the united states. mr trump said "things will happen to them like they never thought possible." his defence secretary, james mattis, said armed conflict would be "catastrophic" and that diplomacy was bearing fruit. modern slavery and human trafficking has become so widespread that there are victims in every large town and city in britain. the uk's national crime agency says there are likely to be tens of thousands of victims. 111 arrests were made across the uk in may and june. the us and canada are investigating reports that cuba may have used a sonic device to damage the hearing of its diplomatic staff in havana. the us said its diplomats were taken ill. one canadian is reported to have had hearing loss and headaches. washington has expleed two cu ban diplomats. now on bbc news, hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk.
i'm stephen sackur. venezuela's political and economic crisis is precariously poised. the maduro regime is determined to rewrite the constitution to strengthen its grip on power. the opposition is intent on using mass protest to bring the government down. the current stand—off is not sustainable, but which side will prevail? my guest is isaias medina, until last month the venezuelan diplomat at the un. now an anti—maduro dissident. can maduro outlast his enemies? isaias medina, welcome to hardtalk.
thank you. thank you so much, stephen. i would like to express my gratitude not only to you personally but to hardtalk and the bbc for representing objectively the hardships that the venezuelan people are living in right now in my country. well, let's examine the situation in your country in some detail. let's start with a simple explanation, if you like. why did you change sides? cos, for the last couple of years you've been a diplomat at the united nations, representing venezuela and the venezuelan government. and a month ago you decided to jump ship. why? to begin with, i do not endorse corruption, drug trafficking, terrorist ties, or the illegal detain of political prisoners, and, even less, murders of students in the street. and as almagro has said, silence is the biggest partner of impunity, and i'm
a fighter against impunity. and in the last 100... acutally, four months, it has become undeniable that maduro‘s regime is violating human rights, and also has compromised the crimes... and committed crimes against humanity. and all of this is shown not only the high commissioner of the united nations in his last report, but also by almagro‘s third report that shows tortures and so on. therefore i could not remain silent. right. well, we will go into those allegations in some detail. but before we do, ijust remain a little bit confused, cos you served the venezuelan government from 2015 to 2017. during that period, of course, mr maduro was president of your country. we know, and i know from personal experience, that the locking up of political opponents was happening long before you decided to make your stand, so were many of the other things that you've made allegations about.
so, i still want to know what prompted you to jump ship now? was it simply because you think maduro‘s days are numbered and you want to make sure you're on the right side, as it were? to begin with, i hope you're right and his days are numbered, but what i would like to make clear is that i work for my country. and working for my country in the sixth committee of international law and, of course, environmental issues that are very important for our planet. i did not see it coming in such a way, such as i believe the international community did not, or was not aware of how far maduro‘s regime could take this, and the last four months have been evident that it's undeniable. and i would have to say social media has had a great impact on the images of the police aggression and repression against students of the resistance, which are the heroes
of change in venezuela. they have also changed me, i had to not only speak out but i had to stand up for their rights and to make sure that i can bring awareness and raise consciousness to the international community. right, but the specific allegations you make, that maduro has ties to terrorist organisations, to drug traffickers, that his forces and, again, i'm quoting you directly, have used rape as a torture tool, that he has an arsenal of weapons that you believe could end up in the hands of terrorists and drugs warlords, all of these things make me wonder how you could possibly sit there for two years under maduro‘s governance of your country representing venezuela. wasn't there just a fundamental hypocrisy that you presumably
were happy to live with for two years? well, it is your opinion. i do respect it. but i do not agree with it, due to the fact that i was working for my country with the international community, after i have seen all these images. and also, i believe that the profound humanitarian crisis in my country led me to try to get help for a humanitarian corridor, with the order of malta and when i brought it to the awareness of my authorities theyjust did not care about it because they didn't want to accept the situation in venezuela. that kickstarted my impression. and then i heard my permanent representative of venezuela, rafael ramirez, say that there was no humanitarian crisis. therefore, i had to step out of my work in the international community and start working and investigating what is really happening in my country. and the investigations, as you have said, had led me, and not only me, the international community has been clear, even after my resignation,
the us sanctions clearly establish that this... maduro‘s regime has established clear ties to drug dealing, terrorist ties, state terrorism, corruption, money laundering. and i think this is very clear. hang on. we don't want to introduce too many different topics at once. we're gonna get to those specific allegations and to sanctions in a moment. just sticking with nicolas maduro, who's at the centre of this, forjust one more question. it is important to remember, is it not, that the man has a democratic mandate? he won an election in late 2013. he has a mandate which lasts until the end of 2018. if you are a democrat, that surely matters. it matters as long as, first of all,
it's a real election. second of all, if you do not delegitimise yourself by attacking your population, your civilians, like he's doing. and, third of all, you do not commit unconstitutional acts. even further, there was another mandate on the 16th ofjuly, which, by my humble legal opinion, article 70 of the national constitution of venezuela establishes as binding. and the national assembly, that was elected democratically again in 2015, also has convened 7.5 million signatures to be able to revoke maduro‘s mandate, and repudiate the constituents assembly that he has fraudulently and illegally convened. well, of course, he and his government would say he got 8
million votes for their constituent assembly, which outstrips your 7 million votes, or 6 million votes, for an opposition initiative. so, we can bandy around the figures, but the bottom line is the constituent assembly is now in place, and you, if i may characterise you as a voice in the opposition, you have to decide what to do now. is it your belief that the opposition on the streets, the mass protests, the attempt to topple the government by the street, must that continue? yes. and, first of all, stephen, i don't think they got 8 million. and that's very clear also for the fraudulent scheme that they have planned. not even chavez in his best moments got 8 million votes. and maduro, for sure, he's in his worst popular moment. i don't even think he got 10%—12%, that's not even 2 million votes. it's a shameful scheme and sham that they're trying to portray. yes, i do believe that the resistance should stay in the streets, day by day, fighting for their rights.
they've done a greatjob so far, even though it is so sad to see the murder, 130—140 people so far in four months. yeah, well, let me stop you there. you put that fact in. it's a very important fact. the circumstances of some of those deaths are still unclear. but we know that more than 100 people have died, and that many of them appear to have been killed by maduro‘s security forces. i wonder, you know, you sit there right now in miami, and i dare say a fairly comfortable spot, what do you say to the mothers and fathers of those young people who are losing their lives on the streets of caracas and other venezuelan towns and cities, when they say to you, "is it worth it?" "is it worth my son, my daughter, dying for an opposition campaign which, frankly, at the moment, doesn't seem to know quite where it's going?"
to begin with, i don't believe this is an opposition campaign. this is already the resistance of the people of venezuela. citizens, normal citizens, are out there trying to fight for their own future. and the only thing i can say to the mothers and fathers of the lost students is my humble solidarity, and of course they are heroes and liberators of the regime, that is an international criminal organisation that has hijacked the country. and the only way out is through people like the resistance and these wonderful young students that are fighting in the street to come back to the rule of law. you're an international lawyer and you're a diplomat. you sit there in your civilian clothes. but the real question i suppose in venezuela is whether the people in military uniform are going tojoin, as you put it, the resistance against the maduro regime. some opposition politicians have sent coded messages to the military saying it is time for you to stand up and be counted. do you now believe the time has come for the armed forces, the people inside the armed forces, to rebel against their commanders and their commander in chief?
it is their duty to do so. article three, 33 and 350 of the venezuelan constitution empowers not only the military but also ordinary citizens when there is a regime that undermines human rights. we must step up and do whatever it takes. and i think it's time now for the military to stand up. we saw last sunday how a fraction of also militaries, former militaries, have taken up arms, and i think this will raise the level, raise the bar of this assymetrical, disproportionate use of weapons by maduro‘s regime. you're advocating insurrection, mutiny and treason.
a month ago you were representing the venezuelan government. it seems pretty extraordinary. once again, i represent my country, it's called venezuela. and, i must say, civil rebellion is in article 350. i certainly am calling for that. and you know, if i may say so, you know what the consequence will be — terrible, terrible blood shed across your country. because we also know at substantial chunk of the country, including people who have access to weaponry, are still passionately and deeply committed to defending the socialist revolution and the maduro government. so, your position seems to me one which is only going to lead to one thing, which is a bloody civil war. well, there's been a bloody situation in venezuela for 18 years. as you're aware, 350,000 people have died in this period for criminal and violent crimes. 30,000 every year. so it has already begun. it's just a matter of how to stop this criminal organisation that has hijacked the country. i don't think there is a way
out through dialogue. they just stall and delay these dialogues because they have nowhere to run. it's not an ordinary situation, stephen. and we must be clear about that. this is not an ordinary government or an ideology. it is a criminal organisation that has terrorist ties and drug trafficking ties. so this makes a huge difference on what their objectives and their agenda is. you say there's no more room for dialogue, assuming therefore that you think that direct physical confrontation is the only inevitable outcome. i just wonder whether you pause for a moment to think about the 85% of your countrymen and women who are currently living in poverty, children whose malnutrition rates are soaring across venezuela, maternal mortality rates going through the roof. children, we see the terrible images of them scavenging for food in the garbage cans. do you really think that violent confrontation is going to help them deal with their day—to—day economic crisis? i'm sorry to say that
you are not only right, but that maduro‘s regime has been killing the people, not only from hunger, lack of medicine and treatment, but also in the street. and i wish there was another way out. that is why i called the international community for an international humanitarian intervention. and i think... honestly, i think about this every day, of an alternative. but they don't seem to be able to want to offer real negotiation. that is why i believe maduro should capitulate, and he should be accountable to the international criminal court. yes, but we have to deal in the real world. i mean, there is no sign he is going to capitulate. the commander of his armed forces has also declared his absolute
loyalty to the stability of the current government, so capitulation is not on the agenda. you have talked about your desire to see an immediate international humanitarian intervention. i wonder what you mean by that. do you mean you want to see people come into venezuela from outside, with arms — armed forces? well, so far, what we have seen is students with sticks and stones fighting disproportionate use of force by the maduro‘s regime. so they are shooting and killing demonstrators. and i don't think the effort has been great by the international media. but in reality, as you said, there is no way to defeat bullets against stones. it is a textbook david against goliath.
i believe we are going to win, if at the end of the day, as you have seen. now, it is going to be another confrontation. is there another way out? i would like to hear what you think about it, because i don't see it. well, i am more interested about what you think, particularly about this notion of intervention. we have seen in recent days donald trump's administration slapped new sanctions on maduro personally, and some of his key associates. they say they are going to do more. but what they haven't done yet is put direct sanctions on venezuela's oil exports. the eu, as well, have come up with some harsh words, but it hasn't actually imposed serious sanctions on nicolas maduro‘s regime yet. so are you satisfied with what you are seeing? and we can talk about latin america, too. are you satisfied with what you are seeing from the international community, when it comes to a response to what is happening inside your country? i am gratefulfor the response and sanctions from the us and the eu. i believe also yesterday's lima declaration was incredibly effective, and also other countries in other regions should manifest and express the same support
to the legal national assembly that was elected in 2015. but i will not be satisfied until this regime stops oppressing and killing, and leaves venezuelans to choose their own government. but, when you appealed to the international community, you allow maduro to use this word which was used before him, and now used by maduro — imperialismo. that is what the chavismo regime is saying today. they say that, yet again, the united states is undertaking plotting and conspiracy to bring down the socialist revolution, and your message plays into their hands. this is like gaslight psychological policy from maduro. he is trying to divert the reality.
he is the only dictator, totalitarian emperor, that is ruling by oppressing his own people. there is no imperialism in the international community trying to help 30 million venezuelans hijacked by an international criminal organisation. what do you make of those leftist politicians in europe, for example, and we have one in the uk, the leader of the opposition labour party, jeremy corbyn, who have long been friends, sympathisers with, the socialist revolution in venezuela, and who are these days very careful in their words about the venezuela crisis? for example, the other day mr corbyn wouldn't name mr maduro directly. he said "i condemn all the violence from all sides." he says "we have to recognise that there have been effective and serious attempts at reducing poverty in venezuela." you know, is that satisfactory, as far as you are concerned, from a leading western politician in response to the crisis? not at all, and it is impossible
to defend the undefendable. when you can see clearly the violation of human rights and the crimes against humanity that have been committed in the last four months, it is impossible to defend the quote—unquote socialist utopia. it is actually a dystopia. it is unsustainable. you can see the inflation — maduro has actually done something incredible. he has converted venezuela to be the first country in corruption, inflation, violence. and this is completely unsustainable, and it is unacceptable. so i think that the... your problem is, the more you list the failings and the tragedy of venezuela today, the more i am left scratching my head as to why it is that — and remember, i was in venezuela relatively recently, why it is that there
is still a hard core of passionate support for chavismo, for the socialist revolution. i am not saying this is direct support, personal support for mr maduro. but there is clearly, amongst a substantial chunk of the venezuelan population, a desire to see that the socialist revolution is not dismantled. are you prepared to accept that? no, what i do understand is there is that chunk that you are talking about, 10%, 12%, that have been controlled by the regime, giving them certain privileges that are very difficult, and within their hardships it is understandable. but the population are looking for a way out. i believe also they want to feel represented. so this is a colossal...
i don't think it is just that. it is also a deep distrust of some of the opposition leaders and political parties, a feeling that, first of all, they are deeply divided and don't have a coherent vision for venezuela's future. but also they are driven by their own economic interests. that they are, to a certain extent, if i can use the word, the venezuelan oligarchs, and that is a real fear that a lot of poorer venezuela ns have. that is why this change will be so important for venezuela's reconstruction and reconciliation, to allow pluralism into the political equation. and this is a call for the opposition to open up and make it more accessible, for all the population to be involved in the decision—making in politics. like, for example, the mandate of 16 july was very clear. so right now, what we need to see from the national assembly, where the opposition political leaders are still sitting back, is to make the right choices. right now, they must appoint their government, and this is why the international community must recognise them as a legal entity.
we have to end soon, but you are an interesting figure, because you have always made a point of saying you don't belong to a party. we have spoken tojulio borges, the leader of one of the main opposition parties. i met the family of leopoldo lopez, who is back in prison, another significant leader of the opposition movement. these are established party people. but who do you think can be the venezuelan who can somehow build bridges between the polarised elements within your society, and stop your country falling into conflict and possibly civil war? who is it? well, i think it is every venezuelan. it is not only one person. we should not try to personalise this, but try to listen to the voices in the streets. they are asking maduro to leave his post, first thing. and second, they are asking the opposition not to negotiate, not to go to elections,
because they are fraudulent, and it would be recognising this unconstitutional constituent assembly, and they must listen to the people in the street. this is the real venezuela. yes, but the people need leadership. where is the leadership? well, leadership you can find in very different places. but, for certain, the real leadership is in the streets, and that is... evidence has shown why this is the change right now. and are you going to leave miami, and go back to fight for your country's future inside venezuela? i am ready to do whatever it takes. that is why i have not applied for political asylum, so that i can be free to travel to venezuela, or wherever my country needs me. so i am ready to fight. isaias medina, i thank you very much for being on hardtalk. thank you, stephen. hello there.
thursday was a fine day for most of us, and the weekend isn't looking too bad either. we just have friday to get through first. because things will be turning increasingly cloudy. we'll see some outbreaks of rain. in fact, already, some wet weather already in north—western areas. an area of low pressure sliding across the north of the british isles. tightly squeezed isobars — notice the white lines quite tightly packed. that shows us that the winds will be quite strong. stong gales at times across areas of scotland, with areas of rain working from west to east. but for the midlands, eastern england, in the south and the south—east, it'll start off dry and bright, and will stay that way for good parts of the day. cloud only very slowly
increasing from the west. so even by 4pm in the afternoon, for east anglia, down to the south—east, there should be some sunshine around. 22—23 degrees is quite possible. mainly fine for the channel islands. just a bit of patchy rain creeping in here. that patchy rain continuing to work across the south—west of england. most of it quite light and patchy. perhaps some heavier bursts for coasts and hills. similar story there across wales. 16 degrees in cardiff for the middle of the afternoon. for northern ireland, even though the main area of rain will have cleared away by this stage, there's like to be some cloud left behind, some drizzle. so was true for much of scotland. but to the north, the murray firth, aberdeenshire, they can see some brightness holding on. if that happens, temperatures could get to about 20 degrees. rather cloudy and a little damp across much of northern england. as we go through friday night into the early hours of saturday, the heaviest bursts of rain will have cleared away. but there's still gonna be cloud, mist, murk and drizzle around. not a chilly night by any means, 13—16 degrees. and for some, it is going to be a struggle to clear that cloud away during saturday morning.
the frontal systems really dragging their heels, particularly across the south of the british isles. generally speaking, high pressure takes charge of the scene for the weekend, which means it will be largely dry, with some spells of sunshine. as you can see, though, quite a cloudy start for saturday. that cloud struggling to break up too much in southern areas. there'll be the odd spot of drizzle around. but northern england, northern ireland, and scotland, the skies will brighten. we'll see some spells of sunshine and perhaps a shower for scotland, north—east england. temperatures nothing to write home about, but in the sunshine it won't feel too bad. and with high pressure right on top of the country on sunday, it should be mainly fine day. good spells of sunshine, and you would be unlucky to get a shower, 16—22 degrees. so, quieter through the weekend, but things will turn unsettled again into the start of next week, with rain at times, particularly in the north—west. welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to viewers in north america
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