"We are facing the threat of global challenges
stemming from the genocidal, immoral, sick, and corrupt elite currently
governing the United States, which appear to have no limits" Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez
Hugo Chavez is a self-made man. He wasn’t piggy-backed into Harvard on a
legacy grant (Affirmative Action for plutocrats) or shoehorned into the White
House by corporate gangsters. He grew up in a two-room thatched palm-leaf house
with his five siblings and dreamt of moving to New York to play baseball for the
Yankees. At age 18 he chose to make the most of his meager opportunities by enlisting
in the military.
For 17 years, Chavez served his country; gradually moving up the chain of command
to lieutenant colonel. Unlike his American counterpart, GW Bush, Chavez never
went AWOL during wartime or stumbled through years of idle profligacy peering
at the world through beer-goggles.
While Bush was busy driving three consecutive companies into insolvency and
fattening his bank account with the loot from insider-trading scams, Chavez
was putting together the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement; a leftist political
organization which promoted redistribution and civil rights.
Chavez was lifted to the presidency on the backs of peasants and working-class
people while Bush was selected by 5 venal judges who repealed the democratic
process and suspended the counting of ballots.
The differences between the two men go on and on. It is an interesting study
in contrasts and one that is particularly relevant to the deteriorating state
of world affairs. So far, Bush’s views have carried the day; the global
superpower is free to act unilaterally and without concern for either international
law or basic standards of decency.
Chavez, however, has presented a competing vision of global integration, collective
action, and participatory democracy. His world-view is clearly ascendant.
"Capitalism is barbarism," Chavez says; a point that is persuasively
driven home in the daily accounts of butchery in Iraq, Afghanistan or Haiti.
In Bush-world the mounting death toll is simply the price of opening new markets
like the cheerful ringing of a cash register. Its no wonder the system is collapsing
all around him.
Chavez has taken the lead in denouncing Bush and the system that supports him:
"For the horror it has created around the world in the last century, the
United States’ war machine should be dismantled. It is a threat against
all of mankind, particularly against our children."
He has wisely taken aim at Bush, an indigent patrician without any identifiable
qualifications, as the foremost symbol of a system run amok:
"The worst genocidal leader in the history of humanity is the President
of the United States. Hitler would be like a suckling baby next to George W
Bush… He is a terrorist, a drunkard, and a donkey".
The stark contrast of the two men’s personalities has been a boon to
Chavez. Even the feeble attacks by the media have only enhanced his popularity
and strengthened his case for socialism:
"This model, the so called American way of life, the extreme capitalism,
is not sustainable, life on this planet will come to an end if we continue down
this road, that is why we are motivated to seek socialism and abandon capitalism,
the individualism, the selfish consumerism, the so called destructive development
that is destroying this planet, we are all in danger, and not so much us, our
children and grandchildren."
Chavez has been a thumb in the eye of the Bush Empire. His criticism of America’s
duplicitous foreign policy resonates with poor and working class people alike.
Presently, he is meeting with leaders of Libya and Algeria (supposedly) to
discuss "increased cooperation on oil production" and to develop "social
programs for the poor based on oil revenues". Chavez has initiated similar
programs at home, but he is using his increased visibility to publicly denounce
Bush and American foreign policy:
"We are against America, the imperialist. We don’t accept its hegemony.
The whole world should unite against America."
Chavez’s trip comes at a time when there are renewed fears of an attack
on Iran. Could it be that the Venezuelan president is actually working behind
the scenes to stem the flow of oil if Iran is bombed? Or, maybe he is orchestrating
a "run on the dollar" (transfer to euros) which Russia and Venezuela
have already threatened? Whatever the plan, he has vehemently condemned the
administration’s hostility to Iran while other nations continue to cringe.
"The world needs to do everything possible to avoid the madness of a military
attack against Iran. We call upon the government of the United States to halt
its warmongering, which will throw the world into an abyss of more wars, more
terrorism, more death, and more desolation. Europe has a very important role
to play in this, and instead of supporting this war, it should help to stop
Chavez has been equally blunt in his criticism of the war in Iraq. In an interview
with British Channel 4 he was asked what he would do if he was living in occupied
Iraq. Chavez answered:
"If I was an Iraqi I would be resisting. I would be in the trenches; I
would have a rocket-launcher; I would be defending the holy sovereignty of my
country against the abuses and oppression of the empire."
His sense of moral clarity is a reprieve from the evasive gibberish of other
world leaders who try to soften their rhetoric so they don’t offend Washington.
In the same interview Chavez was asked (disdainfully) why people outside of
his country "think he is crazy"?
Chavez responded, "If those people think I’m crazy, well, God forgive
them, because they are victims of a media campaign. I am just a human being
like you; no more, no less. But, I am totally devoted to this cause of equality
and justice to see if we can save this planet….The great crazy guy is
I Washington, not here."
Chavez is slowly transforming Venezuelan politics and making significant headway
in areas of redistribution and social welfare. The country’s 25 million
people now have full access to free health care and illiteracy has been eliminated.
Government programs now provide15 million people with subsidized food, medicine
and other essentials. Medical clinics have sprung up in every barrio in Caracas
and college enrollment has increased exponentially.
Chavez has created a model of governance that is based on human needs rather
than rigid ideology. This has made it more difficult to discredit him as dogmatic
or authoritarian. His policies of income redistribution have created a burgeoning
Venezuelan middle class which is changing the political dynamic throughout Latin
America. He has become Washington’s "biggest nightmare" and
a threat to America’s economic dominance in the region.
"Let's consider socialism," Chavez said. "Let's debate it and
build it. I believe that mistakes were in the economic analysis, and there should
be social praxis. 21st century socialism should be based on solid human values."
No one has done more to reenergize the Left than Hugo Chavez. He has become
the face of anti-imperialism and the champion of progressive socialism. His
views on education, poverty-reduction, social justice, and the equitable distribution
of oil revenues are sweeping the hemisphere; brushing aside centuries of colonialism.
The politics of personal accumulation and perennial war are on the decline.
Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. As Chavez says, "We must
embrace a new type of socialism, a humanist one, which puts humans, not machines
and not the state, above everything".
This century’s Enlightenment is coming from south of the border.