Return to Transcripts main page


Boris Johnson Meets With Angela Merkel; Interview With Danish Member Of Parliament, Rasmus Jarlov As President Trump Cancels State Visit; Italy's No-Confidence Vote Traceable To Last Election; A Trail Of "Bloody Gold" Leads To Venezuela's Government; New CNN Poll: Trump's Approval Rating's Slips; Brazil's Amazon Rainforest Burning At Record Rate. Aired 2- 3p ET

Aired August 21, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:24] ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Good evening, everyone. Coming to you live from London, I'm Isa Soares, in for Hala Gorani.

Tonight, Boris Johnson tells Angela Merkel that the U.K. cannot accept the backstop arrangement. Merkel's response? "Well, let's work together to

find a solution."

President Trump cancels his visit to Denmark and has some harsh words for the Danish prime minister. We are live in Copenhagen with reaction.

And a CNN exclusive on Venezuela, we go inside the bloody industry that's keeping Nicolas Maduro's administration afloat.

But first, we begin tonight with a pivotal meeting in Berlin. Boris Johnson is meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on his first

overseas trip as British prime minister. And given the state of Brexit negotiations, certainly an important visit. Mr. Johnson, again, reiterated

his call for the Irish backstop to be scrapped.

Of course, the E.U. has rejected that time and time again. And the German chancellor said the U.K. must present proposals to actually solve the

issue. Take a listen.


ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): We always said, "We probably will find a solution in the coming two years," but possibly,

you may find a solution in 30 days. Why not? And then we would be a step forward. And we need to make every effort, that we will find something

like this.

However, this requires clarity in terms of the future relationship of Britain and the E.U., and I believe, now, clarity is much stronger.


SOARES: Nina dos Santos joins me with more.

And, Nina, listening to Chancellor Merkel there, almost challenging the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, to come up with a solution in 30

days. Was she being sarcastic?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's not new from Angela Merkel, of course. Remember that she's not just speaking from her own hymn sheet,

she's speaking from the hymn sheet of 27 other countries that she has to represent as well.

Remember that Germany, of course, is the economic power base of the E.U., the biggest trading partner for the U.K. And for that reason, it's very

much incumbent on her to present a united front.

Having said that, though, among other big economies, Germany stands the most to lose if there is one of these disastrous no-deal Brexit scenarios,

largely because one in seven German vehicles go to the U.K., it's the biggest export market. We already know that the German economy is starting

to sputter because of the sputtering of exports, and it could indeed slip into recession later on this year. So for all these reasons, that was the

economic baggage that went with this meeting.

And Boris Johnson, the British press believes, handled it quite well here. This is a snippet of what he had to say when he was explaining why he

believed that that withdrawal agreement should be reopened --


DOS SANTOS: -- something Frau Merkel has emphatically said she won't do -- because of the unpopular backstop arrangement.


BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: We cannot -- we cannot accept the current withdrawal agreement, arrangements that either divide the U.K.

or lock us into the regulatory and trading arrangements of the E.U., the legal order of the E.U., without the U.K. having any say on those matters.


SOARES: So he really hasn't budged at all -- neither has Europe, I might add -- on the backstop. What did Merkel say in response to this?

DOS SANTOS: This is where it gets interesting. So there was one change in this meeting, and it's the fact that the German chancellor's basically

thrown down the gauntlet here, giving him 30 days to come up with credible alternatives to this so-called backstop.

Remember that all of this started earlier on this week, when Boris Johnson wrote four pages' worth of explanations to Donald Tusk, the head of the

European Council, which convenes these heads-of-state meetings. Because remember, you have unanimously agree to everything at head-of-state level,

for anything to get done in the E.U.

And he said that that backstop just wasn't workable -- they should scrap it, it won't get through Parliament -- and start to renegotiate on the

basis of alternative arrangements being negotiated.

But nobody really, thus far, has known what those credible alternative arrangements could be. The E.U. said that whatever he was putting forward,

wasn't credible enough for them to consider it --


DOS SANTOS: -- Angela Merkel has said, "You have until" what is effectively "21st of September, to come up with something that we can

believe is credible." That's day one of the Labour Party's party conference, by the way.

SOARES: He -- I mean, he calls it a "blistering" timetable. He said, "The onus is on us to come up with a plan." Yet we still haven't heard any sort

of plan, or have we?

[14:05:02] DOS SANTOS: We've heard -- we've heard various sort of inklings of various plans, that his part of the British Conservative Party, they're

espousing a more hard Brexit stance, even when Theresa May, his predecessor, was in power, have put forward.

Those include -- and he referred to them in this press conference, albeit tangentially and not in any great detail -- potential arrangements to give

certain traders who will be crossing the border with goods -- freight, lorries, so on and so forth -- the border between the Republic of Ireland,

which is part of the E.U., Northern Ireland to the north, which is part of the U.K. -- they could have trusted trader status.

So that's the idea, of them already being part of a database that the U.K. government would just wave them through, because already, they had

established a link to understand what was in the consignment, those goods, so they wouldn't face hard customs checks.

Another possibility is this idea of having some kind of technology that would recognize the license plates --

SOARES: Right.

DOS SANTOS: -- or number plates of vehicles going back and forth. There was a recent report over the summer, that talked about these particular

arrangements in some detail, by a think tank. But the reality is, as yet, we just don't know how much detail Boris Johnson's current government have

managed to hammer out.

And the reality, also, is that they've now, as of yesterday, disassociated themselves from meetings with the E.U., saying that they're not going to be

sending officials --

SOARES: Yes, of course (ph) I've (ph) heard (ph) this (ph).

DOS SANTOS: -- to those meetings, as of the 1st of September. The E.U. reiterated today that that won't knock their timetable off-course.

SOARES: Right. We'll talk Brexit, I have no doubt about it, tomorrow. But let's change tacks slightly. Because we heard, in the last hour or so,

Nina, from President Trump, who was talking about trying to bring Russia into the G8.

We've also heard from Boris Johnson and from Merkel, in fact, about bringing Russia into the G7. What do they have to say? Are they more open

to that idea?

DOS SANTOS: This was one of the olive branches that Boris Johnson extended to the chancellor in that press conference, saying that it was another sign

of togetherness between the U.K. and Germany.

And now, we all know how friendly Boris Johnson is with the U.S. president, Donald Trump. In fact, after he sent that letter to Donald Tusk, of the

European Council, which made Brussels so irate, he then phoned up another Donald, it was Donald Trump, to talk about the upcoming G7 summit.

But actually, in this press conference, Boris Johnson's first overseas visit, he stood side-by-side, the chancellor, saying that he believed,

after everything that had happened, not least the Novichok attack --

SOARES: Of course.

DOS SANTOS: -- on U.K. soil when he was foreign secretary at the time, that at this point, it was premature to talk about readmitting Russia into

the G7.

Now, looking forward, tomorrow, somebody else who's been meeting with the Russian president just this week, in fact, is Emmanuel Macron --


DOS SANTOS: -- the French president, who welcomed him to his summer residence earlier on in the week. He's going to have the job of welcoming

Boris Johnson tomorrow in France. And France is very much playing Bad Cop to Angela Merkel's --

SOARES: Indeed, yes.

DOS SANTOS: -- good cop here. What we've seen is, earlier on today, the Elysee, his official residence, starting to brief journalists that France

is assuming that a no-deal scenario is now the most likely outcome here, and their base case assumption.

There's more than one investment bank that now is already saying, like Barclays came out with a statement earlier today, saying that they also

believe that a no-deal scenario may well be one of the most likely outcomes, based on what they've heard this week.

SOARES: Should we expect a press conference, then, tomorrow, between Macron and --

DOS SANTOS: We believe we'll be hearing from Macron --

SOARES: Right. Let's see if they are.

DOS SANTOS: -- and Boris Johnson. Let's see if the body language is just (ph) as (INAUDIBLE) --


SOARES: Exactly. How we can read --

DOS SANTOS: -- as it was earlier today.

SOARES: -- I'm sure we'll talk about this tomorrow. Thanks very much, Nina dos Santos, there.

Now, the fallout over Donald Trump's failed attempt to make Greenland part of the United States is now getting personal. A short time ago, President

Trump lashed out at the Danish prime minister for calling his request to buy Greenland, "absurd." He actually cancelled a state visit to Denmark

over the controversy, leaving many Danes baffled, annoyed and, frankly, pretty insulted.

Well, now, the U.S. president says this. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, Denmark, I looked forward to going but I thought that the prime minister's statement that it

was absurd, it was an absurd idea, it was nasty. I thought it was an inappropriate statement. All she had to do is say, "No, we wouldn't be


But we can't treat the United States of America the way they treated us under President Obama. I thought it was a very not nice way of saying



SOARES: Let's get some reaction from Copenhagen now. We're joined by Senior Reporter, Anna Stewart.

Anna, I remember when we were reporting on President Trump wanting to buy Greenland. The Danes, I remember, clearly thought it was a joke. I

suspect now, his decision to cancel a state visit is no longer a laughing matter. What's the royal family and, well, politicians, what are they


ANNA STEWART, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well, you know what, before I get to that Isa, we've actually just heard more from the Danish prime minister.

Just hours after, she gave a statement -- and this is in response to the comments you just heard from U.S. President Donald Trump -- she says, "I do

not feel the need to enter into a war of words, and not with the U.S. president." She adds, "I want to stick to what is important from a Danish

perspective, and that is our alliance and our close cooperation with the United States."

[14:15:19] And from that, Isa, you can really see how what began as a spat over Greenland and the fact that the president quite liked to buy it even

though it's a semi-autonomous region of Denmark's, which is not for sale and is not within the power of Denmark to sell, it's now become a much

bigger spat.

Now, slightly because the U.S. president has cancelled, with less than two weeks to go, a state visit. He was invited by the Denmark queen, Her

Majesty, Queen Margrethe II. And now, there's a sense that they are very surprised. We've had reaction from the palace. They've said, "This has

never happened before," and they have nothing more to say.

We've had lots of comments from politicians, far less diplomatic and less reserved than what we've heard from the prime minister. One, saying that

the decision was unfathomable. Another, saying the president is, quote, "living on another planet."

Now, of course, the prime minister here seems to be trying very hard to draw a line under this, because the relationship between Denmark and the

United States of America is so important. It's so much bigger than personal politics between a president and a prime minister -- Isa.

SOARES: Indeed. Strategic, military, two huge NATO allies. Anna Stewart, there for us. Thanks very much, Anna, good to see you.

I want to take you now to Washington, and White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, has also been following the story for us.

So, Kaitlan, with the president really defending, we've heard, his reasoning for not going to Denmark, and it seem she didn't like the Danish

prime minister's comments. What exactly did he say?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it appears that the prime minister got under the president's skin when she made that remark,

saying Greenland is not for sale, and calling the president's interest in purchasing it, "absurd." The president was seeing this reaction play out,

after it was reported that something he had considered for many months had been under consideration.

The president didn't like that people were making light of it or essentially laughing at the fact that the president had considered

purchasing Greenland, because the president is right when he said that past U.S. leaders had considered doing so before, citing Harry Truman, talking

about that consideration, which of course, the U.S. has acquired other countries in a similar manner.

And so the president didn't like that reaction, and he targeted the prime minister, specifically for saying that Greenland was not for sale. And the

president clearly was irritated by what exactly she had said, and how she had said it. Listen to what he told reporters, earlier today, when he was

leaving the White House.


TRUMP: All they had to do was say, "No, we'd rather not do that," or "We'd rather not talk about it." Don't say, "What an absurd idea that is.


TRUMP: Because she's not talking to me -- excuse me. She's not talking to me, she's talking to the United States of America. You don't talk to the

United States that way, at least under me.


COLLINS: And he's pointing to the country as a whole, but of course it's the president himself who is clearly sensitive to those remarks, and didn't

want to sit down with another world leader who had, in his mind, insulted an idea he had.

Even though, we should note, the president himself has insulted other world leaders repeatedly, sometimes when he's on their own ground, as we saw him

do in Japan, when he dismissed those North Korean missile tests, even though that's something that the Japanese were actually quite concerned


Another thing we should note. The president, referring to the prime minister as "nasty" today, is just another instance in a long series of

them, of the president referring to women he doesn't like or women who say things he doesn't like, as "nasty."

SOARES: Kaitlan Collins, there, for us. Thank you very much, Kaitlan, good to see you.

Now, for many people in Denmark, Mr. Trump's attempt to buy Greenland was bad enough. But the abrupt cancellation of a state visit just added insult

to injury. Conservative Danish parliament member Rasmus Jarlov tweeted the following: "For no reason, Trump assumes that an autonomous part of our

country is for sale. Then, insultingly, cancels a visit that everybody was preparing for. Are parts of the U.S. for sale? Alaska? People, please

show more respect."

TEXT: As a Dane (and a conservative) it is very hard to believe. For no reason, Trump assumes that (an autonomous) part of our country is for sale.

Then, insultingly, cancels visit that everybody was preparing for.

Are parts of the U.S. for sale? Alaska?

Please show more respect.

SOARES: Well, Rasmus Jarlov joins me now.

Rasmus, thank you very much for joining us. I want to first get your reaction to what we heard from President Trump, speaking in the last hour,

as our correspondent in Washington just said, and he seems to have been offended by what your prime minister said. He went as far as calling her

comments "nasty" and "inappropriate." Do you think that's fair?

RASMUS JARLOV, DANISH CONSERVATIVE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: I don't think it's meant that way. I don't think it was meant, from President Trump, as

an insult either. But it is a bit uncomfortable for us, to hear the president of the United States having his eyes fixed on part of our


And it's also a bit insulting because it's kind of saying that we shouldn't care about Greenland, that it's a burden. And that's not how we see it.

We really like Greenland, and we'd like to keep it. And therefore, talking about it like it's something you can just sell off is a bit strange to us.

[14:15:03] SOARES: Of course. And I think when we heard, this week, that the president was interested in buying Greenland, I know that many in

Denmark -- because I spoke to several guests on the show -- thought it was almost comical.

But that, Rasmus, has now almost escalated, and it's clearly raising eyebrows. Give me a sense of the mood where you are, and how his comments

are being received, especially because he's cancelled a state visit here.

JARLOV: Well, it's a shame that the state visit was cancelled. Of course, we always like to receive a U.S. president in Denmark. It's a big honor

for us to be hosts of such a visit, from the world's most powerful person, and the most important ally of Denmark. So of course, we are a little

disappointed that he cancelled the visit.

And I guess we're surprised that he was so surprised that Greenland wasn't for sale, because we don't know how he got the idea in the first place

because nobody has ever indicated that it would be for sale, or that it would be natural thing to just sell off a very large part of Danish

territory. And some people that are happy being part of Denmark and don't want to be part of the U.S.

So if we suggested to buy a part of the United States, I think it would raise eyebrows as well. And I don't think we would get away with that.

SOARES: Were you offended?

JARLOV: A little bit, to be honest. It is a little offensive, to say that you could just buy a part of our country, like -- like it doesn't have

value to us, because it has a lot of value to us and we really like Greenland. So I think that was the most surprising thing, that someone

would get the idea that we wouldn't care about Greenland, we'd just want to get rid of it.

So that's what has caused some pretty sharp remarks from Danish politicians, including myself, over the past couple days.

SOARES: And, Rasmus, if the president -- if president --

JARLOV: So -- but, you know, our relations with --

SOARES: Go ahead, go ahead.

JARLOV: -- our relations with the U.S. are just so much more important than this. And of course there are some sharp words right now, but it's

not going to change our relations with the United States. It's our most important ally, and we have very good cooperation on a lot of different

areas, including Greenland, where the U.S. has a military base that's very important to them.

And I think the cooperation normally works very, very smoothly. I think the U.S. embassy in Copenhagen is going to do overtime in the next couple

of days, to smoothen things out. But I think we'll get through it with no problems.

SOARES: If -- Rasmus, if he is invited back, if the president is invited back, if he does get a state visit, how will he be received?


SOARES: Will this -- all of this be just brushed under the carpet?

JARLOV: You know, he is a very divisive figure. And also in Europe, also in Denmark, there are people that are not big Trump fans, and there'll

probably be protestors, protesting about a lot of different things. But I don't think this Greenland issue is going to be something that we will hold

against him.

I think we understand that he didn't mean it as an insult. I hope we will understand that it is a bit of an insult to us, and then I hope we can move

on from that.

We would be happy to receive U.S. president any time, and he will be received the way we should receive an American president. And yes, I think

it's a strange situation, and we are quite surprised it has become such a big international issue out of nowhere. Because no one was talking about

this a week ago.

SOARES: Conservative Danish parliament member, Rasmus Jarlov, thank you very much, sir, for your perspective.

And still to come tonight, Italy's president starts the very difficult task of trying to repair a government in chaos. And we have a live report from

Rome for you when we return.

Then later in the show, what really finances Venezuela's government? We have a CNN exclusive report from deep in the jungle. And what we found

there actually might surprise you.

Both those stories, after a very short break.


[14:21:13] SOARES: I'm Isa Soares. It's 7:21 p.m. here in London, I'm sitting in today for Hala Gorani.

Now, a subway station in Hong Kong is quiet now, but is very different, much more chaotic (ph) scene there, in fact, just a short time ago.

Hundreds of pro-democracy protestors had gathered for a sit-in to mark one month since mobs beat peacefully demonstrators there with iron bars, if you

remember, there were (ph) sticks.

This time around, some protestors began overturning trash cans and barricading themselves as riot police gathered outside. They sprayed a

fire hose and discharged fire extinguishers to keep the police at bay. But the incident ended without outright clashes, as police backed off and the

protestors left.

Now, we're keeping an eye on the political crisis in Italy, one day after the prime minister resigned, almost 24 hours ago, right here on the show.

Yesterday, President Sergio Mattarella had started talks with political parties. His goal? Really, trying to bring some factions of the collapsed

government together to form a new ruling coalition. If not, new elections could happen soon.

Now, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has resigned after the far-right League's party leader, Matteo Salvini, forced his hand by pushing for a no-

confidence vote.

Barbie Nadeau's been following all the developments for us in Rome, and she joins me now.

Barbie, this was quite a power play, if we can call it that, by Matteo Salvini. What is the likelihood, do you think, he will get what he wants,

which is a snap election?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, you cannot rule that out at this point. And I think you really have to look back to March 2018,

which was the election that produced the government that just collapsed.

At the time, Sergio Mattarella had to take the results of a contentious election, and the best he could come up with was the coalition between

Matteo Salvini and the Five Star Movement. At the time, no other party wanted to negotiate.

If you look now, a lot of parties are willing to make sacrifices that weren't at the -- back then, 14 months ago. And I think the most important

person in all of this is Matteo Salvini. And one of the priorities of these parties now willing to negotiate, is keeping him out of power. If

they don't form a coalition, they go to elections and he could very easily sweep into power -- Isa.

SOARES: And on that note, then, Barbie, is there a coalition that the press, the people are getting behind, perhaps, that could actually compete

there (ph), could actually put Salvini -- take Salvini out of power here?

NADEAU: Well, absolutely. The Democratic Party, the party of the left, and the Five Star Movement have enough votes from that March 2018 election

to form a coalition.

But for the last 14 months, they have said nothing but bad things about each other, criticizing each other's policies. They were -- they're going

to have to make some serious sacrifices if they're going to work together now.

And Matteo Salvini would gain a lot, I think, even by being in opposition to a government like that. His popularity is soaring. And if he can hold

that, even as an opposition member, for a short period of time before a government that might eventually fall again, that's only going to work to

his advantage.

He is the focus of this problem. He's the person that started this problem, and he may be the winner in this -- Isa.

SOARES: And, Barbie, if we switch gears slightly, you and I were talking yesterday about the Open Arms ship that was expected to make its way to

Lampedusa. We understand, now, the migrants have disembarked. What else are you hearing from? What are their state, condition? How are they


NADEAU: Well, Matteo Salvini, who's still the interior minister, is really, really focused on making sure that the migrants that were on that

Spanish NGO ship end up in Spain.

[14:25:04] Right now, of course, there's a lot of logistical processing to do for the migrants, to take their names, try to figure out where they're

from. Many people don't travel with documents, a lot of people aren't completely honest about where they're from, in hopes that they'll get


But it's just one step in the path for these migrants because only a fraction of them probably qualify for asylum, and many of them may actually

be returned to their countries of origin. And, you know, the process is long but it's worth noting as well, and there's another ship out in the

Mediterranean, 356 migrants on board, hoping that they will be able to get to Italian soil or Maltese soil as well. So as one crisis is ended,

another one seems to be looming in the distance.

SOARES: Of course. And this is the height of many of them making the crossing. It is summer, warmer waters, less treacherous.

On that migrant ship, what does Salvini say? What are the chances that they might also be able to dock at Lampedusa?

NADEAU: Well, he's already taken to his social media, which has been his favorite, you know, mode of communication with the people, directly to the

people, saying that the policy remains the same. Italy's ports are closed, and that no NGO ship will be allowed to dock on his watch.

Now, of course, the ship that came in last night was granted access, only by a court order because the conditions had deteriorated so terribly on

that ship. Every single NGO ship that tries to come is a new situation. They'll have to try a new court battle, they'll have to try a new way to

dock on Italian shores.

But Matteo Salvini, if anything, is absolutely resolute in his -- in his policy, that Italy's ports are closed and he's won a lot of popularity

because of that -- Isa.

SOARES: I was going to say the same thing. Also with possibly snap elections, he probably wants to push on that and stick to that agenda.

Barbie Nadeau, thank you very much, Barbie, good to see you.

Still to come tonight, Venezuela's embattled president says his government has been talking with the Trump administration for months. Meanwhile, CNN

has an exclusive report on the commodity that's helping the Maduro government stay afloat.

And President Trump is speaking out again on recession fears in his spat with Denmark and U.S. Democratic lawmakers. But is this helping or hurting

him when it comes to the polls? His new approval rating numbers, we have them, you want to see them. That's after the break.


SOARES: You are watching HALA GORANI TONIGHT. I'm Isa Soares, coming to you live in London. It's 7:29 p.m. here.

[14:30:02] Now, Venezuela's political fire continues to burn. You'll remember just months ago, when Donald Trump's administration supported what

resulted in a failed coup in the Latin American country, the White House's plan B -- well, going into super talks with embattled president, Nicolas


Now, in exclusive CNN investigation, I dug deep into the corrupt as well as bloody business keeping Maduro in power. And a warning, some of the

pictures in the images in this story are graphic.


SOARES (voice-over): On the fringes of the Amazon rainforest, a states sponsored network of violent gangs and corrupt Venezuelan military hide

amongst a vast land rich in minerals and seeping gold.

SOARES (on camera): This has made this area Maduro's Eldorado, and it's this that's giving him the financial lifeline.

SOARES (voice-over): We've come deep into Venezuela's mining arc to find out how Nicolas Maduro is holding onto power and able to resist American


He's given himself direct control over this land and he's bleeding it dry, enriching himself and buying the allegiance of the military. And it all

starts with the local miners, who with mouths to feed at home risk it all operating this lawless region.

We venture in 50 meters deep. It is a precarious operation.

Inside, the miners guide us through the various levels and galleries, past evidence of a colonial thirst for gold.

Along the way, I meet Darwin Rojas, who has been mining here for three years now.


DARWIN ROJAS, MINER: The gold comes out of here, from the earth.

SOARES: Back-breaking work and intense humidity.


ROJAS: When you're working a large section of the mine, we could dig as many as 50 or 60 bags.

SOARES: Everywhere you look, speckles shimmer from above.

SOARES (on camera): This mine has been so productive for them because they have got 250 kilos of gold out of this mine, just to give you a sense,

really, of why it's called the Millionaire Mine.

SOARES (voice-over): If 250 kilos or just over 550 pounds is accurate, that's well over $10 million at global market prices, all from one single-

dug hole. There are dozens around us, thousands within Venezuela's mining arc.

But not all that shimmers is gold and these miners know it. These rocks need to be crushed, processed, scraped, and melted before you actually see

the gold. This nugget here, $315.

But it comes at a cost to the health of the miners as well as the environment, with mercury and other chemicals used to separate gold from

grit, poisoning everything you see around us.

But this is business and these mills don't do it for free. And then, there's an additional cost even if the miners are scared to admit it.

SOARES (on camera): Do you have to pay anyone else?






LABRADOR: Right? It's like that.


SOARES: It's like that.


LABRADOR: It's like that.

SOARES: Is it more or less like that?

CORO: More or less like that.

SOARES: It's clear from what he's saying there are other forces involved. There are the people they have to pay in order to be continuing to work in

these mines -- in these mines. But clearly, they're not prepared to tell us who they are.

SOARES (voice-over): They have every reason to be afraid. These mines are run by a network of hooded militias called Pranes who, according to a

senior military source, enter mines to extort, steal, and silence. They do so together with complicit members of the military who they bribe to

operate freely.

SOARES (on camera): What kind of pressure? They kill people?

SOARES (voice-over): A local miner too scared to speak out about the gangs close to the mines, opens up once his identity is hidden.

UNIDENTIFIED MINER (through translator): They mutilate people, they cut them, torture them. And the ones that speak are also tortured and

mutilated. They kill them and throw them down those holes.

SOARES (voice-over): One active senior military source confirms what we've heard in El Callao, telling me these same groups use death squads to

command obedience, battling each other and the military for control over this mining area. It's a pressure tactic of blood and bullets.

I asked the miner if he blames Maduro.

UNIDENTIFIED MINER (through translator): I think the government has the capacity to put an end to the Pranes if it wants to do it, but they are not

going to do it because they benefit from it.

SOARES (voice-over): This is echoed from the top. General Manuel Figuera was the former spy chief for the Venezuelan president until April the 30th

when he defected.

[14:35:08] GEN. MANUEL FIGUERA, FORMER SPY CHIEF FOR NICOLAS MADURO (through translator): Maduro has knowledge of all of this and has done

very little if anything.

SOARES (voice-over): For years, he was part of Maduro's inner circle, with the U.S. Treasury sanctioning him of accusations he oversaw mass torture,

mass human rights violations, and mass persecution.

Now, with sanctions dropped, he's speaking out about corruption at the very top, backing the U.S. assessment that Maduro's family are also profiting.

FIGUERA (through translator): There are companies linked to Maduro's family circle that buy the gold or negotiate the extraction of the gold in

the south of the country. They sell one part of it to the Central Bank and the other part they take out of the country without any kind of control.

SOARES: In Caracas, we find its network expands beyond Venezuela.

In 2018, Maduro traded Venezuelan gold to Turkey, some in exchange for food, which the government then used in their subsidized food boxes. But

it didn't stop there.

SOARES (on camera): According to a source at the Venezuelan Central Bank, 26 tons of gold were taken out of the bank to the end of April. They were

put into private airplanes and a destination, Middle East and Africa.

SOARES (voice-over): That's $1.6 billion, much of it skirting U.S. sanctions.

According to the source, several other shipments left Caracas this year to United Arab Emirates, directly and also via Uganda on a Russian plane in

exchange for euros.

FIGUERA (through translator): Maduro is at the helm of a criminal enterprise. He has hijacked all the state's institutions to work in his

service. This has allowed him to corrupt public servants and military officials and all the power structures in order to perpetuate his rule.

SOARES: This matches what we hear on the streets of El Calloa, here where gold is a standard currency. Many, like this gold seller, are just a cog

in the system, which is controlled all the way from the top.


What we hear is that everything is completely controlled by the government. Directly or indirectly, we're all working for them.

But with a river of gold running deep and the economy shrinking by half in a span of five years, there is little sign Maduro and his men will turn

their back on this blood gold.

SOARES: Here, human misery goes hand-in-hand with environmental devastation. It's a free-for-all, a gold rush where the main winner is



SOARES: Now, CNN contacted both the Venezuelan government as well as the Venezuelan central bank but got no response. Now, the Venezuelan

government has dismissed the U.S. sanctions in the past, basically saying, they are an unjustified attack on the country and an attempt to get hold of

its resources.

CNN, may I also add, also reached out to the Turkish government but received no response.

Now, an Emirati official did tell CNN they take these matters very seriously and that the UAE government is in compliance with international

law, but wouldn't comment on legal proceedings in another country.

Let's stay on this story and divert into Venezuela's political unrest with Jenny McCoy. She is a distinguished professor of political science at

Georgia State University.

Thank you very much, Jennifer, for joining us today. I want to start, if I may, with the talks we have between President Trump and President Nicolas

Maduro, the high-level talks. How do you interpret these talks? What are you expecting to hear from each side?

JENNIFER MCCOY, DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY: Well, the report that these talks had been going in secrets seemed to have been

confirmed by various sources, but different stories are coming out of the Venezuelan government that who is participating in them.

But Maduro has said that he has sanctioned these talks. His biggest interest is to remove the sanctions. There are about individual sanctions

targeted toward himself and members of his government and inner circle and then there are the general financial sanctions which are really squeezing

the economy.

So even though there are mediated talks going on mediated by Norway between the opposition and the government within Venezuela, Maduro's main interest

is with the United States to remove these sanctions and the United States has a lot of leverage over that and his promise to remove the individual

sanctions against anyone who defects from the Maduro government.

SOARES: But then, Jennifer, that's assuming that, of course, president Trump, U.S. administration would want something in return like Maduro

stepping down, and the likelihood of that happening is very low.

[14:40:59] MCCOY: Exactly. And that's what the negotiations are about. Both sides seemed to have agreed that there should be new presidential

elections earlier than constitutionally mandated. And the questions whether Maduro will stay in power and run in those elections, as he and his

government want or as the U.S. wants that they -- he should step down long before. And the opposition points out the need to reform the court system,

and especially the electoral council in order to have any kind of credible elections. So this is the sticking point right now.

One thing that the United States could be doing is, for example, offering to decrease sanctions gradually as steps are taken towards free and fair

elections. But as long as Maduro is empowered remains in the government, we have a major conflict with the United States policies.

SOARES: Yes. And also when we heard from the Norway talks, if you remember, the ones that's basically a stalled neither side could agree to

it from what we we're hearing. And as what's happening in Barbados, I was actually in Venezuela at the time and I remember hearing, well, the reports

that, perhaps, Maduro would step down if Guaido, when it comes to election, didn't take the role of -- also, wouldn't move away.

So both of them really pulling from each side. But how much of this, do you think, Jennifer -- how much this is a tactic, perhaps, by the United

States kind of rattled and intensify the doubt within members of Maduro's circle?

MCCOY: Certainly, the United States has been trying to create divisions within that circle. And part of that is talking to various people who

could conspire against him and creating fears. So that was what was happening in April with the alleged uprising that Guaido was trying to


And a couple of members of Maduro's inner circle defected, but it was nothing major. So, yes, that is certainly a tactic and that's what it

looked like with the first reports of the secret talks with Diosdado Cabello.

Now, Maduro is trying to say that he has sanctioned these talks and that -- he has been calling for talks with Trump directly or with the United States

government for a long time. So that's certainly been in his interest.

The problem now is these negotiations going on between the Venezuelan government and opposition are the main negotiations in terms of Venezuelans

coming up with the solution. And it should be up to the opposition to say, we've reached an accord to the United States. We'd like you to remove

sanctions under these conditions.

But the U.S. has its own policy as well. And while certainly they're backing Guaido, and hopefully, are in concert with them, side discussions

with all of the key actors who are not at the table, will be necessarily to resolve this conflict, and that's not only the United States, but the

military itself is not at the table and Russia, China, and Cuba, key allies of Venezuela are not at the table.

SOARES: Very, very good point. And you were talking about that and you were mentioning the fact that Maduro has always said he's willing to

actually talk to Trump, the President Trump -- but President trump actually came out very early on and said, we're no point near negotiations. This

was a while back because he was believing on his administration we're hoping that Guaido could bring about the change.

Where do the U.S. go wrong? Where did the strategy go wrong with Guaido?

MCCOY: Well, I think from the beginning, there was an over optimism that with international pressure, with getting a coalition of more than 50

countries to recognize Guaido that that would be sufficient to scare supporters of Maduro into leaving him, perhaps, even giving him up in

exchange for their own protection.

But it's a very tight coalition there for several reasons. One is, they are enjoying a lot of corruptions, as you just talked about on the piece on

gold. But two, they all fear their own persecution either extradition to the United States to face justice there or indictment within Venezuela if

the government changes. So their link sort of through in crime and in corruption to Maduro's survival. So there are several conflicting and

difficult challenges to meet here to resolve this crisis.

SOARES: Well, let's see how these talks go. Jennifer McCoy, I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today. Thanks very much.

MCCOY: Thank you.

SOARES: Now, still come tonight. The U.S. president is banking on the economy to keep him the voter's good graces ahead of next year's election.

But should he be worried of what grand new poll number show? We'll bring you the details, next.


[14:45:00] SOARES: This is HALA GORANI TONIGHT. And I'm Isa Soares coming to you live from London.

Now, U.S. president, Donald Trump, points the economy as a key reason why Americans should vote -- should reelect him next year. But do the voters


Now, a new CNN poll conducted by SSR are as shows the president's approval rating dipping but so slightly, as you can see there, 40 percent of

Americans now approved of a job. He's suing that's down three points from June.

More than half, 54 percent disapproved. All this comes to Mr. Trump insist the country is not in danger of recession. He's also doubling down his

spat with some U.S. democratic Congress members over Israel.

There's a lot for us to get through. CNN Political Analyst and congressional reporter for the Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian, joins me


Karoun, thanks very much for being with me.

Let's start first, if I can ask my producer to bring up the map -- the poll numbers, I should say, on the president's ratings, just so viewers can see

it again.

How worried do you think he's going to be looking at this? The fact that 40 percent approved, but 54 percent disapproved of his job, the job he's

doing as president?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, those aren't fantastic numbers for a president heading into a re-election race. But at the same

time, this is a president who's always had trouble in convincing more than half of the country that he's doing a great job. His numbers have not ever

really surged or peaked, because he is such a polarizing figure and he won in such a polarizing election.

And so I think that the president has been more focused, usually, on the numbers in his own base, the numbers in the GOP, and particularly in that

piece of the GOP that has always been loyal to him. And he doubles and triples and quadruples down on pleasing that segment of the electorate

hoping that it works out in the general election.

That did happen in 2016. It's unclear whether it will happen in 2020. But it's a reminder of how when, as we talk about the electability of various

people and how various democratic candidates maybe yield to stand up for Trump, that there is room there to grab parts of the voting public, given

that Trump stays below 50 percent and potentially slightly dropping and heading closer and ever closer to the actual November 2020 contest.

SOARES: Now, our viewers will know this, the economy has, for a long time, has been his bread and butter. Something that he has clouted before, that

he has praised before, the stock market is doing well. But what we've heard from him in the last few weeks has raised some eyebrows as attacks

against the Fed.

If we look how Trump is handling the economy, it's now 50 percent and June is 50 percent. So it's a slight -- I mean, what we've seen is -- it hasn't

changed. Is that -- I mean, that should worry the president?

DEMIRJIAN: Well, look, the president has been making the case of based on economic numbers of low unemployment, and what was, for a long time, a

healthy stock market before we started to see that starting to dip. And you've seen that the president also takes steps that presidents haven't

done in the past to make these orders for what the Feds should and shouldn't be doing on interest rates.

[14:50:02] Usually, the Fed is supposed to act -- the Fed is supposed to act independently, and usually, presidents don't interfere with that the

same way that this president has been by making these statements on Twitter.

And so there is a question of, well, his advisers have been coming out in the last several days as we've seen certain other indicators of a

recession. Stock market is not as healthy as it was.

There was that inverted yield curve in the bond market last week for a brief period of time. And these have stoked the increased fears of

recession and the discussion of potential payroll tax cuts and the like coming from the circles around the president have also added to that

concern. As well as ballooning deficit and debt numbers as well.

So the president kind of, again, leaning more into these point the finger elsewhere, anybody who is, like the Fed, who may be to blame for some of

the less advantageous and less flowing numbers, so that he can say, look, I am still should to be given credit for the good signals here.

Now, the president has to hope that this is more of just a blip and the start of a trend, because remember, what he's made -- he's put a quite a

lot of capital and hope and this promise to increase tariffs in other countries and that -- and convincing people that this won't actually have a

negative effect on American consumers when numbers and history and everything else suggests that, yes, in fact, it might.

Again, when the president's most solid argument for his governing strategy has been the economic picture in the country to have that start to dip now

and potentially head into a much greater dip going forward. Again, if this continues for several months and into the next year, that's a real problem

for him in terms of China make that pitch again to voters that everything is better off when you have me in the White House.

SOARES: And, Karoun, the irony almost is that, you know, the economy, the stock markets have been moving so much and fluctuating so much and it's so

uncertain, mostly, because of those trade talks and trade tariffs and the mixed messages we've heard from him. So that's almost created by the

president, the fact there has been no solution to this.

DEMIRJIAN: Right. And the president, on various topics, has kind of like this idea, the instability and the permanent kind of slightly chaotic

situation that you have. And that can be good in his mind for deal making, so to speak, in terms, you know, keep people kind of guessing in a little

bit up on the back foot about what they're eventually going to agree to.

When you're talking about global markets and huge economies and whether tariffs are going to be imposed on major, major exporters that make of a

great piece of the imports that consumers rely on that will really affect the bottom line and the purchasing ability of Americans all over the

country, it's not quite so much of potentially a strategy that is going to behoove the president to keep things administrative and stability.

And you see him, you know, promised that he's going to take these drastic actions then scaling it back for a period of time and then making a promise

again that he's going to go head first into for trying to a mitigating action.

The stock markets don't like that. The economy doesn't like that. Farmers in the heartland don't like that. I mean, this really does affect all the

levels of the economy, potentially, and how much people can continue to have, you know, to have faith that the president is going to steer things

on a steady course. When the messaging is so erratic, that's an open question.

SOARES: They like certainty and they like clarity. Karoun Demirjian --


SOARES: -- thank you very much. Appreciate you speaking to us.

More to come, including Brazil's Amazon rainforest is burning at a record rate. And environmental groups are blaming the Brazilian government.

We'll have more after this.


[14:55:07] SOARES: Now, big sections of the Amazon rainforest are on fire. Tens of thousands of fires have raged in the Amazon this year. Eighty

percent more than last year. It's so bad smoke has reached Sao Paolo nearly 3,000 kilometers away.

And there's an even larger issue. The smoke is literally choking the air out of the Amazon which, of course, produces one-fifth of oxygen in earth's

atmosphere. Scientists warned that continued fires could have a devastating impact on climate change.

And I can tell you in the last hour, we've heard from Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, who said that the recent wave of forest fires in the Amazon

may have been caused by NGOs in order to draw international criticism to his government.

Let's get straight to Tom Sater in the CNN weather center. Tom, put into perspective for us. It's pretty coming. I'm doing report that's coming

next week looking deforestation, but also exactly this at the speed that this is happening now under Bolsonaro.

TOM SATER, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: You know in his first month of presidency, after running on expansion and building, deforestation

increased 54 percent. But what a couple of weeks, you know. Over the weekend, 500 firefighters, and France extinguished their largest fire this

season. Spain and Italy were helping out Greece's fires last week. And, of course, Spain has their own problems.

Look at this, and this is shocking to me. Because we really had no idea until we started getting satellite data from NASA. We've got fires in Peru

and Bolivia down in Paraguay, Northern Argentina. But we're not seeing the mass of this. We haven't seen quite the number of fires.

These are cumulus clouds. The white patches that you see here. But this is all smoke and everywhere you look. And as you mentioned, Isa, the

smokes made its way down to Sao Paulo. That's the same distance as smoke traveling from London to Athens. Over 74,000 fires year to date.

As of last Thursday, 9,000 are burning and are new to this. That's an 85 percent increase over last year and fire data goes back to 2013. The worst

year was 2016. But we're not even at the peak yet.

We've got a state of emergency for Brazil's largest state and Amazon is up to the north. Most of these fires have been induced by farmers. We see

this in Indonesia, we see it in India and Thailand and many areas that's against the law but nothing has ever done.

We're not even near the peak. The middle of September is where we see the peak of the fire damage. And this is because it's the dry time of year.

But because of the deforestation, we're looking at 40 percent to 50 percent decrease in the rainfall.

But again, as far as your deforestation, 7,900 square kilometers, that's five times. The size of London. So we've got something to do here. They

got big problems on their hands across much of Brazil.

SOARES: Tom Sater there for us. Thank you very much, indeed. And that does it for me tonight. Do stay right here with CNN. "QUEST MEANS

BUSINESS" with Richard Quest is up next.