Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Alejandro Peña-Esclusa, a former Venezuelan presidential candidate who was the pioneer of the mass mobilizations against Chavez’s authoritarian project, which has cost him fierce government persecution. He is a prolific writer, opinion maker and columnist for Venezuelan newspapers. At present, he is the president of UnoAmerica and a prominent leader of the Venezuelan resistance against the Chavez government. Many consider him Chavez’s antithesis. He is the author of The São Paulo Forum: A Threat to Freedom in Latin America.
FP: Alejandro Peña-Esclusa, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Peña-Esclusa: Thank you very much for the invitation. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be in Frontpage.
FP: I would like to talk to you today about the militia that Chavez is putting together, which consists of Cubans and Islamofascists from Iran.
But first let’s begin with a little bit about you. Tell us your background and how you came to oppose Chavez.
Peña-Esclusa: I belong to a task force of Venezuelan professionals who twenty years ago decided to design an economic program to eliminate poverty in Latin America. We thought - and still think- that there is no reason why a continent as rich as ours should have so much poverty. We studied how the United States, Germany and Japan became developed and industrialized countries and, based on that successful experience, wrote several proposals on how to develop Latin America. But in the mean time - that is, ten years ago - governments like Chavez´s came into power, hindering any possibility for growth and development. Therefore, we decided to fight against these new forms of Communism, before returning to our original task. That’s how we created Fuerza Solidaria (Solidarity Force) in Venezuela, and later on UnoAmerica.
FP: What exactly are Fuerza Solidaria and UnoAmerica?
Peña-Esclusa: Fuerza Solidaria (Solidarity Force) is a Venezuelan NGO formally created in 2001, although its founding members have been working in the project for twenty years. It is composed mainly of very courageous middle class professionals, but also students, who fight for freedom and democracy. UnoAmerica is a platform for Latin American NGOs that share the same values and ideals. Its was created in December 2008, in the city of Bogota, with delegations coming from Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Uruguay and Venezuela; and written adhesions from Brazil, El Salvador and Perú. UnoAmerica is growing very rapidly and it is considered the ideological antithesis of the Sao Paulo Forum.
FP: What exactly are Chavez's goals?
Peña-Esclusa: In 1990, as a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Fidel Castro and (now president of Brazil) Lula da Silva, decided to create a new political Latin American organization, called the Sao Paulo Forum, which groups all the leftist movements of our region, including the Colombian narco-terrorist guerrillas (FARC). Chavez attempted a military coup in 1992, and as a consequence was put in jail. When he came out, he joined the Sao Paulo Forum and asked the Latin American left to help him reach the presidency of Venezuela; in return for such a favor, he would finance their political projects. This is exactly what was has happened. In other words: Chavez is the result of an international project that has not anything to do with the Venezuelan interest.
FP: What obstacles does Chavez face?
Peña-Esclusa: Chavez is trying to impose a political model which destroys democracy and freedom; that is contrary to the national identity and values. The Venezuelan population sooner or later will rebel against such a model. Second, Chavez is unable to solve the economic crisis, because his communist outlook is exactly the opposite of what is needed. Third, the Venezuelan military are against Chavez´s relations with narco-terrorist groups and Islamic fundamentalist. The combination of these factors will make it impossible for him to continue in the government.
FP: So let’s talk about this relationship with Islamic fundamentalists. Tell us about the alliance Chavez is forming with jihadis. What is this about?
Peña-Esclusa: Chavez needs an external enemy to justify his radical project and to blame for his failure in solving problems, like poverty. The enemy he has chosen to blame is the United States. Therefore he has declared his intention to build an international alliance against what he calls the American "Empire", and of course that alliance includes the Islamic fundamentalist groups, particularly those related to Iran. Chavez has opened the doors of at least four countries to his so called "brother" Ahmadinejad: Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
FP: Tell us some more about this unholy alliance on our southern border. Chavez is recruiting Cubans and Islamofascists from Iran for his personal militia.
Peña-Esclusa: Actually, it was the Cubans who recruited Chavez, long before he attempted his first military coup. He made an agreement with Fidel Castro to help each other. Chavez would supply plenty of the Venezuelan petrodollars for the survival of the Cuban regime, and Castro would offer him his long time experience on how to control the society through terror and persecution. Afterward, Chavez went further, seeking alliances with whoever would join him in his self-invented crusade against the United States. The traditional relations of Venezuela with the other OPEC members facilitated the link with the government of Iran and other Islamic fundamentalist groups. Then Chavez went further on, promoting the infiltration of the Iranian government in other Latin American countries, like Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. Finally, Chavez made it very clear that Israel was a declared enemy of his "revolution", and expelled the Israeli ambassador from Venezuela.
FP: Your thoughts on this unholy alliance? What do you make of Marxists like Chavez allying themselves with Islamic jihadis? And also, what is your view of the threat this unholy alliance poses to the U.S. as well as to the Venezualan people?
Peña-Esclusa: A few weeks ago, I wrote an article titled Chavez, Ahmadinejad and the new "Missile Crisis in which I explained the danger posed to the United States by what you - quite correctly- call the “unholy alliance.” I also warned that Chavez would soon create a crisis similar to the one generated by Fidel Castro in 1962, but instead of using the Soviet threat - like Castro did - he would resort to the new - more modern and dangerous - Iran threat.
The difference is that Khrushchev maintained certain rationality during the Missile Crisis, because he was not willing to sink humanity into a nuclear war. But Ahmadinejad - being an Islamic fundamentalist - will not hesitate to "erase from the face of earth" not only Israel, but the whole Western hemisphere. Indeed, the existence of an alliance between Iran and several Latin American governments poses a serious threat to the security of the United States.
FP: What is the best policy for the American government to pursue toward Chavez?
Peña-Esclusa: Chavez must be removed from power solely by the Venezuelan people, but the United States could contribute by denouncing publicly the danger that Chavez represents for the Western hemisphere, the irregularities in the Venezuelan electoral system, the lack of free and independent media, the absence of adequate check and balances to his power, etc. That would help the Venezuelan opposition to do a better job in recovering freedom and democracy. The Obama administration needs to do this not only for the benefit of the Venezuelan and other Latin American people, but also to guarantee the security of the United States.
FP: Are you optimistic that freedom and democracy and will ultimately take root in Venezuala?
Peña-Esclusa: Yes, I am quite optimistic; but before recovering permanently freedom and democracy in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, there will be a traumatic process. Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Rafael Correa and Daniel Ortega are dictators, and -as such - they will not hand over power peacefully and democratically. However, I feel very confident that afterwards freedom and democracy will prevail for a long time.
FP: Alejandro Peña-Esclusa, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
[Editors' note: Jamie Glazov's new book, United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror, provides an analysis of the nature of the unholy alliance discussed in this interview. To order a copy, click here.]