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Ukraine Protests; Venezuela Protests; Finding Hope for a Lost Generation; Imagine a World

Aired February 18, 2014 - 14:00   ET


HALA GORANI, CNN GUEST HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Hala Gorani, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

Tonight, violence and dissent on two continents. Several people are dead as fresh clashes erupt in Ukraine in the worst violence in weeks, demonstrators have set fire to a government building in Kiev. In a moment, the very latest on the ground and I'll speak also to the U.S. ambassador to Kiev as the crisis continues to ring alarm bells in Europe and Washington.


GORANI (voice-over): Well, tensions are also running very high in Venezuela as we've reported on this program on Monday. Pro- and anti- government protests are underway in Caracas as a key opposition leader is detained by government forces. I will speak to the mayor of a Caracas community who was with him when it happened.

Also ahead, my interview with inspirational teenager Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban. Here she is in the white headscarf as she greets Syrians flooding into refugee camps. Her message on the disaster there coming up.

But let's start with Ukraine.

Phil Black is in Kiev and joins me now on the phone from there. We're seeing a dramatic uptick in violence.

What's going on right now in Kiev, Phil?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, we are now trying to enter the center of Kiev, which is -- as you can see from the pictures that are coming out of there at the moment, something quite dramatic is happening. And it follows what has been a dramatic violent day here in the Ukranian capital.

There have been clashes, unprecedented clashes compared to what we've been seeing in the city for the last three months as this crisis has dragged on and lives have been lost. We believe around nine lives have been lost in clashes between protesters and police.

And from all the statements that have been coming from police today and from what we told, the reaction right now on the ground, it appears that police are using and the Russians and the Ukranian government is using this particular escalation today as an excuse to reassert its authority and do what it has been very keen to do for some time now, Hala, and that is clear Independence Square in the center of Kiev. We believe that is what is taking place at this moment, Hala.

GORANI: We're hearing reports that the both that individuals on both sides are armed as you mentioned a rising death toll.

I mean, why is it deteriorating, this situation, essentially in Ukraine when it appeared as though a few days ago there was a lull, some sort of amnesty deal, some sort of agreement.

BLACK: Yes, that's exactly right. A couple days ago it appeared that things were deescalating. We had a number of the government buildings that were being occupied. Those occupations were ended and the government declared an amnesty for everyone that had been taking place in this anti- government activity and it was under some form of criminal investigation.

Those investigations were then dropped. Today it was supposed to be a big day in the Ukranian parliament. You had the opposition parties pushing for a restoration of an older version of the constitution that would curtail that let then the palace, the president and expected that the president was going to put forward a new prime minister.

None of that happened. And meanwhile, out on the streets, peaceful protests and what were supposed to be peaceful protests came up against a very sizable security force in the streets surrounding the parliament and that is what triggered the clashes, these two groups coming together in this way. And it has resulted in the deadliest day of this crisis so far, Hala.

GORANI: All right. Thanks very much, Phil Black reporting there from Kiev, not too far from that dramatic demonstration and you're seeing some of the images coming to us from the square there. We are hoping to connect with the U.S. ambassador as we mentioned at the top of the program to Ukraine who is hopefully going to be able to join us in the next few minutes. And as I mentioned earlier as well we are going to be discussing what is going on in Venezuela with some of these dramatic demonstrations and clashes taking place in Caracas.

Once again I want to bring your attention to what you're seeing on this screen now in Ukraine, just a few days after it appeared as though a lull was taking hold between the two sides there in Kiev. What we're seeing now has developed over the last several hours. Phil Black was mentioning up to nine people reported killed, some of them police officers, other demonstrators just as what appears to be once again sort of a scenario that is reminiscent of some of the Cold War scenarios between Russia on the one hand and Western countries on the other is taking shape.

I understand we have on the phone from Kiev the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. Thanks for joining us, sir. What's your reaction to what's going on right now in Kiev?

GEOFFREY PYATT, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Hi, Hala. Well, obviously we're appalled by the violence that's unfolding. It's been a terrible day in Ukraine's history. We're hoping that the parliament and the opposition will take immediate steps to deescalate. You can hear in the background right now the bells at St. Michael's monastery, where they're calling people to come to the defense of the Maidan. It's clear there are still thousands of people out on the plaza right now. And any effort to take that ground by violence would produce atrocious casualties.

They are encouraging the quickest possible return to political dialogue. And we hope that that will happen this evening.

GORANI: And what is the U.S.' role in all of this?

PYATT: Well, we are -- first of all, we are -- we are friends of Ukraine. We want to see a Ukraine that is stable and democratic and economically successful. So we've been involved closely with our European partners through this crisis, helping to encourage dialogue, making clear to all sides that violence is unacceptable and making clear our preparedness to work closely with a new Ukranian government which we hope they'd be able to put together with a focus on getting the country healthy economically and building a broad -- kind of broad dialogue that's going to be necessary to rebuild democratic politics here.

GORANI: And on the government side, there have been accusations, especially after that leaked phone call between you and Victoria Nuland, the assistant undersecretary of state, regarding possible scenarios in which the U.S. could get itself involved, try to exert pressure to try to find the solution to end this crisis.

You know, how do you respond to these accusations that the U.S. is meddling, essentially, and clearly taking sides?

PYATT: Yes, well, again, I'm not going to talk about any phone calls. But I'll say, you know, our role has been an appropriate diplomatic working closely with our European partners. And engaging closely with the government. We are Ukraine's friend in this exercise and we have made clear our view that the solution at this point is a new political compact and the creation of a broad, multiparty government that can begin the process of political healing here.

We -- I don't consider it -- I don't consider it meddling when we're in the business of helping to build bridges between the government and the opposition. And in fact, I'm standing in front of the foreign ministry right now. The government has, on several occasions, publicly welcomed the role of the United States has played in helping to encourage communication here.

The United States has invested a great deal of money and political capital over the years, helping to build a Ukraine which is sovereign and independent and democratic and we certainly don't want to see that slip through our fingers now.

GORANI: Lastly I want to ask you about something you tweeted. We believe Ukraine's crisis can be solved via dialogue, but those on both sides who fuel violence will open themselves to sanctions.

What does that mean exactly?

PYATT: What it means is that all policy instruments are on the table for the United States at this point. And we have already -- we have already exercised authorities here to revoke the visas of several officials directly involved in violence. And we've made clear that additional steps will be taken by the United States to the extent there is grave violence against people, demonstrators.

Obviously we're still in the process of picking up the pieces of what's happened today and as you've reported, it's an extremely dynamic and delicate situation still. But the United States wants to see the politics off the street back in Ukraine's democratic institutions.

GORANI: All right. Thank you very much, Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Kiev right now, discussing a very volatile situation in Kiev as well, with authorities asking people not to head to the center of town to avoid, quote, "casualties."

Turning now to unrest in Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro and his government finally have its hands on opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. According to its political party, he's there in the center wearing the white top, Lopez appeared at an anti-government rally today and turned himself into authorities who are charging him with terrorism and murder for the deaths of three people killed in protests last week.

Lopez says he is innocent and he was put, as you see in this footage, into a police vehicle and driven away.

Meanwhile government backers gathered for a competing protest elsewhere in the capital city of Caracas. David Smolansky is a member of Leopoldo's party, and he witnessed the arrest today. He's also the mayor of El Hatillo, Caracas, and he joins me now by phone from an anti- government demonstration.

You are -- you are currently at a -- at a protest, sir?


GORANI: I'm just confirming you are at a protest right now?

SMOLANSKY: Yes, we are at a protest right now in Caracas, when a few hours ago, Leopoldo Lopez was arrested by officials from the National Guard. We're having an historic protest right now in Caracas and many cities of Venezuela. There are hundreds of thousands of people in many streets of the capital, Caracas, asking for freedom of Leopoldo Lopez, asking to -- for freedom of expression, asking for seats in the democracy and while there is non-violent, apathetic approaches and everyone isn't white.

GORANI: Why did he turn himself in, Leopoldo Lopez?

SMOLANSKY: Well, Leopoldo Lopez is accused by the government because last week we had another important demonstration with the citizens, with youth, where unfortunately three people were killed. Others were arrested and government is accusing Leopoldo Lopez, which is an -- just an injustice.


SMOLANSKY: We don't have the -- we don't have democracy in --


SMOLANSKY: -- Venezuela.

Hello? Yes?

GORANI: Yes, go ahead.


GORANI: Apologies; there was just a slight technical problem. We're hearing another voice on the line. But go ahead, David. We're showing our viewers here, by the way, anti-government protests. But just a note as well, that there have been pro-government protests in Caracas and we're showing footage of that as well.

And David, my question is, when you see such polarization in Venezuela, what are the risks that this is going to turn in Venezuela and to truly an all-out sort of national polarized conflict between two sides, just as the economy is disintegrating more and more?

SMOLANSKY: I can't -- I can't hear -- I can't hear the question.

GORANI: Yes, David --


GORANI: -- I was asking --

SMOLANSKY: -- again, I'm sorry.

GORANI: -- what is the risk of an all-out conflict in the country? This country, Venezuela, has become so politically polarized.

SMOLANSKY: I can't -- I can't hear -- I can't hear the questions. We are in the middle of a -- of a normal protest, as I said before. We're saying to the world that in Venezuela, democracy is not guaranteed. We always say that democracy is not just elections. Democracy is more than that. Democracy is to have independent executions. Democracy is to have freedom of expression. Democracy is a respect of minorities. Democracy is the respect of human rights and civil rights. All those topics that I have just mentioned in Venezuela right now, they are not guaranteed. And that's why our hundreds of thousands -- I could say maybe millions of Venezuelans right now are on the streets, not only in our capital, Caracas, but on also in thousands of cities of our country.

GORANI: David Smolansky, a member of the opposition in Venezuela, thanks very much.

And once again, we reached out to offer the Venezuelan government a place on the program. We did so yesterday. They again chose not to appear.

And after a break, another crisis we've been coverage, one that stays going on for almost three years now, the humanitarian crisis in Syria, continued barrel bombing in the city of Aleppo has driven hundreds of thousands more from their homes, swelling the ranks of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries. Some of the children may find themselves playing football with another young person who can't go home again, Malala Yousafzai. That's the Pakistani schoolgirl who put her life on the line for the right to go to school.

Now she wants Syria's displaced children to have that same right. She joins us from the Zaatari refugee camp on the Jordanian border with Syria. That is when we come back.




GORANI: Welcome back to the program. I'm Hala Gorani, sitting in for Christiane.

They're called the Lost Generation of Syria, a million school-age children, a million, driven from their homes and deprived of education. Today Malala Yousafzai, the world's most famous pupil, traveled to the Zaatari refugee camp on the Syria-Jordan border to meet these youngest victims of Syria's grinding war.

I spoke with Malala earlier, together with Shiza Shahid, CEO of The Malala Fund, and I asked them both about the risks we all face if we ignore the future of these kids.


GORANI: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us.

Malala, I want to start with you. You're visiting Syrian refugees in Jordan.

How has your visit been going today?

MALALA YOUSAFZAI, EDUCATION ACTIVIST: Well, today I visited the camp of Syrian refugees and I saw so many children. And I also went to the Jordanian-Syrian border. And I also saw so many women. They are now homeless; so many children, they can't go to school. They cannot get education.

And here I discovered another thing. And that is that those boys who are here as Syrian refugees, they are doing child labor. And because they want to earn money, their families are poor. So it's also the thing that we all should focus on, because we do not want -- we do not want to lose this generation because this is very important.

And to see a bright future, it is necessary that we protect every person in this world. And people should not ignore them. People should focus on their bright future because their bright future means our bright future and the future of the whole world. GORANI: Shiza, how will The Malala Fund be involved in trying to help these Syrian refugees, specifically the children?

SHIZA SHAHID, CEO, THE MALALA FUND: Well, we're starting now by really trying to bring attention to the fact that this is a huge crisis and a global responsibility. Every day you have hundreds of refugees crossing the border into Jordan, into Lebanon, into Turkey, into Iraq. And many more displaced inside Syria. And children are out of school and traumatized.

Through The Malala Fund, with Malala and the team, is hoping to raise a voice of these children and urge the global community to invest in protecting, rehabilitating and educating each child. And through its own resources, it's also investing in Syrian-led programs to rehabilitate children.

GORANI: Shiza, are people telling you and Malala in these camps, specifically in Jordan, that they feel forgotten by the world? Is that something you've been hearing?

SHAHID: Yes, we have. And the crisis is really growing every day. And I don't think the international community and ordinary people are really understanding the scale of what's happening and the fact that there are people suffering and children traumatized and seeing unspeakable things.

So it's part of our responsibility to raise our voice and to talk about this issue, because it's the only way we're going to resolve it.

GORANI: You know, I asked, because, Malala, so many kids look up to you and it just so happens that one of my colleagues has a daughter who is 11. Her name is Ruby (ph). And I said to her, you know, I'm going to be speaking with Malala tomorrow. She got so excited, she actually sent me a list of questions for you.

She said, do you think that it is risky to go to Jordan to help the refugees? She's asking that question of you.

Do you have concerns with trips like this?

YOUSAFZAI: First of all, I would like to thank her and I also want to thank every child and every girl and every boy who has sent me good wishes and they have sent me teddy bears and postcards and everything. And I so much thankful to have you all.

Her question that was it a risk to go to Jordan? I think it was not a risk for me. But it's a risk to the lives of these refugees. It's a risk to the life of these children, that we ignore them.

So we should not ignore them. And it's a risk to all of us if we ignore them, because it is -- you won't stop terrorism if you do not think of the future of these children. Then the risk will start and the whole world can get terrified.

So we should not think that we are far away from this country and we are safe. We should not think like that because this can spread. And when children are treated with such violence and when they see such a trauma, they see war, then they become violated themselves. And this is the way that they choose their future.

So if we want a bright future, if we want to think of their peace and our peace, then we should protect them. And that's why I chose to come to Jordan to help the Syrian refugees.

GORANI: And, Malala, you've been through so much and as I mentioned before -- and it bears mentioned again -- such a hero to so many people.

But people tend to forget, and sometimes I do, that you're just 16 years old.

I could barely tie my shoelaces when I was 16 years old.

Is it a lot to take on for you, that this workload, these serious issues?

YOUSAFZAI: I have been through such situation that I could not go to school and schools are not in our area. And I also became a refugee myself for 10 months in starting 2009. And I thought that I need someone to speak for me. And the people are starting to need someone to speak for them.

And at that time, we spoke for ourselves. But now when I think of these children, I can see what they will be feeling now and what they are suffering through. So that's why I think that it's our responsibility to protect these children and I think I am 16, but I still am not quite like a 16-year-old girl at home. So I like fighting with brothers, like using the normal kind of tricks with brothers, having fun with them and talking to them and fighting with them, of course.

And I also listen to music sometimes. So I am 16 years old in some ways. But I think doing work for the Syrian refugees or other children who are deprived of education, I just think of it as my responsibility and I want to continue it.

GORANI: Well, you're an inspiration to us all, Malala Yousafzai, and Shiza Shahid, who's the head of The Malala Fund and one of your friends. Thanks so much to both of you for joining us. And best of luck on your -- on your future ventures, helping others.

Thanks so much for taking the time.

YOUSAFZAI: Thank you.

SHAHID: Thank you.


GORANI: There you have it.

And while the destruction goes on inside Syria, we'll turn to another act of violence, this one directed against a work of art, created by famed Chinese dissident and artist Ai Weiwei. Art meets anarchy and vice versa when we come back.




GORANI: A final thought tonight, imagine a world where an act of vandalism against a work of art could also be a work of art. Consider the latest installation by the renowned Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei. It's aptly named "Colored Vases," and is currently on display at the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Florida.

On Sunday, as this amateur video shows, a man identified as Maximo Caminero picks up one of the vases and tosses it to the floor, smashing it to pieces. There it is again in slo-mo. Mr. Caminero, a local artist, said he was protesting the museum's choice of international artists over homegrown talent. Some estimates -- and some estimates the value of the broken vase at $1 million.

But beyond the price tag, here is where art meets anarchy. Mr. Caminero claims he was inspired by the artist himself, whose triptych, "Dropping a Hang Dynasty Urn," hangs above his priceless pots. They show Ai Weiwei smashing an ancient Chinese vase, shattering traditional culture -- cultural values and challenging authority.

But is it destruction of any work of art just plain vandalism? Back in 1972, Michelangelo's masterpiece, the " Pieta," was in its usual spot in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome when a young man named Laszlo Toth attacked it with a hammer, claiming he was Jesus Christ. He shattered the left arm of the Virgin Mary, broke her nose and chipped one of her eyelids.

Fortunately the "Pieta" was restored. But ever since, it has been shielded from the public by bulletproof glass. You can't be too careful.

As for Laszlo Toth, he spent two years in an insane asylum and briefly became a cultural icon himself, embraced by radicals as a kind of anti- sculptor, turning vandalism into -- you guessed it -- art.

That's going to do it for tonight's program. And remember you can always contact us at our website,, and check me out on Twitter @HalaGorani. Thanks for watching, everyone, and goodbye from the CNN Center.