Friday, September 22, 2006

why hugo chavez bothers me...

dear hani g. and fga,

I'm tipsy. I have a glass of black label in me (thanks to Lazarus's inspiring example), and I have decided to respond to your critical comments regarding my deriding depiction of Hugo Chavez.

By the way, you-all should watch "All The Kings Men." Great movie!

Anyways, I actually left home thinking about your comments, and promised that I would respond. Of course, the both of you are dear to me, so maybe that is why your comments have taken such a toll. Anyways, here goes:

I cannot bring myself to support a demagogue dictator-in-the-making (if not already so) like hugo chavez.

Foreign policy-wise, his drive against the US is almost maniacal, and definitely comes at the expense of Venezuelan interests. For Example: He goes and signs deals with China to export crude because he wants to decrease his country's dependence on the US market (as if the US itself were not equally dependent on his oil).

Well, guess what? That shift comes at a price! The dude has to pay god-knows-how-much-more to ship the crude to China (including the exorbitant fees of using the Panama Canal). That money could have went into the Venezuelan economy, or maybe into programs to help Venezuela's poor. But instead, The Benevolent Shepherd is burning it because he wants to slay el Diablo.

Have either of you heard of the news that Chavez is increasing the amount of subsidized heating oil available to "America's poor?" (I use quotation marks because I wonder what kind of infrastructure Chavez has in the US to actually determine his oil is going to the targeted populace). Well, if you haven't, then you should know that he has doubled the amount of heating oil available to poor americans from 400,000 barrels to a million this winter.

Of course, our immediate response is, "wow, what a manyak!" That Hugo! He's definitely sticking it to the American elite! But, weigh that "policy" against opportunity costs, and then maybe it would appear to be a tad wasteful.

It is no surprise at all, that analysts are saying that Venezuela has the most to lose from low oil prices. As a matter of fact, Venezuela's representative at OPEC has consistently called for decreasing the supply of crude in order to raise prices. When I say consistently, I don't just mean over the past couple of weeks, during which oil prices have declined; I actually mean over the past several months.

Finally, ask yourselves this: if elections were held tomorrow in Venezuela, and Hugo loses, do you actually think he would leave office?

I am all for systems and institutions. Demagogues irk me! And Hugo is no exception to that rule.


francois said...

dear raja,

dont u think that the US influence and demagogie over the central america and south american lead to the erruption on the political scene of people like chavez nowadays and castro in the 60s ?
dont you think that the military coup d'etat in brazil, argentina, chili were sponsored by the US ?

chavez is the symptom of the US bad influence over theses region, so let the US conduct another kind of policy toward theses countries and the symptom will as well disappear .
we cannot treat symptoms by forgetting the causes

Yohay Elam said...

Chavez is quite a dictator. I heard that his pictures and saying appear everywhere in Venezulla.

Neil Williams said...

"Finally, ask yourselves this: if elections were held tomorrow in Venezuela, and Hugo loses, do you actually think he would leave office?"

Answer: Yes he would.
He is an example to 100,000 of people around the world of how to face up to USA neo-conservatives and their empire: Its a shame you cannot see this and the need to brake from the strangle hold of the USA on your government in Lebanon.

Your readers may find this interesting:

'Must Listen' radio broadcast in Uk Saturday 8pm to 10pm (UK, London time):

George Galloway's phone-in show on Talksport will be broadcast from live from Manchester after Saturday' s Time to Go demonstration.

Joining George for the evening will be Tony Benn. Topics for discussion include the politics of protest, the anti-war movement and the future for the left.

You can participate in the discussion by phoning in on (UK) 08704 20 20 20, by text on (UK)8 10 89, or via the Talksport website at

TalkSport is on 1089/1053 AM, Sky Digital 0108, Freeview 723, Digital Cable, DAB Digital and at (On the Internet live!)

The UK's leaders of the Stop The War / Socialist movement on radio together!

TODAY: The UK's largest anti-war/Peace/Blair out Demonstration ouside of London (BLAIR: TIME TO GO).

Read about it as it happens on the Respect Supporters Blog + articles and video by George Galloway Respect MP at:

Neil Williams
Respect Blog (UK)

Raja said...


very patronizing. You make it seem that a people/country can only get its act together if it is guided by the all-knowing US of A.

I do not believe that, and I hope that I never implied it.

The US supported Augosto Pinochet, yet Chile, today, is one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America, with living standards and economic growth that anybody on this planet would desire.

Also, look at Lula (brazil's president). The man was elected for his extreme leftist platform. He was not exactly a US favorite. But look at how he turned out.

I look at Lula, and I see a statesman. I look at Chavez, and I see a fool who's high on oil!

Chas said...

I agree with Francois that it is the USA's incontinent interference in the affairs of south and central america that gives rise to the popularity of men like Chavez.
It is also noticable that countries that have sought to escape a past dominated by American or other colonial powers have had to exagerate their rejection of those powers, almost to the level of self parody.
I think those peoples are going through a process of reclaiming their history and culture from excessive outside domination and that the exageration is necessary.
Peace, Chas

francois said...

first totally agreeing with chas
it s the counter reaction to the US interfere that leads to the power people like chavez

i want to ask you back raja, dont you think that the condor operation that killed about 30 000 people belonging to the intellegiensa or to the elite of theses countries didnot have any impact over their economy ?

Raja said...

Francois, and all,

all of these countries suffered from American stupidity and brutality. But ask yourselves this:

10 or 15 years down the road, who do you think will be better off? Chileans or Venezuelans? Brazilians or Venezuelans? Which of these countries will be more vulnerable to American intervention because of their inherent weaknesses. (of course, assuming that they continue traveling on the trajectory that they are taking right now).

Don't justify present stupidity with the past. There are many more productive things chavez could be doing with the money he is wasting in his ultimately useless foreign policy.

Chas said...

I guess I do not really believe that Chavez is quite as stupid as he may appear ... time will tell, but generations of south american countries have had only one serious foreign policy .. their relationship with the US. Perhaps it is time they looked at the larger world. I do not seek to justify Chavez, but I can see where he is coming from.
peace, Chas

FGA said...

Raja, thanks for taking the time to respond. In reading your comments, it seemd to me that the worst thing you can come up with is an elaborate argument that Chavez is a dictator who is not good for his own people. Once again, Chavez is an elected official, so why dont we let the people who elect him decide who is good for them and who is not. Let's not forget that Mr. Chavez has won his election much more handly than many other contemporary 'leaders' have in recent years!!! (the 2000 election especially comes to mind!)

As for his poor economic decisions, I will not criticize him for helping poor people in this country, no matter what his underlying intentions may be...

Besides, the economy in Vanezuela may not be as bad as you think it is. Please refer to the following source.


why-discuss said...


Thanks for talking about real numbers on the Venezuela econony. As usual the US media follows the path of demonizing, despising any country who dares confront the US. They carry wrong informations from newspapers to newspapers without taking the time to verify their assertion. It is really a shame that the mainstream media tends to copy each other to create the image they want to impact the public with: the example of the WMD in Iraq war, the NY times hysteria are good examples of institutionalised missed information.
If Chavez was outspoken don't you think the numerous invectivations of Bush toward Iran ( axis of evil), comparing some leaders to Hitler etc.. are acceptable from a powerful country claiming to respect democracy!
I think Chavez alliance with Iran and Cuba is exasperatng the US who were thriving to isolate their ennemies in order to liquidate them. Well they seem to have found finally a powerful block who dares challenging them!

tears for lebanon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
FGA said...


i agree with your assessment of the mainstream media in this country. Somehow, a few rich men (Murdoch for example) are now able to spoon feed us everything we 'need to know' about the world we live in.


tears for lebanon said...

Raja, I think this September 21 article by ABC News would be a worthwhile visit. It is titled: "Who is Hugo Chavez"

Raja, you stated "There are many more productive things chavez could be doing with the money he is wasting in his ultimately useless foreign policy."

It seems to me that Hugo is not only helping out the 'poor' in America....but appears to be doing quite a bit more for the poor in his own country....providing subsidized housing to those who were homeless, providing food programs to include free nutritional lunch for school children, establishing medical clinics in areas of impoverishment ...provided by the wealth from the oil of his country...and at the dismay of some of the upper class citizens....who by the way are only charged 12 cents a gallon to fill up their gas tanks of their expensive cars.

If I were a 'poor' person in Venezuela, I wonder who I would be voting for in December?

bangkokbuddy said...

I agree with you that the usa has been in many countries in the last century for better or for worse.

..what you didn't mention or seem to grasp is that - somebody else was there before us.

in the last century, there was a communist movement that invaded countries all over the world.

before that, there was a nazi movement.

in honduras, guatemala, and a host of other countries, these people went in and murdered thousands of people in order to conquer them.

this is why the usa went in.

do you want to know how many people got murdered by the various regimes in the last century? check out the following website.

america has always had good intentions when going in. the fact that they didn't conquer any of these countries (which they could have easily done) should reflect this.

if you think about it, the usa could have conquered the world in the last century with no opposition at all if they were evil.

nobody can argue this. for they invented the atom bomb.

francois said...

reminding me of a CS 3 lesson long time ago :s before 2000 even about machiavel, the prince arguying that when you want to occupy a country, you shouldnt send colony but you should create militaristic strongholds

this is what the US did, they didnt need to conquer it, but they needed to have a military presence or a projective force all over the world

MarxistFromLebanon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
turtlecurls said...

There's a contradiction in here that:
1. People can & do determine for themselves what is best for them.
2. The US is the overridding influence to everything.

All of these countries were no bastin of wonderful government if & when the US got involved. All of these countries have had tremendous independence in their choices for years now. It is just fashionable now to blame the US overwhelmingly for everything. Leadership of many countries are by themselves capable of creating great muck.

Considering poor americans get their energy from the local utilities that have programs for low income families, I don't see how Chavez is saying anything but a political ploy to sound good about "giving oil (specifically) to the US poor". Maybe it's justifying a sale of oil to the US that's bringing good prices.

Chavez has openly sided with those that have expressed great hatred & desire to annilate others. He's not someone I care to respect. The US policies may be screwy at times, but they don't intend to annilate others (truly - it's proproganda if it's said otherwise) & they do intend for other countries to exist independently.

turtlecurls said...

I think these days everyone underestimates the power of hate rhetoric to motivate people, US, Israeli or otherwise, to feel fear (rightfully or wrongly) & do something about it. There's a look for other motivators which underestimates the power of people to be scared.

Anonymous said...

personally, when I see when someone sais something, I check who he is and what he said before.
After that I judge he I see him as a valid opinion.
After that, I read what he said.
As for Chavez, you said it beautifully, "Chavez has openly sided with those that have expressed great hatred & desire to annilate others.".

I dont think he is a valid opinion. him, being a president I see as a threat. a reason to be worried.


Andrey said...

Russians are going to build roads in Lebanon. Here is na example of a road in russia :>

Sherri said...

The United States acts for its "own interests", which increasingly are those of large corporations, such as oil companies and defense contracting companies. The interests of the US being protected are the interests of wealthy and powerful US corporations and their owners. In the US, the rich become wealthier, and the middle class poorer.

The United States does not act altruisticly, unless it also benefits them in other ways.

Under the Bush administration in particular, there has been this attitude of dictating to the rest of the world how things are to be done. The US threatens those who do not obey its dictates with bombs or denial of aid or economic sanctions or isolation. Chavez comments are a response to this foreign policy and an attempt to rally other countries to join together as a force and stand up against US aggression and control and imperialism.

Chavez remarks generated a standing ovation and the biggest applause that any speaker earned speaking at the United Nations.

There is really little difference from Chavez remarks of referring to the US as the devil than Bush's remarks of demonizing any leader who does not bow down to Bush's dictates for their country.

Do the actions of Chavez benefit his country? Well, obviously resources spent outside could have been used to better the conditions of those within the country. But money spent within a country often does not benefit the truly needy. And there is evidence Chavez is also using the oil wealth to help the needy. In addition, how a people feel emotionally about their leaders is important. From interviews I listened to, the common people admire Chavez stand in standing up against the US and his rally call for Nationalism to his people and the rest of Central and South America, and the rest of the world, as far as that goes.

An additional question should be what are a country's obligations if they have wealth, should they not have obligations to use it for the good of the rest of the world?

Everyone agrees that the US policy in Central and South America has been atrocious and that noone respects the US policy there. We bully and threaten any country that desires any form of socialist or nationalist type government or any government that is hostile to the pocketbooks of US companies doing business in those countries. Examples are Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti.

Does the US interference in affairs of other countries even truly benefit the US? I think this is a debatable question. Our interference often leads to substantial hostility (look at the recent US wars in the Middle East and Muslim anger over them)and negative results for the US.

Before the 1979 Revolution, Iran was moving toward a democratic style of government. The Shah had fled the country, there was an elected popular official in power, yet the US interfered in Iran and reinstated the Shah in power. Why? Because the leader threatened to take government control over the oil(which was later done under the present Islamic government). The past US interference in Iranian affairs largely contributed to the present anti-US government coming into power.

I believe that the US should let countries choose their own governments, without US threats and interference. Let countries move towards democracy, if the people of that country desire and choose that option. Let countries have control over their natural resources, the wealth of which should be used for the people of that country. Let other countries choose their own destinies.

My hopes and prayers are that my country, the United States, will stop forcing our dictates on others in the world, with the threats of bombs and wars. Look at the recent disclosure from Pakistan, that after 9/11 the Bush Administration directed that Pakistan cooperate with US demands to be an ally against terror alongside the US or be bombed back to the Stone Age. Countries should reach out to have positive relationships with each other, that are based on desires for peaceful co-existence. My prayers are that the US will change its policies to policies that encourage peace, not endless violence and wars.

kachumbali said...

Hhhmm...there is an interesting discrepancy between the perception of the US by the world and its own autoperception and the results of US aggressive foreign policy.

The US called itself and was called the world's only surviving superpower, and everybody, including the US itself, seems to believe that statement.

Just let me ask one question: when was the last time the US successfully intervened militarily, i.e. invaded another country with success? Was in Grenada, right? A job the French foreign legion could have managed with ease...

I think the US's power projection capability is overrated. And while the US - SA relations are being debated, China is quietly collecting claims and making business deals all over the place. In Africa, China is quickly advancing to be the No. 1 donor in more than just one remote place, mostly supporting corrupt elites for the sake of cheap raw materials...

hummbumm said...

Yes I can't wait for the day when people realize how awful China will be as a superpower, they will make people pine for the good old USA. I very much doubt that they will provide debt relieft to Africa because of Bono! And as to Venezuela, please, Chavez is running that country back to the stone age, he has gone through 80 ministers in 5 years!! Can you imagine the uncertainty that creates. It is not even his policies that matter, it is the uneven application of said policies that lead to capital flight etc... Reality is ex. oil VZ is in big trouble. Here a leader has a windfall opportunity to improve the lot of his people, any time spent that does not further that aim is a waste. And he is wasting a lot of time. By the way Us policy in central and latin america has been bad (largely pre. WW2), but please why not go further back and blame the spanish. There is a point where the past is the past and the present is the present. By the way in every country that the US intervened so did the former Soviet Union, maybe they are to blame as well, how conveniently that is forgotten.

kachumbali said...

Another thing: criticize the US, but don't let your opinions of the US or the US gov cloud your jugement.

Yes, Bush is an asshole, his righteousness heretic, but people keep blaming the US for everything, starting at global warming (ok, the US is the biggest polluter in absolute terms, sometimes in relative ones as well, but don't ignore the rest of the world! Relative figures are what count!), influenza, horny teenagers, AIDS, my eyes blaming the US is just the easy way out of ignoring one's own failures.

Criticise them all you want, but please apply the same measure at your own doorstep, or rather your governments.

In my eyes the current worst case scenario would be an overtly hasty pullback from Iraq followed by a new wave of isolationism in the US.

turtlecurls said...

kachumbali - I couldn't agree more on your assessment of the US as not so much a superpower. I think the shift has happened in US thinking, but the rest of the world hasn't picked up on it as much yet. My fear, I agree, is China. With their policies to their own people, I'm not looking forward to dealing with them on the international scene. Just hoping they will pick up more human rights & "the people"-driven government before they get too much more involved.

Once we get rid of Bush we can work once again in the US on environmental issues like global warming (even other Republicans get it more). This problem is one of the reasons democrates cried (literally) when Bush was instated. Even now, slowly policies are being implemented to assist in this. Gore's movie was a big help at getting the message across. Even if all the public didn't see it, the congressional reps. did. Also, Bush's political capital is gone & congress is voting more independently (such as the torture/anti-torture legislation just passed).

The big debate really is how to get out of Iraq, slow, fast, or... What would work & not leave a vaccum & not leave Iraqi's to mortal internal troubles. Any ideas are welcome - just write the president & congress! There's debate, but no one has an answer.

kachumbali said...

I do not believe that Bush personally is the cause for the current US malaise and the eroding of America's soft power in the world. I am not one of the guys screaming 'Neocons' at every shadow I see either.

When I look at US politics, I see certain developments which frighten me, but others which give me hope. As most human beings on this planet the US does not fail to fascinate me, on more than one level.

The US trade deficit, the world-wide hidden inflation bubble in the form of a bloated housing sector, how the world economy hangs on the drip of the US economy, buying treasury bonds and thus keeping the shiny us-zombie economy alive...that alone is enough to give you nighmares about the future.

But Iraq is going to be a huge mess. Afghanstan, too, but to a lesser degree. Just imagine what will happen when the US move out, Iraq starts dissembling...even Mr. Ahmadinejad won't be that happy anymore when his Kurdish population suddenly sees their dream of an independent state close to their grasp. Not even speaking of Eastern Turkey...and then the party will start in Syria, when the obvious crystallizes: Alawites are not Sunni, and the Sunni might feel it to be time to start voicing claims for their piece of the cake. Oh, yes, then there's Lebanon, almost forgot, and Palestine, and Israel...actually, I think that the country which could get away realtively unscathed just might be tiny Jordan...

I really hope I am wrong, but when I look at the public opinion in the US and the actual facts on American military capabilities, dunno...just doesn't feel good. COIN, counter insurgency, just isn't an exact science...

Btw, anyone interested in COIN should check out this new study by the RAND, including the 'lessons learned' in Aghanistan and Iraq:

kachumbali said...

just another thought:

strange as it might seem, I actually have a lot of trust in the US to steer away from its current path...any society able to produce something like the Daily Show with Jon Stewart can.

Unfortunately, we do not have anyone that brilliant, anyone that outspoken here in Germany...and we would really need one.

turtlecurls said...

Just a quick thought (time for bed).

The change in the US as superpower in my mind has more to do with the change to a global world where all the very many smaller countries now have a voice & are visible in a way that they weren't just a few years ago. Americans are finally beginning to realize we aren't alone on this planet. The world's intense interest in US policy gets funny (ironic) considering how little average Americans are aware of outside politics & how little it's on our news. It's actually one of the few things Bush has contributed -- that there is something out there for us to think about. On the other hand, Bush's use of inciteful words like "crusade" & actually announcing that we're not looking for a ceasefire make for very abrasive images, & don't help anything. I hope others can see that americans complained bitterly about his word choices & often don't use similar ones (except those on the right who are trying to garner support for him.)

I was referring to Bush specifically with environmental causes. He was beginning to make a mess here before he got distracted by the twin towers (pushing out protection laws that had been long standing). Other thoughts on Bush would take time...

Hopefully we'll have better choices this time than last election. Kerry just couldn't put the message across. A large part of the determination will be the internal religious right vs. the rest, which isn't about foreign politics.

In the general comments on this topic of US interference I was thinking today, that the style of intervernce from prior years was very much the way foreign policy was done at that time. What has changed so much is the above board openness & communications between countries that makes those prior policies look very archane. It's not all about power in world policitcs any more. Now its about resolving & creating new countries or arrangements & it's a different skill -- still not well developed.

Well, not such a quick thought... I appreciate the inputs. I'll look up the sites when I get a chance.


dick said...

It's good to see Chavez sending cheap oil to the poor in America. Especially since he made sure to eliminate poverty in Venezuela first.

Just like it's good to see Ahmadinejad giving money for reconstruction in Southern Lebanon. There's no poverty in Iran either.

I wonder, though, why it wasn't the other way around? Why not Chavez giving financial aid to Southern Lebanon and Ahmadinejad to New York? Or, for that matter, why they both didn't choose to combat the greatest poverty in the world - Sub-Saharan Africa - before moving on to other economic problems?

And why isn't Castro sending money to Africa too? After all, since its success in ridding itself of US influence forty odd years ago, Cuba has become one of the world's financial powerhouses.

Come on, all you America bashers. Don't fall for such obvious propaganda stunts. Don't get fooled into thinking that only America has an agenda when it helps other countries.

sapphoq said...

Hugo Chavez is a dictator. He admires governments with great records on human rights such as mainland China, North Korea, and the current extremist regime in Iran. He is suspected of associations with two major terrorist groups in Colombia as well as Al Queda. Publickly he professes belief in the 9/11 debunked junk science conspiracy "theories" floating around all over the web. He is suspected privately of sending money to Al Queda to help get the job done. He wanted to send troops to the Taliban to help fight off the U.S. troops.

Those people who are applauding Hugo Chavez's little show at the United Nations would do well to remember the old and true adage, "The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend." I wish I had said that first but I did not.

Lebanon, stand firm.


Don Cox said...

"I guess I do not really believe that Chavez is quite as stupid as he may appear ..."_____Mussolini was. Why not Chavez?

turtlecurls said...

I came across how Chavez is giving money to american poor.

Basically Citgo was sold to Venezula (the country it sounds like, not to a business there) & is donating gas. Donating to charity is what most companies operating in the US & selling to americans do for tax write off & good-will advertising, so nothing unusual there.

There's word being sprend about a boycott of Citgo. The idea being that the US allows free speech, but that doesn't mean it has to support that speech financially.

The email I received is:

"From the NY Daily News.
Citgo must go:

Large among the enduring American sentiments has been "Don't Tread on Me,"
which approximately means "Get Out of My Face" or, more pecifically, "Who
Ya Think Yer Talking To?" and which stands as testimony to our deep-down
national conviction that, while we disagree among ourselves, we're still
family here. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has now discovered that we do not gladly suffer unpleasant houseguests, and his Citgo Petroleum is beginning to pay the price. Boycotts of Citgo products are springing up in the wake of Chavez's offensive performance at the United Nations. In Boston, there's a push to tear down the landmark Citgo sign at Kenmore Square. In Florida, legislators are demanding that Citgo lose a contract to sell gasoline on the Florida Turnpike. The governor of Maine reports that he'll refuse Citgo's heating-oil-for-the-poor handout this winter. And this week the
7-Eleven store chain announced it is parting company with Citgo and will henceforth buy gas for more than 2,000 filling stations from other

The 7-Eleven heave-ho is not, in truth, solely a direct result of the
Chavez episode: The chain's parent company, Southland Corp., is the outfit that sold Citgo to Venezuela in the first place, in 1986, and its 20-year contract with the Citgo people is expiring now. Still, tossing Citgo out on its ear at this moment is an inspiredly symbolic thing to do. As with Boston and the Florida Turnpike, the statement is clearly made: We are not to be trod on. Got that, Chavez?

Citgo was once upon a time Cities Service, a familiar and beloved brand all the length and breadth of the heartland through the first half of the 20th century, sponsor of one of radio's longest-running concert programs. Cities Service's founder, utilities mogul Henry Doherty, may have been
something of a pirate, but he's also the man who led the drive to bring
nighttime floodlighting to the Statue of Liberty, in 1916. And here we are
today: His company, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Venezuela's state
petroleum operation, is the emblem of a crazed foreign government that
declares its hostility to the United States.

The hell with Citgo. Let the boycotts spread to every hamlet and valley.
How very satisfyingly American.

Incidentally, Citgo does millions of dollars worth of business with the
U.S. armed forces. At some Navy bases, Citgo is the only gasoline you can
buy. Well, that's pretty disgraceful, isn't it? You Pentagon procurement
guys planning to do something about this?