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 Day 19

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Comrade Chavez

Think What a Leader Like Chavez Could Do in the Arab World

by BARBARA NIMRI AZIZ

World attention has moved away from Venezuela. So excuse me if I am slow to follow, my thoughts remaining just a little longer with Hugo Chavez and what his life represents to me. I must be one of millions on the sidelines of history who wants to be on record as an admirer of this man. Charisma aside, he was brave, he was smart, he was audacious. The world was gifted a remarkable leader in Hugo Chavez.

The Bolivarian revolutionary’s policies didn’t directly affect me. I follow international developments but I never studied Chavez’ career or tracked Venezuela’s fortunes. It’s apparent nevertheless that Chavez  was indeed an outstanding figure in the modern world. A true revolutionary, he seemed to fully live the path he advocated, knowing he’d be reviled by the USA– not an easy position to take… and to sustain.

Chavez not only set out to reform his own country, as unfinished as that mission is. He helped to politically re-orient Latin America. Moreover, his alliances worldwide challenged our unipolar world with USA at its summit. It may not be apparent to myopic Americans. But the US-dominated globe of 1990 is gone. This, we must acknowledge, is in part a result of the coalition building by this visionary Venezuelan. Yes, visionary. Look at the solid alliances among Latin American nations today; look at their growth rates; notice the prevalence of peace across the region.

There was once something called the Monroe Doctrine (www.ask.com/wiki/Monroe_Doctrine). Authored by US Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and enacted in 1823, the policy corralled Latin America into the US’s backyard and snugly held it under Washington’s ‘protection’, declaring that no other foreign power venture into this bountiful neighborhood of 23 states. Implicit in the Monroe Doctrine was obeisance of regional leaders to Washington. It held sway for almost two centuries, during which the US waged war against anything that challenged it. Today, the Monroe policy lies in the dust heap, a fate significantly omitted in US commentaries on Latin America.

That doctrine’s demise is in part thanks to a new balance of power established by the skill and will of Hugo Chavez.

Let’s face it. America really doesn’t care about the welfare of Venezuelan or other Latin American citizens. US concern is with easy access to resources and a country’s political alliances vis-à-vis Washington. That’s where Mr. Chavez was a problem. He changed regional political dynamics using convincing ideology, effective rhetoric, diplomacy, energy resource management, new media networks, and economic reform.

Why would USA be afraid of Hugo Chavez except over his international successes? Why dismiss him as a flamboyant, communist-embracing upstart if he did not in fact effect fundamental changes, if he did not show other possibilities exist to address world problems, if he did not demonstrate how alliances can blossom without US design and approval?  

What a pity. USA, a country that so prides itself on its democratic attributes, is intolerant of any unarguably democratic achievements of others, like Venezuela. All without US tutelage.

Ahhh. Imagine what a leader like Chavez in the Arab world could do.

Barbara Nimri Aziz is an anthropologist and radio producer at WBAI in New York.