Santos: "The problem of shortages in Venezuela is not a problem caused by Colombians"Santos: "The problem of shortages in Venezuela is not a problem caused by Colombians"
Transcript of interview with Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia, by Jorge Ramos for Al Punto.
Program: Al Punto with Jorge Ramos
Content: Interview with Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia
Air Date: Sunday, September 6, 2015
JR: Jorge Ramos
JMS: Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia
JR: President Juan Manuel Santos, thank you very much for being with us on the program.
JR: Mr. President, you said recently"
JMS: To all of you for this opportunity.
JR: You said, “I don’t fight by fighting; rather, I fight by thinking.” In this conflict you have with Venezuela, are we talking about war?
JMS: No, we are not talking about war, and war is not among my options. We are talking about a country that is demanding that its basic rights, the human rights of its citizens, be respected; and that our neighboring country doesn’t blame us for its own troubles, its problems: the problem of shortages in Venezuela is not a problem caused by Colombians. The problem of inflation approaching 200 percent is not the fault of Colombians; the problem Venezuela has with the exchange rate is not the fault of Colombians. In addition, what we are really demanding is that if they are going to deport Colombians who are in Venezuela, that they do so while respecting the basic standards of international law and of Venezuelan law itself.
JR: Mr. President, you said that what is happening on the Colombia-Venezuela border is a natural disaster, but one created by humans. From your point of view, is Nicolás Maduro to blame for this, and do you regret not having been a lot tougher with Maduro?
JMS: Who is responsible for all of this is the government of Venezuela, which has not respected the most basic rights of any human being, Colombian, Venezuelan or from any country, in procedures that are regulated by international law. And no, I do not regret having maintained and maintaining [relations], because I hope that relations between countries can be carried out in a civilized way, respecting differences such as those with Venezuela that I have respected, because we have profound differences with Venezuela in our ways of seeing democracy, of seeing, the economy, social policy; but even as we respect those differences, I think that we can conduct bilateral and diplomatic relationship responsibly, acting together when we are able to act together. What I cannot accept, however, despite respecting our differences, is for the basic rights of our compatriots to be violated. That does cross the line of that respect for differences.
JR: Do you feel that international organizations have abandoned Colombia? You have complained about what has happened at the Organization of American States. But even some Colombians, Mr. President, with all due respect, have said that you did not do your homework, that you did not do the math right and that you did not count the number of votes in the Organization of American States correctly, and that as a consequence, the OAS rejected your proposal.
JMS: Well, the vote was seventeen in favor of the Colombian proposal, four, five against, and the rest abstained: we fell one vote short. But the voting is a marginal issue compared to the fact that the OAS, which was created precisely to settle differences such as those we have with Venezuela, to defend human rights throughout the region… for that there is not one but two forums, the Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights… for us to have failed to reach the number of votes for a proposal simply to discuss the issue at the OAS, and that is the purpose of the OAS, well, that is a failure of OAS, of the region. We in Colombia may not have done the arithmetic, but the thing is, we did not, we didn’t feel obligated to do it because discussing these problems is the very essence of the organization. I certainly felt that this was a setback, not only for us, because we failed to get enough votes, but also for the organization, because the organization is made specifically for this type of problems.
JR: Mr. President, as you know, here in the U.S. we are in an open conflict with Donald Trump for blaming immigrants for the country’s main problems. Do you see any kind of comparison between Donald Trump and Nicolás Maduro in the sense that Nicolás Maduro is also blaming Colombian immigrants for the main problems in Venezuela?
JMS: What worries me the most, Jorge, is what is happening in the U.S. We’re seeing it here in the region, in Europe: immigrants and xenophobia and the policies of hatred that it is creating. That worries me a great deal, as head of state and as a citizen of the world. What I am advocating in the case with Venezuela is that we not fall into that trap, that we not encourage hatred and xenophobia because nothing good comes of that. Therefore, I hope we can find a solution to these problems, to this situation within what I have always defended: dialogue and diplomacy. Xenophobia is something totally destructive and that should not be allowed in any part of the world.
JR: I would like to ask you about the peace talks in Cuba. We have information that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia [FARC] are interested in meeting with Pope Francis when he visits Cuba. Has the Vatican consulted you about this meeting and, if this meeting were to take place, would you want delegates from FARC and from the government to meet with Pope Francis?
JMS: Well, listen. Everything that contributes to strengthening this process is welcome. A meeting between the Pope and FARC is the right of the Holy Father. And if he wants to meet, it is his right.
JR: But have they consulted you about it?
JMS: What we are saying is that everything that can be done to strengthen the process is" no, they have not consulted me. In that sense, if anything comes from the Holy Father, well, we will see on what terms. The important thing is to move forward at the table in Havana.
JR: Does that mean that you would not be opposed if delegates from FARC should want to meet with the Pope?
JMS: No, I would not be opposed if that contributes to us strengthening and making progress in the negotiation process, because what I’m interested in is ending this war, ending this conflict as soon as possible.
JR: Okay, on another topic, on the topic of Álvaro Uribe: Many people criticized you because they said Álvaro Uribe was still imposing his agenda on Colombia. Every time he tweeted, you or one of your secretaries would respond to him. Apparently, now Álvaro Uribe has come out to support you on this matter of the Colombia-Venezuela conflict. Is Álvaro Uribe still imposing his agenda on Colombia?
JMS: Listen, we are facing this situation totally united. Yesterday all the political parties, the entire Colombian private sector confirmed their unanimous support of the government, of the way we are handling this problem. And what interests me, my agenda is peace, looking for more equity in my country and using education as a more effective instrument to achieve our goals. I am very clear about the goal. There are people or opposition or positions from different social classes that can be against what we may be doing, but I am very clear about where we want to take this country. We have made a lot of progress in that direction and we’re going to continue in that direction without altering the course of our goal and our path.
JR: And one last question, Mr. President. When you saw Nicolás Maduro dance to the song Pollera Colorá with his wife, did you see it as mockery?
JMS: Yes. It looked like mockery to me. It seemed to me that it made no sense. No, of course I didn’t like what we saw on television.
JR: Mr. Juan Manuel Santos, thank you very much for talking to us.
JMS: Thank you, Jorge.
JR: Thank you, Mr. President.