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Thursday, August 12, 2004

TORO! THE CHALLENGE OF HUGO CHAVEZ 

By Jack Random

Hugo Chavez, the embattled leader of the Bolivarian movement and president of Venezuela, faces a referendum on his presidency this Sunday. In the balance lies the immediate and foreseeable future of democracy in Latin America.

Given the revelation that the Bush administration has contracted ChoicePoint of Atlanta to gather dossiers on the citizens of Mexico, Brazil, Nicaragua, Argentina and Venezuela, it is clear that when the president speaks of fighting for democracy it has less to do with the ideology of our founders than with the manipulation of democratic institutions as practiced in Florida 2000 (see Greg Palast, Venezuela Floridated, August 10, 2004).

In April 2002, the administration failed in a thinly disguised coup directed at Chavez. In March of this year, they directed their efforts against Jean Bertrand Aristide of Haiti in a successful coup. Aristide accused the administration of forcibly removing him from office and deporting him to the Central African Republic. Secretary of State Colin Powell dismissed Aristide’s account as absurd though he did not feel compelled to document that absurdity. Even in the American version, this was an intelligence operation. If Aristide’s accusations were false, the record would have proven so.

When all but the Congressional Black Caucus (the only mainstream political body to challenge the Florida disenfranchisement) fell silent, Hugo Chavez stepped forward. He not only accused the CIA of a coup in Haiti and an attempted coup in his own country, he issued a warning of retaliation. The threat was not as idle as one is tempted to believe. Venezuela owns ten percent of all American oil imports. With the price of oil at a record high, the Saudis have already boosted production in support of their allies in the White House. It is doubtful they can do much more. If Venezuela were to cut supply and demand fair compensation (they currently get a 16% royalty), even the anticipated capture of Osama bin Laden might not be enough to win reelection.

Now that the beast of global dominance has thundered over poor little Haiti (even as it digs deeper in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates), Hugo Chavez takes his stand in the ring, taunting his monstrous nemesis: Toro! Bring it on!

At the time of Aristide’s deposition, Chavez was only days away from securing a Caribbean community alliance to defend the Aristide government. On the heels of failure in Afghanistan and Venezuela, in the wake of the disaster in Iraq, it is clear the administration is emboldened when it should be restrained. They will stand democracy on its head in pursuit of its stated objectives: military dominance and control of vital resources.

Chavez has not only been defiant in the very face of danger, he has been phenomenally resilient. In political terms, he has risen from the dead. He has rallied the support of his people, the working poor and the disenfranchised. He has led the resistance to globalization, which is nothing more than a corporate license to exploit second and third world nations. Given the events in Haiti, the people of Venezuela and throughout the region are no longer fooled by American rhetoric. They recognize the heavy hand of central intelligence. In some ways, the opposition has made Chavez stronger than ever. If he can stand up against American-sponsored insurrection and corporate invasion, it emboldens others to stand with him.

Despite the “victory” over poor and defenseless Haiti, the administration is losing the war in Latin America. We are over-extended and over-exposed. When the self-appointed hemispheric protector is more feared than any perceived enemy, the people will not rally to America’s cause. Mindful of our tortured history throughout the region, they are answering the call to rally against it. Everywhere where democracy exists (Brazil, Canada, Spain, Britain, Mexico), the people have delivered the same message: No to the war, no to an American empire, no to globalization, and no to corporate rule.

On Sunday, the people of Venezuela will stand up to be counted. They will not be bruised and bullied into silence. They will not be barred from the polling place. They have stood with Chavez this far and they will stand with him again. The only thing that can deny them is corruption and fraud sponsored by the enemies of democracy. I do not believe they will stand for that either.

Viva Chavez!

Jazz.

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