Return to Transcripts main page


Nicolas Maduro Claims Venezuela Election Victory; Discussing North Korea Situation

Aired April 15, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. And we have a whole lot to cover tonight, from North Korea, where the nation's celebrated the birth of founder Kim Il-sung, not with a show of force but with a massive show of flower power --

-- to Nigeria and the struggle against corruption and incompetence that stifles the people's economic progress.

But first to Venezuela, where Nicolas Maduro, the handpicked successor of the late President Hugo Chavez, says he's the new president; he has won this weekend's elections. But the challenger, Enrique Capriles, says not so fast.

Citing thousands of irregularities, Capriles is demanding a recount and the U.S. government agrees. Maduro is even encouraging his supporters to demonstrate across the country tonight.

Maduro won just over 50 percent of the vote. It was the tightest race since Chavez first came to power in 1998, despite pre-election polls predicting a double-digit win for Maduro.

Capriles framed his campaign as a David-versus-Goliath effort. Maduro has agreed to the recount, but Venezuela's election board says his win is, quote, "irreversible."


AMANPOUR (voice-over): For now, what does his razor-thin win mean? Is Chavism finally fading?


AMANPOUR: We'll have more on this story in a moment. But first a look at what's ahead.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): In a country where corruption is commonplace, she answers the critics and crunches the numbers.

NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA, NIGERIAN FINANCE MINISTER: We need to admit where there is a problem. There is a problem.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Then, the ballot with a story all of its own: when the margin of victory is so close, one picture is worth 325,000 votes.



AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a bit, but first to the dramatic election in Venezuela and CNN's Paula Newton joins us now from the capital, Caracas.

So, Paula, just before we came to you, there's been a rally and a speech by the challenger, Enrique Capriles. What's going on right now?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What is going on is he is challenging this declaration by Maduro that he is president.

And he's really coming out in full force, saying, look, we refuse to see him as a legitimate leader of this country, that if he declares himself president in the next hour, that indeed, he will put his people into the streets, starting tonight with, Christiane, what they call the cacerolazo.

They will bang on pots throughout this city and others, tomorrow a national day of protest in front of every electoral commission in this country.

Christiane, what's at stake here, really, is the future of Venezuela. And the reason is that this country is on its knees economically and right how they have a country so divided, so divided right down the middle, with the opposition really unwilling to concede, saying we know who the winners are; they are the losers, the government; we are the winners. They will not allow this to happen.

And, unfortunately, right now, what we have is a stalemate. We have no word, Christiane, from the electoral commission as to whether or not they will actually sanction a recount.

But, really, a stunning turn of events in a short, sharp election, a lot of mudslinging, Christiane. He really narrow (ph), Capriles, was a gap of about double digits down to a razor-thin loss or win, depending on who you listen to.


NEWTON: And it has to be seen as some type of a rejection against Chavismo.

AMANPOUR: I was going to ask you that.

How did this happen? Because everybody thought, you know, the full weight of the state was thrown behind Maduro. And yet it really is such a thin margin between them.

How did this happen and what does that mean? We've said it's fading Chavism, but what will that actually mean over the next few months and years?

NEWTON: Well, it's interesting, because Maduro, even if he does take the presidency, will not be strengthened by the kind of Hugo Chavez rhetoric and socialism going forward. Again, the economy, double-digit inflation, some of the highest inflation in the world; shortages, Christiane. We were just in a bakery. They're saying that they're on their last sacks of flour.

This in a country that is awash in oil, with oil production steadily going down. And those are the forces, really, at play in Venezuela, where people who really followed, adored Hugo Chavez, are now willing to give the opposition a chance. And Capriles knows that, which is why he's fighting so hard right now to hang onto any margin of victory.

AMANPOUR: Paula Newton, thanks, and obviously we'll be watching to see what develops, if, indeed, Capriles tells his voters and supporters to go out into the streets.

And turning now to North Korea, where, as we mentioned, earlier today is the Day of the Sun, a national celebration of the birth of founder Kim Il-sung.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): The Hermit Kingdom dialed down the military threat, instead highlighting a flower show in Kim's honor. But if and when this crisis passes, what is the U.S.' next move? Secretary of State John Kerry is in Beijing, has been this weekend, and offered direct talks with Pyongyang.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States remains open to authentic and credible negotiations on denuclearization but the burden is on Pyongyang.


AMANPOUR: So the burden to denuclearize -- what if it doesn't? The U.S. is making a full court press to get China to use its clout with Pyongyang. And my guest tonight, retired Admiral William Fallon was head of the U.S. Pacific Command, overseeing relations with the Koreans.

He also is in Beijing at this time, and he tells me that only a concerted effort by all interested parties has any chance of succeeding.


AMANPOUR: Admiral Fallon, welcome to the program. And thanks for joining us from Beijing.


AMANPOUR: You know, we're all waiting and watching to see what's going to happen from North Korea.

Is it missiles or magnolias now? Do you believe that the North Koreans would launch a missile after all this?

Or do you think enough off ramps have been given now that they can sort of claim victory, and now we have to see how to handle it going forward?

FALLON: They could do anything. I think they could launch a missile of some kind. But I believe it would not be a missile intended to strike anywhere, but just to launch it as they've done several times in the past.

AMANPOUR: Do you agree with the assessment of the current Pacific commander, Adm. Locklear, who says that, if it is just that kind of launch, he would not recommend shooting it down?

FALLON: I think that's a -- that's a difficult judgment. I know when I was the commander out here in the Pacific some years ago, we had a similar situation, where a single missile was prepared for launch and we tried to wrestle with what to do with it.

So we certainly have the capability, I believe, to intercept it. Whether we do or not, I think, depends; it's a judgment call on the part of the leaders and in consultation with the political leadership about what to do with it.

AMANPOUR: What did you do then?

FALLON: We actually didn't have to do too much because the missile blew up as soon as it launched. So it took care of itself.

AMANPOUR: You said back in 2006 that you would hope that some of these, you know, crises with North Korea would bring China and the United States into a closer cooperation to deal with it.

Has that happened? Because everything I'm reading is that, yes, China is being asked to use all their influence. But we're not sure whether they are united and unified in wanting to keep North Korea, quote-unquote, "under control."

What's your view of that from there?

FALLON: I think it's pretty complex, Christiane, and I'll just speak for myself and my own opinion about the Chinese in this case. And I think that they have mixed feelings. I believe they're probably irritated and disturbed by the behavior of the DPRK.

But on the other hand, they've had a long-term relationship with them, and I think that they are concerned about what might happen if the North gets destabilized and you have a political collapse of some kind. And then you never know what could happen.

So I think that's a -- that's a really good opportunity for the U.S. and China to get together and, if nothing else, to talk about the possibilities of what might happen. And just the business of getting together and talking about it in detail might lead us together to have at least some contingency plans for dealing with the eventualities.

AMANPOUR: Admiral Locklear was testifying on Capitol Hill last week. He told the lawmakers that there had not been any contact between the U.S. and Chinese military in these last two weeks of tension.

So the very idea of being able to work together to tamp down this tension simply isn't there.

I mean, how bad is that?

FALLON: Well, it's unfortunate; and I know when I was down here I worked hard in trying to establish those kinds of relationships. And it's something that we've had a number of events that have occurred over the years. And so our relationship with the Chinese is -- has tended to go up and down.

And certainly the military-to-military aspect is the least developed of the entire relationship between the two countries.

So I personally believe that this ought to be a high priority. I believe that that is shared by a number of the leadership in our country. And I think that we will hear that from the Chinese side. So oftentimes you have problems and crises that offer an opportunity.

And this may be one of those where people are concerned enough about what's been going on and --