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Chávez talks to Aljazeera: a grotesque interview

By Gustavo Coronel

January 5, 2005 | Recently Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez gave Aljazeera TV an interview in which he openly disclosed his plans to lead a global "offensive war" against U.S. "colonialism and imperialism." The interview was one of those prepared events in which the questions are carefully designed to invite the answers. Not journalism but impudent advertisement. The presenter, Mr. Faysal Al-Quaim, starts by telling Chávez that he is so popular in the Arab world that, if he ran in an Arab presidential election he would "win by more than 90% of the votes" and hastened to add: "I mean a genuine 90% and not falsified." This was a serious slip of the tongue, considering that the Venezuelan Presidential recall referendum in August 2004 was plagued with fraud and blatant abuses of power by the Chávez regime.

The reasons for this popularity are two, says the presenter: "Your care for the poor and downtrodden in your country and second, your defiance of the United States."

My initial comment has to do with the ignorance of the economic and social Venezuelan conditions exhibited by "brother Faysal," as Chávez refers to the presenter. During the six years of the Chávez regime, the Venezuelan poor have become poorer. Unemployment has rarely been below 20%. Informal employment includes 60% of the population (street vendors). Poverty engulfs 80% of the population. Venezuela is the only country in Latin America where the social and economic goals of the Millennium set by the United Nations are not being achieved. The number of abandoned children has increased. Crime is at an all-time high. If "brother Faysal" ever visits Caracas, he will see more beggars than he has ever seen in his life. And the filth of the Venezuelan cities may surpass anything he has seen in the Arab world. How comes that care for the poor can produce this social tragedy? The answers to this paradox are only two: either the care for the poor is real but accompanied by a monumental ineptness or the care for the poor is pure pretense and propaganda. As a Venezuelan citizen, who has witnessed first hand most of the Chávez political circus I believe that the true answer is a blend of the two given above: 25% ineptness and 75% political maneuvering. Any impartial observer will notice that the social programs installed by Chávez under the name of Missions (Christ, Robinson, etc.) are designed more to produce an immediate propaganda impact than to solve the structural problems of the Venezuelan poor. Chávez boasts of giving free medical services to 15 million Venezuelans and wiping out illiteracy in three years. However, there are no reliable statistics being kept any longer. Venezuelans know that this is not true. Chávez has brought into Venezuela 50,000 Cubans: bodyguards, doctors, nurses, teachers and sport trainers, many of who double up as political and military operators. Before these Cubans came, Venezuela already had a very low illiteracy rate and health services were already free of charge. The claims made by Chávez to Aljazeera are untrue and constitute disinformation by a news agency that, according to Chávez during the interview: "is a symbol of courage, principles and dignity, and that it always tells the truth." The truth is that the Chávez regime has created a nation of beggars, people over dependent in the handouts being made by Chávez to buy their loyalties. When loyalties are bought, however, they only last as long as the money lasts. The Chávez regime as champion of the poor is a myth fueled by very expensive propaganda. Sadly, the money that Chávez should use to really solve the social problems of the Venezuelan poor is being spent in talking about it.

The really valid reason why many Arabs like Chávez is because they share, perhaps with better reasons, his pathological hate of the U.S. In this respect Chávez tells Aljazeera: "Confrontation with the U.S. is inevitable. Washington's imperialist position . . . goes back 200 years in history . . . because the liberator Simón Bolívar was called by colonialism in North America the mad southern rebel. . . ." In saying this Chávez suggests that he is "Bolívar," one of the obsessions of many of our former dictators. Our Venezuelan dictators have shared the pretension of being Bolívar returned to earth under their guise: Guzman Blanco, Cipriano Castro, and Gomez. Gomez's corpse was hidden for one full day by his followers so that they could claim that Gomez had died on December 17, the same day Bolívar died. Chávez portraits are appearing with an artificially created strong resemblance to Bolívar, so that the population associates the two in the back of their heads. Chávez is making a confrontation with the U.S. his main strategy for political survival or, at least, for political martyrdom. He adds: "We are not on the defensive (in this war against the U.S.). I am a soldier and I studied in detail the tactics of war and now we are in a political war. We are on the offensive. . . . Yesterday, in Tehran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told me a true statement: 'Power, power. I can see that as you put your questions you raise your fist, the sign of strength. . . .'" Here is a person whose obsession is power, strength and war. No place in his mind for peace, love, compassion or real concern for the plight of his people.

The presenter, brother Faysal exclaims: "Very beautiful!"

Brother Faysal furthers wants to know if Chávez's message is directed to the Arab people. And Chávez replies: "Of course, the Arab people and the world. I was in Madrid . . . and talked to thousands of Spanish workers . . . and students. . . . Then I went to Moscow and spoke to thousands . . . I addressed millions of people in Europe, central Asia and the Middle East. . . . I spoke on this matter with Colonel Gaddafi in Tripoli. Another pole (of unity against U.S. imperialism) can be composed of China, India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. . . ." And then he adds: "The 21st century should be a century of peace!" However, he goes on by saying: "We have to unite in South America, Africa and Europe" (against the imperialist power of the United States). And he advises brother Faysal: "Please follow our recent tour Madrid, Tripoli, Moscow, Tehran, Doha and then Madrid, and later our trip to Peru and then Brazil. After a few days in Caracas I will visit China. We are not on a tourist trip. We are working to gather forces. . . . I believe that here lays the secret . . . there is a dialectical and deductive method . . . the (Venezuelan) military coup was planned in Washington."

Here is the naked Chávez, then. A man who has abandoned his people to pursue an obsessive compulsion to lead a global rebellion against the U.S. He cannot solve the tragic problems of his moderately populated country and yet he has pretensions of leading a "world war" against the U.S. His people are starving to death while he talks to Aljazeera, to Zapatero and to Khamenei and Gaddafi about how to solve the problems of the world. This is what makes this interview so grotesque.

Hugo Chávez was elected as President of Venezuela in 1998 to conduct a change of government style and attitudes within democratic bounds. He was not elected to conduct a revolution outside the boundaries of our democratic institutions. He was elected to solve the problems of Venezuelan society, not to lead half of the world against the other half, something that he has already accomplished in the domestic Venezuelan scene, where half the country has been led to hate the other half. Using the petroleum wealth that belongs to the people and not to the government of Venezuela, he is now conducting a political campaign throughout the planet, in order to become a new Mahdi, a new messiah. While he frantically travels form one extreme of the planet to the other, Venezuelans are suffering from extreme government neglect, roads and schools are deteriorating, hospitals are a disaster, private property is being invaded, private companies are closing down, freedom of expression is being smothered and people are being put in prison or prevented from leaving the country in an arbitrary manner.

Whoever cannot do the little things cannot pretend to do the big things. Whoever cannot put his own house in order cannot hope to put the world in order. At most, this person will only add to the confusion and misery of the planet, while destroying what used to be a rather orderly and happy country, Venezuela.

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