Transcript: Hugo Chavez Interview

ByABC News
September 16, 2005, 8:51 PM

Sept. 16, 2005 -- -- In his first American broadcast interview since the Rev. Pat Robertson called for his assassination last month, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told ABC News' Ted Koppel today that he has evidence of a United States plan to invade Venezuela. In New York for the U.N. Summit, Chavez discussed his strained relationship with the United States government, Robertson's comments and the United States' dependence on Venezuela's oil supply.

Following is a rush transcript of the interview, which airs tonight on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET.

KOPPEL: Tell me a little bit -- most Americans don't know very much about you. Tell me a little bit about your youth, when you were a young man.

CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I would like to welcome you. And I would like to greet all of the people who are watching this program and who are listening to it. I was a farm kid from the plains of South Venezuela, from a very poor family. I grew up in a palm tree house with an earthen floor.

And later, we were lucky enough, my brothers and I, to be able to study. There were six of us. My father and my mother were both teachers. They inculcated to us the importance of studies. But out of every 100 children from my town, 99 didn't get to study. That was poverty, the poorest of the farmers.

Later, I was a young athlete. I was telling this friend here from San Francisco so that one of my greatest dreams was to be a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. I played a lot of baseball. It was a passion of mine.

I painted. I wanted to be a painter. I sang. I still sing a little bit. I still paint a little bit. And I can still bat a bit.

But afterwards, when I was 16, I became a soldier. But I became a soldier, not because I had a military vocation initially, but because it was the only way that that young, poor-class child from the provinces could go to the center of the country: through baseball, which was my dream.

But I liked the army. And I became a patriotic soldier. And that's what I am, essentially, a patriotic soldier.


I read that you discovered later in your life that your grandfather or your great grandfather was a guerrilla fighter. Is that correct?

CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):That was from a previous time, a hundred years ago. Yes, he was a great grandfather of mine.

But the point is that when I was a kid, I would hear stories from my grandmother and my great grandmother -- you know, when they talk -- grandmothers tell stories.

And when I was a kid, I heard that I had a murderous grandfather. And that stuck with me.

But later, when I became a man, and I was reading the history of my fatherland, a history that starts in the 20th century, I conciliated myself to the fact that he was not a murderer; he was a guerrilla. He was one of the last men on horseback. This was the time of Pancho Villa. This was the time of Emiliano Zapata. This was the time of San Dino (ph). This was the time of (inaudible) the gentleman of hope in Brazil (inaudible). He was one of those last horsemen who took on imperialism.

My great grandfather was one of them. I discovered the truth.

KOPPEL: You're a man who loves language. You're a man of many words. I'm going to put you to a test now.

Give me three words that describe you.

CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):A soldier-esque man. I would add the word "patriot." I would add the word "revolutionary."

KOPPEL: A revolutionary has to be in revolt against something. What are you revolting against?

CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):I've been in revolt for years against ignominy, against injustice, against inequality, against immorality, against the exploitation of human beings.

One of the greatest rebels, who I really admire: Christ. He was a rebel. He ended up being crucified. He was a great rebel. He rebelled against the established power that subjugated. That is what rebellion is; it's rebellion out of love for human beings. In truth, that is the cause, the cause of love: love for every human being, for every women, for every child, for every man, for every brother.

I believe you to be a brother. I don't see you as above or below. I don't feel superior or inferior to you. We're on an equal basis. Your cameraman, your photograph are equal. The men and women who are seeing you, who are seeing us are equal. They're true brothers.

KOPPEL: Well, maybe the photographer; not the cameraman.


No, no, I'm just teasing. He's an old friend.

CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):It's really hot here in New York.

KOPPEL: It's very hot here in New York.

I appreciate what you say and I think I understand that you don't feel that same way; you don't have that same love for the government of the United States.

CHAVEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):Yes. There are profound differences, very profound with this government, this administration since Mr. Bush came into power. We have been subjected -- Venezuela has been subjected to permanent aggression against us and against me personally.

There has been no respect for the sovereignty of Venezuelans, for the chief of state (inaudible) Venezuela.

On the other hand, I remind you that last night I gathered here with some Democrats and Republicans. Tomorrow, I'm going to be with some others.