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Millions of Venezuelans Reject Maduro's Plans; Interview with Vicente Fox; Sunflowers Laid to Remember MH-17 Victims; Aired 14-14:30p ET

Aired July 17, 2017 - 14:00:00   ET


[14:00:18] PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight some 7 million Venezuelans vote to reject President Maduro's controversial plans in a referendum

organized by the opposition. The former Mexican president Vicente Fox was an election observer and has now been banned from the country. He tell me

it's no surprise he's been kicked out.

Also ahead, sunflowers are laid to mark a dark day three years ago when Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17 was shot out of the sky over eastern

Ukraine, an area still at war today. A top Ukrainian minister joins the program.

Good evening, everyone. And welcome to the program. I'm Paula Newton in for Christiane Amanpour in New York.

Venezuela's opposition is hailing the result of Sunday's unofficial referendum against President Maduro as a success after the overwhelming

majority of nearly 7.2 million Venezuelans voted against the government's plan to rewrite the Constitution.

Now the symbolic vote which Mister Maduro dismissed as meaningless follows more than three months of deadly protests in the face of an economy already

in freefall, political turmoil and severe shortages of very basic food and medicine.

Joining me now from Caracas is Phil Gunson, who is a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group.

Phil, if you would laid out for us in terms of this referendum, how it went and if it will actually change anything.

PHIL GUNSON, SENIOR ANALYST, SENIOR ANALYST, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: Well, I think it certainly should change something. This is the election -

- although it wasn't really an election as you say but a referendum but in offense the election that the government has been trying to avoid for quite

a long time.

The referendum against Maduro last year that was blocked by the government were no doubt have recalled him. And this is an indication of just how

much opposition he is facing among the old Venezuelans. This is not just, as it was always printed in the pasta, a case of a few elite, a few

bourgeois oligarchs, whatever, who are opposing the government.

This is very, very widespread indeed and they put an enormous amount of pressure on the government to call off this selection for a constituent

assembly on the 13th of July.

NEWTON: And in fact that's what the opposition has been opposing for such a long time but I have to ask you, Phil, really, does it seem as if the

government is backing away at all? They have released Leopoldo Lopez, a high-profile prisoner, but that is just one. Some said that was a sign of


GUNSON: I think it's a sign of how much pressure they're under. It's not necessarily a sign that they're ready to negotiate, and that's the key

issue. This really needs to be settled with serious negotiations and so far the government has been willing enough to sit down for what it calls

dialogue but not actually to make any concessions.

Right now we're in an interesting phase because it's not just the release of Lopez. They've also held off from doing anything against the attorney

general as viewers may know has -- having been a great loyalist to the government has turned against the government now. She's a chief prosecutor

in the country. They've held off doing anything against her. And if you want two other signs that perhaps the government is starting to rethink its

position, but it's really too early to say that they're willing to negotiate.

NEWTON: Yes, it is very interesting perhaps. We were just looking at video of Leopoldo Lopez being released there and perhaps he thought that

would be enough.

Phil, just so that viewers get an idea through all of this, what Venezuelans continue to endure, I just want to go through on reporting from

about a year ago.


LUCERO RODRIGUEZ, MOTHER OF CHILD IN INTENSIVE CARE (through translator): I've been in this hospital for 15 days and I've witnessed how children are

dying every day.

NEWTON (voice-over): And doctors tell us that's a real risk for Dylan. He has cystic fibrosis. It damages the lungs and digestive system.

Right now the medical team works hard to expunge dangerous mucus. But here in Venezuela, Dylan can't get the antibiotics or any of the other

specialized medicine he needs to help him survive.

But Dylan is not alone. Dr. Huniades Urbina standing by his side. 70 percent to 80 percent of the medicines children need in Venezuela haven't

arrived at Caracas' pediatric hospital or anywhere else for months. Even cancer patients are left untreated.


NEWTON: Phil, that was a year ago. Guaranteed things have gotten much worse. Not just with medical side, with basic daily food that people just

cannot get their hands on.

[14:05:04] How are Venezuelans coping and how much worse has it gotten?

GUNSON: It's very bad indeed. I mean, there are no official statistics really we're having but unofficial survey suggests that million and a half

to 2 million people are getting their food from the garbage. Just from ordinary -- from personal experience, from things that you hear every day

and see, for example, on Twitter where people are always appealing for medicines. But people that I know, for example, who've been in hospital

they haven't been able to get things as basic as painkillers where patients have to provide their own surgical gloves or gauze or not even -- without

even mentioning things like blood, which is not -- which is available for transfusions.

People with chronic diseases are not getting, for example, dialysis for kidney patients. HIV patients are dying for lack of antiretrovirals. It's

a truly tragic situation.

NEWTON: Yes, an important reminder that all of these political negotiations that go on each and every day right now, Venezuelans are

trying to get that all-important food and medicine just to survive the political turmoil.

Phil, thanks so much for the update there live for us in Caracas.

Now former Mexican president Vicente Fox traveled to Caracas to observe vote alongside the former leaders of Costa Rica and Bolivia. Now I spoke

to him moments ago from Mexico City.


VICENTE FOX, FORMER MEXICAN PRESIDENT: It's amazing. I saw there's millions and millions of people defending their freedom, defending their

nation, with joy, with happiness, with pride, with music. Incredible.

They have weakened Maduro and his dictatorship because this is not being able to stop by anybody. The message to people outside is very loud. They

are being killed, they are being taken to jail. There is no food, no medicine.

Now we have a crucial, crucial two weeks of (INAUDIBLE) the dictator Maduro, a gorilla, is insisting that he will carry on with his own

referendum to conform. There is no constitutional body that will be over the assembly, the national assembly. This is an additional step to control

the dictatorship, to make it more tough, to impose in Venezuela a communist regime, a socialist regime. A populist and demagoguery regime. And he's

imposing it with a steel in his hand, with the guns and the ammunition on his side with very tough measures.

I want to call the attention of the whole of the world. We cannot just sit. We have to act. Otherwise this makes July 30th, there will blood on

the streets of Venezuela.

NEWTON: Mr. Fox, you presumably went there to try and conciliate, to try and help, to try and get to some kind of compromise. And yet your vivid

end with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada saying as a preventative measure to protect our people, Mr. Fox will never again be

able to come back to Venezuela. What happened?

FOX: My role was not to invite, to make associations, or invite for a stop of the violent actions. My intention was twofold. One, to be my the side

of these heroes, of this magnificent, young, talent millennials that are ready to fight for their nation and that they go by the millions.

So to be by their side, to show a solidarity and bring in also some intelligence, some strategy, and some thoughts about how my experience in

this kind of situation can help them out. So to me no surprise, but the dictator through his foreign relations minister now have said Fox will not

be allowed to come back to Venezuela.

NEWTON: But you, Mr. Fox, now have been banned. You no longer can go back to Venezuela. How do you feel about that?

FOX: If the Venezuelan people need me there, I will be there. But more so I can walk outside. I think right now like it happened in Mexico back in

July 2nd, foreign support, foreign public opinion, leaders speaking about this massacre, it will change things. So I ask and pledge, and I'm going

to do my job here outside of Venezuela. I already started working here --

[14:10:04] NEWTON: OK.

FOX: -- in Mexico to convince Mexico's political leaders to reach out to take a position.



NEWTON: Charles Shapiro is the former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, he joins me now live from Atlanta.

Mister Shapiro, Ambassador Shapiro, we thank you for joining us. I mean, you heard Vicente Fox there. He calls Maduro both a dictator and a gorilla

in his words, but how much is this language going to help? Because at the end of the day our prior guest, Phil Gunson, made it very clear that look,

what's needed now is negotiation and compromise.

CHARLES SHAPIRO, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO VENEZUELA: Well, what's needed is for not just ex-presidents to talk with the same language that former

President Fox is using, but for current presidents, and prime ministers in Latin America and the Caribbean to speak out equally forcefully about

what's going on in Venezuela.

It is sure enough a dictatorship. And that's hard for the media to report as a country with -- that holds elections, that edges from a democratic

government and clearly has become a dictatorial government now.

NEWTON: And yet with all of that, and I have to tell you with Venezuelans listening to this, I'm sure a lot of them seem to show quite joy. I know

that you on your Twitter account, you were there while Venezuelans were voting at the consulates. In fact, in Atlanta. They voted in Atlanta, in

Washington and New York, and other parts all around the world.

But yet what will it change? I mean, the bottom line is this has been going on a long time and as we clearly pointed out just now, the situation

has gotten worse for Venezuelans, not better.

SHAPIRO: Yes, well, first of all 7,000 people voted in Atlanta, not at consulates but at two centers that were organized by Venezuelans

themselves. Extraordinary to watch, extraordinary show of patriotism and democracy and of civic pride in their country and love for Venezuela.

The world is put more pressure on the government there. Presidents, prime ministers need to put more pressure on the government there but I am afraid

that at the end of the day it's Venezuelan military that's going to make that decision.

For now they're sticking with Maduro. They have to decide, are they worse off with Maduro or worse off with the opposition that they may want to put

some on trial for the crimes they've committed?

NEWTON: But yet the problem here, though, is that, you know, you have -- you're kind of a persona non grata yourself in Venezuela.


NEWTON: Many in the regime accuse you of being involved in that 2002 coup. Some would hear you right now and say, are you calling for another coup?

Is this another -- and you know that Nicolas Maduro will use this to his advantage, saying the United States is advocating for another takeover in


SHAPIRO: Absolutely not. What I'm calling for is for the government of Venezuela to follow its own constitution and hold the elections that it

should be holding. What Venezuela needs is more democracy, not less democracy, and I'm not calling for a coup but I think it's the military

that needs to tell Maduro that he needs to hold the elections that are scheduled.

NEWTON: Reuters is now reporting that they're calling for a 24-hour strike on Thursday, the opposition is, and that's why, that is their latest move.

But I want to lean on your experience as well with a Cuban regime which hasn't changed that much in the last 15 years despite the engagement by the

United States. How crucial of a role do you think they will play and can play?

SHAPIRO: The U.S.? Well, what the U.S. can do among other things is first of all, I want the U.S. justice system to work, to continue to investigate,

to invite people -- pardon me -- indict people who are suspected of having committed crimes particular drug trafficking and other crimes. And I think

that can put huge pressure on the government there.

The United States also can work with our friends and colleagues in Latin America and the Caribbean. I thought it was appalling that at the

Organization of American States special session on Venezuela that they didn't get the votes they needed because a number of countries in the

Caribbean voted not to condemn Venezuela because they thought it would be interference by the Organization of American States in the internal affairs

of Venezuela when what's going on is a lack of democracy in Venezuela.

NEWTON: Well, the Trump administration has been taking out as is Present Trump. We'll see if they have any more involvement. But as you know, with

any involvement in the United States it gives President Nicolas Maduro more ammunition.

We'll continue to watch the situation carefully.

Ambassador Shapiro, thanks so much for joining us.

SHAPIRO: Thank you, Paula.

NEWTON: Now it's a somber anniversary. Three years have passed since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in eastern Ukraine killing nearly

300 people. Families of the victims are still waiting for answers and violence in Ukraine continues to escalate.

We'll discuss with the country's minister of health right after this.


[14:16:33] NEWTON: Three years ago today Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine and the perpetrators of the attack have yet

to be brought to justice. Now today, more than 2,000 family members of the 298 victims gathered outside Amsterdam for the Dedication of Memorial to

those they lost.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima joined the ceremony near Schiphol Airport where Flight MH-17 originated. 298 trees were planted at

the site and the memorial is surrounded by sunflowers, which will bloom each year at this exact time reminiscent of the sunflower surrounding the

crash site in Ukraine.

Now Flight MH-17 was an early casualty of the war between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists. Three years later, more

than 10,000 people have been killed and the fighting is intensifying with civilian casualties up substantially from this time last year.

Ulana Suprun is a Ukrainian American physician who came to Kiev to volunteer her services during the uprising and who stayed on to help reform

the country's crumbling healthcare system. She now serves as the acting minister of health.

And thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it. And we go first, of course, to that tragedy in MH-17. As we pointed out, still no one

arrested and no accountability on the part of Russia. Is this emblematic of all that has gone wrong in Ukraine in the last three years? Still no


ULANA SUPRUN, ACTING UKRAINIAN HEALTH MINISTER: First of all, I want to send my condolences to the families. Today a friend of mine was at the

memorial service and he told me that one of the things the families are saying is that they don't want for people to forget what happened because

they fear that if we forget and no one will be brought to justice. And so far no one has been brought to justice, although the joint investigation

team, over 200 investigators, have already identified over 100 people that they suspect could have been involved.

Most of them are in Russia so we call in the Russian Federation to allow the investigators to come and speak to those people as well as to the

Russian-backed forces and the Russian-backed proxies to allow the investigation teams into the area so that they can complete their


NEWTON: Rex Tillerson recently, as recently as earlier this month, has said that he continues to pressure Russia. What do you think the United

States has to do?

SUPRUN: I think the United States has to be very clear in its message and to insist that Russia gives them access to those that need to be questioned

about the investigation and that Russia takes responsibility for what happened.

The Buk missile that was located in the Russian military backed proxies territory, it came through the Russian border. There are photos of how it

came through the border and then how the truck that held the missile, how it came back through the Russian border.

The Russians need to admit their guilt and allow the families to have some peace to know that someone is being punished for what was done.

NEWTON: There were some of the early victims of a war that continues to simmer there in Ukraine, what at this point 10,000 dead and counting, you

are the health minister there. What is the human cost there on the ground in that area where a war goes on in many cases out of sight, even from

people in the capital?

[14:20:09] SUPRUN: Yes, it's very difficult. There are a lot of casualties, especially civilian casualties. There are a lot of mines that

have left been left behind and we've had both children and adults, civilians that were killed because of unexploded ordinance. Many of our

civilian hospitals, they take in the casualties and then they get transferred out of the area near the front line into -- further into

Ukraine where they can get treated.

Just in the last few days there's been an increase in the number of -- in the military action of about 25 percent. Those agreements that were made

in Minsk aren't being held to and the only way that we'll really be able to make a dent in what's happening is if Ukraine gains control over its

Russian border because there are constant weapons and tanks flowing in from Russia into the occupied territories, and only by gaining control of that

board will we be able to decrease the number of casualties.

The OSCE doesn't have a mission at this point along the Russian side of the Russian-Ukraine border and I think that that's something that should move

forward. If Rex Tillerson and the USA insists upon that I think that it would do much to help the Ukrainian people as well as decrease the number

of casualties in that area.

NEWTON: Miss Suprun, you were there principally to try and really reorganize the healthcare system in Ukraine. One of the things you're

facing, you've been very blunt about it, is the corruption endemic even in the healthcare system in Ukraine. You call it a pay-to-play system. Put

plainly to people out there that means perhaps if you need cancer treatment, if it's not available on the public system, you pay someone

abroad in order to get the cancer treatment that you need.

What kind of stride can you report that have been made since you started in this endeavor?

SUPRUN: Well, just in the last week we put up some laws, sweeping reforms of the healthcare system to introduce a national health insurance that

would provide universal coverage for all Ukrainians. Some of the programs we've already instituted that have cut down on corruption is handing over

international procurement of medicines to organizations such as UNICEF, UNDP and Crown Agents rather than having the tender process within Ukraine

which was very corrupt at the time.

We also have a reimbursement program for our patients so that they receive medicines, important medicines for cardiovascular disease and diabetes and

bronchial asthma, and much of what we're doing is cutting back on the corruption that occurs every day from the lowest level to the highest


A patient pays for everything when they come to the hospital. They buy their own medicines. They buy their own disposable materials. They

sometimes even pay for the food that they eat. And it goes up to where the doctors have to pay the head doctors for their jobs, and it goes even

further where the head doctors are taking part in illegal tenders, buying medications that are not quality medications at increased prices just to be

able to line their pockets with more and more money.

NEWTON: Yes, and you do paint quite a corrupt picture there but I have to ask you many still blame the government that you work for essentially. I

mean, the EU has recently just added their voice to what is a very loud chorus saying the government is still far too corrupt. It's endemic, it's

insidious and not enough is being done.

SUPRUN: In the last three years since the Revolution of Dignity very much has been done to cut back on corruption. There are institutions in place

such as the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine. Also there is now a special prosecutor's office for corruption, but really to change, to weed

out corruption, we can't just put in into place those institutions that will arrest someone or investigate someone, but we need to change the

actual system so that it doesn't call out instruction -- corruption, that it doesn't make people be corrupt.

In Ukraine the system is corrupt from the day that you go into kindergarten and your parents have to pay for you to get into the school of your choice

all the way through to on the day that you're dying, you're paying extra money to get the morphine you need to ease your pain.

The system is endemically corrupt and we need to change not only the way that we prosecute the corrupt individuals, but we need to change ourselves

as a society so that we aren't used to this corruption and we don't tolerate it.

NEWTON: Right.

SUPRUN: There are a lot of really great NGOs that have really started much of this kind of reeducation for people so that they learn a different way

of being -- they don't tolerate the corruption in their lives, and I think --


NEWTON: I will have to leave it there. Quite a sobering picture you've painted. Quite starkly for us and we appreciate your time.

SUPRUN: Thank you very much for having me.

NEWTON: Now after the break we imagine a world where young robotics team from Afghanistan made of solely girls finally gains access to the United



[14:27:15] NEWTON: And finally tonight, imagine a world where it takes presidential approval to appear at a robotics completion. An all-girls

team from Afghanistan is currently in Washington representing their country in an international robotics contest.

Now the six girls spent months crafting a ball sorting robot, even practicing with household items after materials were reportedly delayed by

U.S. Customs. The girls were nearly made to stay home after the team's visa applications to the U.S. were denied twice.

Now amid a fierce public backlash President Trump pushed out of their entry approved. Now Afghanistan is not, we have to remember this, on Mr. Trump's

travel ban of six Muslim majority countries. But the personal intervention has drawn criticism.

Can a leader be praised for opening a door while closing so many others?

The controversy comes as the U.S. weighs a new military strategy in Afghanistan. Yet the young Afghan robotics team represents a very

different sort of relationship, with the West and Muslim nations are connected through a love of science and education.

And that's it for our program tonight. Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.