[once again, Soj is promoted to the Front Page. Also, if you have never visited Flogging the Simian you don’t know what you’re missing. BooMan]
Every Sunday, the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez goes on a television program called “Hello, Mr. President”. It takes a few days before the official transcript comes online, but various news media report different sections of what he spoke about.
As usual, yesterday’s appearance had a number of controversial elements to it. The following excerpts come from reports written in Spanish, and therefore all translation errors are entirely mine.
What Chavez seems to have mastered through his years of leadership, tested in the fire of a near coup in 2002, and perhaps with some wisdom from the extremely charismatic Fidel Castro, is the ability of how to reach out and connect to his public. Unlike Bush and Putin, he does not hide behind a doubletalking public relations officer, rarely interacting with the press or giving public statements. Chavez speaks directly every week on his show and makes frequent public appearances.
And let me tell you, it’s reaching the people he is trying to reach. And as far as I can tell, it’s completely baffling the Bush administration, because Chavez refuses to play the slow game of nearly neutral diplomatic words. The other day, the American Ambassador met quietly with the Venezuelan government. The meeting was so low key the American Embassy didn’t even put out a press release about it. But the Venezuelan papers all ran stories about it, saying how the Americans wanted to “make nice” with Chavez after their blustery words. And then Chavez added his now standard threat, that if the Americans invade, he will cut off all the oil (1.5 million barrels per DAY).
So, onto the articles. First, from the anti-Chavez Miami Herald:
Chavez Emphasizes His Confrontation with the United States
The Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez yesterday assured that the “model of failure” in the world is the United States and not Venezuela. This was in response to the statement given by the head of the American diplomatic mission for Latin America, Roger Noriega.
“The real model of failure is your country, Mr. Noriega, especially in Latin America with your neoliberal policies, the Washington Council”, responded the president when he appeared on his program Hello, Mr. President.
This is how Chavez replied to Noriega’s statement given in Washington on March 9, when he stated that the Venezuelan President could export his “model of failure” to other countries if the United States and the region ignored his “questionable affinity” to democracy.
Chavez also called upon the Venezuelan people to “get ready to defend” the country in preparation for an eventual American invasion of the South American country.
“Come on and let’s prepare ourselves for an “assymetrical war” so we may avoid war, so the aggressor will see our capabilities, because as powerful as it is, it will see our response,” he added.
The Venezuelan president also remarked that “very soon” his country will receive 100,000 rifles [AK-47’s] purchased from Russia, which will be used against the inevitable aggression…
…Noriega repeated the fact that the White House is “greatly concerned” by Chavez’ efforts to “concentrate his power” and by his “suspicious relation with destabilizing forces in the region” and his announcing the purchase of arms.
In response, Chavez said “the world’s great concern is the government of the United States, a government that abuses human rights, that abuses and kills”.
He repeated his statement that if the United States invades, he will immediately cut off the 1.5 million barrels of oil it sells America every day.
“If the “gringos” mess with us, they can forget about Venezuelan oil,” he warned.
I’m doing somewhat of a hack job of translating some of Chavez’ phrases. All I can tell you is that Spanish is a much more picturesque language than can sometimes be translated into English.
From the Chilean newspaper La Tercera:
Chavez Insists the United States Will Invade and Takes Control over the Military Reserves
The Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez yesterday continued to denounce the United States, saying it intends to invade his country and assassinate him. The President said that Venezuela would use weapons to defend itself against any invasion and that blood would run in the streets of [the Venezuelan capital] Caracas.
Furthermore, he repeated that if his country is attacked, “Washington can forget about the oil” that Venezuela sells to the United States. In this atmosphere of alleged threats by the Americans, the President announced that the military reserve units in his country would now report directly to the president and called on his people to prepare to “defend the nation”.
From the conservative Spanish newspaper ABC:
On His Television Program, Hugo Chavez Makes Strong Accusations Against Aznar
On his Sunday television program, Hello, Mr. President, the Venezuelan President hugo Chavez harshly criticized the ex-Spanish president Jose Maria Aznar in public as he’s never done before in the last six years.
“Yesterday I read Aznar’s statements and they repulsed me,” he said without specifying exactly what the ex-president of Spain said that bothered him so much. Chavez added that one of the “despicable” things Aznar did when he was in power was to “put the Spanish people on its knees before the United States in the conflict in Iraq”.
He said that Aznar continues to maintain an “imperial complex” towards the former Spanish colonies in Latin America and “continues to speak a lot of nonsense”.
At the end of January, Chavez visited Spain, where he caused a political firestorm after the Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, stated that Aznar’s government had supported the April 11, 2002 coup attempt [in Venezuela], that forced the Venezuelan president out of office for 48 hours.
Moratinos never fully retracted that statement, and the (now opposition party) PP minister Rajoy is absolutely incensed about it to this day. I wrote a full-length article about it which you can read here.
And finally, an official press release from the Venezuelan government itself:
There Is No Doubt About the Imperial Nature of the United States
The President of the Republic, Hugo Chavez Frias, stated that although the Bolivarian revolution is democratic and peaceful, it is also armed and ready to defend its national sovereignty. Chavez warned the government in Washington that if they invade us, “without a doubt they will shed our blood here in Venezuela, but their blood will also flow as well”.
He said that there is no doubt that the United States is imperial in nature.
“I am obligated to help the Venezuelan people prepare for this threat hanging over us. I am talking about the United States, the worldwide empire that has no hesitation to invade other countries, to kill people, to kidnap presidents, as recent history has shown”.
He added that the Venezuelan people who have demonstrated courage and dignity will not permit the United States to take our oil. “Guerillas will come from every which way. The soldiers will come out of their bunkers to form guerilla groups in the plains and in the mountains”.
“This is what will happen if Mr. Bush makes the insane decision to invade Venezuela or try to overthrown this government”.
He reiterated that the Bolivarian Revolution he leads wants peace and not blood. “But this revolution is more than just peaceful and democratic, it is armed and is ready to use its arms to defend the sacred sovereignty of Venezuelan land, Venezuelan skies, Venezuelan waters and of the Venezuelan homeland,” he added…
…He also reported that 100,000 Russian-made AK-47 rifles are on the way, and held up one in his hands. “Soon we will show them. It is an amazing rifle. And the Technical Commision went to Moscow to have them modified, and I spoke to President Putin. We already have the money and soon they will be delivered”.
The title of the last article literally said, “With the United States, you don’t need to be fooled, it is an empire”.
I hate all the violent rhetoric but clearly Chavez is making a brilliant political chess move. If the United States did have any intention of invading or tries to topple the government again, it will make it look like Chavez was right all along. At the same time, it gives the Venezuelan people something to unite behind, and blame all their problems on an external enemy.
By calling out the United States so openly and so brazenly, he is effectively preventing the Bush administration from making any open moves against him. What many American presidents have failed to appreciate is all the rhetoric and embargoes against Cuba have done the same thing to entrench and empower Fidel Castro as well.
As I posted yesterday, the United States has used its military in Latin America many, many times over the past 100 years. While many Americans might be ignorant of these interventions, I can promise you that the people of Latin America know all about them and remember them quite well. The U.S. also has a history of propping up dictators in Latin America and that combined with its recent human rights abuses in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere isn’t doing anything to improve its image.
People in Latin America are increasingly tired of being the little, impoverished brown brothers of Uncle Sam. In Nicaragua and especially Guatemala, there have been strong movements against the proposed Free Trade Agreement with the United States. And several left-wing presidents have come into power in Latin America, the most recent one in Uruguay. And all of those people speak Spanish and are increasingly sympathetic to Chavez’ messages.
Noriega and the rest of the crew up in the White House better get their act together quickly or they’re going to find their influence restricted to just Colombia and Ecuador. Considering the fact that the United States has had a near hegemony in the Western Hemisphere since the days of the (Teddy) Roosevelt Corrollary, that’s saying something indeed.
This article is cross-posted from my blog, where you are humbly invited to visit