Change or I’ll Live, Chávez Tells Brazil and Mercosur

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez Venezuela is interested in becoming a member of a “new Mercosur,” but if there’s no clear change willingness “we’re not interested in the old Mercosur,” said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in an interview with the Spanish government agency EFE.

Venezuela “is not desperate about Mercosur” but rather promotes a strong South American integration based in the interests of the people, Chavez said adding that the government of the United Status is behind a “permanent conspiration against Venezuela.”

Chavez attributed the escalating controversy and street protests regarding the license non renewal of Venezuela’s oldest television station, RCTV, which had to come off the air, to a “minority” manipulated by Washington and the Venezuelan oligarchy.

However the controversy has spilt to other countries and organizations including the Brazilian Congress, which still has to vote on Venezuela’s entry protocol to Mercosur.

“The RCTV case won’t be an impediment…some interests want to take advantage of the situation to justify their positions, which are very fragile. Such is the case of the South American conservatives, the Brazilian elite and of other countries, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay (all Mercosur members)”, he added.

“They never supported the idea of having us inside a new Mercosur. They are always looking for excuses,” said Chavez.

The Venezuelan leader said the South American oligarchies fear the voice of Venezuela which is the voice of the excluded, the dispossessed, the voice seeking a new integration process and social justice. “And if the ratification is denied, we shall withdraw our request”

“There are alternative paths, speeds, dimensions” for South American integration, which is a process just beginning to pick up, “but unless we help our peoples to love the idea of integration, we’ll never see it.”

As to relations with Washington, “there’s nothing to dialogue with this administration, we are betting on the new government to be elected next year. Maybe we can return to the level of dialogue of the Clinton administration, there was mutual respect.”

Chavez said he gives great significance to personal relations among leaders. “Relations with Peru and President Alan Garcí­a have improved since we met the first time for a few minutes. We decided on the path of respect. We want to have the best of relations with all countries and peoples.”

He did admit relations with Mexico remain strained, with ambassadors recalled, but “I’m always considered the culprit when it’s the other way round, we are the offended and it’s mostly the work of US advisors”.

“Right wing candidates love to satanize Chavez to scare the people and win elections,” argued the Venezuelan leader.

Finally Chavez was asked about the huge arms purchases including “possibly” Russian submarines when he travels to Moscow next week. “We’re studying the issue, maybe not now, but subs can’t be discarded.”

“The problem is the US and their plans to disarm us. I know the monster from inside, I was there,” he said in reference to the Venezuelan Army which, he argues, for decades was under the orders of United States.

“Now we are mounting the best possible defense system in the world with Russia, Byelorussia, China. Soon we’ll have missiles with a 200 kilometers range”, he said admitting that “we’re beefing our air, ground and also maritime power” and there should be no surprises “if we purchase submarines”.

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