THE RECENTLY APPOINTED AMBASSADOR OF VENEZUELA TO AZERBAIJAN, CHRISTOPHER ALBERTO MARTÍNEZ BERROTERÁN, IN AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE AZERI OBSERVER MAGAZINE SPEAKS ON THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC SITUATION IN HIS COUNTRY, AND MEASURES PLANNED BY THE VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT TO STABILIZE THE STATE AND RESTORE THE ECONOMY. HE ALSO EXPLAINS THE GOALS OF THE VENEZUELAN EMBASSY IN BAKU AND NAMES THE SPHERES WITH PROSPECTS OF GOOD BILATERAL COOPERATION.
BY ELENA KOSOLAPOVA
AZERI OBSERVER STAFF WRITER
Question: You were appointed as the Ambassador to Baku just a few months ago. What are the goals set for you by your president? What are your main plans for this Embassy?
Answer: Our mission to Azerbaijan aims to establish fraternal relations between our nations as a part of building a multipolar and pluricentric world.
Q.: How do you assess the current level of relations between Azerbaijan and Venezuela? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these relations?
A.: The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela maintain friendly relations, and our bilateral cooperation is growing. Both countries are active members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which is currently under the presidency of Venezuela. We will have the honor to hand over the Presidency of this organization to Azerbaijan next October, which will allow us to further our bilateral relations.
Q.: What are the most promising areas for cooperation between our countries?
A.: The social sphere, with the strengthening of fraternal ties between our people, and the spheres of economy, education, politics, tourism, and culture, with the impulse of enhancing bilateral cooperation.
Q.: Do any trade relations currently exist between our countries? What Azerbaijani products might be in demand in Venezuela and vice versa?
A.: We have reached and implemented some trade agreements in the oil sector and have made some progress in the development of new contracts in other spheres of mutual interest. Trade exchange is one of the most crucial points of work for the development of bilateral relations.
Q.: What agreements were reached during the recent visit of the President of Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) to Baku? What kind of cooperation with Azerbaijan could be of interest to both countries?A.: The head of the Venezuelan People’s Power Ministry and the President of PDVSA, Mr. Manuel Quevedo, came to Baku to attend the 13th meeting of OPEC+ Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee on the Voluntary Oil Production Adjustments as the current president of the OPEC Ministerial Conference. During the visit, he met with the Azerbaijani Energy Minister and the Vice President of the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR to deepen bilateral relations between the two countries. During the meetings, the parties discussed issues and exchanged offers between SOCAR and PDVSA, and agreed to continue evaluating the areas that are promising for bilateral cooperation.
Q.: Will the United States sanctions on Venezuela impede energy and other cooperation between our countries?
A.: The sanctions of the United States on Venezuela, as you noted in your question, are a set of unilateral coercive measures by the U.S. government which have generated an economic blockade as a weapon of war and an inhuman crime against the Venezuelan people. These actions seek to undermine Venezuelan society, its economy, and weaken the country’s sovereignty, let alone the coup attempted jointly with the self-proclaimed Juan Guaidó. Venezuela, as a peaceful, free, and sovereign nation denounced these unilateral coercive measures of the U.S. government, which had never happened in world history, as an act of total disrespect of the United Nations Charter and International Law. Venezuela and Azerbaijan are sovereign and democratic countries, which respect the human right to live in peace and harmony, and the International Law with all of its regulations, treaties, conventions, and agreements. Every country is free to make its own decisions and to develop their relations with other countries of the world in the spheres of common interest for the benefits and development of its people. In this context, the Venezuelan and Azerbaijani governments take measures to maintain and stimulate our growing bilateral relations, as relations of two fraternal, peaceful, free, and sovereign nations. Examples of such measures are the opening of the Venezuelan Embassy in Azerbaijan and the recent reception of my credentials by His Excellency President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.
Q.: Could you tell our readers about the current political situation in Venezuela?
A.: On April 30th, the Venezuelan people once again became victims of an attempted coup organized and led by the Venezuelan opposition supported by the government of the United States, against the constitutionally elected President, Nicolás Maduro. The aim was to provoke violence and destabilization in Venezuela. However, this coup failed, and the government, together with Venezuelan people, armed forces, and democratic institutions restored order and peace, showing the respect for the popular mandate of Nicolás Maduro, who was re-elected as the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in May 2018.
The constant failures of the Venezuelan opposition have led the hostile forces, wishing to generate violence in Venezuela, to desperate measures, such as the proclamation of parliament member Juan Guaidó as an “interim president.” He was supposed to call elections in thirty days, and it took him three and a half months to prepare the invasion of the military uprising, which took place on April 30th. Venezuela is currently experiencing an unimaginable impact on its economy, which is a result of the United States sanctions. This set of unilateral coercive measures has created an economic blockade that impedes the acquisition of food for Venezuelans and has already entailed losses to the country in the amount of $309,981,427. The sanctions also left Venezuela with more than 3 billion dollars of assets frozen in the U.S., 1,359 million euros frozen in the Bank of England, and 1,543 million euros frozen in Portugal’s Novo Banco. The financial blockade makes it impossible to provide the Venezuelan people with medical assistance, food, and basic services. Venezuela highly appreciates the dignity of its people, who despite suffering from the inhumane blockade, do not bow to the imperialist attacks and consolidate their courage and resistance by contributing to the development of peaceful relations with other countries to restore the economy.
Q.: Could you comment on the recognition by over 50 countries of the opposition figurehead Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela?
A.: The majority of the countries in the world do not recognize the self-proclaimed “interim president,” Juan Guaidó, who has no legal validity and violates the Constitution of Venezuela. The parliament member Juan Guaidó openly acknowledged his call for foreign intervention in Venezuela. He does not recognize anyone but himself. He does not recognize the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, National Electoral Council (he was elected through this body to be a member of the National Assembly in 2015), the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Ombudsman’s Office, nor the Office of the Comptroller General.
There are 194 sovereign and independent members of the United Nations (UN) in the world. The legitimate and constitutional government of Venezuela, led by His Excellency President Nicolás Maduro, is recognized by more than 100 countries. The government of Venezuela, headed by Mr. Maduro, is recognized by the UN, and we should not forget that it is also recognized by the Non-Aligned Movement, which is currently presided by Nicolás Maduro and has about 120 member countries.
Article 5 of the Venezuelan Constitution says the following, “Sovereignty resides untransferable in the people, who exercise it directly in the manner provided for in the Constitution and in the law, and indirectly, by suffrage, through the organs exercising Public Power. The organs of the State emanate from and are subject to the sovereignty of the people.” It is a constitutional right of the Venezuelan people to elect their president through the popular vote, and His Excellency President Nicolás Maduro was elected in free and democratic elections with more than 67% of votes in May 2018, which reflects the support of more than 6 million Venezuelans.
Q.: What measures is the Venezuelan government planning to stabilize the situation in the country?
A.: Venezuela favors peaceful solutions based on political dialogue, peace diplomacy, recognition of the people’s will, respect of the sovereignty of states, self-determination of peoples, and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. Venezuelans are peaceful, noble, and hardworking people. They will not agree with any interference in their internal affairs under no pretext, and they will defend their dignity, independence, and sovereignty with all available resources, and never transfer their rights and resources of their country to the whim or caprice of any foreign power.
The Constitutional President of Venezuela has presented the National Plan 2019-2025, a strategic plan for the country’s development, which includes objectives and actions for the recovery, growth, and economic prosperity of Venezuela. Venezuela maintains its call for internal and external dialogue and welcomes initiatives such as the proposed Montevideo Mechanism, which supports diplomatic mediation of friendly countries.
Q.: What guarantees could foreign investors in Venezuela count on in the current situation?
A.: Venezuela has a legal framework, which protects and supports foreign investments. The Constitutional Law on Productive Foreign Investment ensures investors with accelerated amortization, tariff and tax exemptions, special rates in the sphere of public services, access to raw materials, stable taxes, special credit conditions, tax deduction, and protection of property rights. Furthermore, we provide investors with special incentives through cooperation agreements. In compliance with the provisions of the aforementioned Law, President Nicolás Maduro has recently created the Instituto Marca País to promote tourism and foreign investment in Venezuela, which is now in charge of providing all of the investors with the guidelines and guarantees envisaged by the Law.
Q.: People in Azerbaijan do not know much about Venezuela. What events does the Embassy plan to help raise awareness of your country among Azerbaijanis?
A.: Currently, we are working on a campaign to promote the Venezuelan brand through our social networks (@embveazerbaiyan on Twitter and embveazerbaiyan on Facebook). We invite all of the readers of the Azeri Observer Magazine and the Azerbaijani people to follow us and learn more about Venezuela. Venezuela has natural wonders and unique cultural heritage, as well as varied gastronomy, which makes it an excellent option for foreign tourists. We have idyllic paradise beaches, the highest waterfall in the world, the Gran Sabana, dunes, the Andean mountains, plains, the Orinoco River, the spectacular Catatumbo lightning, etc. Besides, it is worth visiting modern tourist attractions such as the Mukumbarí in Mérida, the highest and second longest cable car in the world. All of these wonders make Venezuela. Soon we will be informing all of the Azerbaijanis about the beauties of Venezuela, the human warmth of its people, its hospitality, and potential.
Q.: What are your impressions about Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani people after several months in Baku?
A.: I arrived in Azerbaijan in late January 2019, so I am only here for four months. A long time before my trip to Azerbaijan, I learned some facts about its history and traditions. I was very impressed to witness the growth that the country has experienced and the fast development of its economy. Azerbaijan is a fascinating country. I have had the opportunity to see several regions of Azerbaijan within the trips organized by the Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry, and I can say that the hospitality and kindness of Azerbaijanis are admirable, they made us feel at home. The landscapes here are unique, and the cities surrounded by valleys and mountains are beautiful. I also love the local cuisine. Baku seems like a city that reflects modernity without losing its historical and cultural essence. The old city takes visitors on a journey back in time that allows us to appreciate its original culture and traditions, and the architecture makes it a cultural gem of the world. Life in Baku is very dynamic, and there are always a lot of places to visit. The city has converted into a center of many important national and international events (forums, sports competitions, cultural and business meetings, and high-level international political activities). There are still many places in Azerbaijan that I have not seen, but I have already included them in my list of the places to visit. Azerbaijan is a must-see country for all travelers.