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Venezuelan Turmoil Growing Worse; Escaping Life as an ISIS Bride; The First Whisperer. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 25, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, violence in Venezuela. A month of unrest claims more than 20 lives. And desperate people demand

that President Maduro step down because of the crippling food crisis and sky-high inflation. How much longer can he cling on?

From Caracas, Lilian Tintori, opposition activists and wife of the jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. She joins me live.

And from the U.S. State Department, the deputy assistant secretary Michael Fitzpatrick, as big U.S. business pulls out.

Plus, rescue from Raqqah. The young woman lured into becoming an ISIS bride, and her harrowing story of marriage, betrayal and escape.


I don't know where I will go. I don't know, because now my life is destroyed.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. Venezuela's woes get worse by the day as a

political crisis collides with an economic death spiral.

Three more people died this week and the death toll in this month's unrest has climbed to 26. President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition have been

on a collision course since 2015. But in March, the lack of food, medicine and energy caused even more street protests and Maduro shows no sign of

backing down.


NICOLAS MADURO, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT: In Venezuela, there is peace. Peace and peace will continue. To those violent groups, the law will find them.


AMANPOUR: Threats while he's playing baseball as his people are on the streets desperately hungry. And just this week, more jobs were lost, as

General Motors, one of the world's biggest auto manufacturers, pulled out after the government seized its plant.

So is Maduro on borrowed time? He's refusing demands for a presidential election, only offering local elections, which even the organization of

American state said is not enough and is calling Venezuela a dictatorship.

Does the Trump administration have a Venezuela policy? The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he's closely watching the situation.


REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are concerned that the government of Maduro is violating its own constitution and is not allowing

the opposition to have their voices heard, nor allowing them to organize in a way that expresses the views of the Venezuelan people. Yes, we are

concerned about that situation.


AMANPOUR: So Michael Fitzpatrick, the deputy assistant secretary of state for the region, joins me from Washington now.

Welcome to the program.

And can I just start by asking you to comment on my question, does the Trump administration have a policy to deal with this rapidly, you know,

spiralling crisis?

MICHAEL FITZPATRICK, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR VENEZUELA: Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here this afternoon. We are

indeed -- the United States government is very concerned about the tragedy unfolding in Venezuela today.

As you intro suggested, it's actually a complication -- an unfolding series of inner connected crises, political, economic, humanitarian and social.

Unfortunately, these are all driven by policy decisions by the government of Venezuela, by President Maduro. That's the bad news. But at the same

time, that's the good news, because through policy decisions by this government, they can reverse course. They can open up space, political

space, economic space for the political opposition, for the people of Venezuela to freely let their voices be heard as you just heard Secretary

Tillerson mention.


FITZPATRICK: That is the principal concern.

AMANPOUR: So then what -- the obvious question then is, you say that's the good news, but they've clearly been deaf to that opportunity. They haven't

met the opposition halfway. Everybody is saying that Maduro's offer of local elections instead of a presidential election is not good enough. The

OAS has said that they're considering suspending Venezuela.

What is the leverage? What is the way that you get the government to actually listen and take some corrective measures?

FITZPATRICK: Well, the government made a series of commitments to the opposition and to the international community through the Vatican-backed

dialogue last fall.

Number one, it agreed on electoral -- for publishing electoral chronogram, a timetable for elections if you will.

Number two, they committed to the release of political prisoners. Venezuela today has more political prisoners than the entire rest of the

hemisphere combined. Number three, they agreed to attend to the humanitarian needs of the Venezuelan people. And number four, they agreed

to recognize and respect the constitutional authorities and responsibilities of the national assembly. If they live up to those

standards, to those -- their own commitments, there's a clear way out of this political cul-de-sac that the government has driven the country into.

AMANPOUR: Right. But Mr. Seasoned Secretary, they haven't and they're not. And the question is, the OAS doesn't seem to be having the influence

on them. Now we're hearing more Latin American countries actually criticize what's going on.

Who is going to pull the lever? Who is going to talk to President Maduro? Who is going to, you know, indicate that this is untenable? I guess what

I'm saying is, is there a bottom line for the United States?

[14:05:00] FITZPATRICK: Well, we are working through the organization of American states as you suggested. The Latin neighbors, the American --

North American neighbors were all collectively concerned about it as the people in the streets are also demonstrating their own concern for the


There is this domestic and international pressure and it is up to the government now to accept the offer of help that has been extended to by the

international community through the OAS.

There's been a series of OAS meetings. There are likely to be more looking for diplomatic solutions to renew the political overtures that have been

extended to the government. But it's up to the government at the end of the day. If the government of Venezuela does not want to accept the hand

of friendship from its own citizens and from the neighbors, they will find themselves further isolated politically as well as economically.

AMANPOUR: Some have said look at Argentina way back in the day. I mean, pressure from the outside and, you know, offers of engagement, coupled with

pressure kind of worked and brought it out of this crisis.

Is there anything more the United States is prepared to do? And particularly now, do you see one of your own major companies, General

Motors, have its assets seized and be forced to pull out.

FITZPATRICK: Right. That's another example of the continuing series of unfortunate economic decisions made by this government. The situation at

GM, we're looking into it.

It is quite devastating, frankly. As you mentioned, several thousand jobs are lost in an economy that is plummeting. And so it's up to the

government to change course. But, again, the international community, starting with the OAS, we have some good offices. We have a number of

possible mechanisms that can help move forward on this.

But, you know, today, there are people demonstrating in the streets. We need to recognize that. We need to deplore the violence against unarmed

demonstrators of whatever their political persuasion. And we call again on the public security forces, whether it's the army, the National Guard, the

police, or judicial authorities to ensure that they do their constitutional, legal -- fulfill their constitutional legal

responsibilities to protect, and not prevent peaceful assembly and protest.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Fitzpatrick, can I ask you some more to the administrative questions. It's kind of well known that a lot of positions in the State

Department and in many other departments have not yet been filled, sort of middle ranking and other positions.

It's well known that you have been there since the Obama administration, and it's also well-known that the White House is suggesting massive cuts to

the State Department budget, which even the defense secretary have said, you know, that shouldn't happen because diplomacy is vital.

How well staffed is your department to deal with this crisis? And just in general, what is the activity level at the State Department right now on

some of these very important issues?

FITZPATRICK: Well, as a matter of fact, I've been with the State Department, in fact, since the Ronald Reagan administration. We have --



FITZPATRICK: We have a deep bench of career foreign service officers in every sector, in every region of the world, in Washington as well. Fully

equipped and capable. Directed by Secretary Tillerson and his senior team, working under the administration of President Trump and responding to White

House direction.

In particular on Venezuela, we have clear lines of authority and responsibility. And we're moving out on that policy.

AMANPOUR: Well, since you've been there for so long, and I'm sorry. I mean, that is a long time ago. How difficult is it going to be to continue

this important work if there are deep cuts to the State Department budget?

FITZPATRICK: Well, that's still to be worked out. But whether it's fewer resources or more resources, we know what our policy mandate is. We know

what our priorities are in the region. And that's up to the president and the Congress to work out the details of the budget. But suffice it to say,

whatever level of resources and funding we get, we have our top lines and our focus, in particular in Venezuela.

Right now, it's not a question of funds. It's a question of unity, solidarity from the region, not just the United States, but frankly from

the entire western hemisphere, with the people in the streets and with the institutions of Venezuela that are under assault by an increasing

authoritarian regime.

AMANPOUR: Indeed. Deputy assistant secretary of state Michael Fitzpatrick, thanks for joining me from Washington.

And I'm going to turn now to Caracas in Venezuela, where Lilian Tintori, opposition activist whose own husband, the opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez

has been sentence to 14 years in prison and she's joining me live.

Ms. Tintori, welcome to the program. I don't know whether you heard the U.S. assistant secretary of state, but he's describing your country, your

government as increasingly authoritarian. And they are calling on the Venezuelan government to abide by the pledges it made to the opposition.

What message do you take from the United States? Will that have an effect?

LILIAN TINTORI, OPPOSITION ACTIVIST: Totally. Today, the world has their eyes here in Venezuela. What Venezuelan have day-to-day is their own

survival as a democratic nation. Venezuela is at dictatorship. The world can no longer turn a blind eye to that reality.

In the last days, the repressive regime has carried 26 deaths, uncountable numbers of tortures. There are almost 1,000 detained, mostly students, who

are exercising their constitutional right to protest. To protest is a right. It's not a crime.

And we are in the street. We are fighting for democracy. We are fighting for freedom. So the United States and all the countries in the world, we

need help. We need help. And all the voice that are talking about Venezuelan people, talking about justice, democracy and human rights help


AMANPOUR: So what are your key demands now? What is the opposition's key demands and who is going to help you get those demands? Or is it just you

staying in the streets until they are met?

TINTORI: Yes, Venezuelan will regain democracy. But we need the help of the democratic world to achieve that. The world has to keep monitoring

what is happening in our country. And ask Maduro to comply with the petition of all Venezuelan, election and freedom, political prisoners,

food, medicine, and justice, democracy. We have the courage, the will and the love for our country to make that happen.

What is happening in Venezuela is out courage. The world cannot accept what is going on, and not do something about it. There is not only a moral

obligation, but a mandate to support our plight for democracy.

We need to get together like a team.


AMANPOUR: All right, Lilian --

TINTORI: A team for democracy.

AMANPOUR: How is your husband and do you expect him to be released? He was sentenced to 14 years in jail. He's one of the leading opposition


TINTORI: Yes. Leopoldo, my husband. He is the leader of the Venezuelan. He is in solitary confinement in a military prison. 700 days isolate of

the 1100 days in prison.

Right now, one month, nobody can see Leopoldo. No family visit. No (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) -- lawyer. The lawyer can't get inside the

jail. He's isolated.

Why? Why? Because Leopoldo asked for Venezuelan people to protest. And all Venezuelan people answer his call.


AMANPOUR: All right. We very much hope that they hear your message tonight.

Lilian Tintori, thank you for joining me from Caracas.

And when we come back, the Moroccan woman who discovered that she was married to an ISIS fighter on her honeymoon. How she escaped Raqqah in

Syria and life as an ISIS bride.

Ben Wedeman has that remarkable story, next.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

The Iraqi military today says that it's liberated one of the largest districts in Western Mosul, Hay al-Tanak, liberated from ISIS. The long

and bloody struggle grinds on, but the ultimate target is Raqqah. In Syria, the capital of the so-called ISIS caliphate.

CNN has obtained exclusive satellite images of that city, showing a bridge destroyed, presumably by coalition air strikes, and the checkpoints that

dot the city.

Getting any information about life there is close to impossible, but our Ben Wedeman has spoken to a woman who not only lived in Raqqah for two

years, but was married to a succession of ISIS fighters against her will.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A steady stream of civilians is fleeing Raqqah as the noose tightens on ISIS' de

facto capital.

And it's not just Syrians leaving the city, it's also those who came, some against their will, to live in this so-called caliphate.

This 23-year-old Islam Maytat from Morocco has found refuge with her two small children at a guest house run by the YPG, the U.S.-backed Kurdish

force fighting ISIS in Northeast Syria. Her journey to Syria started more than three years ago, with a visit to an online Muslim matchmaking site,, where she met her future husband, Ahmed Halil (ph), a British national of Afghan origin.

ISLAM MAYTAT, ISIS BRIDE: He was in Dubai and he told me he have a job in Turkey. So he told me to come with me. He's going to do his job and we go

for holiday, too, me and him.

WEDEMAN: The "holiday" her husband had in mind, however, was in Syria.

MAYTAT: It was a surprise to go to Syria. So when we went, when I told him why he didn't ask me, why didn't -- take my own decision, so I will

come or not, so he told me, no, you're my wife and you have to obey me.

WEDEMAN: They crossed from Turkey into Syria with other like her and ended up in a special guest house for Mujahideen, those who move to ISIS' realm.

MAYTAT: From UK, from Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Canada, Belgium, French, all the world, everyone. Saudi Arabia.

WEDEMAN: Soon afterwards, her husband, Ahmed, was killed in the battle of Kobani. She married a third time, an Australian and moved to Raqqah where

she stayed for two years.

MAYTAT: Honestly, I forget my normal life. And there is the situation in the last months, the situation in Raqqah. It's so bad like the bombs of

the coalitions and stuff like this, it's so bad. And sometimes there is no electricity and water and is not too much food.

WEDEMAN: In Raqqah, she had one thing in mind. Escape.

MAYTAT: Like for two years, I'm asking for people to help me. But everyone, like someone asking me like too much money. They are asking me

like too much, like more than $5,000.

WEDEMAN: Eventually she did manage to escape, but is now in limbo. Her Kurdish post contacted the Moroccan government and her father through this

report is hoping Morocco's King Mohammed VI will intercede.

Islam wants to return to Morocco, but worries about the future of her family.

MAYTAT: I don't know where I will go. I don't know, because now my life is destroyed. Holiday in Syria turned to hell.

Ben Wedeman, CNN.


AMANPOUR: Michael Weiss is CNN's investigative reporter for international affairs and author of "The Author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror" and

he joins me now from New York.

Michael, that is, you know, quite a rare look into the ISIS brides. How common is it? And more to the point, what do you know about how common it

is for them to be escaping now?

MICHAEL WEISS, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, I can tell you that everybody is trying to flee Raqqah. And I've heard from ISIS defectors

that a general order has been given to those soldiers of the caliphate who want to defect or leave rather, not defect, to fan out and spread.

In fact, ISIS' headquarters is now relocating down river into Deir ez-Zor in anticipation of the battle of all battles to retake Raqqah. In terms of

ISIS brides, now this is an unusual case, because this is a woman who was essentially duped into going into Syria, right?


WEISS: She didn't volunteer this. In most cases, you find women, so- called brides of ISIS, who are actually making the Ahishra, the immigration to find a husband amongst the lower cadres of ISIS fighters. Those women

are put into a separate holding facility and then essentially auctioned off to Mujahideen, who then, if they die, the women are forced to marry

somebody else of a lower station.

What I find fascinating about this, Christiane, is that not a single husband quote, unquote, that she was given was Arab. You had a British

national, you had a German and you had an Australian. Where are the Syrians? Where are the Iraqis in these? These are the foreign fighters

who are going there essentially to create this kind of Byzantine, medieval life and keep women in chattel slavery like this.

AMANPOUR: I know, it is extraordinary. I just want to pick up on what you said.

So how complicating is it for the United States that wants to with its fighters on the ground, surround Raqqah, do what it's been doing in Mosul

and then attack Raqqah?

If as you say, they're fanning out and relocating elsewhere, how complicated does that make the battle to annihilate ISIS?

WEISS: Well, it's important to control or to retake these population centers. ISIS makes most of its money through taxation. It requires to

keep entire communities enthralled to it. I mean, that sort of culture of complicity than it is in gender over this three-year reign of its so-called


The problem, though, with the battle for Raqqah, as you know, is that the U.S. is relying increasingly on a Kurdish-led militia group, the YPG

militias, which by the way Turkey just bombed in both Syria and Iraq yesterday, driving the Pentagon wild about this.

And Raqqah is an Arab, Sunni-Arab majority city and province. So Sunni Arabs not necessarily want to be liberated by a minority group in Syria.

And some of them, not all of them, but some of them may even prefer to live under ISIS' rule because they will see the Kurdish incursion as something,

a fake worse than even what they are currently experiencing. That's been the central contradiction to the coalition strategy in Syria. In Iraq,

it's been slightly different.

AMANPOUR: Well, we'll watch and wait and see.

Michael Weiss, thank you so much for joining us.

WEISS: My pleasure.

AMANPOUR: And when we come back, imagine Ivanka Trump warming up diplomatic ties with Germany, but receiving a somewhat chilly reception in

the process. That's next.


[14:25:45] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, in his first 100 days, President Barack Obama visited nine countries. President George W. Bush visited two.

President Donald Trump has visited none.

Well, imagine a world where the warm up act is America's first daughter, paving the way.

Ivanka Trump touched down in Berlin today, taking part in a G20 Women's Summit and trying to promote her father's unconventional presidency. She

was invited by Europe's first lady, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and she joined the IMF chief Christine Lagarde and the Canadian Foreign

Minister Chrystia Freeland to speak about empowering women as a way to grow the global economy.

But when Ivanka Trump insisted her father has always supported women and families, the audience couldn't take it.


IVANKA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: He's been a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling (INAUDIBLE)


AMANPOUR: So a little bit of a laugh from the audience there, because she was criticizing the media while it was the audience who were hissing


At the very public attacks and unseemly leering at women, were a hallmark of Donald Trump's campaign. It shocked many around the world. But imagine

a world, behind the booing, where Ivanka is actually cultivated as the so- called Trump whisperer, as one German paper dubbed her, praising Merkel for inviting her to the summit and possibly opening a smooth line of

communications to the U.S. president himself.

Leaders, keen to protect global interests, like the Paris Climate Accords, could have found a powerful ally in his daughter.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.