Friday, August 26, 2005

Hugo Chavez

First of all, apologies for not posting anything for a while. I've been busy and away from York (and watching rather too much cricket*). More apologies - in advance this time - because it's likely I won't do a lot of blogging for the next couple of weeks**.

So anyway, Richard Gott has an interesting piece (which I think, is possibly an extract from his new book "Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution") on Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, on ZNet.

Chávez, now 51, is the same age as Tony Blair, and after nearly seven years as president he has been in power for almost as long. But there the similarities end. Chávez is a man of the left and, like most Latin Americans with a sense of history, he is distrustful of the United States. Free elections in Latin America have often thrown up radical governments that Washington would like to see overthrown, and the Chávez government is no exception to this rule.

Chávez is a genuinely revolutionary figure, one of those larger-than-life characters who surface regularly in the history of Latin America - and achieve power perhaps twice in a hundred years. He wants to change the history of the continent....

The Americans would have dealt with Chávez long ago had they not been faced by two crucial obstacles. First, they have been notably preoccupied in recent years in other parts of the world, and have hardly had the time, the personnel, or the attention span to deal with the charismatic colonel. Second, Venezuela is one of the principal suppliers of oil to the US market (literally so in that 13,000 US petrol stations are owned by Citgo, an extension of Venezuela's state oil company). Any hasty attempt to overthrow the Venezuelan government would undoubtedly threaten this oil lifeline, and Chávez himself has long warned that his assassination would close down the pumps. With his popularity topping 70% in the polls, he would be a difficult figure to dislodge.

A few days ago an ultra right-wing fruit-cake called Pat Robertson, who seems to have built a lucrative career out of appearing on TV to scare the desperate and impressionable poor of America into making large credit card donations for Jaysus (payable to P Robertson), called on the Bush administration to assassinate Chavez. He described Chávez’s Venezuela as a “launching pad for Communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent” and went on to say "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he [Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it" and that Bush should 'take him [Chavez] out'. There is some small amusement to be had in watching Robertson now trying to explain that when he said these things he didn't actually mean that Bush should assassinate Chavez - oh no. However, though I wouldn't normally bother too much about what crazed Rolex watch wearing televangelists are saying, the urging of the assassination of a foreign head of state by this particular crazed Rolex watch wearing televangelist is rather worrying. Robertson is particularly close to the Bush administration. It doesn't seem too outlandish to speculate that perhaps Robertson was speaking with the tacit approval of the Whitehouse - he was, possibly, testing the water to gauge public and international opinion on the subject of US intervention in Venezuela. The mealy mouthed response of the US Government when asked to condemn Robertson's comments (by Jesse Jackson amongst others), I think, adds fuel to the speculative fire here.

Gott, above, suggests that the US is unlikely to intervene in Venezuela. It's certainly been very reluctant to do so since the botched coup attempt in 2002. As Gott suggests, the fact that the US is bogged down in Iraq together with its heavy reliance on Venezuelan oil (now exacerbated because of Middle East instability) means that it would be highly difficult to act on Venezuela at the moment. Perhaps, if the Bush administration did indeed have a hand in Robertson's pronouncement, Robertson's words were meant only as a kind of shot over Chavez's bows. However, the possibility that the neo-cons may, just, be considering some kind of desperate military throw of the dice in Venezuela can't be discounted. What Gott says, further on in his article, it seems to me, might suggest that, actually, the Bush admin regards Chavez as some sort of 'clear and present danger' which must be dealt with fairly rapidly or not at all - Gott writes:

worrying for the Americans is the time Chávez has devoted to the Middle East, successfully courting the governments that belong to Opec, the oil producers' organisation, some of whom have been labelled by the Americans as "the axis of evil"... Soon he [Chavez] will be helping to show the new Iranian president, using the Venezuelan example, how to increase the revenues of a state-owned oil company and channel them into programmes to help the poor.

A growing political alliance between Venezuela, other S American countries and Iran. Can the neo-cons allow this to develop? The emergence of a loosely allied anti-US bloc, driven by state-development type politics and with collective control over a substantial proportion of the West's oil supplies, it seems to me, must look very very alarming to the realpolitikers in the US State Department. Moreover, the fact that this emerging bloc is driven by a left-wing regime, experimenting with popular democracy and workers' control of industry and talking socialism must make the whole thing look absolutely terrifying. One of Chavez's aims, after all, is to spread the Bolivarian Revolution across South and Central America. Perhaps, in the face of all of this, the US just might be so desperate that it really is seriously considering some kind of military intervention in Venezuela.

* Yes, my secret is out - I like test match cricket. It's OK, so do a lot of lefties - Mike Marqusee and Norman Geras (gulp!) for example. I should like to point out that I've enjoyed watching England cricket matches for a long time - this isn't just some liking cricket because England are doing well in the Ashes flash in the pan kind of thing.
** I'm not quite sure why I'm apologising - it's my blog and I'll blog whenever I blooming well like - but, still, it seems to be blogger ettiquette to apologise in such circumstances. So then, please accept my (highly insincere) apologies.


Chavez says that Robertson's call for his assassination expresses the wishes of the US elite.

According to Chavez, the dominant political and economic classes of the U.S. are “entering a phase of desperation now, at the beginning of the 21st century,” which is why they are interested in resorting to acts such as assassination. Chavez also mentioned that the Fox New Channel had presented a former CIA agent, who said, “one must put an end to Chavez before he puts an end to us.”

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