FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How Chavez Changed History for the Better

by SAUL LANDAU

Hugo Chavez died in early March. Heads of state came to his funeral and sent condolences to his family— except for the US President. Even in death the White House maintained a resentful tone toward a man we had names as an enemy. But what did Chavez do to us? He offered cheap fuel to the US poor to heat their homes in winter time. Or does Obama take personally what Chavez said in his UN General Assembly speech in 2006. He still smelled the sulphur aroma left by “the devil,” meaning, as he explained, George W. Bush who had preceded him to the lectern. But, why do US Presidents lean so strongly against other heads of state who promote progressive social policies that help their people? Why does Washington kiss the behinds of Saudi Arabian royalty and other degenerate Arab oil state leaders while denigrating Chavez who promoted popular health, education and food for the poor? The European Union, the Organization of American States, the Union of South American Nations, and the Carter Center confirmed that Chavez’ had won all four of his electoral victories freely and fairly.

Chavez also set a good example by sending Venezuelan oil money flowing throughout Latin America to help like-minded presidential candidates initiate projects that both helped the poor and thus also won them political favor. Thanks to Chavez’ aid, Evo Morales in Bolivia could push programs that helpedBolivia’s poor, and especially indigenous people. Chavez also aided Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. His supporters – and his support for — included the Presidents of Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, El Salvador, Cuba, and several neighboring Caribbean islands. “Charismatic and idiosyncratic, capable of building friendships, communicating to the masses as few other leaders ever have,” wrote former Brazilian President Lula, “Mr. Chávez will be missed.” (NY Times March 6, 2013)

Chavez’ programs also brought Latin American nations closer together – and hence further away from Washington. For several decades in the late 20th Century, Washington supported right wing and military candidates in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia and much of Central America.  Chavez, however, backed the left. Former Brazilian President Lula sang his praises as did his successor President Dilma Rousseff and Argentine President Christina Kirshner.

Washington and US media denounced Chavez’ theatrical antics. The Venezuelan majority applauded his singing and clowning. He won handily in all his elections —beginning with his first victory in 1998 and through his last electoral victory of 2011.

Chavez transformed Venezuela by narrowing its ineuquality gap from 48% to 29%, as he also spread wealth for progressive purposes throughout the world. He changed the geopolitics of Latin America by creating new Latin American institutions, like ALBA (The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, including Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent, the Grenadines Venezuela, Suriname and Saint Lucia) The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, to encourage economic cooperation, which includes 20 Latin American States, 13 Caribbean nations and 11 from outside the region),plus outside  eight associates. These new organizations moved Latin America based on promoting economic integration and social equality, and CEPAL (further from Washington’s grip.

But, Obama offered nothing interesting about him after death, not even the good taste to offer sympathy to his family.  “At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez’s passing,” the White House statement read, “the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government.

As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States says it remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.”

Did Obama not recall the tacit support Washington offered for the botched military coup in 2002, for its open support of the right wing in Venezuela?

Yet, all observers concluded that the majority in Venezuela supported Chavez, because he had given the poor housing, food, health and education, as well as hope for a bright future. US governments historically had backed Christian and Social Democratic governments characterized by their theft of national wealth and by their ignoring of the needs of their country’s majority. That’s’ why they didn’t win second terms.

Chavez started Barrio Adentro, which offered free health care, and subsidized food for the very poor. That’s why he won their votes. He also outlined for Venezuela’s majority a socialist future, much to the chagrin of the very rich and their Washington patrons.

Chávez also increased Venezuela’s control over oil production. (See Gregory Wilpert (2007). Changing Venezuela By Taking Power: The History and Policies of the Chavez Government. Verso. p. 69)

Fidel Castro recognized in Chavez a man who possessed the energy and will to carry out progressive nationalist programs. After he left prison for his role in the unsuccessful 1992 coup attempt, Chavez accepted Fidel’s invitation to visit Cuba, where the two became intimate friends. If Fidel represented the 20th disciple of Bolivar in Century, Chavez became his Sucre in the 21st. Chavez started what Fil hoped to do: transform Latin America into a growing and progressive region of the world.

Chavez also tried to educate Obama, giving him a cpy of Eduardo Galeano’s “The Open Veins of Latin America”) to help him understand why Latin Americans harbored the deep resentment toward US policy.

I met Chavez in Caracas in 2010 with other Latin American and US activists and intellectuals in an exchange of ideas.  His lack of dogma, his enthusiasm about a new kind of socialism, charmed and stimulated the group. He did not show disrespect toward those who disagreed with him or criticized certain of his programs. He also explicitly espoused Christianity as his religion and then invited everyone to visit his new projects in and near Caracas. We saw the public’s approval of Chavez. His charismatic behavior never denied the worth of the person with whom he was conversing. He impressed the entire group.

He insisted that Venezuela had become the Bolivarian Republic, keeping the tradition of the man who first began the liberation of the continent and drove the march for independence from Spain, a march that evolved in Chavez’ mind to independence from the United States in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.

Chavez changed history for the better. He enriched his people and helped millions of others. The White House’s sour note contradicts the support Chavez had from millions around the world who adored his courage and will, qualities Obama could use. Hugo Chavez stood proud and left no sulphurous stench when he spoke in public.

Viva Hugo Chavez!

Saul Landau is filming Cuba’s campaign against homophoba (with Jon Alpery), His FIDEL and WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP are available on dvd form cinemalibrestudio.com

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

More articles by:
June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
Norman Pollack
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization: Janus-Faced Monopoly Capital
Binoy Kampmark
Railroaded by the Supreme Court: the US Problem with Immigration
Howard Lisnoff
Of Kiddie Crusades and Disregarding the First Amendment in a Public Space
Vijay Prashad
Economic Liberalization Ignores India’s Rural Misery
Caroline Hurley
We Are All Syrians
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail