tv Inside Story LINKTV December 10, 2020 5:30am-6:01am PST
imran: boris johnson is that the trouble to brussels this week to work out an agreement. the united states, they you come and a number of latin american countries say they will not recognize the results of venezuela's parliamentary election. allies of president, nicolas maduro, won the pole that the opposition boycotted. >> the important thing for venezuelans is not to be apathetic about the situation. on the contrary, it is precipitation and participation.
conflict between the ethiopian government front broke out more than a month ago. those are the headlines coming up next. it is "inside story." venezuela's president -- imran: venezuela's president consolidates power. nicolas maduro says he is retaking control of the last state institution in opposition hands. so, does his opponent, juan guaido, have any legitimacy left? this is "inside story." ♪
hello, and welcome to the program. i'm imran khan. many say venezuela's parliamentary election was over before it even began. the opposition boycotted sunday's vote, calling it a sham. president, nicolas maduro, saying he's regained the national assembly, the last institution controlled by his opponent, juan guaido. it is the latest setback for the opposition's aim to remove maduro from office. our latin american editor reports. reporter: it was not necessary to wait for the official election results to be announced to know the outcome, as a jubilant president, nicolas maduro, made amply clear. >> we had the patience, the wisdom to wait for this hour, to wait for this day, to get rid of the nefarious national assembly that the opposition used to bring the plague of sanctions some to venezuela.
-- of sanctions on to venezuela. now with this vote, we will have justice. reporter: venezuela's mainstream opposition boycotted the legislative assembly poll, which they say left the minimal conditions of a fair and free election. the pro-government supreme court had taken over three of the four principled opposition parties, appointing new leaders who are accused of being pawns of maduro. in addition, the court appointed a new electoral council, also loyal to the government. and there were no independent observers, only some supporters, like former bolivian president, evo morales. despite threats to withhold subsidized food boxes to those who did not vote, the turnout was poor. >> in this voting center, in this district, there's normally a lot of people when there's an election. today, what you have is a fraud in our country. which has been clearly rejected. reporter: maduro's foreign
allies, like russia, china, and iran, will likely applaud the election, which could give the commercial agreements with venezuela a stronger legal framework with which to circumvent u.s. and european sanctions. but the united states, the eu, and many latin american countries say they will not recognize the new parliament. maduro plans to ask the new assembly to a point special -- tell -- to appoint special commission to try enemies of the state, especially opposition leader, juan guaido. but that could bring on more international reprisals. >> i think it would be better for maduro to leave guaido alone and play cat and mouse with him. grab him by the tail and let him go. what will the world see? an opposition leader who once had 61% support, and now has half of that and losing more by the day. reporter: guaido has been recognized as venezuela's interim president by more than 50 countries. but his legitimacy has rested on being the elected leader of the national assembly.
>> come january, when the new legislature is sworn in, the opposition will lose the only state institution it controlled, destroying what critics regarded as less remnant of democracy in venezuela. al jazeera. imran: in 2019, juan guaido declared himself interim president, claiming maduro's reelection the year before was a legitimate. -- was illegitimate. as head of the national assembly, guaido said he had the constitutional right to lead. more than 50 nations, including the u.s. and venezuela's neighbors, recognize him as the legitimate leader. guaido promised to remove maduro from a transitional government and organize free elections. but his powers were limited, as maduro remained in control of the army and the judiciary. ♪ let's bring in our guests. paul dobson is an analyst and electoral system specialist. he joins us from venezuela.
in new york, we have vanessa n. founder and ceo of asymmetrica. she recently resigned as the official representative for juan guaido to the united kingdom and ireland. and joining us from washington, d.c., eric farnsworth, the vice president at the council of the americas, and former senior adviser to the white house special envoy for the americas. a warm welcome to you all. i would like to begin in venezuela, with paul dobson. is venezuela now a one party state? >> not at all. not at all, i think. looking at the initial results of yesterday's elections, we can see that the ruling party and their allies are at eight parties, which backed their candidates, obviously won a majority nationalism the, but -- majority national assembly, but there are also important representations for the opposition. and one block of the opposition won 18% of the vote, another won 4% of the vote. even the left-wing critics of the government, the communist
party, won 3%. there is wide representation in the new national assembly, which will start its rule on january 5. imran: but will it have any real teeth? >> as with every parliament in the world, there is a majority party. there is a majority voice. which will impose its agenda on the parliament. this is how democracy works. so we will expect the ruling party will pass the majority of the laws that it wishes to present to the national assembly, but there will be opposition voices within the parliament. how effective they will be or not will depend a lot on the capacity of the parliamentary legislator to be elected. imran: vanessa n., in new york, it is quite a rosy picture paul is painting. what do you think? >> i don't agree with him at all. absolutely not. first of all, the maduro regime is illegitimate. whatever it does is illegitimate. first of all, maduro is not
supposed to be in power, because he had a farcical election in 2018. the entire creation of juan guaido stems out of the legitimate national assembly. that won the election in 2015. everything that maduro does is legitimate. period. we have no constitutional guarantees, we have no proper international observations, they co-opted the insignias of the main opposition parties, they paid for the so-called opposition, they had no free air time, they blocked communications, and they threatened people with food. saying, if you don't vote, you don't eat. any election where you have a party that threatens you with starvation without voting for the regime is antidemocratic. it is using food -- it is actually part of one of the complaints of crimes against humanity. is using food as a political weapon.
so in this election, they committed a crime against humanity, in this so-called election. and that is really all you need to know. and the participation was, despite the threats of starvation, was absolutely reasonable. it was around 20%, perhaps even lower. imran: vanessa paints quite a different picture. is there any part of that that you do agree with? >> let us clarify, the participation, according to the data released by the electoral council, is 31%. there are a host of international observers in the country, were verifying still -- who are verifying still the electoral process. they will be submitting a report within the next 48 hours on their conclusions. so i think the election in itself does in fact meet international requirements of transparency.
one other element vanessa pointed out that is erroneous is that all of the opposition candidates have free airtime on national tv, on private and public media. there were 107 parties running. i think we have to be very careful when we look at this election. we shouldn't base our conclusions on preformed prejudices or political analyses that are distorted to defer our own political agenda. -- distorted to favor our own political agenda. imran: but there was food used as a weapon in this election. you can't deny that. >> some of the government spokesman indeed point out that there was a link, yes. this obvious we has to be looked at. this has to be investigated. of course, it is not right in any functioning democracy, without a doubt. imran: in washington, d.c., eric farnsworth, the u.s. made a big deal of backing guaido. alarm bells must be ringing, surely. >> well, in some ways, yes.
in some ways, no. this was a completely predetermined result. we could have said what the results would have been three months ago or so. the european union refused even to send a delegation to observe because they said even the basic elements of free and fair elections could not be met. this was months ago. so the so-called election yesterday met no standards of legitimacy, and because of that, there was massive abstention across the country. the united states knew that, anticipated it, expected it, so from that perspective, it was a rather ho-hum result. in the context of going forward, it does consolidate the maduro dictatorship. it does remove the last vestige of venezuela's once vibrant if imperfect democracy. it does take away the last public space for legitimate opposition voices to be raised in a peaceful manner. so going forward, it's going to be more complicated in venezuela, no question about it.
the question will be, how does the united states need a national community response faced with a consolidated dictatorship, and will that change policies going forward, or will there still be an effort to try to make some sort of accommodation? i think that is a real question that is going to have to be asked. imran: the incoming administration to the u.s., joe biden, will have a challenge on his hands with iran, with china, with russia. how far out in the agenda will venezuela get for the u.s.? >> it is a really good question that you are asking. because any new administration in the u.s. is going to be faced with a wide variety of challenges. and the biden administration coming in is going to be faced with an even greater set of challenges than normal, because they are simply not receiving the same level of cooperation from the outgoing trump administration in terms of transition, in terms of building a smooth process to continue looking at some rather complicated issues going forward. you mentioned several of them. venezuela is however the worst humanitarian crisis in the
modern history of the western hemisphere. over 20% of venezuela's population is now outside of the country as refugees. the situation cannot be ignored. the question will be, is there a policy that can really help address some of these issues? and that is what people have struggled to find. and it will be incumbent on the incoming administration to really work to try to find those solutions. i would say, however, that washington is driven often by crisis. and therefore, if something happens that we are not hoping or predicting or wanting to occur, but if some crisis occurs in the venezuelan context, that would push the issue up the agenda in washington. imran: if you were advising the white house special envoy to the americas, what would you be telling him right now? >> i would be telling him a couple of things. the first is, the humanitarian crisis has to be addressed by the international community.
it's not our fault, but it is our problem, because this is affecting neighbors, it is affecting the people of venezuela, certainly. so we have to do better, in terms of addressing humanitarian crises, number one. number two, we have to continue to work with the international community. this is not a u.s. issue. this is a venezuela issue. we have to make sure that that perspective is maintained by the international community, the allies, the friends, certainly the democracies in the western hemisphere. but then i also think the work that the organization of american states has done is very important, very profound, showing that venezuela, the de facto government regime has committed crimes against humanity, against its own citizens. that process really has to be worked at the international criminal court. that process is going forward. but it is taking a long time. my hope would be that the u.s. could help encourage a more rapid process along those lines.
sanctions, i believe, will be continued against individuals in venezuela. and, of course, then the question is, is there a negotiation process in the future? i guess you have to ask the question, what a negotiation -- would a negotiation process do any good? would the maduro regime actually be willing to negotiate anything in particular? that is something that i think the incoming administration and the u.s. will also have to decide. imran: vanessa, in new york, if you had any advice for the incoming administration, what would it be, and would you like them to push venezuela right to the top of the agenda? >> yes, absolutely. they would. i know that action for the incoming biden administration, latin america is not top of the agenda. however, venezuela is at the top of the latin america agenda because of the crises. because it is the biggest monetary and crisis. -- the biggest humanitarian crisis. it also has two issues -- one of the main supports for maduro touches upon two issues that are high in the agenda for the biden administration, which is china and russia.
we can't expect biden to take a much stronger line against russian than the trump administration did. and china continues to be very high on the agenda. if you read any of the white papers of many of the incoming people from the administration, they're all aligned and concerned about chinese influence in the western hemisphere. i don't think necessarily everything is the fairest, but it is certainly an influence point we have seen in venezuela, that china supports in helping keep maduro there. more broadly, the russia issue -- russia has very long-term plans to dominate venezuela and turn it into another cuba. that does pose very strategic threats against the united states. i believe that a lot of the incoming people in the biden administration get that. there are a number of issues. i think there are opportunities to work more collaboratively with the european union, present an opportunity for the biden administration, and they need to also go back to pushing things
like anticorruption and integrity. i personally would very much like to see them pursue a very aggressive and very coherent asset recovery program. a lot of what has happened, why maduro remains in power and why he has people who are supposed to keep him there is because of the illicit financial flows from venezuela. other than russia, it's one of the biggest kleptocracy's in history. -- one of the biggest kleptocracies in history. all of that money that has flowed out has flowed through other political parties, through foreign banks, through foreign countries. it is no surprise that those countries have been corrupted into supporting them, and they need to keep maduro there, because it is basically a washing machine for illicit financial flows. so by targeting that more broadly than just the sanctions, we are really cutting off those channels. it's a way to this incentivize the increased support for maduro. -- to disincentivize the
increased support for maduro. imran: i want to come to paul dobson on this. if the united states and the allies play hardball with venezuela, that plays into maduro's hands, right? he can just say, it is the americans once again meddling in south america's affairs? >> without a doubt. one of the major policy lens which -- policy lines which helped the ruling party and but win yesterday's elections is in fact the u.s. blockade against the country. the u.s. blockade. the government had been running out this line for months on end, trying to explain away all of the products in the country and put the blame exclusively at the door of the blockade. when we look at the problems in that country, obviously we can't talk about them without mentioning the blockade. the blockade is completely illegal, criminal, and also has been described as collective punishment. but we also have to look at other internal factors, which the ruling party is not doing in venezuela. corruption, mismanagement, brain drain, and everything else. but the u.s. policy under the trump administration certainly gave a very easy scapegoat to
the maduro government. in terms of explaining away the ongoing economic problems in the country. imran: but now he's got a challenge on his hands. if he has consolidated power, which he has done, he's that a -- got a real challenge on his hands in order to go to deliver for the venezuelan people. and if they are sanctions, there is this blockade, simply, he won't be able to do it, will he? >> without a doubt. one of the major lessons from yesterday's election is that there is cross party disillusionment with political leadership, in terms of the chavista forces and the opposition forces. and this really has a lot to do with the fact that people are looking for solutions. people are aware of the problems, people are aware of the causes of the problems in venezuela. there's mass consciousness about the illegal blockade, which is coming out of washington. the people, now understanding all of this, one solutions. -- want solutions. and they are looking for solutions from any party, any group which will promise it to them. it's really about time that we start seeing things change here on the ground and the quality of
life improve for ordinary venezuelans. imran: vanessa, i see you shaking your head, though. >> i just wanted to add one comment. i wanted to be clear, what i was advocating was not actually more sanctions or more of the blockade, as paul dobson's labeling it. what i am talking about is getting back the assets that were stolen. the things that belong to the venezuelan people. the mismanagement, the money that flowed out through corruption, through illicit financial flows. so i'm not saying greater stimulation. -- greater strangulation. but we know that at least 300 billion to at least 450 billion dollars have been stolen from the venezuelan people. that should be found, and you can incentivize banks by giving them sort of a certain percentage, almost a finders fee, and put it into a basket that becomes a trust, that becomes the basis for a future sovereign wealth fund. and give everybody who collaborates in giving back what was stolen from the venezuelan people back to the future prosperity of venezuela a stake in the future prosperity. there are solutions that can be
found. and i think the illicit financial flows networks is a very good we to do it. -- very good way to do it. i'm not talking about stopping the money to the venezuelan people. quite the opposite. i'm saying for what was stolen to be restored. i'm talking about addressing the kleptocracy. that is a solution. and there are many other solutions that can be proposed. i do agree that we do need a coalition that is also more representative. an opposition that looks like the people it represents. venezuela is a rainbow -- imran: sorry, vanessa, we are running out of time. eric farnsworth, sanctions are always not a great toll for governments. -- tool for governments. they often backfire, in the case of iran, for examp. does any of what vanessa is saying make sense to you? is it a good strategy? >> oh, absolutely. hundreds of billions of dollars have been stolen by the regime through illicit sales of oil,
which is the patrimony of the country, through outright theft. through money-laundering. but those, by definition, those asset flows are devilishly difficult to track down. and it's not to say the international community has not been looking at those for a long time. but i want to take you back to one other point. and that is the issue of sanctions. ideally, sanctions are not just to be used to punish, they are also used to provide leverage, to create conditions that the people in power will find difficult to sustain, and therefore want to negotiate a peaceful resolution to a political crisis. there is no blockade on the country. items are allowed in, items are allowed out. a blockade is not something that the united states has pursued. it has pursued sanctions on individuals. and of course, sanctions on the energy sector, as well. the individuals have been sanctioned for theft, as vanessa was saying, but also things like drug trafficking, also for things like human rights abuses,
things that the entire international community is behind. the other thing i think we have to mention is that the united states explicitly allows and encourages humanitarian assistance into venezuela, and it is maduro himself who refuses to accept it. two years ago, the international community tried to get humanitarian assistance into the country, and maduro deployed thugs on the border of columbia and brazil -- of colombia and brazil to literally kill people to make sure that that humanitarian assistance did not come into the country. that was really the cause and the issue there. if he would allow in humanitarian assistance from independent bodies, like the red cross, then in fact, that would be something that would help the venezuelan people. imran: paul dobson, you were shaking your head at almost everything eric farnsworth just said. >> well, i think with all due respect, more attention needs to be paid to what is actually happening in venezuela.
humanitarian aid has arrived, has arrived many times over the last two years. it hasn't come from washington, no, but there are other instances in the global community where they have provided humanitarian aid. maybe for people in washington, this is hard to imagine, that there are other powers in the world, but yes, they do exist, and they have sent humanitarian need. red cross humanitarian aid, chinese humanitarian aid, latin american humanitarian aid, even from the vatican, they have sent humanitarian aid. the other point i wanted to take issue with is the lie that the u.s. is allowing things to come in and out of venezuela. only a few months ago, the u.s. seized some oil tankers bringing fuel to venezuela. they took the oil and sold it. and that money is in the federal reserve. but it is certainly not here in venezuela. the u.s. is not allowing things to come in and out of venezuela. there is a severe shortage of fuel in venezuela, which i
repeat, has something to do with mismanagement of the industry, corruption, brain drain. whole range of issues. but principally, because of the blockade, the u.s. is seizing fuel tankers bringing fuel so venezuela. imran: does feel tankers came from iran. and iran -- >> a few were allowed in. and subsequently, the u.s. seized them. imran: that is not a venezuelan issue. those -- that is been his will and iran -- that is between the u.s. and iran. >> the u.s. did not allow the fuel to arrive into the country. this is a fact. imran: eric, what do you think? >> the energy sanction has been sanctioned, but there's no blockade on the country. food and medicine and humanitarian assistance and other things are allowed into the country. the problem here is the collapse of governance coming from
caracas. the collapse of the economy instituted by maduro and the folks around him and the theft of the national patrimony that has been conducted for almost 20 years by the chavista governments. international community is finding ways to a dress that in a way that is consistent with democratic practice and does the most good for the most venezuelan people. what the end of the day, are the people who are the losers in this entire political level. imran: i want to thank all our guests, and i want to thank you, too, for watching. you can watch our website anytime, aljazeera.com. you can also join the conversation on twitter. we are on twitter. from the whole team, bye for now. ú/
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