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Ukraine Under Siege; Mexico's Movement for Change; Imagine a World

Aired January 27, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


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

And tonight, Ukraine in ever-deepening crisis. Is it poised to splinter into chaos or will it embrace democratic reform?

Protests that have gripped the country for the past two months are now spreading. They're spreading out from the capital, Kiev, even into the Russian-speaking heartland of the Ukraine, which is President Yanukovych's home turf.

All of this began peacefully two months ago but the demonstrations, as we've seen, have taken a violent and deadly turn over the past few days and at least four protesters have been killed so far.

This weekend, the beleaguered Yanukovych made a dramatic offer to the opposition leaders. Arseniy Yatsenyuk was given the post of prime minister. And Vitaly Klitschko, the former boxing champion, would have become deputy prime minister, but neither accepted. And Arseniy was going to be my guest tonight, but he has just been drawn into renewed negotiations with the government.

The crisis, of course, began in November when the president rejected an association deal with the European Union and then accepted a billion-dollar bailout from the Russian President Vladimir Putin. And now that threatens to poison relations between Russia and the E.U. Their summit this week with the Russian president has been slashed from a few days to a few hours and European leaders have also canceled their dinner for President Putin.

So how will these new negotiations in Kiev turn out? Opposition Member of Parliament Lesya Orobets is also a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and she's taken part in these protests from the very beginning. She joins me now from the capital, Kiev.

Thank you very much for being with us. Welcome to this program.

Tell me, what do you think is the hope for these new negotiations that are underway as we speak?

LESYA OROBETS, OPPOSITION MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Hello. There's always room for hope; however, 60 days of protests has showed us that if Yanukovych, the president of Ukraine, tells the word negotiations, it's usually comes with violence against peaceful demonstrators. So the negotiations and talks are right now in the powers of the president. And so they are discussing the -- tomorrow's agenda for the Parliament.

AMANPOUR: So you mentioned this emergency meeting of the Parliament tomorrow.

What do you expect from that?

What are the concessions you hope, if any, will come from Yanukovych and his bloc?

OROBETS: To get back to revival negotiations we have at least four major arguments for tomorrow for the day in the Parliament. First of all, the release of all hostages; we have around 100 percent of people arrested, and we want them free as they sit for nothing.

Number two issue is to turn back to the previous condition when -- as it was before the Tories' (ph) laws on the 16th of January were adopted that actually limited the social, journalistic and political life in Ukraine to almost North Korea standards.

Number three issue is to get those responsible for beating innocent people, punished and we would love to see the minister of internal affairs, Zaharchenko, be not just dismissed but arrested.

And number four issue which is a dramatic change of the constitution towards the better and more democratic checks and balances system in order to limit the authority of the president and give more power to the Parliament as it's not -- as is now.

AMANPOUR: So you were talking about protesters having been beaten. And of course we do have some pictures. There was a rather notorious case in the latest demonstrations, a young protester who was beaten and he says that he was, you know, put there with a plastic bag over his head. And these pictures, of course, quite an uproar in Ukraine.

As you see these protests spreading beyond the capital, into the president's heartland, and as you see the president himself -- some say he blinked over the weekend. He decided to give a concession to the opposition leaders.

How do you think he's going to proceed? Is he going to give more concessions, do you think?

OROBETS: You're quite right. The protests are all over the country, including the very heart of Yanukovych base, which is done at sit-in -- weprosyrians (ph) Zaporizhzhya and others.

And they are more crimes against humanity down there as they were peaceful protesters attacked by criminal elements to get working together with militia, which is definitely unacceptable.

They do use cease-fire in Kiev to send troops to Oblasht (ph) and to get to spread terror there as well. What we may see tomorrow is even the threat for oppositional members of parliament, as recently there was who had changed so that for example, it can take off my immunity as a member of Parliament tomorrow, and arrest me in the very hall of the Parliament.

So this is a lot of scenarios played this day in Ukraine in Kiev. And we see it as -- if it's just about the Yanukovych, he would have resigned a month ago. But we see the hand of Putin working for him and pressing him to get rid of opposition, get rid of protests.

However, they failed.

AMANPOUR: But you see, they may have done that, but he was actually thinking of bringing the opposition leaders into the government over the weekend. Everybody was surprised by this offer to make your top opposition leaders prime minister and deputy prime minister. They did not accept.

Why did they not accept?

OROBETS: As this is 100 percent a trap. You have all the responsibility. You will have a hate of people who are standing the Maidan, not to be worked to oppositioners, but you will have no actual power to change anything. So without reforms being adopted in the Parliament, with the reform, of course, persecution office, militia, Berkut and other fails, you won't get a security for those people who are protesting in Maidan and you will be -- you will be in a trap.

And definitely that was made for you Western eyes, to show, come on, those guys got almost everything. What else do they want? Why not sit the table and sign the deal, but it's not a deal. It's a trap.

AMANPOUR: So are you nervous? I guess one of the questions is does the opposition, do the leaders have full control over the protesters and over the demonstrators? Because the opposition leaders did call for a truce. And it wasn't heeded.

So is there a risk at this moment of tipping the country into more violence or more chaos or splintering, as some have been concerned about?

OROBETS: Frankly speaking, we are on the brink of president adopting the decision of imposing the state of emergency, which will led to more militia and army on the streets and less ability for our mobilization and supporting the regions from Kiev. So we are really afraid of this to be the next step of the terror.

Definitely it's not just Yanukovych and his team fighting against the Ukranian people. We see Russian weapons being used. We have some indirect evidences that Russians forces are being used to train and to participate in street fights against us.

AMANPOUR: And you said just now that you're worried about a state of emergency. Yes, the justice minister did threaten to impose a state of emergency. But as far as we know, protesters have left the building, those who had taken over the Justice Ministry, have left the building.

A, is that correct? And therefore, do you feel that a state of emergency is still a real threat?

OROBETS: Now I see why they actually got into the premises of the Ministry of Justice. Frankly speaking, there were no necessity to get inside the building. And definitely it was made on purpose to get them a legal base for shouting and implementing the state of emergency. We as an opposition spent the whole day trying to negotiate with people who actually captured the premises to get out of there, not to give them any legal base for a state of emergency.

AMANPOUR: Well, that's my question again, then. You say people went into, took over the Justice Ministry. You disagreed with it. You tried to get them out.

So do you and do the opposition leaders have full control of the demonstrators?

Is there a fringe group who could derail your protests and give more pretext to more violence and heavy-handed response from the government?

OROBETS: Definitely we have to face this risk. And they're not just people who are standing in the outside. They also, those who show themselves as protesters, that are playing in Russian game. This was one of the -- one of the steps. I mean, the invasion into the Ministry of Justice is -- I do repeat that there was no necessity to go inside the premises except for giving a good base for a Minister of Justice to make her statement.

AMANPOUR: So finally, I know what --


OROBETS: So (INAUDIBLE) we have some radicals on force. Some of them -- yes?

AMANPOUR: We're just hearing right now that the E.U. foreign policy chief --


AMANPOUR: -- one second. We're just hearing that Lady Ashton is traveling to Ukraine tomorrow. The E.U. foreign policy chief. You have this emergency parliamentary meeting. I know what you hope from that meeting. What do you expect from that meeting and what could Lady Ashton, the head of the E.U. foreign policy, what kind of effect could her visit have at this crucial moment?

OROBETS: We do welcome (INAUDIBLE) Catherine Ashton to Kiev and we do hope not for just statements like we are concerned with, deeply concerned, but actually the actions as 60 days in a row, these people do stand the extreme frost, trying to get the -- not only the association agreement signed but their right as citizens, as members of Europe protected.

So we do -- we do hope for election plan on her side as well, and we do hope that tomorrow's Parliament will get to the point where the draconian laws will be canceled and those who are responsible for imposing violence punished and those who are keeping hostages released. But on top of that, we would like to start the change of the constitution which was -- which was actually demolished in unconstitutional way in 2010 and the collapse to the city as what we have today. So constitutional changes.

AMANPOUR: Well, we'll be watching and meantime, Member of Parliament Lesya Orobets, thank you so much indeed for joining me.


AMANPOUR: And of course, Ukraine is on the pope's mind as well because on Sunday, the pope invited children to help him release two doves of peace from his balcony which overlooks St. Peter's Square. But a crow and a seagull may have just seen food and not peace because they immediately swooped down to attack the doves in a flurry of feathers. And they flew off. The doves did, that is. But they were pursued by their attackers. Like Ukraine itself, their fate remains uncertain.

And if you think that's unsettling, there are economic storm clouds hovering on the horizon. We'll look for an unlikely silver lining in a country where 60 million people live in poverty. That is when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. It's been a scary few days for the emerging markets as several currencies, the Argentine peso, the Russian ruble, the South African rand and the Turkish lira, amongst others, have plummeted to multiyear lows against the U.S. dollar.

Both the U.S. tapering and reports of slowing growth in China have investors hitting the panic button. Despite living in the same neighborhood, metaphorically speaking, anyway, Mexico's finance minister says that his country is strong enough to battle the storm.

And it needs to as it's depending on a rash of reforms to better the lives of its 120 million citizens, nearly half of whom live in poverty.

Most ambitious is the opening of its oil sector to foreign investors after more than 70 years of complete state control. Luis Videgaray, Mexico's finance minister and top adviser to the country's president, Enrique Pena Nieto, joins me now in the studio.

And we're very lucky to have. Welcome to the program.

LUIS VIDEGARAY, MEXICAN FINANCE MINISTER: Well, thank you. (INAUDIBLE) pleasure to be here.

AMANPOUR: Well, it's great, particularly at this time, because you will admit that there is reason to worry in emerging markets with this currency sort of hit that's happened over the last few days.

VIDEGARAY: It's very clear that we're facing an increasing risk aversion surrounding our emerging markets. The (INAUDIBLE) last week make it very clear and as long as there's risk aversion remains, it's risk aversion remains regarding the uncertainty (INAUDIBLE) brink from the Federal Reserve, the events in China, what's going to happen to the growth in China, all these events create uncertainty and increase risk aversion.

But we are firmly convinced that it's going to be the fundamentals of the economies that will differentiate across the emerging markets class. And - -

AMANPOUR: Why do you think Mexico, as you said, in -- to a group in Davos, why do you think Mexico is going to be able to, as you said, weather this storm?

VIDEGARAY: Two things: we have better fundamentals in our microeconomic management. And we have a strong reform agenda. We foster growth for the next years to come. On the stronger fundamentals, (INAUDIBLE) current account deficits. We are a country that has a very small current account deficit, slightly over 1 percent; whereas Turkey or other countries have close to 6 percent or 7 percent, even Brazil has double of our current account deficit.

We have a low debt-to-GDP ratio. We have a strong banking system, better capitalized than the European banks or the U.S. banks. So we -- and we have a stable inflation. So we are a country with better fundamentals. And of course, as in Pena's reform agenda, it's pushing for prospects for growth and creating good expectations.

AMANPOUR: So before I get to that reform agenda, let me ask you, you do also feel that -- I mean, you've suffered some blowback from this. What kind of pitfalls do you think lie ahead for you?

VIDEGARAY: Well, Mexico's a country with small -- with strong fundamentals, because we are still a emerging economy. Very open, fully integrated to the financial markets and very open to trade. It's natural that we face some volatility.

But again, our fundamentals are strong. And we believe we can weather the storm certainly better than other emerging market economies.

AMANPOUR: I think everybody took a great big gasp when they saw you announce or it was announced during the Davos meeting that you know, a group of major companies have basically pledged a $7 billion investment in your country.

VIDEGARAY: You know, pouring direct investment is much less volatile to market interests. And what we are seeing is the good prospects of growth for the Mexican economy, supported by a strong reform agenda, structural reform agenda, by creating opportunities for foreign direct investment in many sectors of the economy.

We saw technology announcements from Cisco; we saw announcements from -- I shouldn't be saying brands; I know that. But we are -- we are getting --

AMANPOUR: I mean, there's a whole load of companies.

VIDEGARAY: -- a lot of companies are --

AMANPOUR: Right. PepsiCo, Nestle, Cisco, as you said.

VIDEGARAY: Exactly. Those are -- and those are only a few companies. Those are very different sectors. But a common denominator is that Mexico's attracting attention because of its growth prospects.

AMANPOUR: Well, before I get to the good news, I just wanted you to tackle some of the bad news, because it is extraordinary for us to see this amazing amount of investment, not because of you're not doing the reforms; you are. But because of the violence that still exists there. I mean, we know that over the last, you know, year for the third time, the president was forced to dispatch the army to one of your western states, which has practically been paralyzed and held hostage by the bad guys.

Are you not concerned that the inability to rein in the violence, which has systematically plagued your country, might have sort of a knock-on effect on investors?

VIDEGARAY: Obviously security is a top priority for Enrique Pena Nieto's government. Let me share some facts with you, Christiane.

Homicide rate has decreased 16 percent since the government started. Homicides related to organized crimes are down 30 percent. Some cities that were experiencing severe violence, like Ciudad Juarez in the border or even the city of Monterrey have shown significant decreases in violence.

We have a problem in the state of Michoacan, and the president has taken bold steps by removing all police forces, all local police forces, substituting federal forces, sending a special commissioner for what, to reestablish the rule of law. This is a long, complex problem that is particularly fortified in the state and the president has taken the actions necessary, as I said, to reestablish the rule of law.

AMANPOUR: And as you said, this is going to be a long crisis. But in the meantime, you are doing these reforms. What are the most significant? We keep looking at the oil sector; we've said that, you know, it hasn't been privatized for -- it's -- practically its whole existence, more than 70 years.

How important is that? And are you able to, you know, see that through?

VIDEGARAY: Why is the reform agenda happening? Because we want to increase growth and we want to do it by making easier to make business in Mexico, to make the Mexican economy more productive. Reducing the cost of energy, reducing the electricity bills by small companies, by Mexican families; by reducing the cost of lending. We have very strong banks that lend very little. We made a financial reform for that. A telecommunications reform, we need more competition in our telecom industry. We need the access to the Internet, the access to information technology to be of better quality and cheaper. That's why President Pena put forward a telecommunications reform, anti-trust reform. We need more competition in our economic -- in our economy overall. These are reforms, such as the labor reform to flex -- to bring flexibility into labor market or the very important education reform to increase the quality of our -- of our schools, these are all reforms that have one single common denominator, which is productivity. We need to increase productivity to increase growth. And the well-being of Mexicans.

AMANPOUR: And you put your finger on my next question, the well-being of Mexicans. We've stated that some 60 million Mexicans, nearly half the country, live in what's officially declared poverty.

Are they seeing the results of these reforms? Could some of these reforms paradoxically hurt them to an extent, certain taxes, certain things that affect their buying ability?

VIDEGARAY: I was in Davos last week. There was a lot of talk about income inequality. But I think there is no -- not enough talk of productivity inequality. And this is what exactly what President Pena wants to do. He talks a lot of democratization of productivity. That means the bringing productivity, which is the only sustainable way to improve income to all regions of the country and to all sectors of the economy, we have a class -- a world-class exporting manufacturing industry linked to NAFTA. But we have regions of the country that are poor and by these reforms I mean that we will reduce the cost of production across the economy, again, all these reforms are trying to reduce the cost of inputs to the overall economy, to increase productivity. And therefore increase real wages, not only for a few supporting sectors, but for the overall economy.

AMANPOUR: Luis Videgaray, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

VIDEGARAY: Thanks, Christiane, it's a real pleasure.

AMANPOUR: The pleasure is all mine. Thanks so much.

And after a break, we'll return to Ukraine, where more than 70 years ago the world's first witness the beginnings of what would come to be known as the Holocaust. On this day, when the world pauses to remember the slaughter of millions, we'll revisit the place where genocide began, one bullet at a time.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, today marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorated around the world, including a memorial in Poland at Auschwitz, the largest Nazi death camp which was liberated by Soviet troops on this day in 1944.

But due to the unrest in Ukraine, the annual memorial in the capital, Kiev, has been canceled, canceled but not forgotten. Imagine a world where the genocidal nightmare began. Thanks to Britain's History Channel, newly released footage from the archives of the former Soviet Union offers a harrowing glimpse of the beginnings of the Nazi killing machine. In the summer of 1941, before the use of gas chambers and ovens, the Nazi Blitzkrieg reached Kiev, then home to 160,000 Jews. Many fled, but 60,000 remained, mostly women, children, the sick and the elderly.

On September 29th, 1941, they were rounded up and taken to a ravine outside of a town called Rabi Yar -- Babi Yar, that is -- and over the next two days, half of them, 33,000, were systematically machine gunned and tossed into the pit.

Ultimately, 100,000 Jews, Gypsies, Communists and Soviet prisoners of war met the same fate there.

The Nazis didn't anticipate one result of the slaughter: not on the victims, but on the traumatized troops that carried it out, ordered to shoot thousands of women and children at point-blank range.

For the sake of morale and efficiency, they soon began building the death camps like Auschwitz that would turn the killing into an impersonal assembly line. Today as violence and death again stalk Ukraine, the words of Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko taken from his poem, "Babi Yar," are more poignant and powerful than ever.

" I am every old man executed here. I am every child murdered here. No fiber of my body will forget this," he wrote.

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.