World Agenda

Last updated: 24 june, 2010 - 15:36 GMT

HARDtalk: Hugo Chavez

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez being interviewed on HARDtalk

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez being interviewed on HARDtalk

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez talks to HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur about US imperialism and his friendship with Iran

Stephen Sackur: I sense your frustration that you feel misunderstood in the world beyond Venezuela and Latin America, so I want to ask you about some of your international policies. In the last decade I think it’s fair to say you’ve made a lot of headlines with your powerful criticisms of the US, US imperialism and George W Bush. Now Barack Obama is president of the US, do you see a very different United States?

Hugo Chavez: No. I wish that were the case, but Obama… there’s the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, the same accusations against us from the Obama administration. I still have a tiny nugget of hope that Obama at least delivers what he promised in his electoral campaign, at least delivers to his own people. I wish Obama would focus on governing the US and would forget his country’s imperialist pretensions in trying to rule the world. When Clinton was President, I met with him five times and also talked to him on the phone. I said to Mrs Clinton in front of President Obama: “I wish I could enjoy the same relationship with a US President that I had when your husband was in power” and I’m still waiting for the right signals from the US. We’re ready to have good relations, not just with the US, but with everyone else in the world.

SS: Do you still see imperialism coming out of Washington and are you determined to do what you can to undermine and destroy it?

HC: It’s difficult not to see imperialism. Those who do not see imperialism, it is because they don’t want to see it. In Colombia, the US are building seven military bases and that’s one of the very negative signals that Obama sent just after taking office. Bush decided, in his last year in office, to reactivate the Fourth Fleet to operate in Latin America, even threatening incursions into Latin American rivers. Obama, instead of suspending or getting rid of the Fourth Fleet, has seven military bases planned in Colombia – what for? Is it to go to war, to dominate the Latin American continent?

SS: You have a serious problem with inflation, you have a currency that’s been devalued and your country is still in recession. Is it fair to say that socialism, right now, is not working?

HC: I think you have more problems in England and in Spain, and in the whole of Europe, it’s disastrous – the US has more problems than we have here. We’ve had an economic growth rate over the last six years of 7.8% GDP, just to give you an example.

We’re ready to have good relations, not just with the US, but with everyone else in the world.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

SS: In the past you’ve said that you will, under any scenario, be with the Iranians – you said that to President Ahmadinejad in 2006. Do you stand by those words today?

HC: Venezuela is a free and sovereign country, and can have whatever political, diplomatic, economic relations it likes with whatever country it chooses. And fortunately, today, this is happening across most Latin American and Caribbean countries. There’s Brazil which enjoys excellent relations with Iran and lots of other Latin American countries too. The government of Iran is an ally, a friendly government and what we want is for the US and its European allies to forget about all the economic pressures they’re placing on Iran and instead open dialogue with them.

SS: South America is divided – there are other countries, obviously your neighbour Colombia, but maybe also Peru, maybe Chile as well, that do not share your vision of where South America should go. You’ve talked about a grand union for South America, you’ve talked about maybe in the future a common currency, maybe even some form of common government – do you really believe that can happen?

HC: That’s unity Stephen, it’s already happening, we’re already building on that – it’s as true as you and I talking in Caracas here tonight. In this continent, in Latin America and the Caribbean it’s already happening, it’s a process.

SS: But with respect it’s not happening with Colombia. Not so long ago your troops and their troops were gathering on the border, it looked as if war was a possibility.

HC: Ah well, they’re just situations at any given moment, they’re events. How many problems have Europeans had among yourselves? There have been wars for example where the English, the French have destroyed one another, bombed cities, towns. The Germans, too. Europe’s history is a bloody one and a deadly one. How many millions were killed in the Second World War? How many bombs were dropped by English fighter planes over Germany? How many bombs were dropped by the Germans over England, over France? Wow, what a history – we have very different histories, we were colonised and are now managing to break free from all that. We will achieve unity, we are starting now 200 years after independence.

click HARDtalk is the flagship news programme shown on BBC World News and the BBC News channel, as well as being broadcast on BBC World Service. The half-hour interview is the result of detailed research and in-depth investigations, asking the difficult questions and getting behind the stories that make the news – from international political leaders to entertainers, from corporate decision-makers to individuals facing huge challenges

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.