Those who have been following the situation in Venezuela are by now familiar with President Hugo Chavez’s repeated claims that the U.S. government seeks to assassinate him. In fact, these claims are treated -- like those of Fidel Castro, Chavez’s partner in International Thug Life -- as if they are statements of objective truth. For this we have to thank two seemingly disparate groups. One group is represented by countries in need of demonstrated oil reserves, such as China; the Chinese and others around the world. The other group lies closer to home -- useful idiots and communist symps in the U.S. media, who advocate the cause of Chavez to spite their own national interest. These toxic pronouncements from both home and abroad are a one-two punch square against the jaw of the Monroe Doctrine. And, as I’ve written before here, the longer we wait to act, the less possible corrective action is.
Throughout his presidency, we have seen Chavez reaching out to Asia with more confidence with each passing month. He presents himself and his nation as a handy economic lever, attractively priced for a long-term lend lease. His logic is simple: Why wouldn’t it be in the interests of foreign powers to have a loose cannon in Latin America, frustrating US aims and advancing their own?
Chavez understands that his situation depends upon exacerbating tensions between Great Powers. Perhaps he continues to insist that his assassination is imminent to stoke those very tensions.
On recent editions of his weekly live TV and radio programs, Chavez has sounded like Ayatollah Khomeini or Kim Jong-il. He has advanced the theory that the U.S. is planning to assassinate him, saying “If they kill me, there will be a really guilty party on this planet whose name is the president of the United States, George Bush. If, by the hand of the devil, those perverse plans succeed ... Forget about Venezuelan oil, Mr. Bush,” he said.
Chavez said he was convinced that Washington was “sketching out the
assassination plans” even as the President attempted to restore ties with wayward European allies, asserting meanwhile that a certain Cuban President-for-Life has his back:
“Now, I am going to say it. Neither Fidel Castro nor I talk nonsense. If something happens to me, I blame the president of the United States. I will not hide. I am going to be in the streets with you. I entrust myself to God, but I know that I have been condemned to die. Each second of my life I will spend in the struggle, and God's will be done.”
Chavez has levied the “assassination” libel a great deal this year. On February 12, he asserted that he had survived hundreds of the “empire’s assassination plans.” Despite asserting that the U.S. is involved in ongoing attempts to kill him, the oil baron dictator paints a picture of American power on the wane. “Before the world, before our people, before the Latin American people, and before the people of North America, for whom we have respect, I accuse the government of the United States of continuing their aggressions against Venezuela,” he ranted during his weekly live TV show. “They know they cannot stage a coup d'etat; they know that there is no Pinochet here because we have generals, commanders and soldiers who are patriots, and who will not bend their knees before the U.S. empire; they know that there is a people with conscience which they will not be able to confuse through the media they control,” he then said.
And more from Chavez here. This is not the language of statesmanship, but of brazen, hustling demagoguery:
“They know that the latest polls give Chavez a 70 percent approval rating. They know that in the upcoming 2006 elections, Chavez is undefeatable. They failed with the coup, with the economic sabotage... they know the Bolivarian project advances victorious in the social arena, they know the impact of the missions (social programs), they know how the economy is growing, that we are recovering our economic sovereignty, and they know that Venezuela is a world power when it comes to oil and gas. They know all that.”
Much of this will sound familiar to American ears. And it should. For as long as Chavez has been in office, part of Venezuela’s business plan has been the marketing of pernicious fictions like constant US attempts to knock him off. These fictions have come from many sources, but are consistent: Chavez is the benighted populist, who is never far from an assassin’s bullet. These charges have little merit, given that they are repeated like rote lines in a set piece, with no proof, but plenty of hyperbole. Consider the following examples:
-- In 2002, in an effort to mitigate the effects of a Strike, BBC reported Chavez’s claim that American malefactors were looking to eliminate him as he flew back from a goodwill tour of Europe. Does this ring a bell? “They were hunting us, waiting for us,” Chavez said at the time.
-- In September 2003, Chavez warned the world that he was under threat of elimination yet again. According to Reuters, Chavez claimed that “Venezuelan terrorists” were being trained on American soil before wrapping himself in the US flag by invoking the Terror War in his own defense: “"Over there, in U.S. territory, people are conspiring against Venezuela, terrorists are being trained. If they are really fighting terrorism as they say, they should act against these terrorists who are threatening Venezuela," Chavez said.
-- 2004 apparently was a bull market for assassination attempts also. In May of that year, Chavez again decried attempts by the US to end his reign by stopping his heartbeat.
The story is repeated once a year, give or take. And it never has to be backed up. This is par for the course, however. When a leader from another country makes charges against the US, these charges are abetted and indulged by interested parties. Besides leaders of countries like China and Russia, who see that there’s money to be made by indulging these assassination fantasies, Chavez has defenders closer to home. In this country. On the left, of course.
Greg Palast, writing for Alternet in 2003, described Chavez’s appeal as follows: “To most of the 80 percent of Venezuelans who are brown, Hugo Chavez is their Nelson Mandela, the man who will smash the economic and social apartheid that has kept the dark-skinned millions stacked in cardboard houses in the hills above Caracas while the whites live in high-rise splendor in the city center.” As Palast gushed, the ongoing unrest in Venezuela is nothing so much as a race war: “Look at the Chronicle/AP photo of the anti-Chavez marchers in Venezuela. Note their color. White. And not just any white. A creamy rich white. And the color of the pro-Chavez marchers? Dark brown. Brown and round as cola nuts -- just like their hero, their President Chavez. They wore an unvarying uniform of jeans and T-shirts” [Italics in original].
In August 2004, a consortium of leftists -- including Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich, Edward Asner, and ahistorian Howard Zinn -- signed yet another open letter to Chavez endorsing Chavez’s reelection and expressing distrubance “by our own government’s interference in your internal affairs.” As well, they pledged commitment “to doing what we can, as U.S. citizens, to .. . encourage Congress and the White House to see Venezuela not only as a model democracy but also as a model of how a country’s oil wealth can be used to benefit all of its people.”
Noam Chomsky, as published in Counterpunch this January, co-authored an “Open Letter to Hugo Chavez” that spoke of the MIT Linguistics Professor’s “solidarity with your anti-imperialist politics and with the important social transformations that your government is developing for the well being of the majority of Venezuelans”. In this piece, Chomsky expressed concern about the internment of one Rodrigo Granda. He criticized Chavez’s methods because they resembled “more the form of acting of the Colombian authorities and those developed by the dictatorships of the Southern Cone during the sinister "Plan Condor," than the policies of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.” Still, Comrade Chomsky closed his courageous note by pledging fidelity to the Bolivarian Revolution, suggesting that his respect for Chavez won’t abate -- the “social transformations” obviously are too “important”.
Public intellectuals have the right to criticize Washington’s policies, of course. But time and again, this pack of fellow-travelers jet from one function to another, seemingly willing to endorse anything that is consistent with their outmoded ideologies. US Leftists love Chavez because his Presidency allows them to indulge fantasies of various sorts. Whether it’s the vulgarized “browns versus whites” scenario Palast outlines or it’s the silly idea that Chavez is some model of rectitude just because he opposes Washington, this idea that Washington is acting in anything other than our national interest is shortsighted.
Of course, national interest never enters into the calculus of a Chomsky, a Palast, or a Kucinich. They are effectively fiction writers, fabulists working from a dated, toxic template. But rest assured that Chavez and his new friends consider national interest primarily, and understand that all of this righteous posturing on the left amounts to little more than a sideshow act. They tolerate and encourage US dissidence to improve their own bargaining position; leftists here who advocate pro-Chavez positions are nothing short of marks for foreign propaganda, and should be treated as such.