Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Riding High with Hugo Chavez

Hugo Chavez’s meteoric rise on the world stage has as much to do with his defiance of Washington as it does with his leadership of a hemispheric revolution. At great personal risk, Chavez has consistently lashed out against his witless-nemesis, George Bush, and the coterie of sycophants who do his bidding.

Yesterday, it was Bush’s poodle, Tony Blair, who entered the Chavez crosshairs. Blair has been Bush’s main ally in the illegal occupation of Iraq and the ongoing war of terror. In Parliament this week, Blair admonished Chavez that he should “respect the rules of the international community”, ignoring his own gross violations of the UN Charter and the Nuremburg Tribunal. Chavez responded to Blair with a hearty salvo:

“Don’t be shameless, Mr. Blair. Don’t be immoral, Mr. Blair, that you are one of those who have no morals. You are not one that has the right to criticize anyone about the rules of the international community”…You are an “imperialist pawn” who attempts to curry favor with “Danger Bush-Hitler, the number one mass murderer and assassin there is on the planet.”

“Go straight to hell, Mr. Blair,” Chavez roared.

What Chavez lacks in discretion, he makes up for in candor.

While the feckless US Congress quivers at every edict issued from the White House, the barrel-chested Venezuelan fires off another round of grapeshot at the fraudster-and-chief:
“Bush is the world’s greatest terrorist”…”a madman”… (who) “thinks he owns the world and now is making plans to invade Iran, and plans to invade Venezuela, too…The American people are going to have to tie him down one of these days, because if they don’t he’s capable of destroying half the world.”

Chavez is the polar opposite of his arch-rival, George Bush. Raised in a dirt-floor shack, Chavez worked his way up through the ranks of the elite paratrooper-corps dreaming of becoming of becoming a baseball player and moving to the United States.

Bush, on the other hand, is a patrician slacker, who drank his way through high school and college, went “missing” during his tour with the Champagne Unit of the Texas National Guard, and ran three companies (Spectrum, Arbusto, and Harken) into the ground. He finally, found his niche in politics when he realized he could translate his family name and connections into political capital. Since then, he has faithfully served the corporate interests that catapulted him to the presidency; providing lavish subsidies to industry giants, tax cuts to the wealthy, and deregulation to nearly every area of commerce.
The divisions between Chavez and Bush are more than just personal. Chavez imagines a world where government is deeply involved in the health and welfare of its citizens and where certain guarantees of security are provided under the rule of law. He has worked tirelessly to actualize a modern Bolivarian Revolution, loosening the centuries-long grip of colonial rule and binding the continent together in a shared vision of peace and cooperation.

He’s become the bane of the petro-oligarchs who see his efforts to redistribute some of Venezuela’s vast oil wealth into social programs as a direct challenge to their authority. (Ironically, Chavez’s attempts to share oil profits are not nearly as extreme as the many programs initiated by FDR under the New Deal. Even into the 1950s the highest tax rate for anyone making over $200,000 was 92%. This “socialistic” redistribution of wealth explains the explosive growth of America’s middle class following the Second World War)

Chavez has provided clinics and schools in every barrio in Caracas; ensuring that even the neediest citizens will enjoy federally funded health care, literacy programs, and a minimal standard of living. His vision of social justice is sharply contrasted to that of Bush who has consistently hacked away at education, public television, Medicaid, student loans, and the crumbling social safety-net that provides vital resources for the destitute. In Bush-world, the solitary function of government is to enhance the wealth of America’s “privileged few”.

While Chavez is working to create a nationally-owned web of oil and gas pipelines that will knit the continent together, Bush is pursuing a global resource war that has destroyed much of Iraq and killed tens of thousands of innocent people. The Chavez approach requires partnership and cooperation, whereas the Bush strategy is merely a continuation of smash-and-grab imperialism.

Chavez is correct to dismiss Bush’s wars as an expression of “savage capitalism”, the likes of which Latin Americans have endured for more than a century.

Starting in the “lost decade” of the 1980s, the policies which sprouted from the “Washington consensus” have increased poverty and despair throughout the continent on an incalculable scale. The IMF and World Bank forced austerity measures, deregulation, privatization of public services and resources, as well as painful cuts to social programs and education. The “free market” policies have curbed hyperinflation, but left 128 million Latin Americans living on less that $2 a day.

Chavez’s political fortunes are due in large part to the widespread rejection of the exploitative neoliberal policies and market-oriented reforms that have failed to reduce poverty. His ascendancy has breathed life into a vision of socialism that is essentially non-ideological, but deals with the immediate needs of the people and the obligation of government to meet those needs.

Chavez’s new-found wealth and celebrity presents a serious challenge to Washington. The Pentagon issued a report 2 years ago that warned of the dangers of “radical populism” spreading through Latin America. The Bush administration is concerned that real democracy will take root in the region and undermine the dominant role of US industry.

Equally worrisome, is Chavez’s threat to divert vital oil supplies going to the United States to foreign tenders if Washington continues meddling in Venezuelan politics. (Venezuela currently provides 15% of US oil imports.)

Chavez star seems to be rising just as Bush’s is beginning to fizzle. While Bush is mired in scandal and war, Chavez is grabbing headlines by promising to give away $4 billion in aid to his neighbors, provide assistance to victims of Hurricane Katrina, and donate cheap heating fuel to the needy in Massachusetts. His generosity has enhanced his stature as a world leader while America’s moral authority vanished sometime between the carpet-bombing of Falluja and the sadistic treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Chavez’s popularity has only grown with every scathing brickbat he hurls at the Bush claque. The public obviously enjoys seeing David tweak Goliath’s nose while the giant stumbles blindly from one bloody conflict to the next.

“We are happy that the maximum representatives of the assassin and genocide Empire attack us and call us what they like,” Chavez boomed. “If the dogs are barking, Sancho, it’s because we are riding”.

Chavez’s comments elicited a sharp response from Donald Rumsfeld who said, “We’ve see some populist leadership appealing to masses of people in those countries” that is “worrisome”…Chavez “was elected legally- just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally-and then consolidated his power.”

“Adolf Hitler”?

That’s a stretch even by Rumsfeld’s standards.

Never the less, Chavez dismissed the Defense Secretary’s remarks saying, “Let the dogs of imperialism bark…that’s their role, to bark. Our task is to consolidate this century and the real liberation of our people right now.”

In recent months, Chavez has been aggressively trying to buy weapons from Russia anticipating another American coup or (possible) invasion. (He said that he has proof of a US plan code-named Balboa that was worked out under the Bush administration) He has vowed to cut off the flow of oil to the US if the Bush administration makes another attempt on his life and promised a century-long war if the US invades. Never the less, the prospect of hostilities hasn’t intimidated the effusive Chavez or caused him to tone down his rhetoric.

“The imperialist, mass-murdering, fascist attitude of the president of the United States doesn’t have limits”, Chavez said. “I think Hitler could be a nursery-baby next to George W. Bush”.

Ouch.

Chavez undoubtedly grasps the gravity of his situation and the likelihood that Bush will take military action against him sometime following an attack on Iran. As he noted last week when he was awarded the prestigious Jose Marti prize by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization:

“They will forever try to preserve the US Empire by all means, while we do everything possible to shred it.”

Chavez is persisting with his ambitious plans for agrarian reform, public housing, free health care, and redistribution of wealth. He is reshaping Venezuelan politics and influencing the way we think about governments’ obligations to its citizens.

As Chavez said, “The world needs development and peace, and the only road to peace is justice.”

MIKE WHITNEY can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com

More articles by:

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
Lawrence Davidson
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail