Is socialism responsible for the situation in Venezuela?
Venezuela crisis : "Socialism did not fail!"
In February, a wave of protests against the socialist government under Nicolás Maduro began in San Cristóbal in western Venezuela. The demonstrators criticize the widespread crime, rampant corruption and frequent supply shortages. During the protests in San Cristóbal, Caracas and other cities, there are frequent clashes with the security forces. A total of 39 people were killed in the process. President Maduro suspects a US-backed conspiracy to overthrow the government behind the unrest. In the interview, the former ambassador Bernardo Alvarez talks about the unrest in Venezuela, the US, the future of socialism and the economic alliance "Bolivarian Alliance for America" (ALBA).
Mr. Alvarez, do the economic crisis and social unrest in Venezuela show the ineffectiveness of socialism?
I wouldn't call it an economic crisis. We are talking about short-term economic problems here. In addition, an attack by currency speculators led to enormous inflation. The situation is now improving - we will win the fight against all the speculators.
Do you think you can solve the problems on the socialist path?
Even if many claim otherwise: Socialism did not fail! Decisions were just made too late. Some speculators and violent criminals who wanted to weaken the country for political reasons are responsible for these difficulties. But that's only 2000 people in Caracas - it's not a popular uprising!
Who is interested in weakening Venezuela?
For example, right-wing Americans, Colombians and paramilitary movements spreading violence to destabilize the country. And this destabilization then gets a lot of international attention. This is a well-known situation for us.
You see the USA as one of the greatest opponents of your country. Did Venezuela want to set itself apart from the USA by founding the Bolivarian Alliance for America (ALBA)?
Yes, right from the start! ALBA goes back to an initiative of the presidents Fidel Castro from Cuba and Hugo Chavez from Venezuela. The American idea of a pan-American free trade area dominated the political debate at the time. We in Latin America had already made experiences with neoliberalism: It was a social disaster! Therefore Venezuela and Cuba tried to develop an alternative integration model - away from the neoliberal approach.
How successful was the delimitation?
It is not easy to oppose a script that powerful states, above all the USA, have intended for you. But we were successful because, contrary to the wishes of the US government, the free trade agreement was not implemented. A year after ALBA, Chavez also founded Petrocaribe, an agreement for discounted oil supplies from Venezuela to Caribbean countries. Both now form a close economic alliance. And the numbers prove the success.
In what way?
During the global economic crisis, the ALBA countries continued to grow economically. Between 2005 and 2012, the gross domestic product in these countries rose by 25 percent.
Venezuela is the economic and power political center of ALBA. Has dependence on the US been replaced by dependence on Venezuela?
Venezuela takes a completely different approach than the US. We are not an imperialist country. We do not impose sanctions on countries whose leadership style does not suit us. We don't promote war. The United States is all about control and power. That is not the case in Venezuela.
ALBA is supposed to be an alternative to neoliberal capitalism. Now they are traveling through Europe, a Mecca of capitalism. How does that fit together?
We are concerned with mutual respect. In addition, numerous parties and organizations in Europe are also trying to correct the inequalities caused by capitalism. Many look to ALBA - and we are open to discussions, also as a warning voice: Be careful with the neoliberal model! I was ambassador to Spain for two years and saw how people were suffering from the crisis. Sometimes I get the feeling that neoliberalism is a religion that nobody dares to question. Instead of creating a balance, it creates a north-south dividing line through Europe.
Bernardo Alvarez (57) is Executive Secretary of the Bolivarian Alliance for America (ALBA), which was founded in 2004 as an economic and political alliance for Latin America. Nine states now belong to it: Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and St. Lucia. Alvarez was previously Ambassador to the United States and Spain and held several positions in the Venezuelan Ministry of Economic Affairs.
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