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

Download Subtitles



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!



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


economic crisis is precariously poised. The Maduro regime is


determined to rewrite the Constitution to strengthen its grip


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


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


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


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


Maduro al asked his enemies? -- at last.


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


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


HARDtalk and the BBC for representing a jet of Leith


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


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


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


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


Venezuela and the Venezuelan government. And a month ago he


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


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


terrorist ties, or the illegal attainment of political prisoners


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


political opponents was happening long before you decided to make your


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


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


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


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


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


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


committee of international law and of course environmental issues that


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


and raise consciousness to the international community. Right, but


the allegations he made, that Maduro has ties with terrorist


organisations, with drug traffickers, that his forces and,


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


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


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


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


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


just a fundamental hypocrisy that you presumably were happy to live


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


situation in Venezuela. That kickstarted my impression. And then


I heard my permanent representative of Venezuela, Raffaele Riva


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


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


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


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


community has been clear, the US sanctions clearly establish that


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


dealing, terrorist ties, state terrorism, corruption, money


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


do not delegitimise yourself by attacking your population, your


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


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


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


national constitution of Venezuela establishes as binding. And the


National Assembly that was elected democratically again in 2015 also


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


campaign. This is already the resistance of the people of


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


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


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


heroes and liberators of the regime that is an international criminal


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


through people like the resistance and these wonderful young students


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


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


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


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


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


opposition politicians have sent coded messages to the military


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


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


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


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


Venezuelan constitution empowers not only the military but also ordinary


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


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


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


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


raise the bar of this disproportionate use of weapons by


Maduro. You are advocating insurrection, New Guinea and


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


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


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


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


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


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


and deeply committed to defending the socialist revolution and the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


not an ordinary government or ideology. It is a criminal


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


makes a huge difference on what their objectives and their agenda


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


that you think that direct physical confrontation is the only inevitable


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


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


- children whose malnutrition rates are soaring across Venezuela.


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


the terrible images of them scavenging through the food in the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


commander of his armed forces has also declared his absolute loyalty


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


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


international humanitarian intervention. I wonder what you mean


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


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


students with sticks and stones fighting disproportionate use of


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


in recent days Donald Trump's administration slapped new sanctions


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


countries in other regions should manifest and express the same


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


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


killing and leaves Venezuelans to choose their own government. But


when you appealed to the international community, you allow


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


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


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


conspiracy to bring down the socialist revolution. And your


message plays into their hands. This is like gaslight psychological


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


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


people. There is no imperialism in the international community trying


to help 30 million Venezuelans hijacked I International criminal


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


recognise that there have been effective and serious attempt at


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


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


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


indefensible. When you can see clearly the violation of human


rights and the crimes against humanity that have been committed in


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


core of passionate support for Chavismo, for the socialist


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


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


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


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


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


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


privileges that are very difficult and within the hardships it is


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


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


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


opposition leaders and political parties, are feeling that first of


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


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


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


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


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


Venezuela's Reconstruction and reconciliation, to allow pluralism


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


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


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


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


from the National Assembly, where the opposition political leaders are


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


appoint their government. And this is why the international community


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


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


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


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


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


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


can be the Venezuelan who can somehow build bridges between the


polarised elements within your society, and stop your country


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


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


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


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


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


because they are fraudulent, and it would be recognising this


unconstitutional constituent assembly, and they must listen to


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


But it was atrocious across the south-east,


cold and wet, like this Weather Watcher behind me depicts


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?