Return to Transcripts main page


Europe's Bridge to Ukraine; Negotiating to End the Killing; Venezuela Protesters Not Letting Up; Race and Justice in America; Imagine a World

Aired February 26, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Call it the Ukraine effect, perhaps, for it is not just Kiev where citizens are demanding radical change. Protests have erupted around the world and people are taking to the streets, desperate to vent frustration with their government, from Turkey to Thailand, Egypt and Venezuela.

First, though, to Ukraine, which is right now at a critical turning point as the country's opposition tries to translate sweet victory into solid government. Tens of thousands of people remain in the Maidan or Independence Square, having tonight signed off on new cabinet members who were presented for the approval of the crowd.

They've nominated the protest leader, Arseniy Yatsenyuk as the next prime minister. While there are celebrations in Kiev away from the pro- European capital, clashes continue in the pro-Russian Crimea region. And tonight, the very real threat of secession and immediate financial crisis still hangs over Ukraine.

Poland has been a leading E.U. player in this crisis. The foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, was at the heart of the tricky negotiations to resolve it at the height of the uprising over the weekend, and he joins me by phone now from Warsaw.

Foreign Minister Sikorski, welcome; thank you for joining me.

Can I ask you first, obviously this new presentation of government is temporary until new elections. But has the E.U. done everything it can to make sure that Ukraine doesn't falter either economically or politically at this moment?

RADOSLAW SIKORSKI, POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, Ukraine can only be sorted out by Ukrainians and certainly Arseniy Yatsenyuk is an experienced and respected figure, very competent, former foreign minister, former speaker of parliament, certainly someone we can do business with and someone who will have the confidence of the West but also the ability to speak to Russia, which is very important.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me take that --

SIKORSKI: And he has a --

AMANPOUR: -- sorry to interrupt you, let me ask you about Russia. There have been two bulletins out of Russia today, one is that the government announced military maneuvers there to the East. They say it's got nothing to do with what's going on in Ukraine.

Nonetheless, the United States has warned again that there should be no military intervention. And Russia and Germany have said that they don't believe the opposition is implementing the peace deal and that urgent measures should be taken to restore stability.

How do you read all of that?

SIKORSKI: Well, the peace deal that we negotiated had been overtaken by events. Its point number one was that the old constitutional democratic one will be restored within 48 hours.

But former President Yanukovych did not sign it. So he breached the agreement.

But we have also signaled to our Russian partners that playing the separatist card would be a grave mistake. Russia is a signatory of the Budapest Declaration of 1994, when Ukraine voluntarily gave up the nuclear arsenal she had inherited from the Soviet Union.

And in return, Russia, United States and the United Kingdom guaranteed Ukraine's independence and Ukraine's borders.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister?

SIKORSKI: That becomes --

AMANPOUR: Yes, indeed; I hear you loud and clear on that.

So how do you believe this fear, these clashes, for instance, in Crimea can be resolved?

There is a great deal of violence and instability right now in that region.

SIKORSKI: Well, the parliament of Ukraine made what I believe to be a mistake a few days, canceling a law on regional languages. The Ukrainian government should signal very eloquently to the ethnic minorities in Ukraine that they are welcome in Ukraine, that they are going to be part of the new Ukraine.

So as to -- and also Ukraine is a member of the Council of Europe with its laws on protecting minorities.

AMANPOUR: All right. Let me ask you, again, about the crucial moment when you were there in negotiations, both with the opposition and with President Yanukovych and apparently you have said that it was President Putin who called Yanukovych and persuaded him to hold back.

Tell me how that went.

SIKORSKI: President Yanukovych leapt up (ph) several times to talk to Vice President Biden, Chancellor Merkel and, indeed, President Putin. And remember that this was a mission by the foreign ministers of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier; France, Laurent Fabius and authorized (ph) by Cathy Ashton, the high representative of the E.U.

But, indeed, one of the breakthroughs was when we said, well, look, Mr. President; you have to declare to the opposition by when you agree for new presidential elections to be held, by when you intend to shorten your term of office. And he was very reluctant, you may imagine. And his attitude changed after one of the conversations, we think, with President Putin.

AMANPOUR: And why do you think President Putin would have essentially, you know, cut his ties or cut his losses in this regard?

SIKORSKI: I wasn't privy to the conversation.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you this, what about the E.U.? Let's get back to the E.U. You are a strong proponent; Poland is a strong proponent of close European ties with Ukraine, for all sorts of reasons.

But even now Europe is being sort of not really promising a huge amount of financial bailout or any kind of thing that they need. They've asked for $35 billion over the next couple of years.

Is Europe, you know, holding back or doing all that it should and could at this point?

SIKORSKI: Oh, Europe is the beginning and the essence of this story because, remember, the process started when President Yanukovych abruptly withdrew from signing association agreement with Europe which millions of Ukrainians see had a chance of a better life, which indeed it is.

And Europe can help to implement that agreement. But I think it would be a mistake to flood Ukraine with unconditional money. Ukraine still needs to show that it is capable of carrying our fundamental reforms and the best instrument of doing that is returning to cooperation with International Monetary Fund.

AMANPOUR: Do you think this is still a Ukraine in crisis?

Or do you feel that now there is a way to resolve this and to carry on and have some kind of stability?

SIKORSKI: Ukraine is definitely in a crisis. Let's hope it doesn't deepen. But Ukraine now has a chance to stabilize its institutions, to start reforms, get the second tranche of IMF money, elect a new president, sign an association agreement with Europe and become a better country.

AMANPOUR: On that note, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski of Poland, thank you very much indeed for joining us tonight.

SIKORSKI: Pleasure.

AMANPOUR: And I mentioned before there does seem to be a Ukraine effect, at least in Venezuela, because right now, that country is in the throes of the biggest protest since the death of President Hugo Chavez a year ago. In this oil-rich country, people are outraged at record inflation, a tanking economy, shortages of basic goods and high crime rate.

Thirteen people have been killed since the demonstrations began and we're joined now by Maria Corina Machado. She's an opposition member of parliament and she's joining me by phone from Caracas.

First, let me ask you, Maria Machado, how much of an inspiration have you all, have the demonstrators in the street, taken from those in Kiev and across the Ukraine?

MARIA CORINA MACHADO, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LAWMAKER: Well, not that much, Christiane, truly because these have been a process that have (INAUDIBLE) for many years in Venezuela.

But in the last month, people thought that, you know, resignation and fear has taken over our country. And suddenly three weeks ago, students decide to call off and the country was awakened.

And what they call was for freedom, justice and true peace. And it's a big deal for us because in Venezuela that it has numerous protests of years for economic or social reasons. Now there has been a direct link between the origin and also the solution of these dramatic economic situation and dramatic social situation.

To that, the government had to choose. They make changes, profound changes or they decided to repress.

AMANPOUR: All right.

MACHADO: And what they have decided is the second part. They decided a brutal repression in order to stop the civic movement. And now all citizens are in the streets.

AMANPOUR: Well, right. And of course we read that many of them are in touch with fellow protesters in Ukraine and particularly in the idea of staying on the streets until the president goes. That is what we're hearing from Venezuelans just as we heard from those protesters in Independence Square in Kiev.

Is that what you believe is going to happen, people in Venezuela will stay in the streets until there is a change of government?

MACHADO: Well, I believe that the section of the government that repressed brutally students that have been killed, 14 students, over 700 detained, 150 hurt. And the most horrible tortures that have been shown up because of the social media and because of the pictures and very courageous testimonies of these young people that have given their testimony in trials, that have been done with paid military quarters and places that they have been -- you know, that they have been controlled by the military.

These have brought a huge indignation. Instead of suppressing the will to fight, what has happened is that women, mothers decided to come out and support them, workers, union leaders, journalists. Today we're coming from a huge protest, a silent protest here in Caracas, over 10,000 women, dressing in white. And we went to the general quarter of the national guard, because it has been a national guard, the complement (ph) of the government has used to repress our kids, our children.

And went then to required immediately suppress of these -- repression on our kids. And that justice be done to those that are responsible for what has happened in the last day.

And as I -- what I'm seeing is that more and more citizens realize that we will only have justice, we will only have peace and we will only have freedom when we have a change of government. And we will do that, of course, under the constitution that give us several ways in which we can demand and achieve a change of government, a regime change.

AMANPOUR: Obviously you say that, but there are many, many parts of the country and many areas which still support the government; they support Nicolas Maduro. They support what Hugo Chavez stands for.

There have been a couple of officials who've broken ranks and criticized the excessive use of force and the killings as you just mentioned.

But how do you foresee this progressing because the government, the president has essentially called those protests in the streets extremists and terrorists. And there does not seem to be any indication of any political give-and-take.

MACHADO: Well, people power is strong and what we've seen in the last days, something unprecedented, for instance, there's a medic (ph) quarter that is only a couple of kilometers away from the presidential house called Banque de Deniro (ph), and they say it's emblematic because that was the strongest area of support for Hugo Chavez and Maduro.

And in the last week, we have seen -- we have heard, in that case, three huge pot sounding (ph) -- I don't know how you say that in English, with that dacket olaf (ph), but that means people in their houses, getting their pots and banging them as an expression of repulsion (ph) of what's going on.

So it's a very interesting thing that we've not seen before, this huge rejection in an area that was supposedly totally controlled by officialism (ph).

So what we're seeing is that gradually more and more people from all over the country are demanding a strong change. And the fact is that, you know, as you mentioned before, the scarcity, inflation, unemployment and, of course, violence. I mean, this is something that is getting worse every day and people are desperately looking for a change and have made that direct relation.

I mean, these will not change unless we have regime change.

AMANPOUR: Ms. Machado?

MACHADO: There still, in fact, being, you know, our inspiration. And finally what we're seeing that in three weeks the world is starting to call things by their name and the government that persecutes, that censors, that tortures, that kills even the students protesting in the streets, a dictatorship and should be called as that.

AMANPOUR: Ms. Machado, the opposition member of parliament joining me from Caracas, thank you very much indeed.

And of course, we continue to ask the Venezuelan government to give their side of the debate on this show. And we are ready to host them whenever they're ready.

As we've been seeing with people taking to the streets all over the world, expressing frustration, we'll turn next to a frustration also felt in the United States where liberty and justice for all is too often denied to some because of their color. Making justice color-blind when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. And we're going to turn now to America, where two years ago today, a black teenager named Trayvon Martin became the latest face of what many call racial injustice in America.

Martin was unarmed except with a hoodie, when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida. The assailant, George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, claimed self-defense. And the jury agreed, pronouncing him not guilty.

Of course Trayvon's case was hardly the first or the last such tragedy. Just two weeks ago, again in Florida, a similar situation, a white man escaped the most serious charge of first degree murder after he shot and killed a black teenager in a dispute over loud music, of all things.

Americans like to think their justice is blind. But the numbers tell a different story.

And joining me now, a lawyer on the front lines of this struggle for real justice, Bryan Stevenson. He joins me now from New York.

Mr. Stevenson, welcome.

You have said --


AMANPOUR: -- you have said that it is better in some ways to be rich and guilty in America than poor and innocent.

Tell me what you mean.

STEVENSON: Yes, we have a criminal justice that is very well sensitive and the truth of it is is that without money, without resources, our system does not protect the innocent and it certainly doesn't protect people who are burdened with the presumption of guilt. And many people of color in America have been saddled with.

And that's the reason why we see so much inequality, so much unjust outcomes in our criminal justice system.

AMANPOUR: And so much frustration on the streets of the United States, particularly with this -- what you've termed this mass incarceration.

I want to put up the statistic and have you discuss the color of barriers between who's arrested and incarcerated and who's not.

White and black Americans, for instance, are deemed to use marijuana at about the same rate. But black Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, that is the ACLU in the United States.

Tell me about that. Tell me about crime and punishment and what is shaping up in American jails.

STEVENSON: Yes, the country has really changed in the last 50 years. In 1972, we had 300,000 people in jails and prisons in America. Today, we have 2.3 million. The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

Much of that has been achieved through targeted prosecutions of people of color. The Bureau of Justice reports that one in three black male babies born in 2001 is expected to go to jail or prison. There are states and communities where 50-60 percent of young men of color are in jail, in prison, on probation or parole. Many of these young people have not committed violent crimes or done anything serious. They're there for drug crimes or for property crimes. And many are innocent there because of what I call this presumption of guilt.

And I think we have to understand that these phenomena reflect a larger failure in American society to deal with the history of racial inequality and racial injustice. I mean, this country is burdened with the legacy of slavery. We enslave Africans for over two centuries, from the end of Reconstruction until World War II, we terrorized and traumatized black people in America with lynchings and violence and racial hatred.

Then we legalized racial subordination through our laws and created Jim Crow, segregation, that was deeply humiliating and demonizing and because we never told the truth about all of those problems and all the difficulties that created, we've never had the moment of truth and reconciliation that every country requires if it's going to deal with decades of human rights abuses. We didn't have what South Africa went through.

AMANPOUR: That's actually what I was going to ask you. There hasn't been a truth and reconciliation like in South Africa. There hasn't been a reconciliation process and a democratization process like happened in Germany after World War II.

STEVENSON: I think that's exactly right and it's because of that that we're very arrogant about our ability to avoid racial inequality, when, in fact, we're very prone to it.

You know, in Germany, there was this deep reflection that we could never again repeat the mistakes of the Holocaust. And you go to Germany and you see the landscape is really just populated with all of the reminders and memorials and markers. And there is within the German consciousness a deep resolve to never again engage in that kind of systemic killing.

And I think about that because I would be outraged if I saw the nation state of Germany today putting people in gas chambers. And I'd certainly be outraged if they were disproportionately Jewish.

Yet in America, where we have lynched and victimized thousands of African Americans throughout our history, we still have a death penalty system that operates in a very racially skewed manner.

And it's an absence of humility. It's an absence of confronting our obligation to do justice, to reconcile ourselves to our history that I think is very much a part of this.

We just put up markers reflecting slavery in my community in Montgomery, Alabama, because there was nothing there before.

AMANPOUR: And there are -- we see the figures. I mean, African Americans are incarcerated nearly six times the rate of whites.

What does this mass incarceration do to the identity of America today?

STEVENSON: Oh, I think it has a profound impact. I mean, in many states, you permanently lose the right to vote. And we're actually celebrating the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement, the Voting Rights Act. And we're doing it at a time where, in my states, my state of Alabama, 34 percent of the black male population has permanently lost the right to vote as a result of a criminal conviction.

And so it is absolutely disrupting the opportunities for America to become a full democracy. And that's why I think this issue is a pressing issue. Incidents like Trayvon Martin and the other issues that you've mentioned are deeply disturbing in communities of color because they reflect a continuing disregard for valuing people of color in the way that we have to if we're going to recover from our history of racial inequality and racial injustice.

AMANPOUR: Bryan Stevenson, thank you very much indeed for joining me tonight.

STEVENSON: My pleasure.

AMANPOUR: And after a break, as you just heard, we just talked about the Civil Rights Act of 50 years go. After a break, President Lyndon Johnson, who signed that into office, the lunch counter and other public businesses are once again the battleground, this time for gays in the state of Arizona.

"Ditat Deus" or "God Enriches" is the state motto there. But what happens when religious beliefs collide with universal rights? The answer when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, with dissent sweeping across the globe as we've reported tonight, from Kiev to Caracas, imagine a world where the struggle for human rights is still being waged in America in the restaurants of the free and the bed and breakfasts of the brave.

Last week, the Arizona legislature passed a bill that would allow the state business owners to deny service to gays and lesbians if serving them would violate their religious beliefs. Arizona is already a flashpoint for restrictions on immigration and the unrestricted use of firearms. And supporters of the new law staunchly defend it as a bulwark of religious freedom.

At the same time, proponents of gay rights have put up their own signs, denouncing the violation of their fundamental freedoms.

Arizona's often controversial governor, Jan Brewer, can either sign the bill, do nothing and let it become law or veto it. And the clock is ticking on a Saturday deadline for her to make a decision.

Now Arizona is scheduled to host the Super Bowl next year and corporations like Apple and American Airlines are investing heavily in the state. And the pressure now to veto this bill is mounting. These fierce battles over the rights of the individual are still being waged in America 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson signed the historic U.S. Civil Rights Act into law back in 1964. In simple yet powerful terms, LBJ later explained the law's meaning and its promise.


LYNDON JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we affirmed through law that men equal under God are also equal when they seek a job, when they go to get a meal in a restaurant or when they seek lodging for the night in any state in the Union.


AMANPOUR: But almost 50 years on, the battle goes on and the promise remains to be fulfilled.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.