US treats Venezuelan foreign minister as ‘terrorist’, then apologizes


Anti Bush demonstration in Venezuela

From Dutch NOS TV:

The United States government has apologized to the Venezuelan foreign affairs minister, who was detained for some time at a New York airport.

Minister Maduro called this a violation of international law.

Maduro said that the police treated him like a terrorist.

According to President Chavez, Maduro was accused of involvement in the failed coup d’etat of 1992 in Venezuela.

Chavez said that accusation was false.

Venezuela is complaining officially with the US.

According to US customs, Maduro refused to cooperate with an airport security control.

Yeah right.

Let’s see how cooperative George W Bush or his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would be if asked to “cooperate with an airport security control”.

More on this: here.

Chavez and US Democrats: here.

8 thoughts on “US treats Venezuelan foreign minister as ‘terrorist’, then apologizes

  1. Greg Palast

    (The Progressive)

    Hugo Chavez

    You’d think George Bush would get down on his knees and kiss Hugo Chávez’s behind. Not only has Chávez delivered cheap oil to the Bronx and other poor communities in the United States. And not only did he offer to bring aid to the victims of Katrina.

    In my interview with the president of Venezuela on March 28, he made Bush the following astonishing offer: Chávez would drop the price of oil to $50 a barrel, “not too high, a fair price,” he said-a third less than the $75 a barrel for oil recently posted on the spot market. That would bring down the price at the pump by about a buck, from $3 to $2 a gallon.

    But our President has basically told Chávez to take his cheaper oil and stick it up his pipeline. Before I explain why Bush has done so, let me explain why Chávez has the power to pull it off-and the method in the seeming madness of his “take-my-oil-please!” deal.

    Venezuela, Chávez told me, has more oil than Saudi Arabia. A nutty boast? Not by a long shot. In fact, his surprising claim comes from a most surprising source: the U.S. Department of Energy. In an internal report, the DOE estimates that Venezuela has five times the Saudis’ reserves.

    However, most of Venezuela’s mega-horde of crude is in the form of “extra-heavy” oil-liquid asphalt-which is ghastly expensive to pull up and refine. Oil has to sell above $30 a barrel to make the investment in extra-heavy oil worthwhile. A big dip in oil’s price-and, after all, oil cost only $18 a barrel six years ago-would bankrupt heavy-oil investors. Hence Chávez’s offer: Drop the price to $50-and keep it there. That would guarantee Venezuela’s investment in heavy oil.

    But the ascendance of Venezuela within OPEC necessarily means the decline of the power of the House of Saud. And the Bush family wouldn’t like that one bit. It comes down to “petro-dollars.” When George W. ferried then-Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah of Saudi Arabia around the Crawford ranch in a golf cart it wasn’t because America needs Arabian oil. The Saudis will always sell us their petroleum. What Bush needs is Saudi petro-dollars. Saudi Arabia has, over the past three decades, kindly recycled the cash sucked from the wallets of American SUV owners and sent much of the loot right back to New York to buy U.S. Treasury bills and other U.S. assets.

    The Gulf potentates understand that in return for lending the U.S. Treasury the cash to fund George Bush’s $2 trillion rise in the nation’s debt, they receive protection in return. They lend us petro-dollars, we lend them the 82nd Airborne.

    Chávez would put an end to all that. He’ll sell us oil relatively cheaply-but intends to keep the petro-dollars in Latin America. Recently, Chávez withdrew $20 billion from the U.S. Federal Reserve and, at the same time, lent or committed a like sum to Argentina, Ecuador, and other Latin American nations.

    Chávez, notes The Wall Street Journal, has become a “tropical IMF.” And indeed, as the Venezuelan president told me, he wants to abolish the Washington-based International Monetary Fund, with its brutal free-market diktats, and replace it with an “International Humanitarian Fund,” an IHF, or more accurately, an International Hugo Fund. In addition, Chávez wants OPEC to officially recognize Venezuela as the cartel’s reserve leader, which neither the Saudis nor Bush will take kindly to.

    Politically, Venezuela is torn in two. Chávez’s “Bolivarian Revolution,” a close replica of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal-a progressive income tax, public works, social security, cheap electricity-makes him wildly popular with the poor. And most Venezuelans are poor. His critics, a four-centuries’ old white elite, unused to sharing oil wealth, portray him as a Castro-hugging anti-Christ.

    Chávez’s government, which used to brush off these critics, has turned aggressive on them. I challenged Chávez several times over charges brought against Súmate, his main opposition group. The two founders of the nongovernmental organization, which led the recall campaign against Chávez, face eight years in prison for taking money from the Bush Administration and the International Republican [Party] Institute. No nation permits foreign funding of political campaigns, but the charges (no one is in jail) seem like a heavy hammer to use on the minor infractions of these pathetic gadflies.

    Bush’s reaction to Chávez has been a mix of hostility and provocation. Washington supported the coup attempt against Chávez in 2002, and Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld have repeatedly denounced him. The revised National Security Strategy of the United States of America, released in March, says, “In Venezuela, a demagogue awash in oil money is undermining democracy and seeking to destabilize the region.”

    So when the Reverend Pat Robertson, a Bush ally, told his faithful in August 2005 that Chávez has to go, it was not unreasonable to assume that he was articulating an Administration wish. “If he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him,” Robertson said, “I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war . . . and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.”

    There are only two ways to defeat the rise of Chávez as the New Abdullah of the Americas. First, the unattractive option: Cut the price of oil below $30 a barrel. That would make Chávez’s crude worthless. Or, option two: Kill him.

    Q: Your opponents are saying that you are beginning a slow-motion dictatorship. Is that what we are seeing?

    Hugo Chávez: They have been saying that for a long time. When they’re short of ideas, any excuse will do as a vehicle for lies. That is totally false. I would like to invite the citizens of Great Britain and the citizens of the U.S. and the citizens of the world to come here and walk freely through the streets of Venezuela, to talk to anyone they want, to watch television, to read the papers. We are building a true democracy, with human rights for everyone, social rights, education, health care, pensions, social security, and jobs.

    Q: Some of your opponents are being charged with the crime of taking money from George Bush. Will you send them to jail?

    Chávez: It’s not up to me to decide that. We have the institutions that do that. These people have admitted they have received money from the government of the United States. It’s up to the prosecutors to decide what to do, but the truth is that we can’t allow the U.S. to finance the destabilization of our country. What would happen if we financed somebody in the U.S. to destabilize the government of George Bush? They would go to prison, certainly.

    Q: How do you respond to Bush’s charge that you are destabilizing the region and interfering in the elections of other Latin American countries?

    Chávez: Mr. Bush is an illegitimate President. In Florida, his brother Jeb deleted many black voters from the electoral registers. So this President is the result of a fraud. Not only that, he is also currently applying a dictatorship in the U.S. People can be put in jail without being charged. They tap phones without court orders. They check what books people take out of public libraries. They arrested Cindy Sheehan because of a T-shirt she was wearing demanding the return of the troops from Iraq. They abuse blacks and Latinos. And if we are going to talk about meddling in other countries, then the U.S. is the champion of meddling in other people’s affairs. They invaded Guatemala, they overthrew Salvador Allende, invaded Panama and the Dominican Republic. They were involved in the coup d’état in Argentina thirty years ago.

    Q: Is the U.S. interfering in your elections here?

    Chávez: They have interfered for 200 years. They have tried to prevent us from winning the elections, they supported the coup d’état, they gave millions of dollars to the coup plotters, they supported the media, newspapers, outlaw movements, military intervention, and espionage. But here the empire is finished, and I believe that before the end of this century, it will be finished in the rest of the world. We will see the burial of the empire of the eagle.

    Q: You don’t interfere in the elections of other nations in Latin America?

    Chávez: Absolutely not. I concern myself with Venezuela. However, what’s going on now is that some rightwing movements are transforming me into a pawn in the domestic politics of their countries, by making statements that are groundless. About candidates like Morales [of Bolivia], for example. They said I financed the candidacy of President Lula [of Brazil], which is totally false. They said I financed the candidacy of Kirchner [of Argentina], which is totally false. In Mexico, recently, the rightwing party has used my image for its own profit. What’s happened is that in Latin America there is a turn to the left. Latin Americans have gotten tired of the Washington consensus-a neoliberalism that has aggravated misery and poverty.

    Q: You have spent millions of dollars of your nation’s oil wealth throughout Latin America. Are you really helping these other nations or are you simply buying political support for your regime?

    Chávez: We are brothers and sisters. That’s one of the reasons for the wrath of the empire. You know that Venezuela has the biggest oil reserves in the world. And the biggest gas reserves in this hemisphere, the eighth in the world. Up until seven years ago, Venezuela was a U.S. oil colony. All of our oil was going up to the north, and the gas was being used by the U.S. and not by us. Now we are diversifying. Our oil is helping the poor. We are selling to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, some Central American countries, Uruguay, Argentina.

    Q: And the Bronx?

    Chávez: In the Bronx it is a donation. In all the cases I just mentioned before, it is trade. However, it’s not free trade, just fair commerce. We also have an international humanitarian fund as a result of oil revenues.

    Q: Why did George Bush turn down your help for New Orleans after the hurricane?

    Chávez: You should ask him, but from the very beginning of the terrible disaster of Katrina, our people in the U.S., like the president of CITGO, went to New Orleans to rescue people. We were in close contact by phone with Jesse Jackson. We hired buses. We got food and water. We tried to protect them; they are our brothers and sisters. Doesn’t matter if they are African, Asian, Cuban, whatever.

    Q: Are you replacing the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as “Daddy Big Bucks”?

    Chávez: I do wish that the IMF and the World Bank would disappear soon.

    Q: And it would be the Bank of Hugo?

    Chávez: No. The International Humanitarian Bank. We are just creating an alternative way to conduct financial exchange. It is based on cooperation. For example, we send oil to Uruguay for their refinery and they are paying us with cows.

    Q: Milk for oil.

    Chávez: That’s right. Milk for oil. The Argentineans also pay us with cows. And they give us medical equipment to combat cancer. It’s a transfer of technology. We also exchange oil for software technology. Uruguay is one of the biggest producers of software. We are breaking with the neoliberal model. We do not believe in free trade. We believe in fair trade and exchange, not competition but cooperation. I’m not giving away oil for free. Just using oil, first to benefit our people, to relieve poverty. For a hundred years we have been one of the largest oil-producing countries in the world but with a 60 percent poverty rate and now we are canceling the historical debt.

    Q: Speaking of the free market, you’ve demanded back taxes from U.S. oil companies. You have eliminated contracts for North American, British, and European oil companies. Are you trying to slice out the British and American oil companies from Venezuela?

    Chávez: No, we don’t want them to go, and I don’t think they want to leave the country, either. We need each other. It’s simply that we have recovered our oil sovereignty. They didn’t pay taxes. They didn’t pay royalties. They didn’t give an account of their actions to the government. They had more land than had previously been established in the contracts. They didn’t comply with the agreed technology exchange. They polluted the environment and didn’t pay anything towards the cleanup. They now have to comply with the law.

    Q: You’ve said that you imagine the price of oil rising to $100 dollars per barrel. Are you going to use your new oil wealth to squeeze the planet?

    Chávez: No, no. We have no intention of squeezing anyone. Now, we have been squeezed and very hard. Five hundred years of squeezing us and stifling us, the people of the South. I do believe that demand is increasing and supply is dropping and the large reservoirs are running out. But it’s not our fault. In the future, there must be an agreement between the large consumers and the large producers.

    Q: What happens when the oil money runs out, what happens when the price of oil falls as it always does? Will the Bolivarian revolution of Hugo Chávez simply collapse because there’s no money to pay for the big free ride?

    Chávez: I don’t think it will collapse, in the unlikely case of oil running out today. The revolution will survive. It does not rely solely on oil for its survival. There is a national will, there is a national idea, a national project. However, we are today implementing a strategic program called the Oil Sowing Plan: using oil wealth so Venezuela can become an agricultural country, a tourist destination, an industrialized country with a diversified economy. We are investing billions of dollars in the infrastructure: power generators using thermal energy, a large railway, roads, highways, new towns, new universities, new schools, recuperating land, building tractors, and giving loans to farmers. One day we won’t have any more oil, but that will be in the twenty-second century. Venezuela has oil for another 200 years.

    Q: But the revolution can come to an end if there’s another coup and it succeeds. Do you believe Bush is still trying to overthrow your government?

    Chávez: He would like to, but what you want is one thing, and what you cannot really obtain is another.

    notes:
    Investigative reporter Greg Palast, who interviewed President Hugo Chávez for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), is the author of “Armed Madhouse: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War,” from which this is adapted.

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  2. Noam Chomsky

    U.S. Intervention in Venezuela and in Latin America

    A public event on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the bombing of Cubana airliner, flight 455, which cost the lives of 73 passengers, was held on October 6th, 2006, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in Boston. Participating in this event were political activist and analyst Noam Chomsky, Cuban specialist and French scholar Salim Lamrani and the President of the National Lawyer’s Guild, Michael Avery, for a discussion of US foreign policy towards Cuba and Latin America, and the cases of Luis Posada Carriles and the Cuban Five.

    The following is Noam Chomsky’s response to a question from the audience:

    Audience Member: With the recent integration and cooperation between Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, obviously the US is paying more attention to these countries. What in your opinion could be the agenda of secret agents currently in action in Venezuela? and could you please analyze the possibility of military intervention in Venezuela and Bolivia on the part of the US government.

    Noam Chomsky: I think your point is well taken. We know that the US did support a military coup, which briefly overthrew President Chavez and the US had to back down, when he was restored quickly and also had to back down in the face of a very angry reaction in Latin American. In almost all of Latin America, there was a very angry reaction. They take democracy there more seriously then we do here.

    Right after trying to overthrow the government by force, the US immediately turned to subversion, supporting anti-Chavez groups. That”s described in the press, the way it’s described is, the US is supporting pro-democracy groups, which are opposed to President Chavez.

    Notice it’s true by definition that if you oppose the president, you are pro-democracy. It’s completely irrelevant that according to the best polls (Latin America has very good polling agencies which take regular polls on these issues around the continent). Support for democracy has been declining-not for democracy but for the democratic governments-has been declining through Latin America, for a pretty good reason, the governments have been associated with neo-liberal programs which undermine democracy-IMF, treasury department programs-so your support for the governments are declining. There are exceptions, and the major exception by far is Venezuela.

    Since 1998, when Chavez was elected, support for the elected government as be rising very fast, its now by far the highest in Latin America. He has won several elections that have been recognized to be free and fair, he has won numerous referendums, but he is a dictator, a tin-pot dictator, which is proven by the fact that our dear leader said so, and since we are voluntary North Koreans, when the dear leader says it, it’s true. So therefore, he’s a dictator, and if you carry out subversion to overthrow him, that’s pro-democracy by definition. You have to look hard to find an exception to this, or even a comment on it, just like the other examples I discussed.

    We might ask ourselves how we would react if Iran, say, had just supported a military coup that overthrew the government in the United States and when they have to back off from that, immediately turned to supporting pro-democracy groups in the United States that are opposed to the government. Would we give them ice-cream and candy?

    Well in dictatorial Venezuela, they let them keep functioning. In fact, even let the newspapers in support of the coup keep functioning. I could go on with this, but what’s likely to happen?

    Well, the US has had two major weapons for controlling Latin America for a long time. One of them is economic controls, the other is military force. They have both been used continually. Both of them are weakening and it’s a very serious problem for U.S. planners.

    The Economic, for the first time in its history since the Spanish colonization, Latin America is beginning to get its act together. It’s moving towards some degree of independence, even some degree of integration. The Latin American countries have been very separate from one another through their histories, they have a huge gap between the very rich and the huge massive poor, so when we are talking about the countries, we are talking about the rich elites. The rich elites have been oriented towards Europe and North America, not their own citizens, not each other. So that Capital flight goes to Zurich, or London, or New York, the second home is in the Riviera, the children study in Cambridge or something like that. That’s the way it’s been, with very little interaction, and it’s changing.

    First of all there are major popular movements, like in Bolivia. They had a democratic election of the kind we can’t even dream of. I mean if there was any honest newspaper coverage in this country we would be ashamed at the comparison between their election and ours. I won’t go through it, but with a little thought you can quickly figure it out, because there is mass popular participation, and the people know what they are voting for, and they pick somebody from their own ranks and their major issues and so on. It’s unimaginable here where elections are about the level of marketing toothpaste on television, literally.

    There are mass popular movements all over and they have begun to integrate to some extent for the first time.

    The military weapon has been weakened. The last effort of the US had to back off very quickly, in 2002 in Venezuela. The kinds of governments the US is now supporting-forced to support-are the kinds it would have been trying to overthrow not very long ago, because of this shift.

    The economic weapon is weakening enormously. They are throwing out the IMF. The IMF means the US Treasury Department. Argentina, it was the poster boy of the IMF, you know, following all the rules and so on. It went in to a hideous economic crash. They managed to get out of it, but only by radically violating IMF rules, and they are now, as the President put it, “ridding themselves of the IMF” and paying off their debt with the help of Venezuela. Venezuela bought up a lot of their debt. The same is happening in Brazil. The same is going to happen in Bolivia.

    In general, the economic measures are weakening, the military measures are no longer what they were. The US is deeply concerned about it, undoubtedly. We shouldn’t think that the US has abandoned the military effort, on the contrary, the number of US personnel-military personnel-in Latin America is probably as high as its ever been. The number of the Latin American officers being trained by the US is going up very sharply. By now, for the first time (it never happened during the cold war) the US military aid is higher than the sum of economic and social aid from key federal agencies- that’s a shift. There are more air bases all over the place.

    Keep your eyes on Ecuador, there’s an election coming up in about a week, the likely winner, [Rafael] Correa is an interesting person, he was recently asked what he would do with the big Manta US airbase in Ecuador and his answer was, well he’d allow it to stay if the United States agreed to have an Ecuadorian airbase in Miami.

    But these are the things that are going on. There’s a call for an Indian Nation for the first time. The indigenous-in some states like Bolivia-majority is actually entering the political arena for the first time in 500 years, electing their own candidates. These are major changes, but the US is certainly not giving up on it.

    The Military training has been shifted. Its official focus now is on what’s called radical populism and street gangs. Well, you know what radical populism means, like the Priests organizing peasants or anyone who gets out of line. So yeah, it’s serious. What will they do?

    Governments have what are called security interests; they have to protect the national security. If any of you have ever spent any time reading declassified documents, you know what that the means. I’ve spent a lot of time reading them and it’s true, there is defense of the government against its enemy, that prime enemy. Its prime enemy is the domestic population. That’s true of every government I know. So if you read the declassified documents, you find that most of them are protecting the government from its own population. Not much has to do with anything you might call security interests, in another sense, and that’s true right now. So we don’t know what they are planning because we have to be protected from knowing what the government is planning. So we have to speculate.

    If you want my speculation, based on no information except what I would be doing if I was sitting in the Pentagon planning office and told to figure out a way to overthrow the governments of Bolivia, Venezuela, and Iran, in fact. The idea that immediately comes to mind, so I assume they are working on it, is to support secessionist movements, which is conceivable if you look at the geography and the places where the oil is and so on.

    In Venezuela, the oil is in Zulia province, which is where the opposition candidate is coming from, right on the boarder of Colombia (one of the only states [in Latin America] where the US has a firm military presence). It’s a rich province, pretty anti-Chavez, and it happens to be where most of the oil is, and in fact there is rumor of a Zulia independence movement, which, if they can carry it off, the US could then intervene to protect against the dictator. That’s Venezuela.

    In Bolivia, the major gas resources are in the low-lands, the eastern low-lands, which is mostly European, not indigenous, opposed to the government, rich area, near Paraguay (one of the other countries where the US has military bases), so you can imagine the same project going on – also secessionist movements.

    In Iran, which is the big one, if you look at it, the oil of the region (that’s where most of the hydrocarbons in the world are) they are right around the gulf, the Shiite sections of Iraq, the Shiite sections of Saudi Arabia and an Arab-not Persian-region of Iran, Khuzestan, right near the Gulf, it happens to be Arab. There is talk floating around Europe (you know it’s probably planted by the CIA) of an Ahwazi Liberation Movement for this region. A feasible, I don’t know if it’s feasible or not, but I think the kind of thought that would be occurring to the Pentagon planners is to sponsor a liberation movement, so-called, in the area near the Gulf then move in to defend it. They’ve got 150,000 troops in Iraq; presumably, you might try that, and then bomb the rest of the country back to the Stone Age. It’s conceivable, I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if those are the kinds of plans that are being toyed with.

    noten:
    Transcribed for Venezuelanalysis.com by Michael Fox

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  3. Venezuela to Sell D.C. Oil at Discount
    Posted by: “Compañero” companyero@mindspring.com chocoano05
    Sat Nov 4, 2006 2:26 pm (PST)

    excerpted from
    VIO Venezuela Daily News Roundup – November 2, 2006.

    [Citgo plans to offer discounted heating oil to the Washington DC-metro area this winter, reports the Washington Times. The program, started in the northeast last year, is expanding and will be offered in 16 states and the District, benefiting about 37,000 low-income families in Washington DC, Virginia,and Maryland. “This will give people a chance to have additional supply of heating oil,” said Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez Herrera during a luncheon at The Washington Times yesterday. -VIO]

    The Washington Times – November 2, 2006
    http://www.washingtontimes.com/world/20061102-123527-6184r.htm

    By Nicholas Kralev

    Venezuela will provide heavily discounted heating oil to about 37,000 low-income families in Maryland, Virginia and the District this winter, Caracas’ envoy to the United States said yesterday. The local jurisdictions are beneficiaries of a greatly expanded program that this winter will assist more than 400,000 families in 16 U.S. states and the District, up from eight states and 180,000 families last year, said Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez Herrera.

    Oil provided under the expanded program, first mentioned by President Hugo Chavez during a fiery speech to the United Nations in September, will be distributed through local governments, community centers and churches, and will be offered at 40 percent below the market price. “This will give people a chance to have additional supply of heating oil,” Mr. Alvarez told editors and reporters during a luncheon at The Washington Times. “We are not making as much money as we could be, but extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.”

    This will be the first time that Washington-area families benefit from the program, which is still being negotiated by Citgo, the oil company controlled by the Venezuelan government, and the Citizens Energy Corp., a non-profit group founded by Joseph P. Kennedy II, said an aide to Mr. Alvarez. Citizens Energy officials could not be reached for comment late yesterday. Mr. Kennedy is a former congressman from Massachusetts and the son of Robert F. Kennedy.

    The heating-oil program, which started last year, again includes jurisdictions in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont. Other newcomers this year are Alaska, New Jersey, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana and Wisconsin, Mr. Alvarez said. Several communities that had been considering the Venezuelan offer rejected it after Mr. Chavez described President Bush as “the devil” in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

    In Alaska, many Eskimo and Indian villages say they have no choice but to accept the oil, but others would rather suffer. “As a citizen of this country, you can have your own opinion of our president and our country. But I don’t want a foreigner coming in here and bashing us,” Justine Gunderson, administrator for the tribal council in the Aleut village of Nelson Lagoon, told the Associated Press last month. “Even though we are in economically dire straits, it was the right choice to make.”

    Nelson Lagoon residents pay more than $5 for a gallon of oil — or at least $300 a month per household — to heat their homes along the wind-swept coast of the Bering Sea, where temperatures can dip to minus 15 degrees.

    Asked why Mr. Chavez’s government is worried about poor Americans while poverty in his own country remains a problem, the ambassador said the profit Venezuela is forfeiting from its discounted sales in the United States is not enough to make a difference for Venezuela’s needy.

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  4. Resisting US Empire – Venezuela’s Struggle for Self-Determination
    Posted by: “Charles Jenks” charles@traprockpeace.org chaspeace
    Tue Nov 14, 2006 1:06 am (PST)
    “Wars are not put up for a vote. The ruling class does not
    let you vote on their interests or their wars.” – Joel Geier

    Hear and watch Martín Sanchez, Venezuela’s consul general in
    Chicago, on “The Struggle for Self-Determination in Venezuela;”
    and Joel Geier, Associate Editor of the International Socialist Review,
    on “Resisting US Empire” at:

    http://www.traprockpeace.org/midwest_socialism_110406.html

    The gave plenary speeches at The Midwest Socialism Conference,
    held at the University of Illinois at Chicago on November 4-5

    250 registrants attended many workshops.

    Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, former member of the Campus Antiwar
    Network national Coordinating Committee, led a workshop on
    imperialism to a packed room. She has spoken nationally, been
    interviewed on Democracy Now! and was a voting delegate to
    the London International Peace Conference in December 2005.

    Audio of the complete plenary session and the workshop are
    available, with video clips of the plenary and photos.

    Radio stations and websites are free to replay the audio for non-profit,
    non-commercial use (see website for details). Video has been posted
    to Youtube.

    This was one of six regional conferences this fall. One conference
    – in Seattle on November 19th – is upcoming. See details at
    http://www.internationalsocialist.org/branches.html

    Charles Jenks
    Chair of Advisory Board
    Traprock Peace Center
    103 Keets Road
    Deerfield, MA 01342
    http://www.traprockpeace.org

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  5. “Venezuela:
    It concerns the future of all of us”

    Interview of Vanessa Stojilkovic
    about her new film “Brussels-Caracas”

    BY MICHEL COLLON

    Why was it important to make a movie about Venezuela?
    Vanessa. Because extraordinary things are taking place there. All those visiting this country are thrilled to bits. In Europe, by contrast, we are confronted by pessimism and fatalism in the vein of “We cannot change anything”. We see poverty gaining ground. Few victories.
    And in Venezuela, we have people who are setting out to change the situation in their country, who are achieving so many things. And our Western media say hardly anything, broadcasting instead the distorted image of some kind of dictatorship. Might they have an interest in hiding from us what is happening there, and even in demonizing it?
    One must remember that although Venezuela is, since 80 years, one of the leading oil exporters, 60% of Venezuelans live below the poverty line. This is huge. For once that a people reestablishes its right to avail itself of its natural resources, it is worth the while to take a close-up look.

    Might Venezuela be perceived as a thorn in the side?
    Vanessa. Of course, because of the oil. Here we have a country where natural resources serve the people, and no longer multinational companies. For some, this is the world upside down! As a matter of fact, there, as one student said to me: “Now, the pyramid has been inverted so that everyone would have rights.”

    How exactly did the idea behind this film dawn on you?
    Vanessa. By accident. I had heard a lot about Venezuela, and I had the opportunity to travel there. Well, I didn’t want to arrive empty-handed. It so happened that in Brussels, I had just directed a few brief videos of mini street polls to find out what people thought of Bush, Iraq, Europe….So, I told myself: “I am going to bring them a small contribution: What do the people here think of Venezuela, what information have they received, what questions do they ask themselves?” I told myself that it would be useful for them to know how Venezuela is perceived here…

    How did the Belgians view Venezuela?
    Vanessa. Like for all Europeans, I reckon, it turned out that a segment of the people was quite manipulated by what they had heard in the media. Having said that, almost everyone was very open and full of curiosity. However, pessimistic as well. They did not believe this. The notion that a people can have its own say, have a different relation with its government, with politics, such an idea here seems impossible, utopian!

    And over there?
    Vanessa. Once I arrived in Venezuela, I encountered a revolution. It is a country where people are enthusiastic; they believe in it, they are accomplishing a lot of things; they are taking charge of things. This takes you by surprise, having just previously heard all of the European pessimism. And yet, it was still ten years ago that the Venezuelans also did not believe in politics anymore, thinking that nothing will ever change, that everyone was too individualistic to club together and change things.
    I was able to take note of the Venezuelans’ high level of consciousness…Whether it be about the media, the social system, politics in general, the role of the superpowers…What is necessary, if a people wants to get rid of poverty, is to begin by understanding where it is coming from. And they figured it out! Well, when we hear them, we want that here too, we could benefit from their experiences! So, I went to Caracas and got the Venezuelans to talk. So that they would answer the questions that the Belgians were asking themselves – and all the Europeans, I believe – concerning Venezuela.

    In short, a sort of ping pong between the people…
    Vanessa. Yes, and I believe that we would understand one another much better if there was even more direct communication between the different peoples. However, not all of us can go there; so, I did the inverse: I brought back Venezuelan remarks, real-life experiences, emotions, hope, concerns…A bit of the Bolivarian Revolution, in fact. To come out of the stereotypes and biases dictated by our mass media.

    Are people’s lives really improving?
    Vanessa. Yes, they are changing, there is a lot of movement! Chavez has therefore restored the country’s control over these resources (which previously went into the coffers of multinational corporations and a few privileged persons, the country receiving almost nothing). This measure enabled the realization of what they call “misiones”. Reforms: education, food, health, work, housing. Which are already improving and will still improve the lives of people. Picture, in Latin America, extremely disadvantaged neighborhoods and shantytowns in which there are now “soup kitchens” serving free meals, “working-class clinics” with healthcare that is free of charge and of excellent quality, cooperatives that are creating jobs without bosses, for example in construction.

    And yet, a coup d’etat (unsuccessful) took place. Not everyone is happy?
    Vanessa. The majority is content: the poor. A minority is absolutely furious and tries by all possible means to overthrow Chavez. The private media rail at him.
    Nevertheless, in every election, Chavez wins by even more votes. Even people who, at the beginning, did not vote for him, have changed their mind. He has given once again meaning to the people – State relationship. The people have reinserted themselves into a political activity, having seen that things can change.
    We find the discontented ones mainly in the rich neighborhoods. Their discourse is hollow. For them, “There is less democracy than before”, “He’s a dictator”, “Yes, maybe Chavez will feed them and provide them with doctors…” But apparently, this is not what the Latin American expect from a president!

    Might it be that our media here convey solely the viewpoint of Venezuela’s rich elite?
    Vanessa. Absolutely! They skip over the majority.

    Here, the media usually portray Chavez as a populist and authoritarian leader. Is Venezuela democratic?
    Vanessa. Actually, some of the Brussels residents I interviewed told me that they considered Chavez to be a populist dictator. In Venezuela, I heard the two versions. “Authoritarian dictatorship”, the minority told me. “Super-democracy, at last, whereas before, it was a dictatorship disguised as a democracy”, the majority told me. Finally, in Venezuela, it’s plain to see that the opinion one has on this issue certainly depends on the social class to which one belongs.
    When you are there, you hear that in fact, the majority of the population considers that it enjoys the best-quality democracy. What they call a “participatory democracy”.

    What does that mean?
    Vanessa. In a participatory democracy, the people take part in the decisions that affect them. If the country’s wealth is to belong to the people, it must also be up to them to decide, every day, how it is to be utilized. The government places at the people’s disposal the means to carry out concrete projects within the communities. And it is people from the rank and file, not the government, that have to take control of things and decide on the practical choices, on the priorities, on how to build awareness, and all of this with the help of the PDVSA, the public oil company.

    “Representative”, “participatory”: Is the distinction important?
    Vanessa. Yes, very much so. In the movie, several witnesses explain well how it was before in Venezuela, under a representative democracy. And basically, it was the same as here in Europe: We vote every four or five years, and then, the elected representatives do not consult the people, and they pass laws which they had never talked about and of which no one wants: Bolkestein, first-hire contract (CPE)…We have seen plenty of examples in recent years. We only know too well this type of “representative” and elitist democracy.

    Precisely, how are the elected officials kept in check?
    Vanessa. To start with, they passed a very straightforward measure: The Constitution provides the electorate with the possibility of requesting a revocatory referendum at mid-term for any elected representative. Even the president. This already represents an excellent control.

    During a private showing, in a sneak preview, someone said: “This film is beautiful because it shows the hope of people, their life changing. And it gives more hope to us as well: we can continue to fight and obtain something!” The Venezuelans’ enthusiasm seems infectious…
    Vanessa. Yes, I believe so. It’s a lovely compliment.

    What hopes do you have for your film?
    Vanessa. Above all, I hope that it will become for everyone an instrument that they can broadcast as much as possible around them. First, one has to realize that Venezuela is substantially menaced by Bush. We know that Chile and Nicaragua saw their hopes brutally shattered by the United States. We must absolutely protect Venezuela against aggression. Because this country is an important experience to resolve the problems of poverty in the third world. There are many rich countries whose population is poor…

    In this Latin America which is changing so much, is Chavez the exception or a beacon?
    Vanessa. A beacon, yes. All of Latin America is looking his way. If they could vote for him in other countries, I think he would have the majority. Besides, if we want to understand the problems faced by Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and all of Latin America, we would be well-advised to understand Venezuela.
    In fact, the problem of Latin America exists everywhere. It is a world record gap between rich and poor. The consequence of colonial plundering, then of pillage by the multinational corporations. There, the “Chavez Solution” concerns the entire continent!
    But when I speak of poverty in the world, I also think of the oil-rich Arab countries, as well as of the African nations: they too are victims of looting of their wealth. I think of Mali, I think of the Congo…Could it be that it is precisely because of this that Bush attacks Venezuela? And it is a great pity that our media do not explain the root of this problem.

    To defend Venezuela is to defend the right to an alternative?
    Vanessa. Yes, I really believe that it is also protecting our own future and not only that of the third world. What Venezuela proposes is applicable everywhere. It is not just an oil issue. The main question is: “At whose service do you want to run a country’s economy?”
    Yes, it concerns all of us. There, in fact, they are experimenting, experiencing a solution which we are going to need. It might be necessary perhaps to await the day that poor people make up 60% of Europe, I don’t know, but in any case, it is imperative that we champion their experience, learn from them, think of our own future.

    How do we inform others of this experience?
    Vanessa. In widely broadcasting Brussels-Caracas. A movie is an ideal tool for widely stimulating the debate. Many individuals at a time see it; it promotes discussion and the opportunity of creating joint initiatives. On the one hand, we are organizing showings-debates in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Holland. Other countries will follow because the movie is or will be translated in six or seven languages (French, Spanish, Dutch, English, Arabic we hope, etc.) We are also working with Internet, to spread information, articles… since people are asking many questions on Chavez, the U.S., Latin America…It is in being widely broadcasted that this movie will prove to be useful. Which will also enable us to have a budget for broadcasting it in the third world.

    And directing other movies?
    Vanessa. Yes, there are plans. And everything will be possible if we too, like the Venezuelans, succeed in getting organized.

    Thank you and wishing you every success for this film!
    MICHEL COLLON

    TO ORDER THE DVD (10 Euros),
    contact the author or plan activities:
    nessa.kovic@skynet.be

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