FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bush Versus Chavez

Bush’s woes just keep piling up on him. The summit of hemispheric leaders he attended in Argentina was a total embarrassment, revealing the emperor has no clothes. Bush did manage to avoid shaking hands with his main adversary at the summit, Hugo Chavez. But the president of Venezuela stole the show, drawing 35,000 to hear him speak at a packed stadium. In Bush’s only comment on the massive demonstrations against his stay in Argentina, he lamely joked with the country’s president, Nestor Kirchner, “It’s particularly not easy to host, perhaps, me.”

Declaring “I will of course be polite” in the presence of Chavez, Bush waited until he flew off to Brazil to levy a savage attack on the leader of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela: “Ensuring social justice for the Americas requires choosing between two competing visions,” he proclaimed at a banquet. “One offers a vision of hope. It is founded on representative government, integration in the world community, and a faith in the transformative power of freedom in individual livesthe other seeks to roll back the democratic progress…by playing to fear, pitting neighbor against neighbor, and blaming others for their own failures to provide for their people.”

This Orwellian declaration upended the realities of Chavez’s Venezuela and Bush’s America. Elected to the presidency in 1998, Chavez received 56 percent of the vote, while as the world knows Bush in the 2000 elections lost the popular vote to his Democratic opponent.

During Chavez’ seven years in office, Venezuela has proved to be the most democratic government in the recent history of the Americas. Eight elections or referendums have taken place, including the election of a constituent assembly to draft a new Bolivarian constitution that established the principles for a participatory democracy. In each instance of voting, fifty-six to sixty percent of the participants have supported Chavez or his initiatives, including his reelection as president under the new constitution in 2000. Bush it should be noted in his reelection in 2004 received only 51% of the votes, the lowest for an incumbent since Woodrow Wilson in 1916. No international observers have uncovered fraud in any of the Venezuelan balloting, while in the United States there are still serious questions about the fairness and integrity of the 2000 and 2004 elections.

The Bush administration’s most ignominious assault on the new democratic spirit in Venezuela occurred with a coup attempt in April 2002. After meeting with the coup conspirators in Washington for months before hand, the United States was the first and only government in the hemisphere to recognize the “golpistas” headed by Pedro Carmona, the president of the Venezuelan business association. Chavez was restored to power in 48 hours, thanks to a massive popular demonstration combined with military support, principally among junior officers and common soldiers.

As in the lead up to the Iraqi war, the US media, including the liberal press, proved to be a conveyor belt for the Bush line on Chavez. While the coup was in progress the New York Times editorialized: “Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator.” The Times, also echoing the position of the Venezuelan elites, insisted that Chavez was a “demagogue.”

Demagoguery is apparently a label imposed on any leader who attempts to mobilize and improve the lot of the popular classes at the expense of the wealthy. In a country of 25 million, illiteracy has been virtually eliminated as 1.4 million learned to read and write during the early years of Chavez’ tenure. Three million adult Venezuelans previously outside the education system due to poverty enrolled in schooling programs.

When Chavez took office 80 percent of the population was largely excluded from the benefits of an oil rich economy. Few had access to even minimal health care. Today, thanks in large part to an “oil for doctors” program that has brought 20,000 Cuban doctors to Venezuela, seventy percent of the population enjoys access to free health care. Malnutrition and hunger have been eliminated as three-fifths of the population now receives subsidized food via cooperatives, special food programs and government distribution centers.

As to Bush’s allegation that Chavez is pitting “neighbor against neighbor,” the President of Venezuela proudly points to his efforts to foment cooperation in the hemisphere while opposing “the frightening neo-liberal globalization” embodied in Bush’s call for a Free Trade Area of the Americas. Chavez in August launched PetroCaribe, a program providing Venezuelan oil to the countries of the Caribbean at a 40 percent discount with long term loans at 1 percent interest. In opposition to Bush’s neo-liberal agenda, Chavez is calling for the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas that would include political as well as economic integration for South and Latin America.

The ultimate hypocrisy in Bush’s proclamation that he stands for improved international relations while Chavez opposes “freedom in individual lives” came at Bush’s last stop in Panama. There in an effort to rebuff international criticism of the secret U.S. prison system abroad used to detain and torture alleged terrorism suspects, Bush stated he would continue to “aggressively pursue” terror suspects and insisted that “any activity we conduct” is “lawful.” Small wonder Chavez labels the Bush regime a “terrorist administration” that is a “threat to humanity.”

ROGER BURBACH is director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) and a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley. He is co- author with Jim Tarbell of “Imperial Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire,” He released late last year “The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice.

 

 

 

More articles by:

ROGER BURBACH is the director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) and a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley and author of The Pinochet Affair.

December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail