Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:49PM
By Yusuf Fernandez
From local councils to factories, Venezuela has carried out one of the most successful experiments in direct democracy and worker control in the world, which makes it a much more democratic country than the US itself, where poor and ordinary people are excluded from politics and decision-making, and the very wealthy rule the country through a managed and formal democracy that ensures that they will benefit most from the economy.â€
Shortly after the death of the Leader of the Bolivarian Revolution and President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, some US right-wing media outlets launched a campaign of slander describing him as a â€œdivisiveâ€ and â€œauthoritarianâ€ ruler. Some even openly showed their hope that ChavezÂ´s political project would soon fall apart.
However, as all the whole world could see, it is the US and Canadian governments, and not Chavez, who are isolated in the continent. Fellow presidents from throughout the Americas went to Caracas to attend the funeral and pay homage to Chavez. There, many of them reaffirmed their support for the ideals of social justice and regional development and independence that the Venezuelan leader supported during his whole life. Many messages of sympathy and solidarity arrived in Caracas from Mexico to Argentina.
Several Latin American leaders said that even in the absence of the Leader of the Boliviarian Revolution, they would keep on working together in order to develop Chavez ideals on Latin American independence and integration that have already been successfully implemented. Even JosÃ© Manual Santos, the President of Colombia â€“ a former enemy of Venezuela during the rule of the former President Alvaro Uribe â€“ praised the commitment of President Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan government to the peace process in his country.
In stark contrast to the warm tributes from the whole Latin America, statements by US President Barack Obama were seen as full of contempt for Chavez, which is certainly consistent with past attitudes of his government towards Venezuela and Latin AmericaÂ´s growing independence. Obama spoke of â€œa new chapter of the history of Venezuelaâ€ and, as if Venezuela was a dictatorial country, he added that the US â€œremains committed to policies that promote the democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.â€ Obama did not offer his condolences for the death of Chavez either.
Actually, Obama should know best. Venezuelans, according to polls, give their own democracy a score of 7 out of 10 while the Latin American average is 5.8. While 81 percent voted in the last Venezuelan election, only 57.5 percent voted in the last US presidential election in 2012.
For her part, spokeswoman for the US State Department, Victoria Nuland, told the media that her government was waiting for a decision by the Venezuelan authorities about the â€œtransition;â€ that is, she was telling the Venezuelans that Washington wants them to backtrack and basically eliminate their independence and social achievements. However, in a statement, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry described NulandÂ´s insolent and disrespectful remarks as â€œa new, crude US interference in Venezuelaâ€™s internal affairs.â€
At the same time, all these [negative] remarks [about Chavez] by US top officials sparked profound outrage among Venezuelan people, who accompanied their president with affection and sorrow during the funeral. ObamaÂ´s vilification of Chavez offended the majority of Venezuelans, both those who voted to reelect their president on October 7 and those who did not.
It is not the first time, however, that Obama has found himself isolated. At the 2012 OAS Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, the US and Canada were harshly criticized, especially for their refusal to allow Cuba to attend. It was a stark contrast to the previous summit in 2009, where Latin American leaders â€“ including Chavez â€“ welcomed Obama warmly because they wrongly thought that he could open a new era in the history of the US-Latin American relations.
Shortly after Chavez passed away, the Venezuelan government expelled the air force attachÃ© of the US Embassy in Caracas and his deputy, claiming that they had made â€œinappropriate contactsâ€ with Venezuelan military officers in order to try to destabilize the country. The United States retaliated by expelling the second secretary at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington and another diplomat. Finally, the Venezuelan government has ordered an investigation to know whether ChavezÂ´s cancer was induced by the enemies of his Bolivarian revolution, especially the US administration.
For his part, Acting President Nicolas Maduro has promised to follow Chavez path and to confront â€œthe EmpireÂ´s attempts to prevent Venezuela and Latin AmericaÂ´s independence from consolidating.â€ He recently announced that â€œsome people in the Pentagon and the CIAâ€ were conspiring as the election approaches in the South American country. â€œI am telling the absolute truth,â€ Maduro said, â€œbecause we have the testimonies and direct, firsthand information.â€
He accused explicitly a group of former US officials -including Roger Noriega, Otto Reich and John Negroponte â€“ of working to destabilize Venezuela. Shortly after, Maduro added that Venezuela had detected a plot from those same circles to kill his opponent in the election Henrique Capriles Randoski. The implication was that the attack on the right-wing candidate would be a provocation in order to create a chaos in the country. Maduro did not give more details.
Otto Reich was ambassador in Venezuela from 1986 to 1989 and Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the administration of George W. Bush. He was deeply involved in the 2002 anti-Chavez coup in Venezuela. He was a close friend to right-wing Venezuelan businessman and lawyer Robert Carmona-Borjas, who fled from the Latin American country shortly after the failure of the coup in which he was also heavily involved.
A second individual denounced by Maduro was Robert Noriega, US permanent representative to the Organization of American States, Noriega also supported the 2002 failed coup. After the Honduran military coup in 2009, Noriega became a lobbyist for the new regime. The third individual, John Negroponte, was Director of National Intelligence and was actively involved in the contra war against the Sandinist Nicaragua in the 1980s. It is worth pointing out that these three individuals have written numerous articles in which they called on the US administration to take a tough line against Venezuela.
All these events show that the Obama Administration continues to develop the same failed Cold War policies towards Latin America that George W. Bush put into practice. Washington keeps militarizing much of the continent and spending enormous amounts of cash in order to set up obedient governments, train armies and militias, deploy troops, and build new military bases in countries such as Guatemala, Panama, Belize, Honduras or the Dominican Republic.
Re-imposing the old order
It is worth pointing out that Obama and NulandÂ´s speeches are in line with the political discourse of Venezuelan corrupt and aggressive right wing, which again shows the links of subordination of the latter to US policies. The Venezuelan oligarchy helped the US push its neoliberal agenda on Venezuela through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, as it did in the rest of Latin America. In 1989, then President Carlos Andres Perez was putting into practice the â€œWashington Consensusâ€ of neoliberal policies â€“ privatization and cuts to social services â€“ and, consequently, ended subsidies for oil and the prices of gasoline and public transportation doubled.
Protests broke out in the suburbs surrounding Caracas and spread into the capital itself. Carlos AndrÃ©s Perez then revoked the constitutional right to protest and deployed military, who killed an estimated 3,000 people. On the whole, under President Perez, life standards continued to decline for all but the richest.
However, Chavez took Venezuelan people out of poverty. He used the nationÂ´s oil revenues to provide funds for literacy programs and, in this way, more people were able to go to university. The Venezuelan government extended access to dental and health care and promoted a land and housing reform, subsidized supermarkets, and thousands of work cooperatives. In Venezuela, where much of the population had been living below the poverty line, these programs have had a huge impact. Nowadays, VenezuelaÂ´s gap between rich and poor is half of what it is in the United States. It has been rated â€œthe fifth-happiest nation in the worldâ€ by Gallup.
In unity with his people, he was also able to free the country from the grips of the United States and was the promoter of a Latin American uprising against US domination. Chavez led the way to create to the Bank of the South in order to finance projects throughout Latin America and allow other nations to free themselves from the yoke of the IMF and the World Bank.
From local councils to factories, Venezuela has carried out one of the most successful experiments in direct democracy and worker control in the world, which makes it a much more democratic country than the US itself, where poor and ordinary people are excluded from politics and decision-making, and the very wealthy rule the country through a managed and formal democracy that ensures that they will benefit most from the economy.
In this sense, while Chavez was a key figure in the creation and development of these programs and initiatives, it is the Venezuelan people that brought them to life and will keep them alive after his death. The slogan, â€œChavez somos todosâ€™ â€“ We are all Chavez â€“ is not mere words, but expresses the consciousness of people, who want this process to go on.â€
Recently a Venezuelan told a foreign media: â€œThe Americans and the opposition believe that if Chavez as a person disappears, the revolution will be over and the old order will be re-imposed, but we have to show them that it will not be like that.â€
Yusuf FernandezÂ is a journalist and the secretary of the Muslim Federation of Spain. He started to work for Radio Prague. He has been editor of several Islamic sites in Spanish and English and is currently editor of the Spanish site of Al Manar. He has also published articles in leading Spanish newspapers.More articles by Yusuf Fernandez