for now, reproduced below is a portion of an interview with writer/activist/filmaker tariq ali about the situation in venezuela from the democracy now! website.
but a few things about my orientation toward the bolivarian revolution and venezuela under chavez:
the opposition in venezuela is absolutely hysterical. chavez is not immune to criticism and there is much to be criticized, but the opposition is absolutely hysterical, as is the guy who writes on venezuela at publius pundit.
second, and i will write more about this later, if the orange revolution was going to succeed, then it would have had to result in efforts the likes of which are going on in venezuela. ukraine needed a chavenko, not a weak or "pinko" yushchenko--which, by-the-way, if you know any spanish dialects, is not necessarily meant to be a homophobic comment, but a manner of speech meaning "weak."
when chavez called the orange revolution "pinko," he wasn't necessarily intending to be homophobic, as some suggested. talking in this way is like when someone says, "i got gipped at the store," and what they mean is, "i got cheated/i was robbed." the person saying it usually doesn't realize the origin of the phrase--i got gypsied--and probably did not mean to be putting down roma. chavez might be homophobic--but i don't know that and no one else listening to that speech should assume that. the blogosphere went ridiculously wild over that comment. i feel i can comment on this because i speak pretty good spanish--though mexican spanish--and have some really close friends in minneapolis from various parts of latin america with whom i converse only in spanish.
the result of the orange revolution has been weak. also, when chavez calls idiots like lukashenka a friend, it is clear to my mind that he is merely playing realpolitik, which is in practice if not by definition the policy of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. i don't like one bit chavez's turn toward such realpolitik; however it is absurd, hysterical, to claim that what is happening in venezuela under chavez is the same as in belarus' under lukashenka, or russia under putin, or even cuba under castro (though it is clear that chavez has real affection for this latter figure on this list). to claim that venezuela is belarus', russia, or cuba and that chavez's comments about having friends in these places are proof of this is. . .hysterical. hyperbole.
ok, more on these themes later. . .i am bringing them up because the successes of the bolivarian revolution in venezuela teaches us what an opportunity was lost with the weak outcome of the orange revolution.
here's the interview:
AMY GOODMAN: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, the film that was made in the palace during the attempted coup. Tariq Ali, your response?
TARIQ ALI: Well, I was there a year later, Amy, when they were celebrating the victory and the defeat of the coup, and I saw the first viewing of this film in Caracas with 10,000 citizens of that city, and they were going absolutely wild. And, of course, what the film showed is that it was popular support for Chavez, both amongst the poorer sections of the community and amongst rank-and-file soldiers, which made the coup impossible for the United States and the Venezuelan oligarchy. And this, of course, has been Chavez's big, big strength in that country. He has now won five elections in a row, and he’s probably going to win the next one, too, with a big majority.
And what people do not seem to understand, within the establishment in the United States and its state media hacks, is that you can have political leaders today in parts of the world who are extremely popular because they give the people what they promised to give them. And politics elsewhere has become so isolated and alienating from the population that people just don't expect this anymore. And I think this is what explains the popularity of Chavez. And, of course, using oil money to push through mega-spending on health, on education, on building homes for the poor, free universities for the poor, this is not permitted in this world. He does it, and at the same time he challenges U.S. foreign policy in a very sharp way.
AMY GOODMAN: What about those who say he’s increasingly authoritarian?
TARIQ ALI: Well, they’ve been saying this from the first time he won the election. You know, if he were increasingly authoritarian, how come that not a single private television station or newspaper, who denounce him day in and day out, have been touched? I mean, I cannot imagine, by the way, Amy, any Western country, this country or Britain, where you had the bulk of the media against you, which denounced you, which slandered you, and the governments would just sit back and take it. I think, you know, it’s crazy to say that he’s authoritarian. Some of the criticisms made by him from within the Bolivarians is that he’s not tough enough with the opposition. So it’s exactly the opposite.
AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of his speech at the United Nations?
TARIQ ALI: Well, that was a historic speech. I mean, the images weren’t fully shown. But in other parts of the world, they were shown, and you saw the bulk of the delegates applauding him. It was like a breath of fresh air. And he took on the Bush administration's foreign policy, and lots of people came up to him afterwards from the Arab world, from other parts of the world, and said, “You say something which we can no longer say. We are just too frightened.” And that is what gives it its support.
I mean, I think he went over the top a bit. I’m personally opposed to attacking Bush personally, in personal terms. Whether he’s an alcoholic or what is not significant. But I think the administration has been attacking Chavez so hard, trying to get rid of him, telling lies about him, as we saw in that clip from the White House press secretary, that he’s a very spontaneous guy and lost his cool a bit. But overall, the speech had a tremendous impact, and it made him a cult figure globally. And then, of course, it made Noam Chomsky a bestseller in this country, Amy, which is the other side of it.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, I think Noam Chomsky´s book Hegemony or Survival has hit number five on the New York Times bestseller list, the one that he held up.
TARIQ ALI: But, you know, this is a very interesting development, that a foreign head of state comes to the United Nations, denounces the American government, advises U.S. citizens to read Noam Chomsky, and they flock out and buy his book.
AMY GOODMAN: The New York Times had to issue a correction, by the way, because they reported twice that afterwards Chavez said he wished he could have met Noam Chomsky, but unfortunately he was dead. And that’s what the Times reported twice.
TARIQ ALI: It was not true, because Chavez was talking about Galbraith.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, that he wished he could have met Galbraith, but that he had not said that about Chomsky.
TARIQ ALI: He wished he could have met John Kenneth Galbraith. Yeah, but he certainly knows Chomsky is alive. I think Chomsky at the moment is probably on his way to Venezuela, as we speak. But there’s no question about that, but that’s very interesting, because this is a president -- the other thing about him is he genuinely reads books. There are very few politicians who do. He reads books.
AMY GOODMAN: Evo Morales, the Bolivian president?
TARIQ ALI: Evo Morales, I have met once. I met him in Caracas. Incredibly honest, sincere, devoted politician. The first Native South American to be elected president of a republic.
AMY GOODMAN: Indigenous.
TARIQ ALI: Indigenous American. And I think that’s had a mega impact. I’m nervous about the situation in Bolivia, because there's a lot of talk going on. The oligarchs there are incredibly unhappy and [inaudible] with the army. But again, if they try and topple Evo, you will have a very, very fierce resistance, because he came to power on the basis of gigantic social movements, which I try and explain in this book, that it’s not that these people suddenly emerged. They have been part of social movements, both in Venezuela, where the first big revolt against neo-liberalism took place in 1989 and 3000 people were killed -- that´s what produced Chavez -- then in Bolivia, where you’ve had giant social movements taking place.
And what they’ve also done is broken the isolation of the Cubans. You know, there’s no doubt about that, that Cubans are less isolated now than they’ve been for a very, very long time. And the human capital that Cuba, this island of 12 million people, has produced in terms of doctors and teachers now flooding into Venezuela and Bolivia to help people there. So there are good things going on.
AMY GOODMAN: What’s happening in Cuba now with President Castro sick?
TARIQ ALI: Well, I think he is ill. I think, you know, of course, Fidel, being a total atheist, has no illusions about where he’s going to end up after he dies. He knows he’s going to be six foot under the ground. There’s no hell or no heaven. He doesn't believe. He’s never been a believer.
The question is: what will happen to Cuba? And the big question dominating discussions behind the scenes is: what will Miami do, what will Washington do? My own view is that they will try and flood the island with money and buy it. That’s what they will do, after all 12 million people. But from that point of view, I think the Cuban leadership has really to push through certain reforms themselves -- they’ve been very lax in it -- but, I mean, you know, proper reforms, not neoliberal reforms, but actually make available to the population a media which reflects criticism and discussion, opens up the country to diverse thought processes. It’s important for that government to do it, and I have said this to them, and at the same time, opens up the economy to a certain extent, learns some of the lessons, positive lessons, from Venezuela, etc., and try and keep Miami at bay.
It would be a total disaster for Cuba if Miami really reentered Havana, because with it would come everything that existed before, and all the gains that the revolution has made, which even people hostile, like Colin Powell, admit that Castro has done a lot for the people of his country, that would go if it became a neoliberal island. And so, the Cuban leadership now needs to discuss how to stop that happening.
AMY GOODMAN: Tariq Ali, thank you for joining us. His book is Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope.
read the whole interview here.
and two other decent books on chavez and the bolivarian revolution in venezuela here and here.
if only the orange revolution had been modeled on the bolivarian. . .