With more than 80 political parties, of which 90% are opponents of the Revolution, 14,400 male and female candidates are issuing manifestos with their proposals for the forthcoming elections in Venezuela. In her first ever interview to the Indian media, Coromoto Godoy Calderon, Ambassador of Venezuela to India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, sharers her views with Huma Siddiqui on elections, new US President and bilateral relations with India.
Following are excerpts:
How well Venezuela is prepared to ensure free parliamentary elections next month?
From 1999 to date, Venezuela has held 24 electoral processes at different levels. The Venezuelan people have a deep democratic will and our political path has always been defined by our Constitution, the only one in the world approved through popular consultation -on December 15, 1999- one of the most complete, if not the most complete Magna Carta that exists, given its origins, given its universality. The Constitution stipulates that parliamentary election be held every 5 years.
The people of Venezuela have always gone to the polls to express their will in peace; colloquially we refer to the elections as an “electoral feast”, while there are countries in which the electoral process is practically a war scene.
President Nicolás Maduro has reiterated on various occasions, and we reaffirm it: on December 6 Venezuelans are going for elections that are absolutely popular, and eminently participatory.
In the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Venezuela has developed an exemplary electoral campaign, with well-defined bio-security protocols. From November 3 to December 3, the Electoral Campaign is on at the national level so that the people receive and review the proposals of the candidates and can vote freely for the option of their preference.
In addition, it is noteworthy that electoral processes in Venezuela always have the presence of international witnesses invited by the electoral body in a voluntary, sovereign manner and with clearly established rules. For December 6, the presence in Venezuela of more than 300 international witnesses, proposed by the different political parties have been confirmed, including the most important institutes for the development of electoral technique in Latin America and the Caribbean, international observers from Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and from the United States, representatives of electoral bodies, political observer bodies, political science organizations, important intellectual leaders of the world.
All of them will oversee once again the peaceful and protagonist nature of the electoral process which we will go for in masse on December 6 to elect a new National Assembly. In Venezuela, the electoral governing body is the National Electoral Council (CNE), which organizes, directs and issues the results of the elections, on the day of the elections. The popular will expressed is declared, in a process that is auditable in all its phases, before during and after, by all participating political actors. For all these reasons, our Electoral System is considered one of the most advanced in the world.
The importance of these elections?
These parliamentary elections will allow us to have a new National Assembly, which will take charge on January 5, 2021, as mandated by the Constitution and will become the political epicentre of the country, setting the country’s political agenda. I say this from conviction that on December 6 the people will close the doors of a National Assembly that had turned its back on the country, and whose pro-imperialist line caused suffering to the population and lent itself to destabilizing, interfering and conspiratorial plans.
What are the expectations of Venezuela from the incoming US administration under President-elect Joe Biden?
Our international policy is the Bolivarian Diplomacy of Peace, based on the principles of self-determination, non-interference and respect for the sovereign equality of States. Venezuela is a promoter of the multicentre and pluri-polar world, strongly promoted by Commander Hugo Chávez, historical leader of the Bolivarian Revolution and by our President Nicolás Maduro.
President Nicolás Maduro recently said clearly that we want to have good relations with the Government of the United States. We aspire to have better relations of dialogue, respect, cooperation with the United States of America, regardless of who governs that country. We have excellent relations with their people and the rejection of the unilateral sanctions imposed by the Trump administration is proof of this.
Our President has been a tireless promoter of dialogue internally and with the community of nations, but without conditions, without blackmail, among equals. We have reasons to be optimistic, we see that a new consciousness is rising in humanity, a new vision is being raised in the United States of America, in its youth, in its people, they no longer want imperialist wars, they no longer want threats and looting. They no longer want Latin America to be treated as a backyard, they don’t want it and neither do we. That is why we have always maintained the will for dialogue regardless of who is in charge of the US administration. Despite the unilateral and illegal sanctions imposed on our People, as a strategy of cruel, criminal persecution. From Venezuela, we will continue to insist on dialogue, based on respect among equals, without interventionism, in defence of our right to Gandhian peace.
What are Venezuela’s perspectives on the recent developments in Bolivia, Chile and Perú?
Venezuela is respectful of the internal processes of each country and, in that sense, we are fervent practitioners of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. In this regard, I would like to quote a famous sentence of the first Indigenous President of Mexico and Latin America, Benito Juárez, who said: “respect for the rights of others is peace”.
It is up to the peoples of the Latin American continent to carve out their dreams and fight to be the masters of their destiny. The spirit of our ancestors and liberators is present in our continent: Atahualpa; Lautaro; Tupac Katari; Tupac Amaru; Juana Azurduy; Bolivar and Sucre. The emancipating force of their legacy encourages our peoples to unite in the fight for good living, for definitive political independence.
That is why today we can observe how the Whipala in Bolivia and the Wenufoye in Chile wave freely and as also the emblem of the Tahuantinsuyo in Peru.
It is the people of the continent, like the Venezuelan people, who are pushing for the historic birth of independence and real freedom. It is the Latin American people who have awakened to self-determine and forge their own destiny.
What steps does Venezuela propose to take to enhance trade and investment ties with India? How does it plan to create a more conducive business and economic climate?
India and Venezuela established relations on October 1, 1959, and these have seen the greatest dynamism and rapprochement with the arrival of the Bolivarian Revolution in our country and the visionary impulse that our great leader Commander Hugo Chávez gave it. Last March we commemorated 15 years of his visit to India, the first and so far, the only one by a Venezuelan president to this country.
Since then we have been advancing in what we aspire to be a comprehensive strategic partnership with India in the energy, technological, scientific, pharmaceutical, educational and cultural and tourism sectors.
In a virtual meeting organized by the Indian Embassy in Caracas and the FICCI, I had the opportunity to explain to companies in the Indian pharmaceutical sector that Venezuela, through the National Constituent Assembly, approved an Anti-Blockade Law; a constitutional law, which provides our country with the necessary instruments to advance in constructing new alliances, new investments, boost the Venezuelan economy to a higher-level, with new dynamics, new engines and something that is fundamental, give maximum guarantees of constitutional and legal security to national and international investments.
And, I would like to inform that Venezuela is open and ready to consolidate strategic alliances with Indian companies. Not only do we want to advance in bilateral trade, we want to guarantee the formation of joint ventures with Indian companies that have an interest in helping us to diversify our economy, the industrial apparatus and expand our capacities within the framework of this robust anti-blockade law.
In this sense, we promote the consolidation of alliances in the field of mining, tourism, science and technology, Ayurveda medicine and film production, this latter being a sector in which we have significant experience and have set up facilities that make our country an audio-visual destination par excellence.
What about Indian Pharmaceutical companies?
Commercial exchange has always been maintained in all areas, including pharmaceuticals. There are no outstanding debts with the pharm sector, as on date.
Indian pharmaceutical companies remain in Venezuela and will not leave. On the contrary, they have expanded their operations with important growth plans. We thank them for their trust.
I reiterate that the Anti-Blockade Law is a commitment to a world free of sanctions and coercive measures that undermine our ability to engage commercially with all the nations of the world. The Anti-Blockade Law is a step towards making new alliances for the development of the real economy. The Indian companies that are our partners are protected by this law as will be all those who want to take advantage of the enormous possibilities that Venezuela offers.
The Anti-Blockade Law is the correct, pertinent, and fair response to face these so-called economic sanctions that not only affect our peoples but also our commercial allies.
Did your country seek help from India during a global pandemic?
We are very grateful for India’s support in the framework of the COVID-19 Pandemic, as Ambassador Singh’s first action upon his arrival in Venezuela was to deliver 4 tons of supplies to fight the pandemic. The sensible governments of the world are aware of the criminal nuance of sanctions and their impact on fundamental sectors such as the health sector.
For this reason, we thank the people and Government of India, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, for supporting Venezuela in these difficult circumstances.
As ambassador to India, which sectors are you keen to explore, once the political uncertainties are addressed and Biden administration takes over?
As Ambassador of Venezuela in India, I work to improve relations between Venezuela and India in all areas, regardless of who governs in other countries, because India is a sovereign country and an emerging power in the multipolar world.
Relations with India have enormous potential. Within the framework of the bilateral relations between Venezuela and India, there is a commitment to mutual respect and deepening of relations of cooperation in the South-South sphere.
Both countries recognize and protect both Civil and Political Rights (CPD) and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR), which are human rights related to the improvement of the basic political, social and economic conditions necessary for a life in dignity and freedom in areas such as political participation, freedom of expression, social security, health, education, food, water, housing, adequate environment and culture.
In all these areas there is great potential to expand relations between India and Venezuela, without the interference of third countries in their expansion and development, with the commitment to increase the quality of life of our fraternal peoples.