Return to Transcripts main page


Historic Parliamentary Election Shakes Venezuela; Spike Lee on "Chi- Raq" and Real Chicago; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 9, 2015 - 14:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: is the clock ticking for the Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro? In a major power shift, the

opposition now has a supermajority in parliament after Sunday's election. Activist and wife of jailed leader Leopoldo Lopez joins me live.

Also ahead, the iconic film director Spike Lee on his new movie and America's love affair with guns.


SPIKE LEE, FILM DIRECTOR: More Americans died, more Chicagoans, more people in Chicago have died on the streets in the South Side or West Side

than the American special forces combined, Afghani and Iraqi wars.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York. Venezuelans or Chavistas have been

enthralled to the legacy of Hugo Chavez for generations.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): When he died, the ruling party had hoped that his handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro, would carry on the populist

authoritarian regime. But for the first time since 1999, Venezuelans who want change can now see light at the end of the tunnel after the

opposition's thunderous victory this weekend.

They won two-thirds of the vote in parliamentary elections, which gives them a supermajority and with it the power to challenge the president,

who's been under mounting pressure from a tanking economy that's seen shortages of everything, from basics like sugar, milk, diapers, flour, even

toilet paper.


AMANPOUR: First off, the opposition vows to revive the economy and free jailed political leaders, like Leopoldo Lopez, who the Maduro regime

sentenced to 14 years in prison. And joining me now exclusively from Caracas is his wife, Lilian Tintori, who's been a tireless campaigner for

his freedom.


AMANPOUR: Lilian, welcome to the program.

And let me start by asking you, were you surprised with this win?

How is your husband reacting?

LILIAN TINTORI, WIFE OF LEOPOLDO LOPEZ: Thank you, Christiane, for this space and for express our feelings today in Venezuela for all the world.

We are happy. We are proud of Venezuelan people. We sought and this participation of people that we won because we won with a vote.

People, in the first time in these 16 years, we create a path for democracy. And we did it, we won. We are so happy and we want now to

change all our problems, to have the solution of our problems.

AMANPOUR: How is your husband taking it?

He's been in jail for nearly two years now, sentenced to 14.

How is he taking the victory of the coalition?

TINTORI: I can't talk with Leopoldo. Leopoldo is isolate in a military cell, in a military jail. But I know he is proud of Venezuelan people.

And I remember the words of Leopoldo when they sentenced my husband unjustly for 14 years. He put his hands like this and said, I'm proud to

put these handcuffs on me, because these handcuffs, I'm going to open these handcuffs. But not the regime, the Venezuelan people going to open these

handcuffs December 6th with the vote.

And this December 6th, this last Sunday, we opened these handcuffs. We opened. We're going to release our political prisoners. We're going to

release Leopoldo Lopez, Antonio Ledezma, Daniel Ceballos. We have 75 political prisoners. And with the vote, people said, we want freedom. We

want change.

AMANPOUR: Lilian, I don't want to burst your bubble. And I know that's what you want, to revive the economy and release --


AMANPOUR: -- the political prisoners. But this is what the president said. He's conceded defeat but he hasn't said amnesty for like Leopoldo

and others. Listen to what Maduro has said.


NICOLAS MADURO, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): I say it like this, like the head of state, I'm not going to accept any amnesty law

because human rights were violated. They can send me 1,000 laws but the murderers of a people have to be judged and they have to pay.


AMANPOUR: What do you make of that, Lilian?

Any real hope that you can get Leopoldo and the others out?

TINTORI: First of all, Christiane, we will work with anyone and everyone that wants the democratic change in Venezuela. And after December 6th, all

political prisoners have to be released, now, before Christmas Day, now. We want the release because people want the release, because people want

peace and freedom in Venezuela.

AMANPOUR: Lilian, let me also ask you about obviously the very tough political challenges you have. It is not the first time the opposition has

done well. But then the vote has been taken away and all sorts of quasi- legal, you know, methods have been used or gerrymandering of the process.

You know that the Supreme Court could say something. You know that the Congress could do something.

Do you believe that the win will be allowed to proceed?

Or that there will be an attempt to deny you the legitimate political win?

TINTORI: The parliament is a power; of the five powers we have, the parliament is one of this. And in this parliament, we have the

responsibility to found our rule of law today in Venezuela we don't have.

We want to change. And it's going to be under parliament, with the parliament, with other compromise of new voice, young people in a

parliament, a democratic parliament. And we're going to change all the things for a better Venezuela. We don't want to fight. We don't want to

persecute or persecution and repression.

No. We want to change but with union. Venezuelans deserve an aim to live in peace, embrace each other with forgiveness and reconciliation. I

believe in the reconciliation. We have the right to live in freedom in Venezuela. And this is the moment from the parliament.

AMANPOUR: And Lilian, obviously one of the reasons that you scored this victory among many others is the problem with Venezuela's economy.

What is life like there right now for everyday people, for an everyday Venezuelan today?

TINTORI: We have scarcity. We live in fear. Every time a man is say a Venezuelan people die (ph). We have inflation, the most of all Latin

America. And our powers are controlled for the effect of it. We want democracy and we did it on Sunday. We start to open the gates of

democracy, of law, of a new parliament.

We know we are in a very -- a crisis, in a very bad crisis, political, economic, social crisis. But we are full of hope. And more than 8 million

people vote because we want a better Venezuela for all and we did it and we won.

Now, we need to work. Now, we need to release all the political prisoners and start to work together.

AMANPOUR: Well, I hear your determination and your excitement and the acknowledgment that it will be very hard work ahead. Lilian Tintori, thank

you so much indeed, for joining me from Caracas.


AMANPOUR: And in related news today, marking the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery here in the United States, President Obama denounced

bigotry, a lesson perhaps for the recent comments by Donald Trump.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We betray the efforts of the past if we fail to push back against bigotry in all its forms.


AMANPOUR: Now in the U.K., more than 200,000 people have signed a petition to ban Trump from the country. This is after his anti-Muslim rhetoric,

calling for a ban of all Muslims to the United States.


AMANPOUR: And this number of signatures means there could be a debate on this in Parliament.

After a break, a passionate and refreshing voice of reason. Yesterday on this program, filmmaker Spike Lee spoke of the dangers of Trump's rhetoric.

Today he tells me about his new film, "Chi-Raq," and doing the right thing.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

So how do you end a war?

Well, here's one idea -- it's the women, stupid. When Liberia was steeply engulfed in civil war, that was activist Leymah Gbowee's revolutionary



LEYMAH GBOWEE, LIBERIAN ACTIVIST: We were so desperate for peace, we were going to have a sex strike. We said to the women, one way as another, you

have the power as a woman. And that power is deny the man your sex.


AMANPOUR: And the sex strike worked. Leymah Gbowee went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize. But the inspiration for that went all the way back to

an ancient Greek satire by the playwright Aristophanes.

Could that work today in gun-plagued America?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm down for the cause but how?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We force our men to negotiate peace by exercising conscious self-control and total abstinence from knocking the boots.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Now who would have thought director Spike Lee would be paying that poetic homage to "Lysistrata" in his new film, "Chi-Raq"

which has just opened here in the United States?


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Spike Lee's been on the cutting edge, documenting race, violence and gender ever since his career took off.

And when we met, he explained his latest premise about today's America seen through Chicago's street warfare.


AMANPOUR: Spike Lee, welcome to the program.

LEE: Glad -- first time. Glad to be on the show.

AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed. Glad to have you, particularly at this time.

Your film opens at a most fortuitous time.

Is this just great timing or did you know that Chicago was sort of an explosion waiting to happen?

LEE: Well, I would say it's a combination of both. My co-writer, Kevin Wilmot (ph), and I chose to have this take place in the South Side of

Chicago. But everything else is Kismet -- I can't lie that, you know, it just happened.

And with the -- that gruesome tape, that's called a snuff film, of Laquan being shot down like a dog --

AMANPOUR: It puts --


AMANPOUR: -- yet another very, very pointed finger on a lot of what ails America.

LEE: And I'm glad you said that because I don't want anybody that sees the film or sees me talking, you would think that what's happening is only

takes place in Chicago.

But my wife gave me a very good thought. She said, Chicago is like the canary in the coal mine. But I'd also like to say gun violence affects not

just Hispanics and African Americans hoods of this country.

Gun violence affects everybody; 88 Americans die every day due to gun violence. And it's not just black or Hispanic. It's everybody. It's all

of us as Americans.

AMANPOUR: And you have some chilling statistics in the film. It's called "Chi-Raq," Chicago-Iraq. You say "Chi-Raq" and you have these statistics

about the deaths of people in Chicago versus the wars that Americas have been fighting over the last few years.

LEE: Yes. More Americans have died -- more Chicagoans -- more people in Chicago have died on the streets on the South Side and the West Side than

the American special forces combined, Afghani and Iraqi wars.

AMANPOUR: It is really chilling when you hear it put that way. And yet, as the president has tried to say each time there's been a shooting --

LEE: Again and again and again.

AMANPOUR: Again and again and again. And also saying America is an outlier in this regard.

LEE: Why is that, that we're -- we have more mass shootings to any country on this God's planet?

AMANPOUR: But I want to ask you why -- you grew up here -- you're telling the stories of America.

LEE: I don't know what it's going to take. But I would just say that we have a love affair with guns. I mean, I'm 58 and my generation, you know,

cowboys, Indians, we all wanted guns. And now it's video games.

And that's -- you could just say that's what this country is built upon. I travel all over the world.

And when they see me, they say, what is wrong with your country?

And like we have a line in the film, "Chi-Raq," that's spoken by the great Angela Bassett.

She brings up -- she says, if nothing's happened after Sandy Hook, what's it going to take?

AMANPOUR: That's of course when all those children and their teachers were gunned down.

LEE: Yes. So I think that it's going to be a hand-to-hand battle with the gun manufacturers and --


LEE: -- the NRA. That's what it's come down to. And --

AMANPOUR: I still can't figure out why in a democracy, when 90 percent of the American people feel that there should be gun laws --

LEE: And in many -- well, members of the NRA --


Why are the politicians afraid of the NRA then?

LEE: They're not afraid. That's where they're getting money from.

See, here's the thing, though -- for me that's -- and I say this very honestly. For me, that is the worst form of capitalism, where you put

money over human life. That's the worst form of capitalism, in my opinion.

AMANPOUR: It's sobering to hear you say that -- and it's true. And yet, you do manage to tackle this issue, as raw as it is, with a certain amount

of humor because you have taken --

LEE: Satire.

AMANPOUR: -- satire. Even better. You have taken as the basis, "Lysistrata," the story, the 5th century B.C. Greek comedy about --

LEE: -- 411 B.C. --

AMANPOUR: -- women in Greece who had a sex strike to force their warrior husbands to lay down their guns and stop the Peloponnesian --

LEE: Swords.

AMANPOUR: -- swords, sorry.




AMANPOUR: You see? You see? You see how fixated on guns we are?

To put down their weapons?

LEE: Right. Well, my co-writer, Kevin Wilmot, it was his idea first. We tried to get this done six years ago and -- there's one thing I'm sure of

now. Everything is timing.

It wasn't time for this film six years ago. The powers that be, the spirits, whatever you want to call it, they said, not now. Do it later.

And we couldn't have picked a better time to do this film, "Chi-Raq."

AMANPOUR: But tell me about the women aspect of it because you give a lot of power to women's power, shut down their sexual favors.

LEE: Well, I can't take the credit. I have to give it up to my man, Aristophanes.


LEE: My main man, Aristophanes, from 411 B.C., great, great Greek playwright, who, at that time, satirized all of Greece and --

AMANPOUR: What did your cast think?

Had they even heard about it?

LEE: No. Many of them had done "Lysistrata" in theater -- in fact, the lead actress, Tiana Paris (ph), went to --


LEE: -- excuse me, she went to Juilliard. So she did not play the lead but she performed one of the women. She went to Juilliard. That's the way

they talk when they go to Juilliard for drama.

AMANPOUR: Like me, they're English actors.

LEE: I always kid them about that.

"Yes, I'm with the Juilliard."


No, many of the -- I'm kidding, Teyonah.

But many of the people have strong theater backgrounds that come from the States. So they've done that play, in high school or in college.

AMANPOUR: Barack Obama took Michelle on a first date to your film, "Do the Right Thing."


LEE: And when the Baskin-Robbins was at the scene, "Do the Right Thing," and discussed the movie. I don't know, she might have -- Michelle might

have had Rocky Road.

AMANPOUR: You don't know. But it has been a rocky road ever since in terms of race relations, in terms of gun violence.

Do you think that film, which tackled race head-on, did it change the dynamic?

Where do you think this country is?

You know, we're looking at Ferguson, we cannot believe what still goes on in this country in terms of racial violence.

LEE: Well, I think that this country is in transition, in progress. One move forward, two steps back. It's a living organism. And that's where

we're living. So you've just got to keep at it.

AMANPOUR: Does that make you hopeful or pessimistic?

LEE: I'm very hopeful. I mean, I'm very hopeful. I wouldn't make the films I make -- I think that my films are realistic, truthful and may seem

gloom and doom but we have to do everything we can for our children, for our grandchildren to make the United States truly the greatest country in

this world, on God's planet.

AMANPOUR: Spike Lee, thank you very much indeed.

LEE: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And talking about wars, today U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter testified before Congress about how to win the war against ISIS.


ASH CARTER, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The United States is prepared to assist the Iraqi army with additional unique capabilities to help them

finish the job, including attack helicopters and accompanying advisers, if circumstances dictate and if requested by Prime Minister Abadi.


AMANPOUR: In this case, trying to wrest the city of Ramadi in Iraq away from ISIS. Now not only Britain but Germany, too, have pledged military

support to this fight.

And today, "Time" magazine named the German chancellor Angela Merkel as Person of the Year, citing her handling of Europe's economic and refugee

crises. She is the fourth woman ever to have won the title.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): When we come back, imagining the world of Tunisia, the first and most successful Arab Spring nation, yet still struggling to

make good on the promise of democracy.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine Tunisia on the brink, still the only Arab Spring success story, yet facing tough challenges as four

Tunisians who dedicated their lives cross-cultural politics and dialogue there prepare to accept the Nobel Peace Prize tomorrow. CNN's Sara Sidner

reports on the terror threatening the nation's newborn democracy.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shepherds eke out living on Tunisia's wide-open plains. The people here live a life of quiet struggle

but even their quiet isn't guaranteed. Their world has now been interrupted by ISIS.

"I'm scared. If I'm alone, they can behead and kill me."

Zahara Gerbali (ph) has reason to be scared. ISIS recorded this video, taken the day they captured her son. Fifteen-year-old Mabruk Sultani (ph)

was grazing his sheep in the hills when ISIS militants demanded his flock. He refused. They retaliated, she tells us.

"They beheaded him and the sheep at the same time. They sent his head with his cousin who was with him," his mother tells us.

Gerbali (ph) never saw the gruesome sight. Her family refused to let her look inside a plastic bag containing his head.

ISIS has made itself a home in the hills that loom above their lonely homestead.

SIDNER: What should happen to these men who did this?

SIDNER (voice-over): "I want to get rid of all of them, look for them one by one, because they hurt me so deeply."

While the country has made great strides toward democracy, the terror threat has grown. In March 2015, extremists launched a deadly attack at

the Bardo Museum.

A few months later in June, they massacred tourists in Sus (ph), a resort town. In November, an ISIS suicide bomber killed 12 presidential guard in

a bus explosion.

SIDNER: What is this country doing to combat terrorism now?

"First we have the state of emergency and a curfew so the security forces can perform night raids," Walid says. "We've also closed the border with


That border is their biggest challenge.

SIDNER: I'm literally walking inside. I'm inside the compound.

SIDNER (voice-over): After the fall of the Gadhafi regime in August 2011, Libya has become an open-air weapons depot and training ground for

extremists and some Tunisians are taking advantage of that.

SIDNER: Tunisia has built a wall on the Libyan border.

"The construction of the fence is almost finished," he says.

But Tunisian parliamentarian Wafil Makluf (ph) says there is more to solving the security situation. High youth unemployment in Tunisia has led

to hopelessness and terror groups are exploiting that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's like a chain; to have the economy investment, we have to have the security.

SIDNER (voice-over): But even with the challenges, Makluf (ph) is certain democracy is here to stay. But so far, democracy remains fragile -- Sara

Sidner, CNN, Tunis.


AMANPOUR: Now tune in to see what the Nobel Prize winners are going to do about that. CNN's interview, this year's winner of the Peace Prize, 4:00

pm in London, 5:00 pm in Central Europe, as well as Tunis.

That's it for our program. You can always listen as the podcast, see us online at and of course follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.