INTERVIEW: | Former Venezuelan ambassador to the UN
“Spain’s complicity legitimizes Hugo Chávez”
MARÍA JOSÉ GONZÁLEZ RIVAS – Madrid – 09/June/2010
Venezuelan opposition leader Diego Arria is fearful. But that has not prevented him from touring Europe to denounce what he has qualified as “the hijacking of the powers in Venezuela” by the Government of Hugo Chávez. Last April 30th there was an execution of the expropriation of the farm once owned by Arria, former Venezuelan ambassador before the UN (1991-1994), in the western State of Yaracuy, from which works of art and personal belongings were stolen. “I should be in Venezuela standing before the courts, as are many Venezuelans, denouncing it, but in a country where the State has hijacked all the powers, this jurisdiction is superfluous,” he affirms.
So far Venezuela’s president has expropriated more than 7.4 million acres, together with the personal property and assets found there, from corporate businesses and individuals alike, among whom there are 300 Spanish families who have been stripped of all their personal assets. “I found it surprising that Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos says that relations with Venezuela are excellent, not just normal, but excellent, when we have before us this scenario of Spanish families who have been thrown out onto the street,” says Arria, who was also Governor of Caracas during the decade of the seventies.
What puzzles this leader of the opposition is the Government of Spain’s inaction in response to what is happening in Venezuela. “I always thought that the State’s fundamental interest was its own people; of course there are other interests, but its fundamental interest is the protection of its own citizens.” During his extended tour throughout Europe, Arria visited Paris to speak on the collapse of democracy in Venezuela, then Geneva, to denounce the situation in the prisons and the manipulation of children through the “communications guerrilla” [youth squads] meant to wage combat against members of the opposition. He also visited the International Labor Organization to denounce the situation of intimidation against workers, and afterwards he went to The Hague, where he visited Judge Baltasar Garzón.
Meetings with González y Aznar
In Spain he held meetings with former presidents Felipe González and José María Aznar, and yesterday he met with Partido Popular Senator Dionisio García Carnero. “When Spain lowers herself, we are likewise degraded, because Spain is Latin America’s best intermediary on the world scene, and that has been lost, especially now.” Arria’s criticism is that “Spain’s indifference, more so, has meant complicity, because she has legitimized Chávez,” who, he affirms, is the “Olympic champion in anything that means violating fundamental rights.” “The fact that the Government of Spain has degraded itself internationally is something we Latin Americans are suffering, and we believe in democracy, freedom and opportunity.”
While he speaks, Arria shows a video of one of Chávez’s television simulcasts, Aló, presidente, from mid May where more that a hundred children are seen splashing in the 75 foot swimming pool on Arria’s farm. The president is seen applauding and celebrating. “I consider Chávez to be the Mugabe of the tropics, but without the academic preparation,” he affirms. Arria expresses indignation that the head of the Land Institute who conducts the expropriations is Arturo Cubillas, the alleged ETA member who is on Interpol’s wanted list. “Spain has not paid enough attention to the fact that Spain’s investments in Venezuela, I dare say without exception, are illegal.”
About his country’s future, the diplomat recounts: “A few days ago, when I was asked what is going to happen in Venezuela, I said that I see a confrontation coming, and the president has already asked that I be investigated. I want to say I was mistaken. The fact is we are not going to have a confrontation; we already have one. Chávez is the one who is having a confrontation against society. I say there is an inevitable coup d’état underway aimed at destroying the State, and it is headed by Hugo Chávez.” In Arria’s judgment, this has to do with a unilateral confrontation, because “Chávez wants to hijack the will of the Venezuelan people.” When asked whether he was not afraid of being jailed, as has happened to other members of the opposition, he says: “The truth is I should be afraid, because in this Government there are many people with blood on their hands.”
Despite showing his optimism and espousing the thesis of reunification for his country, he knows that Venezuela faces a harsh process of reconciliation. “The most complicated part of Venezuela’s reconstruction is not economical or financial; the problem is healing Venezuela’s soul, which has been twisted.”