Venezuela and Chavez
The Nightmare of the Imperialist Ruling Class
By Thomas Davies
“Yes, they call us extremists, we who demand complete freedom in the world, equality among peoples and respect for national sovereignty. We are rising up against the Empire, against the model of domination.”
-Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, speaking to UN General Assembly
An often-repeated criticism of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is that he “doesn’t speak like a head of state.” The insinuation is that the man, who at the United Nations recently referred to U.S. President George Bush as a devil reeking of sulphur, is both unstable and unable to properly perform as President of Venezuela. Well, it might be that Chavez doesn’t speak like a capitalist head of state because he speaks like an oppressed person fighting for change. Of course he is talking like a revolutionary. Most importantly though, he speaks the language of millions of oppressed people fighting for the same cause. The language might be brash, but the program is definitely conscious. And it’s working.
“Against Chavez, Against the People”
While Venezuela’s interventions on an international level may be receiving the most attention as of late, the battles of poor and working Venezuelans against an increasingly frustrated and irate opposition continue. The current battlefield is the upcoming Presidential elections.
One of the slogans for Chavez’ re-campaign is, “Against Chavez, Against the People”. Confident and confrontational, it summarizes his approach to the US-backed opposition. No one doubts that he will win a majority once again, but this not enough. Chavez has launched “Operation Miranda”, a grassroots re-election organizing drive. It takes the process even further to challenge people to become integrated organizers as part of a movement. In a September 9th swearing in ceremony for 300,000 members of the campaign, Chavez reminded them that the goal was more political than electoral, saying, “Don’t forget that this Miranda battle is truly confronting, once again, North American imperialism. That is our true contender and on December 3rd [the election date – Editor] of this year we are going to deliver a new defeat to North American imperialism.”
He is also confronting head-on the tactic used by opposition parties to try and render illegitimate the results by boycotting elections and citing “electoral fraud”. The goal has been set for 10 million votes in favour of Chavez, which is almost double his last presidential victory. The opposition can cry foul all they want, but such a huge number of votes would again prove the broad support for Chavez in Venezuela, and the genuine political organizing drive to make this happen is clearly in place.
Creating the Space for Change
With the U.S. breathing down the necks of every Latin American country to sign on to the “Free Trade Agreement of the Americas” (FTAA), Venezuela was there with Cuba to provide Bolivia with a strong alternative which didn’t include renouncing its sovereignty to U.S. corporations. This was crucial, as newly elected indigenous President Evo Morales faced massive pressure in the beginning stages of important new changes, such the process of nationalization of natural gas, in favour of the majority of poor and working Bolivians.
On April 29, 2006 Bolivia became the third member of ALBA, which means “dawn” in Spanish and is the acronym for “Bolivian Alternative for the Americans.” The international agreement emphasizes a fraternal relationship between countries through trade in kind rather than market exchange, and common social and political projects.
As the social and political change in Bolivia deepens, the help from Venezuela in creating the space for this process to occur without being suffocated from outside pressure and intervention has proven invaluable.
Another important example is Uruguay, which has been under huge US pressure to sign a bilateral free trade agreement. Venezuela has offered economic cooperation instead, and pledged 500 million to help build a new oil refinery. This would be essential in breaking the cycle of exporting crude oil to refined and old back at a much higher price by First World corporations.
The Strengthening of the Battle of Ideas
The relationship cultivated by Venezuela which is of most concern to imperialists today, however, is with Cuba. President Bush’s top Latin-American aide during his first term, Otto Reich, had this to say about it:
"With the combination of Castro's evil genius, experience in political warfare, and economic desperation, and Chavez' unlimited money and recklessness, the peace of this region is in peril…The emerging axis of subversion forming between Cuba and Venezuela must be confronted before it can undermine democracy in Colombia, Nicaragua, Bolivia, or another vulnerable neighbour. "
He was too late with Bolivia…and has reason to be afraid for the rest of Latin America being griped in the new wave of solidarity put forward by Cuba and Venezuela. It’s not as simple as Venezuela being oil-rich enough to stabilize the Cuban economy, it’s that Venezuela is now politically rich enough to push forward the Cuban “Battle of Ideas” against imperialism The cooperation between the two countries provides an important example for all countries.
The list of feats would be endless:
- 14,000 Cuban doctors currently give free medical treatment in Venezuela
- 3,000 Venezuelan students are currently studying medicine for free in Cuba. Three classes have already graduated since the Latin American School of Medicine’s (ELAM) founding in 1998
- -13,000 Venezuelans have received free sight-recovering eye surgery in Cuba, through “Operation Miracle”
- Under the ALBA, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, plan to train 200,000 Latin American and Caribbean doctors over the next ten years.
Both countries are also doing crucial work together to revive the Non-Aligned Movement, an organization of 118 mostly third world countries. Cuban President Fidel Castro has been named President of the movement, which released a 92 page document asserting the right to self-determination and resistance against occupation, and sighted the two countries specifically for their contribution of asserting the right of all countries to determine their own form of government. In Chavez’ speech to the delegates, he summarized the Venezuelan-Cuban position, “Let us join forces to push the sun in this new dawn… because I believe that it is possible for us now to create a world where no one country rules, nor one world gendarme, nor war nor cannons nor bayonets, but in which a world of love, peace and solidarity reigns.
Their relationship is concrete proof of a “new dawn” and is especially important in the context of the dramatic increase of suffering and misery caused by the economic policies and wars and occupations waged by imperialist countries against the third world.
We Are Not Afraid – Directly Confronting the U.S. Government
Venezuela even continues to chip away at the U.S. government on its home court as part of its efforts to isolate U.S policy through example. As the racism and neglect of the U.S. government was plain for all to see during the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, the head of Citgo, the U.S. subsidiary of Venezuela's state owned oil company, set up disaster relief centres in Louisiana and Texas. In Houston alone, volunteers from Citgo headquarters provided assistance to 40,000 victims.
Venezuela has also provided hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil in energy assistance to the United States and announced that it would soon begin to ship heating and diesel oil at rock bottom prices to schools, nursing homes, hospitals and poor American communities.
As the U.S. struggles to win the “hearts and minds” of people in occupied Iraq, Venezuela wins them wholesale in the U.S., and is separating the people there from their imperialist government. Imagine being an American coming to the realisation that a county thousands of miles to the south is doing more for your well-being than your rich and powerful “home” government!
The U.S. has yet to thank Venezuela for the help given to its citizens, and also continues to ignore the simple and consistent advice of Chavez of, “Yankee go home!.” Instead, have recently created a new CIA position specifically for dealing with Venezuela and Cuba and allude to direct interventions. Michael Waller from the Center for Security Policy — an organisation with direct links to the Bush administration, has already written that “the remaining hope on the calendar for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing threat is the Venezuelan presidential election of 2006 ... Time is running out ...”
Creating a Broad, International, Anti-Imperialist Unity
Meanwhile, Venezuela continues on unfazed, taking on the U.S. in other important arenas. They’ve already begun to call the Venezuelan president “Chavez of Arabia,” and Venezuelan flags are now hoisted with the Palestinian in rallies in Damascus and Beirut. Chavez’s removal of the Venezuelan charge d’affaires in Tel Aviv during the recent Israeli invasion of Lebanon was a crucial public lesson to all other world leaders in how to properly respond to the Israeli massacres. It was also another blow against the United States in the site of its most desperate and crucial interventions: the Middle East.
Chavez has also continued to work against the U.S. strategy of isolating Iran to make space for an eventual invasion. Venezuela recently signed over 20 cooperation agreements in the areas of oil & gas, iron & steel, and infrastructure with Iran, and the leaders of both countries have recently visited each other’s home countries.
People across the Middle East are now buying Chavez posters for their homes, and a new bond of international solidarity is being created in defence of the right to self-determination for oppressed nations, and outright resistance to imperialism. Chavez meets with the leaders, but he speaks to the people.
You can’t help but notice how bold it all is. How audacious Chavez is to take on the world largest imperialist super-power at every turn and in every corner. Taking his direction from Cuba, his denunciations of capitalism are translated and eagerly read by millions who have been searching for a leadership brave enough to take on what they’ve all been dreaming of. Chavez’s confidence comes from the support he knows he has from the millions of Venezuelans working just has hard in their every day lives. This confidence, and the actions to match it, will only increase as the support for Venezuela’s fight against imperialism internationalizes with every ticking second on the clock counting down to a just and dignified world.
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