaza in January 2009.
So what does it have to do with the Venezuelan government being anti-Semitic? We respect the people of Israel and we hope the people of Israel will be capable of changing the course of their government policy, foreign policy or regional policy or the military policy.
We do have a large Jewish community in Venezuela that we respect and we have relations with but those are Venezuelans. They do not represent the government of Israel.
We do have the right to criticize that government as we have the right to criticize the actions of other governments when we think they are not fair and that they are applying to other countries and peoples when it is not a matter of internal affairs. So Venezuela supports the rights of the Palestinian people, we support the right of the Palestinian people to have their own state, sovereign state not half sovereign state occupied militarily by Israel or other countries.
And of course we believe it is to the Palestinians to build their own state and to solve their own internal problems. We do not believe the intervention of the United States, the European Union, or any other foreign power will bring a solution to that problem because we believe the key to that problem is to tell Israel and the government of Israel to withdraw from the illegally occupied territory.
So the key of the problem is a military occupation and if the western powers, the United Stands and the European Union agree with that policy and support Israel on their military policy in Palestine we will not find a solution. So once again, the solution is the creation of a Palestinian state immediately. We do not have to wait. The Israeli government occupies more and more territory and you know puts the solution a step further, far away from the right solution that should be the Palestinian problem. So, once again, Venezuela supports the Palestinian cause, supports the creation of a Palestinian State and we believe we are in the right of criticizing the Israeli policy in the Middle East supported by the United States and the European Union.
CS: We’ve already talked for 30 minutes. Do you have more time? We haven’t even talked about Afghanistan yet. But this has been super interesting. Just one quick thing before we move on to Afghanistan and off Israel. So if you support a sovereign state that is separate and sovereign from Israel do you also support an Israeli state in Palestine, the right for an Israel state?
CS: That of course that brings in all kinds of diplomatic nightmares about the right of return and how you are going to partition the state. But we will move on because if that happens that’s far in the future anyway.
CS: Barack Obama actually campaigned on a policy of increasing troops to Afghanistan. Now I don’t want to forget about Iraq because Iraq is still an active military occupation even though we don’t see the number of US troops killed that we would see before.
The Iraqi country is still unstable, Iraqi people are still being killed. Iraqi people have been dispossessed of their lands, their homes. The country has almost become like Israel and Palestine with the walls, partitions and checkpoints that people have to go through to get home. And of course that is a crime to separate people ethnically, religiously and to build walls to separate them.
So, before Barack Obama became President, Afghanistan was the forgotten occupation. Now that he is President Iraq is the forgotten occupation. I don’t want us to forget that, but the US is having some severe attacks, some severe military operations in Afghanistan and of course the CIA is actively drone bombing Pakistan, and we have seen US troops being killed in Pakistan where we are told there are no US troops. But Barack Obama campaigned on sending more troops into Afghanistan.
Since he has become President he has tripled the troop commitment in Afghanistan. 2009 was the most deadly year for US troops, NATO troops and the people of Afghanistan. What is the official Venezuelan policy about Afghanistan? I think I know your answer hearing what you said about Iran, Palestine and Israel. But what would be the official, if you were President of the United States what would you do Tamir?
TP: I would be the first Latino President of the United States.
CS: Then we could all celebrate.
TP: But I would not be happy just because I was the first African American President.
CS: As Obama said, “the change is me”. No, no, no, the change is not the person; the change has to be the policy.
TP: Absolutely, if we have the same policy with a different person what are we changing?
So the official policy of Venezuela is to say that there are no legitimate military occupations. I mean, but some people might say, well in international right there are ways that the UN authorizes military occupations. But once again, when have we seen military occupation the solution to the problem it was meant to solve? Never, of course never.
In the case of Iraq and in the case of Afghanistan we see that things just get worse. Why, because no matter what country you are talking about when you live under foreign occupation you can just intensify the fear, the anger, the sense of humiliation of a people who just want to live normally in their sovereign country and organize their society as they decide to.
Even when they say we can to an occupation to overthrow a dictator that is not your position. That is not for a foreign government to decide that and the people of those countries even in that situation feel humiliated because it is your own nation and your own political problem. So you are not vindicated if someone else comes along and says, “well this is the solution and now you have to live with it.”
Well we see it in the news. We see it day by day that that doesn’t bring a solution that just intensifies the contradictions inside those societies. There’s always when a military occupation occurs the support of a group against another and they intensify the ethnic tensions. That doesn’t bring a solution.
So the official position of Venezuela is that the US military must go immediately from Afghanistan. You can’t justify in the eyes of the world your own national security objectives by creating a war everywhere in the world.
I mean, what kind if national security is that that needs the rest of the world to be dying in each and every corner. This is horrendous.
The United States should interrogate itself and the American people should ask themselves, “why does our security need the rest of the world to be killed or invaded?”
There is something wrong about it. So they should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan. I can’t believe that a President that is talking about change can be elected on the program that promises the increase of a military occupation of a third country.
Of course the increase if military occupation only leads to more deaths, more casualties, more civilians killed, more American Soldiers killed and that is not a solution. They say we in Latin America and Latin American politicians are populists. That they are making promises to the people that are miracles solutions to the problems but that is the most populist thing you can say to your country. That sending more troops will solve the problem. That will only kill more American soldiers and citizens outside of the United States.
CS: Well, that just brings up so many things. Like the US placing missiles in old Soviet block countries. You know it just seem like they are once again isolating and increasing hostilities with what is now Russia.
One last question. The decade plus of military adventure that the old US/Soviet had in Afghanistan of course led to the eventual break up of the USSR the military force that it was before. If the united states keeps on with the policies of occupation Afghanistan is not Iraq it is not going to be easily subdued if it is ever subdues if the USSR could not do it right on their border how the united things it is ever going to do it. Do you think that this could eventual if the United States does not change its policies lead to the downfall of the US military empire?
TP: I hope so. I hope so that the American people will take part in that. It is very important that things happen politically. And that doesn’t mean the United States that doesn’t mean the American nation or the American people. That means the aggressive military policy of the US government. That means the Military industrial complex that rules the industrial policy of the United States.
CS: It rules everything in the United States
TP: And if that happens that will be a result of the will of the American people because it is important that if the empire falls there is a project something comes out of it, not just anarchy. So it is important also as we support national sovereignty of other countries we also support the national sovereignty of the United States. The US people should be proud of their country and proud of the actions and policies of their government. So we believe that’s very important. Now coming to that point, yes, we are living in very, very tough economic times. The world and the whole capitalist system has been in a huge collapse not seen since the crisis of 1929.
Nobody knows where this huge crisis will lead us. So, I believe of course the US government’s money should not be used in financing this incredible and useless and absurd foreign military policy but to finance the needs of the American people who are suffering because they are losing their homes, or losing their jobs. Why not use part of that money to send it over seas? But not as guns and weapons but as cooperation programs, as sovereign and respectful cooperation programs with other countries in the world being in the education, heath care, etc. I think the people in the world would love to make that support from the wealthiest country in the world. The national security of the United States would be better taken care of by doing something like that than sending troops.
So probably the Empire would collapse. But I just hope that collapse will lead to a different political reality in the United States.
CS: Thank you Tamir.
TP: Thank you
CS: Well you heard Temir, people of the United States. He said we need to organize, organize to have a healthy society instead of one that is so violent. Not just violence in our own country but violence around the world.
This interview can be heard at the archives at:
Thanks to Temir for being so generous with his time and thanks to Dede Miller for transcribing the interview.