Isaias Medina, minister counsellor of Venezuela to the UN, 2015-2017 HARDtalk


Isaias Medina, minister counsellor of Venezuela to the UN, 2015-2017

Stephen Sackur speaks to Isaias Medina, former Venezuelan diplomat at the UN and now an anti-Maduro dissident. Can Maduro outlast his enemies?


Similar Content

Browse content similar to Isaias Medina, minister counsellor of Venezuela to the UN, 2015-2017. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!

Transcript


LineFromTo

Welcome to HARDtalk, I am Stephen Sackur. Venezuela's political and

:00:00.:00:19.

economic crisis is precariously poised. The Maduro regime is

:00:20.:00:22.

determined to rewrite the Constitution to strengthen its grip

:00:23.:00:27.

on power. The opposition is intent on using mass protest to bring the

:00:28.:00:31.

government down. The current stand-off is not sustainable, but

:00:32.:00:38.

which side will prevail? My guest is Isaias Medina. Until last month the

:00:39.:00:43.

Venezuelan diplomat at the UN. Now an anti- Maduro dissident. Can

:00:44.:00:49.

Maduro al asked his enemies? -- at last.

:00:50.:01:11.

Isaias Medina, welcome to HARDtalk. Thank you. Thank you so much. I

:01:12.:01:25.

would like to express my gratitude not only to you personally but to

:01:26.:01:30.

HARDtalk and the BBC for representing a jet of Leith

:01:31.:01:34.

hardships the Venezuelan people are living in right now. -- objectively

:01:35.:01:39.

the hardships. We would do that in detail. Let's start with a simple

:01:40.:01:42.

explanation, if you like. Why did you change sides? For the last

:01:43.:01:46.

couple of years you have been a diplomat at the UN representing

:01:47.:01:51.

Venezuela and the Venezuelan government. And a month ago he

:01:52.:01:53.

decided to jump ship. Why was government. And a month ago he

:01:54.:02:01.

decided to jump ship. Why? To begin with, corruption, drug trafficking,

:02:02.:02:07.

terrorist ties, or the illegal attainment of political prisoners

:02:08.:02:14.

and even less murders of students in the street. And as we have said

:02:15.:02:19.

silence is the biggest partner of impunity and I am a fighter against

:02:20.:02:24.

impunity. And in the last four months it has become undeniable that

:02:25.:02:31.

Maduro's regime is violating human rights, and also has compromised the

:02:32.:02:39.

crimes... And committed crimes against humanity. And all of this

:02:40.:02:43.

has shown - not only the high commission of the United Nations in

:02:44.:02:48.

his last report, but also by the third report that shows torture and

:02:49.:02:51.

so on. Therefore I could not remain silent. We will go into those

:02:52.:02:57.

allegations in some detail. Before we do, I remain a little bit

:02:58.:03:02.

confused. You serve the Venezuelan government from 2015 to 2017. During

:03:03.:03:08.

that period, of course, Mr Maduro was president of your country. We

:03:09.:03:12.

know, and I know from personal experience, that the locking up of

:03:13.:03:18.

political opponents was happening long before you decided to make your

:03:19.:03:21.

stand, so were many of the other things you have made allegations

:03:22.:03:25.

about. So I still want to know what prompted you to jump ship now? Was

:03:26.:03:30.

it simply because eating Maduro's days are numbered and you want to

:03:31.:03:34.

make sure that you are on the right side, as it were? I hope you're

:03:35.:03:39.

right and his days are numbered but what I would like to make clear is

:03:40.:03:44.

that I work for my country. And working for my country in the

:03:45.:03:51.

committee of international law and of course environmental issues that

:03:52.:03:54.

are very important for our planet. I did not see it coming in such a way,

:03:55.:03:59.

such as I believe the international community did not, or was not aware

:04:00.:04:07.

of how far Maduro's regime could take this and in the last month it

:04:08.:04:10.

is evident, that is undeniable. And I would have to say social media has

:04:11.:04:16.

had a great impact on the images of the police aggression and repression

:04:17.:04:20.

against students of the resistance, which are the heroes of changing

:04:21.:04:27.

phone as -- change in Venezuela. And me, I had to not only speak out but

:04:28.:04:32.

stand up for their rights and to make sure that I can bring awareness

:04:33.:04:37.

and raise consciousness to the international community. Right, but

:04:38.:04:43.

the allegations he made, that Maduro has ties with terrorist

:04:44.:04:46.

organisations, with drug traffickers, that his forces and,

:04:47.:04:50.

again, I am quoting you directly, have used rape as a tortured tool,

:04:51.:04:55.

that he has an arsenal of weapons that he believed could end up in the

:04:56.:05:01.

hands of terrorists and drugs warlords - all of these things make

:05:02.:05:07.

me wonder how you could possibly sit there for two years under Maduro's

:05:08.:05:12.

governance of your country, representing Venezuela. Wasn't there

:05:13.:05:16.

just a fundamental hypocrisy that you presumably were happy to live

:05:17.:05:24.

with for two years? Well, it is your opinion. I do respect it. But I do

:05:25.:05:28.

not agree with it. Due to the fact that I was working for my country

:05:29.:05:32.

with the international community. After I have seen all these images,

:05:33.:05:38.

and also I believe that the profound humanitarian crisis in my country

:05:39.:05:43.

led me to try to get help for humanitarian corridor with the order

:05:44.:05:51.

of matter and when I brought it to the awareness of my authorities they

:05:52.:05:54.

just did not care about it because they didn't want to accept the

:05:55.:06:00.

situation in Venezuela. That kickstarted my impression. And then

:06:01.:06:03.

I heard my permanent representative of Venezuela, Raffaele Riva

:06:04.:06:08.

Mirror's, said there was no humanitarian crisis. -- Ramirez.

:06:09.:06:15.

Therefore I had to step out of my work in the international community

:06:16.:06:18.

and start working and investigating what is happening in my country. And

:06:19.:06:22.

the investigations, Abbey has said, and not only me, the international

:06:23.:06:27.

community has been clear, the US sanctions clearly establish that

:06:28.:06:35.

this... That Maduro's regime has established a clear ties to a drug

:06:36.:06:42.

dealing, terrorist ties, state terrorism, corruption, money

:06:43.:06:45.

laundering. And I think this is very clear. We don't want to introduce to

:06:46.:06:49.

many different topics at once. We will get to those allegations and

:06:50.:06:54.

sanctions in a moment. Just sticking with Nicolas Maduro, who is at the

:06:55.:06:58.

centre of this, for just one more question. It is important to

:06:59.:07:03.

remember, is it not, that the man has a democratic mandate? He won an

:07:04.:07:09.

election in late 2013. He has a mandate which lasts until the end of

:07:10.:07:14.

2018. If you are a Democrat, that surely matters. It matters as long

:07:15.:07:21.

as, first of all, it is a real election, and second of all, if you

:07:22.:07:25.

do not delegitimise yourself by attacking your population, your

:07:26.:07:31.

civilians, like he is doing. And third of all, you do not commit

:07:32.:07:37.

unconstitutional acts. Even further, there was another mandate on the

:07:38.:07:42.

16th of July which, by my humble legal opinion, article 70 of the

:07:43.:07:46.

national constitution of Venezuela establishes as binding. And the

:07:47.:07:50.

National Assembly that was elected democratically again in 2015 also

:07:51.:07:56.

has convened seven points I million signatures to be able to revoke

:07:57.:08:04.

Maduro's mandate and repudiate the constituents assembly that he has

:08:05.:08:08.

brought on it and a legally convened -- 7.5 million. Well, of course, he

:08:09.:08:13.

and his government would say got 8 million votes for their constituent

:08:14.:08:16.

assembly which outstrips your 7 million votes, or 6 million votes,

:08:17.:08:21.

for an opposition initiative -- illegally. We can bandy around the

:08:22.:08:25.

figures. The bottom line is the constituent assembly is in place.

:08:26.:08:30.

You, if I may characterise you, as a voice in the opposition, you have to

:08:31.:08:35.

decide what to do now. Is it your belief that the opposition on the

:08:36.:08:38.

streets, the mass protest, the attempt to topple the government by

:08:39.:08:45.

the street, must that continue? Yes, and, first of all, Stephen, I don't

:08:46.:08:49.

think they got 8 million. And that is also clear with the scheme that

:08:50.:08:54.

they have planned. Not even Hugo Chavez in his best moments got 8

:08:55.:08:59.

million votes. And Maduro, for sure, is in his worst popular moment. I

:09:00.:09:04.

don't think he got 10% - 4%, that is 2 million votes. It is a shameful

:09:05.:09:09.

scheme and sham that they are trying to betray -- 12%. Yes, I do believe

:09:10.:09:14.

the resistance should stay in the streets, day by day, fighting for

:09:15.:09:18.

their rights. They have done a great job so far even though it is so sad

:09:19.:09:23.

to see the murder, they have murdered 130- 140 people in four

:09:24.:09:27.

months. Let me stop you there. You put that fact in. It is a very

:09:28.:09:33.

important fact. The circumstances of some of those deaths are still

:09:34.:09:36.

unclear. We know that more than 100 people have died. Many of them

:09:37.:09:41.

appear to have been killed by Maduro's security forces. I wonder,

:09:42.:09:45.

you know, you sit there right now in Miami, I dare say in a fairly

:09:46.:09:49.

comfortable spot, what do you say to the mothers and fathers of those

:09:50.:09:52.

young people who are losing their lives on the streets of Caracas and

:09:53.:09:56.

other Venezuelan towns and cities, when they say to you, is it worth

:09:57.:10:02.

it? Is it worth my son, my daughter, dying for an opposition campaign

:10:03.:10:05.

which, frankly, at the moment, doesn't seem to know quite where it

:10:06.:10:09.

is going? To begin with, I don't believe this is an opposition

:10:10.:10:13.

campaign. This is already the resistance of the people of

:10:14.:10:17.

Venezuela. Citizens, normal citizens, are out there trying to

:10:18.:10:21.

buy for their own future. The only thing I can say to the mothers and

:10:22.:10:29.

students of their lives is my humble solidarity, and of course they are

:10:30.:10:35.

heroes and liberators of the regime that is an international criminal

:10:36.:10:38.

organisation that has hijacked the country. And the only way out is

:10:39.:10:42.

through people like the resistance and these wonderful young students

:10:43.:10:45.

that are fighting in the street to come back to the rule of law stop

:10:46.:10:49.

what you are an international lawyer and you are a diplomat. You sit

:10:50.:10:54.

there in your civilian clothes. But the real question I suppose in

:10:55.:10:58.

Venezuela is whether the people in military uniform are going to join

:10:59.:11:04.

the resistance, as you put it, against the Maduro regime. Some

:11:05.:11:07.

opposition politicians have sent coded messages to the military

:11:08.:11:11.

saying it is time for you to stand up and be counted. Do you now

:11:12.:11:16.

believe the time has come for the Armed Forces, the people inside the

:11:17.:11:21.

armed forces, to rebel against their commanders and their commander in

:11:22.:11:29.

chief? It is their duty to do so. Article three, 33 and 350 of the

:11:30.:11:33.

Venezuelan constitution empowers not only the military but also ordinary

:11:34.:11:40.

citizens when there it is a regime that undermines human rights. We

:11:41.:11:46.

must step up and do whatever it takes. And I think it is time now

:11:47.:11:50.

for the military to stand up. We saw last Sunday how a fraction of also

:11:51.:11:56.

military is, former military is, have taken up arms -- and this will

:11:57.:12:05.

raise the bar of this disproportionate use of weapons by

:12:06.:12:09.

Maduro. You are advocating insurrection, New Guinea and

:12:10.:12:12.

treason. A month ago he represented the Venezuelan government. It is

:12:13.:12:19.

extraordinary. Once again, I represent my country, it is called

:12:20.:12:23.

Venezuela. And Savile rebellion is in Article 350. I am calling for

:12:24.:12:29.

that. And you know what the consequence will be - terrible blood

:12:30.:12:34.

shed across your country. We also know at substantial chunk of the

:12:35.:12:41.

country, including those who have access to weaponry, are passionately

:12:42.:12:44.

and deeply committed to defending the socialist revolution and the

:12:45.:12:47.

Maduro government. So your position seems to me one which is only going

:12:48.:12:52.

to lead to one thing, which is a bloody civil war. Well, there has

:12:53.:12:58.

been a bloody situation in Venezuela for 18 years. As you are aware,

:12:59.:13:04.

350,000 people have died in this period for criminal and violent

:13:05.:13:09.

crimes. 30,000 every year. So it has already begun. It is a matter of how

:13:10.:13:13.

to stop his criminal organisation that has hijacked the country. I

:13:14.:13:17.

don't think there is a way out through dialogue. They just stall

:13:18.:13:22.

and delay these dialogues because they have nowhere to run. It is not

:13:23.:13:27.

an ordinary situation, Stephen. And we must be clear about that. This is

:13:28.:13:32.

not an ordinary government or ideology. It is a criminal

:13:33.:13:36.

organisation that has terrorist ties and drug trafficking tyres. So this

:13:37.:13:39.

makes a huge difference on what their objectives and their agenda

:13:40.:13:43.

is. You say there is no more room for dialogue, assuming therefore

:13:44.:13:49.

that you think that direct physical confrontation is the only inevitable

:13:50.:13:53.

outcome. I just wonder whether you pause for a moment to think about

:13:54.:13:59.

the 85% of your countrymen and women who are currently living in poverty

:14:00.:14:06.

- children whose malnutrition rates are soaring across Venezuela.

:14:07.:14:09.

Maternal mortality rates going through the roof. Children, we see

:14:10.:14:14.

the terrible images of them scavenging through the food in the

:14:15.:14:19.

garbage cans. Do you really think that violent confrontation is going

:14:20.:14:21.

to help them deal with their day-to-day economic crisis? I'm

:14:22.:14:28.

sorry to say that you are not the right, but that Nicolas Maduro's

:14:29.:14:32.

regime has been killing the people, not only from hunger, lack of

:14:33.:14:35.

medicine and treatment, but also in the street. And I wish there was

:14:36.:14:39.

another way out. That is why I called the international community

:14:40.:14:43.

for an international humanitarian intervention. And I think...

:14:44.:14:51.

Honestly, I think about this every day, offer an alternative. But they

:14:52.:14:58.

don't seem to be able to want to offer real negotiation. That is why

:14:59.:15:01.

I believe Maduro should capitulate, and he should be accountable to the

:15:02.:15:06.

International Criminal Court. Yes, but we have to deal in the real

:15:07.:15:11.

world. I mean, there is no sign he is going to capitulate. The

:15:12.:15:14.

commander of his armed forces has also declared his absolute loyalty

:15:15.:15:17.

to the stability of the current government. So capitulation is not

:15:18.:15:22.

on the agenda. You have talked about your desire to see an immediate

:15:23.:15:26.

international humanitarian intervention. I wonder what you mean

:15:27.:15:33.

by that? Do you mean you want to see people come into Venezuela from

:15:34.:15:38.

outside with arms? Armed Forces? Well, so far what we have seen is

:15:39.:15:45.

students with sticks and stones fighting disproportionate use of

:15:46.:15:49.

force by the Maduro's regime. So they are shooting and killing

:15:50.:15:54.

demonstrators, and I don't think the effect has been great, by the

:15:55.:16:01.

international media. At but in reality, as you said, there is no

:16:02.:16:05.

way to defeat all its against stones. It is a textbook David

:16:06.:16:09.

against Goliath. I believe we are going to win, if at the end of the

:16:10.:16:16.

day, as you have seen. Now it is going to be another confrontation.

:16:17.:16:19.

Is there another way out? I would like to hear what you think about

:16:20.:16:23.

it, because I don't see it. Well, I am more interested about what you

:16:24.:16:26.

think, particularly about this notion of intervention. We have seen

:16:27.:16:29.

in recent days Donald Trump's administration slapped new sanctions

:16:30.:16:33.

on Maduro personally, and some of his key associates. They say they

:16:34.:16:39.

are going to do more. But what they haven't done yet is put direct

:16:40.:16:42.

sanctions on Venezuela's oil exports. The EU as well have come up

:16:43.:16:46.

with some harsh words but it hasn't actually imposed serious sanctions

:16:47.:16:49.

on Maduro's regime yet. So are you satisfied with what you are seeing?

:16:50.:16:53.

And we can talk about Latin America too. Are you satisfied with what you

:16:54.:16:57.

are seeing from the international community, when it comes to a

:16:58.:17:01.

response to what is happening inside your country? I am grateful for the

:17:02.:17:07.

response and sanctions from the US and the EU. I believe also

:17:08.:17:15.

yesterday's Lima declaration was incredibly effective, and also other

:17:16.:17:18.

countries in other regions should manifest and express the same

:17:19.:17:26.

support to the illegal National Assembly that was elect did in 2015.

:17:27.:17:30.

But I will not be satisfied until this regime stops pressing and

:17:31.:17:40.

killing and leaves Venezuelans to choose their own government. But

:17:41.:17:45.

when you appealed to the international community, you allow

:17:46.:17:48.

Maduro to use this word which was used before him, and now used by

:17:49.:17:57.

Maduro, imperialism. That is what the Chavismo regime is saying today.

:17:58.:18:01.

They say that yet again the United States is undertaking plotting and

:18:02.:18:04.

conspiracy to bring down the socialist revolution. And your

:18:05.:18:09.

message plays into their hands. This is like gaslight psychological

:18:10.:18:18.

policy on Maduro. He is trying to divert the reality. He is the only

:18:19.:18:24.

dictator, totalitarian emperor, that is ruling by oppressing his own

:18:25.:18:29.

people. There is no imperialism in the international community trying

:18:30.:18:33.

to help 30 million Venezuelans hijacked I International criminal

:18:34.:18:38.

organisation. What do you make of those leftist politicians, in

:18:39.:18:41.

Europe, for example, and we have one in the UK, the Leader of the

:18:42.:18:45.

Opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who have long been friends,

:18:46.:18:49.

sympathises with, the socialist revolution in Venezuela, and who are

:18:50.:18:53.

these days very careful in their words about the Venezuela crisis?

:18:54.:18:59.

For example, the other day Mr Corbyn wouldn't name Mr Maduro directly. He

:19:00.:19:03.

said I condemn all the violence from all sides. He says we have to

:19:04.:19:07.

recognise that there have been effective and serious attempt at

:19:08.:19:11.

reducing poverty and Venezuela. You know, is that satisfactory, as far

:19:12.:19:15.

as you are concerned, from a leading western politician in response to

:19:16.:19:20.

the crisis? Not at all, and it is impossible to defend the

:19:21.:19:24.

indefensible. When you can see clearly the violation of human

:19:25.:19:29.

rights and the crimes against humanity that have been committed in

:19:30.:19:33.

the last four months, it is impossible to defend, quote unquote

:19:34.:19:38.

socialist utopia. It is actually a dystopia. It is unsustainable. You

:19:39.:19:48.

can see the inflation. Maduro has actually done something incredible.

:19:49.:19:54.

He has converted Venezuela to be the first country in corruption,

:19:55.:19:59.

inflation, violence, and this is completely unsustainable, and it is

:20:00.:20:06.

unacceptable. So I think that the your problem is the more you list

:20:07.:20:10.

the failings in the tragedy of Venezuela today, the more I am left

:20:11.:20:14.

scratching my head as to why it is that... And remember, I was in

:20:15.:20:18.

Venezuela relatively recently, why it is that there is still a hard

:20:19.:20:25.

core of passionate support for Chavismo, for the socialist

:20:26.:20:28.

revolution. I am not saying this is direct port, personal support for Mr

:20:29.:20:32.

Maduro, but there is clearly, amongst a substantial chunk of the

:20:33.:20:37.

Venezuelan population, our desire to see that the socialist revolution is

:20:38.:20:41.

not dismantled. Are you prepared to accept that? No, what I do

:20:42.:20:48.

understand is there is that chunk that you are talking about, ten,

:20:49.:20:52.

12%, that have been controlled by the regime, giving them certain

:20:53.:20:58.

privileges that are very difficult and within the hardships it is

:20:59.:21:01.

understandable. But the population are looking for a way out. I believe

:21:02.:21:08.

also they want to feel represented. So this is a colossal... I don't

:21:09.:21:12.

think it is just that. It is also a deep distrust of some of the

:21:13.:21:16.

opposition leaders and political parties, are feeling that first of

:21:17.:21:19.

all they are deeply divided and don't have a coherent vision for

:21:20.:21:22.

Venezuela's future, but also they are driven by their own economic

:21:23.:21:25.

interests, that they are to a certain extent, if I can use the

:21:26.:21:32.

word, the Venezuelan oligarchs. And that is a real fear that a lot of

:21:33.:21:38.

poorer Venezuelans have. That is why this change will be so important for

:21:39.:21:47.

Venezuela's Reconstruction and reconciliation, to allow pluralism

:21:48.:21:50.

into the political equation. And this is a call for the opposition to

:21:51.:21:54.

open up and make it more accessible. For all the population to be

:21:55.:21:58.

involved in the decision-making in politics. Like, for example, the

:21:59.:22:03.

mandate of 16 July was very clear. So right now what we need to see

:22:04.:22:08.

from the National Assembly, where the opposition political leaders are

:22:09.:22:12.

still sitting back, is to make the right choices. Right now, they must

:22:13.:22:16.

appoint their government. And this is why the international community

:22:17.:22:20.

must recognise them as a legal entity. We have to end soon, but you

:22:21.:22:27.

are an interesting figure because you have always made a point of

:22:28.:22:31.

saying you don't belong to a party. We have spoken to the leader of one

:22:32.:22:35.

of the main opposition parties. I met the family of Leopoldo Lopez,

:22:36.:22:41.

who is back in prison, another significant Leader of the Opposition

:22:42.:22:43.

movement. These are established party people, but who do you think

:22:44.:22:50.

can be the Venezuelan who can somehow build bridges between the

:22:51.:22:53.

polarised elements within your society, and stop your country

:22:54.:22:56.

falling into conflict and possibly civil war? Who is it? Well, I think

:22:57.:23:01.

it is every Venezuelan. It is not only one person. We should not try

:23:02.:23:06.

to personalise this, but try to listen to the voices in the streets.

:23:07.:23:11.

They are asking Maduro to leave his post, first thing, and second, they

:23:12.:23:15.

are asking the opposition not to negotiate. Not to go to elections,

:23:16.:23:20.

because they are fraudulent, and it would be recognising this

:23:21.:23:22.

unconstitutional constituent assembly, and they must listen to

:23:23.:23:29.

the people in the street. This is the real Venezuela. Yes, but the

:23:30.:23:33.

people need leadership. Where the leadership? Well, leadership you can

:23:34.:23:37.

find in very different places, but for certain, the real leadership is

:23:38.:23:42.

in the streets and that is... Evidence has shown on why this is

:23:43.:23:46.

the change right now. And are you going to leave Miami and go back to

:23:47.:23:51.

fight for your country's future inside Venezuela? I am ready to do

:23:52.:23:55.

whatever it takes. That is why I have not applied for political

:23:56.:23:59.

asylum, so that I can be free to travel to Venezuela, or wherever my

:24:00.:24:03.

country needs me. So I am ready to fight. Isaias Medina, I thank you

:24:04.:24:10.

very much for being on HARDtalk. Thank you, Stephen.

:24:11.:24:35.

Much of the country was fine and dry, with some good,

:24:36.:24:40.

But it was atrocious across the south-east,

:24:41.:24:44.

cold and wet, like this Weather Watcher behind me depicts

:24:45.:24:48.

Stephen Sackur speaks to Isaias Medina, former Venezuelan diplomat at the UN and now an anti-Maduro dissident.

Venezuela's political and economic crisis is precariously poised. The Maduro regime is determined to rewrite the constitution to strengthen its grip on power, and the opposition is intent on using mass protest to bring the government down. The current standoff isn't sustainable, but which side will prevail? Can Maduro outlast his enemies?