Mr. Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament
Honorable members of the European Parliament
People of Venezuela
Since sailors arrived on American soil centuries ago, Europe and Venezuela have had a round-trip relationship.
Although some seek to change history, we are twinned since then.
Today we Venezuelans have to thank that Europe - You! - have given us a helping hand in which, without a doubt, are the darkest hours of our republican history. It is that same hand that we Venezuelans offered in the 20th century to thousands of Europeans who emigrated with the scars of wars in their souls and their bodies, including my own parents and grandparents.
Some have returned to their places of origin expelled by the devastating effects of Socialism of the XXI Century that has been tried to establish in my country and sadly the young Venezuelans have also left their land behind with the hope of finding in Europe and other corners of the world, the future and the opportunities that the Government took from them.
That round trip, that common history, has brought us here. The European Parliament today recognizes the brave and tireless struggle of Venezuelans by awarding the Sakharov Prize to the democratic opposition represented in the National Assembly, which I have the honor to preside over, and to all political prisoners in my country, I would like today let us give a round of applause to those who are here today: Antonieta and Leopoldo Lopez, parents of Leopoldo López, Antonio Ledezma, Patricia de Ceballos, wife of Daniel Ceballos, as well as the relatives and representatives of Lorent Saleh, Yon Goicoechea and Andrea González; and all our exiles.
We received this distinction with deep gratitude. It is welcomed by the whole country. Venezuela makes him whole and united. It is an acknowledgment for the mother who deprives herself of food to save her children; for the child who scavenges in the trash trying to satisfy hunger; for the grandfather who dies of decline due to the lack of medicines. It is also received by that young man who today migrates desperately in search of opportunities in other latitudes; the teacher who overcomes ideological blindness and clings to the task of forming free men and women. It is received by those who fight for human rights and journalists who take risks to show a reality that seeks to be silenced. This distinction also goes through the bars of the cells where they are unjustly arrested about 350 political prisoners in Venezuelan prisons.
But in a special way, the Sakharov Prize honors the memory of the 157 Venezuelans killed by the brutal government repression during the peaceful protests that took place over 130 days in 2017!
When Andrei Sakharov was recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, he could not receive it personally. He was on the outskirts of a Lithuanian court awaiting the unjust sentence that would mark the life of his friend, the scientist Serghey Kovalyev. In the Nobel acceptance speech that his wife read were the names of a hundred political prisoners and exiles. He apologized for those he did not remember and said that "each name, whether mentioned or not, represents a hard and heroic human destiny, years of suffering, years of struggle for human dignity." They are, without a doubt, words that today remove the soul of each Venezuelan and summarize their persistent struggle during the last years.
I am convinced that our noble challenge is not alien to Europe. To you, honorable MEPs, it is not strange that we are fighting against domination and fear. In the XXI century, Venezuelans resist and face a totalitarian state, a second Cuba but with the largest reserves of oil, gas and gold in the West. I can assure you that, as you did decades ago, we are determined to persist and overcome that perverse pretense of colonizing the conscience of every Venezuelan.
The regime that has kidnapped democracy in my country established hunger to manage misery. It destroyed the health system to manage death. Expropriated thousands of companies to distribute poverty. He indoctrinated the classrooms to offer ignorance.
Unlike social democracy, 21st century socialism is a renewed and equally traumatic version of the real socialism that you suffered for decades. Although it is doomed to failure, it has become the greatest obstacle to peace, progress and human rights of Venezuelans.
The imposition of this system in our nation has caused unprecedented destruction and misery. After having experienced the greatest oil bonanza a few years ago, the Venezuelan economy has just entered the infamous list of those who have suffered hyperinflation: the average rise in food prices will reach the end of this month at 2000%. In other words, in Venezuela it is enough that a few hours go by to record the inflation that European countries accumulate in a whole year. Hunger was established in homes: 75% of Venezuelans have fallen to 10 kilos in the last 12 months and as if that were not enough, 4 out of 10 children already suffer some degree of malnutrition. Death is also advancing: in pharmacies there are 9 out of 10 medicines required for chronic diseases.
The tragedy is obvious and painful. Only the arrogance of those who conceive of power as a form of domination have been unknown and underestimated, to the point of closing the doors to those who have generously offered us relief. Today I repeat: the opening of humanitarian cooperation for food and medicine is urgent! It is a demand that cries out to the sky and that we have presented in all the national and international instances in which we have debated and alerted about our reality.
Sooner rather than later, the long struggle for dignity referred to by Sarajov will bear fruit and allow us to regain freedom. We also cling to what Don Rómulo Gallegos, our great writer and former President, used to say: "Evil is temporary. Truth and justice always prevail. "
Far from what those who want to dominate want, we are not full of hatred and therefore I share with you what I consider our greatest triumph: we do not hold grudges against those who have done so much damage. Almost daily they push us to force us to hate them, but they have not achieved it, nor can they do it. They will not make us lose hope, or stop fighting for a free and democratic Venezuela.
The situation in Venezuela is difficult. We urgently need to make a political change towards democracy in order to face the terrible humanitarian crisis, which I have barely been able to describe here and to walk decisively and unitedly towards progress. This is what we stated in the recent meeting we had with the delegation of the Venezuelan Government in the Dominican Republic and that was given thanks to the intermediation and oversight of several Latin American foreign ministers.
We have not stopped raising our voice, despite the distorting effect of censorship and propaganda. We remain firm in all possible spaces and fields of struggle. That is why we have come to the international community, to you, to the free world, to invoke the principles of international social justice and find ways that contribute to the democratic rescue in my country. That is why we have fought in the streets, exercising our right to peaceful protest.
In our memory the images of the brutal repression that the security forces of the State deployed against unarmed citizens, many of them young who were just over 20 years of age, are still clear. The weapons of the Republic mourned 157 Venezuelan homes. Those weapons should not be used to solve what we can resolve through words and votes, which is precisely the vehicle for millions of voices to speak in democratic systems!
The vote exercised in freedom is a declaration of independence. That is why we are obliged to rescue him. In the coming months there should be a presidential election in Venezuela and we ask Europe and the free world to put all their attention in those elections. We have the challenge of recovering electoral conditions that allow Venezuelans to express themselves freely at the polls, without blackmail or pressure of any kind, and that their will be respected. It is a struggle that brings us together and demands the best of ourselves.
Honorable MEPs, these are difficult times for my country, but I see the future with hope. I long for the moment when the cells are opened, the exiles return, all Venezuelans embrace, weep for joy, work together, respect the Constitution and with it return the Rule of Law and democracy.
Christmas is coming and many Venezuelan homes will receive the Savior amid grave material shortages, surely with the same humility, faith and love that Mary Most Holy and her husband St. Joseph did more than two th
ousand years ago in Bethlehem. On behalf of them, of those who most suffer and deserve a future of opportunities in Venezuela, I humbly receive the prize they have bestowed on our indomitable love for peace, democracy, justice, progress and human rights.
On behalf of all of Venezuela, thank you very much.