(A Response to a Commentary posted on Dissident Voice 8/27/05)
You didn't keep up with the news during Chavez recent visit to China. His praise of Mao was well documented. Here's a link to the news report that many services picked up.
This statement, coupled with Chavez recent "revolutionary democracy" Cuban rant, should worry every Venezuelan citizen. Mao was one of the worst leaders of the 20th Century responsible for the deaths of millions of his own people from starvation and the brutal occupation and rape of Tibet -- a peaceful Buddhist country -- still illegally occupied today, while the world turns a blind eye. Chavez is running around the world talking about things he doesn't even know about.
What it demonstrates is that Chavez favors his ideology above democracy and civil liberties. When you're fawning over authoritarian dictators and never utter a single word of criticism or call for greater civil liberties in their nations what other conclusion can you come to? He's also now jumping in bed with Iran, which is not only brutally repressive, they are viciously anti-socialist. They rounded all the socialist/Marxists up and shot them after their revolution.
Look, the bottom line here is that it doesn't matter what we do, until we achieve a sustainable birth rate on this planet, we're always going to have desperately poor people. This is the elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about. Yemen, the poorest Arab nation has an average 6 children per household. Latin American birth rates are not far behind. These are people who can't even feed one child having 6 or 7. Unless your economy is growing at greater than 10% a year, there's no way you'll ever keep up. While the Chinese model is certainly Draconian, it's estimated their one-child policy has reduced their population by 250 million people in the past 15 years. That's a staggering statistic. This is where I'm placing my emphasis. I want social justice too, but we need to talk about social responsibility at the same time. Otherwise, we're whistling in the wind.
I concede the point. According to Reuters (a very reputable source), Chavez “declared himself to have been a Maoist from the time he was a child.”
I confess I find that declaration troubling. I can only surmise that Chavez either does not believe the history of brutal repression under Mao or he has distinguished between the words of Mao (quite pleasing) and his actions (quite disturbing).
Nevertheless, sympathy for Mao on the matter of socialism does not support the notion that Chavez is anti-democratic. Do not confuse economic and political theories. Chavez is, after all, an avowed Bolivarian – and that is definitive democracy.
On this matter, I must offer something of a retraction: I am to some extent a defender of socialism in that I believe that economies function best when a balance is struck between the dynamics of capitalism and the ideals of socialism. As an objective observer, you will concede that the American system is such a hybrid. Unbridled American capitalism led to repeated collapse until FDR struck a balance with the New Deal. That balance has been under constant attack since the Reagan administration – including the policy initiative of Bill Clinton.
While it appears we have wandered from the topic at hand, your attacks on Hugo Chavez do not support the conclusion that he favors an ideology “above democracy and civil liberties.” (If he moves against either, I will be among the first to challenge him.) Your case is built on guilt by association. If you apply the same logic to American foreign policy, your attack would be vicious indeed. What you do not discuss is the overwhelming support of the Venezuelan people for their elected leader and his determined efforts to lift the masses from dire poverty in an oil-rich nation.
Time and an unbiased reading of history will reveal who is right and who is wrong. For now, I will remain a defender of Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian revolution.
The key to understanding American engagement in Latin America and throughout the world is that it is guided not by an ideology of freedom, justice or democracy, but by an overriding economics of exploitation.
I have enjoyed this exchange but I think it is time to post it and move on. There is a war going on. If you would like the final word, I will post that as well (within the bounds of decency).
I agree with your bottom line concern about a sustainable birthrate. Perhaps we have found common ground.
P.S. I would welcome your opinion on the war.