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Can Venezuela's Neighbors Do More?; Raising Spirits; Imagine a World

Aired March 26, 2014 - 15:00:00   ET


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

The standoff between Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition is heading for a perfect storm with worrying signs that the worst protests in a decade could eventually lead to total economic collapse without some sort of pact between the two sides. The oil-rich country may be heading for a fall.

I put that to Maduro in Caracas during an interview earlier this month. But he brushed away the suggestion or the need for outside mediation as many others have called for.


NICOLAS MADURO, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Venezuela does not need mediation --


AMANPOUR: How will you fix it, then?

Nobody can see you getting together with the opposition or the other half of the country. And now people are saying it's desperate.

You don't believe you need mediation?

MADURO (through translator): I think that we need is cooperation. We are not in despair. Venezuelans have a long history. So we are able to listen to each other, to talk to each other.


AMANPOUR: But the two sides aren't talking to each other. Now more than three dozen people are dead, most recently a 28-year-old woman who was shot in the head after her bus was stopped at an opposition barricade.

This all started in February because of Venezuela's soaring crime rate, skyrocketing inflation and the kind of poverty that has people scrambling for even the most basic goods. Maduro even ordered the army to take over the toilet paper factory for fear of hoarding and shortages there.

It's been a year since he became president after the death of his mentor, Hugo Chavez, and many say he lacks his charisma and that certain political deftness. Indeed, right now, a leading opposition figure is in jail, another faces arrest for daring to challenge Maduro abroad. The press is under assault and Maduro today accused three generals of plotting a coup.

All of this in the nation that could be the engine of the continent. Venezuela, after all, has the world's largest oil and gas reserves. The Organization of American States, the OAS, is perhaps the closest thing to a regional arbiter. And now Jose Miguel Insulza, who is the OAS secretary- general, is joining me from Washington.

Mr. Insulza, thank you very much for joining me. You heard there what President Maduro said, brushing away the notion of any kind of mediation or somehow getting together with the opposition and many feel that economic collapse is on the way; they might not even be able to pay for food in the near future.

How does one change this situation right now?

JOSE MIGUEL INSULZA, SECRETARY-GENERAL, ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES: Well, I -- let me first agree that I'm not really sure that the last thing you said will happen. But I am -- I am, well, I truly believe that Venezuela is in a deep economic and political crisis. And with the recent political division among the different segments of society, as you know, there's a government, an opposition, they all more realize under the thousands of people in the streets, they all are present in all same segments of Venezuela. So the only way in which they could -- they can -- deep economic and social and political crisis that is happening can be solved is either they get along and they try to settle things in other with dialogue or the possibility of having some foreign mediation to -- mediation or visitation would be able to set -- to make them sit down and talk to each other.

AMANPOUR: But do you or any other body see any such independent mediator on the horizon?

INSULZA: No, actually it's true that it's very difficult because I mean, the (INAUDIBLE) be accompanied by both parties and we have -- certainly we have the tools to do that. We have shown in several cases there have been -- can be evenhanded in these matters.

But the possibility of having the OAS acting in this crisis has not been accepted by the government.

AMANPOUR: Right. Obviously the United States thinks that you, your organization, is best positioned. But you say the government has not accepted it; they call you a lackey of American imperialism. But worse, the opposition is not happy with you at all, either. We've had a slew of Twitter questions and complaints about the OAS.

But let me more pointedly read you what the currently imprisoned opposition figure, Leopoldo Lopez, has written in "The New York Times," that, you, the OAS, "has abstained from any real leadership on the current crisis of human rights and the looming specter of a failed state." And he says, "To be silent is to be complicit in the downward spiral of Venezuela's political system, its economy and society not to mention in the continued misery of millions."

That's a really serious charge. But he has a point ,right?

INSULZA: Christiane, yes, but , Christiane, the problem is that the Organization of American States is exactly what its title calls. It's (INAUDIBLE) decisions of state, represented by their government. If the governments are willing to act, they will act. If they are not willing to act, then there's another decision made by the governments who have some kind of action, then the organizations are (INAUDIBLE). We cannot -- their secretary-general, no one can overcome that lack of agreement among the member countries.

I wrote in February a piece; I was (INAUDIBLE) in several newspapers (INAUDIBLE) in the framework of a week and in both of them, I add you for a strongly for a dialogue among the parties in which everyone would be represented. I even think that Mr. Lopez and the others should be also represented in that dialogue to be meaningful. And at the same time I said you don't have a mediator, the international community can certainly provide one. (INAUDIBLE).


INSULZA: (INAUDIBLE) unfortunately, unfortunately, Christiane, I must say, the founder of the OAS, a former president of Colombia, said, once said that the OAS would be no more no less than what the member countries wanted (INAUDIBLE).

AMANPOUR: Right. But that's (INAUDIBLE) complaint.

I know that argument because the U.N. said it as well and, you know, we can't do anything we're only as good as our member states.

However you have a particular mandate -- and let me read it -- your mandate is to foster democracy, security, human rights and economic integration amongst your members. And people are saying you know, you haven't even debated the Venezuela situation.

And they say that you're actually in the pocket or the -- or -- I mean, recently, certainly at the last meeting, and that they say that the problem is these governments that you talk about are actually indebted to Venezuela because of the massive oil subsidies that they gave.

So do you think you are still at all placed to deal with this kind of crisis?

INSULZA: Well, I think that the fact is that for -- I think the reasons are basically political. I think that the Latin America is either going on the situation in which for several years we've had the bond crisis (ph). We had a recent economic growth. We've had some kind of important dialogue among the countries. There is peace in the region. And probably most of the countries are reluctant to get involved in the situation of one of the member countries. That's happened there in any -- in at all moments. Actually, we're -- we had a problem in Honduras. We all acted together.

But when we act, we had a problem in Paraguay. There was disagreement in the organization. Some countries were in favor -- (INAUDIBLE) those who are now in favor of not acting in the case of Venezuela were very much in favor of acting in the case of Paraguay. But most of the Maduro opposed and finally the situation was solved because there were elections and the second that the general does have any -- that's how the prerogative of sending and also raising along (INAUDIBLE) the mission to do the countries. And we did that with Paraguay. In the case of Venezuela, the problem at the sentamata (ph) has been said for what in council twice, twice in the period of less than 10 days.

Of course, it was the -- it was -- I do not share the decision of the council not to discuss the matter publicly. They decided to have a private session. It was a clear discussion, a strong discussion. And finally, one case, they issued a statement which was really not very effective. And in the second case, they just refused to discuss the matter.

AMANPOUR: So let me just ask you then, because an opposition figure, Ms. Machado (ph), came to Washington, trying to actually address this and the organization wouldn't allow her to speak. And she had to be adopted by the Panamanian delegation in order to speak.

But beyond that, so that's kind of weird. And beyond that --

INSULZA: It's weird, after all.

AMANPOUR: -- it's weird, right? I mean, she's there to try to tell you --


INSULZA: There are two weird things here. I mean, the first weird thing is that this is the only organization in the world that would rather come to sit somebody from the opposition of another country to speak on his behalf. Now that has been practiced before. That's what I did not like about what happened last week. This has been practiced before. It has been done before. I could mention at least five, four or five cases in which it has been done. And I couldn't see a reason why it couldn't done - - be done with Ms. Machado (ph). So (INAUDIBLE) letting her speak.

AMANPOUR: All right.

INSULZA: But the decision was different from that.

AMANPOUR: OK. Very quickly, because I really have only 10 seconds left, with this kind of paralysis, where do you see any kind of opening or light for Venezuela? Are you concerned that it's headed for a rocky future?

INSULZA: Yes, I am concerned that it's heading for a rocky future and I will continue to make all the statements and all the actions that I can have in my power to have -- the only solution to move forward to the only solution that exists, that is in the dialogue among parties. When there are 50 percent of the country one position, another 50 percent of the other, no rational center in between, the situation is certainly going to be rocky in the future.

AMANPOUR: We'll keep watching it. Secretary-General Insulza, thank you very much indeed for joining me from Washington.

INSULZA: Thank you very much to you. Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: And at various times since these tensions in Venezuela erupted, Twitter has been blocked throughout the country. Tweets were also out for a while in Turkey as Prime Minister Erdogan vowed to, quote, "wipe out Twitter," after it became a forum for spreading allegations of corruption.

A court there has now lifted that ban and anyway people managed to get around it. And we note that previously on this program, Prime Minister Erdogan told me that he's open to constructive criticism.


RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): But insult is one thing; criticism is another thing. I will never put up with insult. But I will always say yes and put up with criticism.


AMANPOUR: And while some world leaders try to insulate themselves from that, members of the acting profession can't avoid the slings and arrows of a bad review. Fortunately, though, that is something Angela Lansbury doesn't have to worry about because she's still receiving nothing but raves after seven decades on stage and screen. After a brief intermission, she takes center stage yet again with us. We'll be right back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. To many of us, my next guest is Jessica Fletcher from the world-famous television series, "Murder, She Wrote," a mystery writer and amateur detective solving crimes in a coastal town in Maine.

To others amongst us and of course to our children, she's Miss Eglantine Price, the main protagonist in the Disney classic, "Bedknobs and Broomsticks."


AMANPOUR: And now Lansbury's fans are spellbound again, bringing the role that she played on Broadway back in 2009 here to London's West End, that of an eccentric clairvoyant in Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit."

I spoke to Dame Angela Lansbury at the Gielgud Theater. It's her first time back on the London stage in 40 years and though she opened last week to rave reviews as usual, she's also had to work through unbearable personal pain to get here.


AMANPOUR: Angela Lansbury, welcome to our program.

ANGELA LANSBURY, ACTOR: Thank you. Thank you very, very much.

AMANPOUR: It's a great pleasure. "Blithe Spirit" is fabulous. You have so much stamina.

Where does it come from?

LANSBURY: That's the $24,000 question, truthfully. I don't know.

AMANPOUR: But when you see these amazing reviews, how old are you?

LANSBURY: Eighty-eight.

AMANPOUR: I mean it's incredible. I saw you on that stage. You stole the entire show.

LANSBURY: Oh, I hope not.

AMANPOUR: Everybody said that...


AMANPOUR: -- "Coward Revival Stays Young at Heart Thanks to Blithe Spirit Lansbury," "Dame Angela Making It Look Effortless at 88," "Lansbury Makes a Spirited Return to Her Old Haunt."

It's great.

LANSBURY: It is lovely, isn't it? It's lovely. I'm thrilled to death.

No, it's marvelous to get that kind of recognition in Britain after all these -- all these years, you know. And a...

AMANPOUR: What did you like about this play, "Blithe Spirit?"

LANSBURY: I love -- I love Coward. I love the humor. I love the language. I love the appearance of this woman. I love all of her nonsense and carryon. I think it's such fun.

AMANPOUR: You have played an enormous number of roles. You've had many awards, many nominations.

Plus we have an amazing clip from "The Manchurian Candidate," where you played a baddie to perfection.

We're just going to play that.


AMANPOUR: How did you become, from a young girl, to Angela Lansbury the film star?

LANSBURY: Well, because as we say in the business, the movie parlance, the break, you know, where was I? I was working in a department store, actually, getting $18 a week, you know. And kind of making change as a cashier and all kinds of little menial jobs of that sort.

And I had been a drama student in Britain before I ever went to America. So I was prepared. I was ready to be an actress. And I wanted to get a part, either in a play or a movie or anything, just to exercise my talent.

AMANPOUR: What was it like playing alongside all these major beauties but never being the heroine or never being that character?

LANSBURY: Oh, well, it took its toll on me finally. And I finally decided to ask for my release from MGM, which I got. And I was very happy to leave.

Ad they just didn't know what to do with me. They really didn't have the roles for me, which I could play strong women.

AMANPOUR: How did you go then from that frustration to, you know, "Murder, She Wrote," and all the other films and plays that have made you so established?

LANSBURY: Well, I'll tell you, really, you could compartmentalize my career into three parts, MGM, theater, musical theater -- huge. I've had a huge career in musical theater.

So I decided with my husband that this was the time if I was ever going to do television, I must do it now. So I did it in 1984. And --

AMANPOUR: That was the famous "Murder, She Wrote."

LANSBURY: -- that was the famous "Murder, She Wrote."

AMANPOUR: Jessica Fletcher.

LANSBURY: Today it's still watched worldwide and I can tell you that at least two-thirds of the audience during the previews of this show were people who watched "Murder, She Wrote."

AMANPOUR: How difficult was it to end the role of Jessica Fletcher with which you had become so associated; some people even think you are Jessica Fletcher.

LANSBURY: Right. It wasn't difficult for me at all. I was actually up to here with it -- not up to there with Jessica, I was up to there with the continuous -- the regimen that was involved; the hours were dreadful, you know, and you have no life at all.

AMANPOUR: This was 12 years.

LANSBURY: No life for 12 years. Yes. So the only life I had was with my husband, which was wonderful. We did it together.

AMANPOUR: You mentioned your husband.


AMANPOUR: And obviously, I wanted to talk to you about it, because it was clearly the most amazing relationship from everything I read, 53 years you were together. And he died in 2003.


AMANPOUR: What was the secret, apart from this partnership, which must have been fundamental, to your longevity together?

LANSBURY: I've always said it was mainly our mutual interest in what we were doing together. He had a successful business life. There was no question about that. He was a huge agent at William Morris and also had a production at MGM.

So he had a -- he had had a very fulfilling life and was very highly thought of in the business.

The fact that he was prepared to give it up for the purpose of helping me to have this career in television was a decision that he -- it was a very carefully arrived at decision, which we felt -- if we could do this together, it would make all of this getting up early, doing, you know, making our whole life this project, worthwhile.

And, you know, it's a funny thing, you don't make a great deal of money in the theater. And most actors will give their eye teeth to get a good television series. And so for me he recognized that it was -- as a business move, it was a very good one.

He never felt that he was being shafted by being the husband of a, you know...

AMANPOUR: He just never...


LANSBURY: -- a star, no.

AMANPOUR: And you obviously, for understandable reasons, you sank into a deep funk, depression, after he died.


AMANPOUR: You said I nearly went off the rails. Tell me what was that like and how did you get out of that?

What brought you out of that?

LANSBURY: It's hard to say. But I knew -- it -- I just knew I had to wait and the moment would arrive when I would be able to come up to the surface again and look around and see how I was going to mend this awful kind of rift inside myself.

So I waited. I didn't make any moves myself. And...

AMANPOUR: And I'm sorry.

LANSBURY: I thought, what would he want me to do?

And I knew that he would have wanted me to continue. I just knew that. There was never any question in my mind. I just kind of had to wait before I was able to do it.

So it came as a bolt out of the blue, actually. My darling friend...

AMANPOUR: Emma Thompson...

LANSBURY: Emma, suddenly, out of the blue -- and I hadn't -- I actually didn't know her at that point, but she became a good friend and she invited me to come and play with her in "Nanny McPhee."


LANSBURY: So it was a very rare and a rather difficult job for me. But I did -- I did it and it was fine. And I loved all the makeup and the nonsense that I was covered with. And it was -- and I -- it got me one of myself and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was wonderful.

AMANPOUR: And here you are, obviously, many years later, but here you are still doing it.

Do you ever think of retiring?

LANSBURY: I don't, really, no.


LANSBURY: I don't. Truthfully, I don't.

AMANPOUR: Thank you very much for joining me.

LANSBURY: Oh, it's been such fun.

I loved talking to you.

AMANPOUR: A pleasure.


AMANPOUR: And as we acknowledge, a brilliant life and a great stage and film career.

Imagine being behind the camera, not in a Hollywood movie but on board a Syrian tank as it takes you on a terrifying ride through shattered streets and shattered lives. A point of view you won't soon forget when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, a word about our program tomorrow. We'll have the special edition, our lens closes in on the most dangerous place in the world for children today and that is Syria. You won't want to miss an extraordinary film that movie star Angelina Jolie has made with the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR.

Now imagine their world only from behind the wheel of a tank that's firing and destroying their homes, their families, their lives. This remarkable video allegedly shot from a Syrian government tank and released by Russia's Abkhazian network news agency, puts you on board as it rumbles through neighborhoods that have been reduced to rubble. It's a harrowing ride, so hold on.


AMANPOUR: And the devastating result of all this deadly firepower? A nation that's become a ghost town, whose living ghosts continue to seek safety and sanctuary, a land of shadows left behind where children grow up without a childhood.

Tomorrow, the ever mounting human cost of Syria's self-destruction and the blowback that will come back to haunt us.

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