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La Liga de Las Americas

In defense of President Hugo Chávez 

Commentary by Ricardo Urrutia,

La Prensa Political Correspondent


While the military of the United States bombs Iraqis for the benefit of oil companies and war profiteers, Venezuela President Hugo Chávez uses Venezuela’s oil (via CITGO) for the benefit of the poor in Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, the Caribbean, and even the United States.  


In January, ExxonMobil announced record profits of $36 billion for 2005.  Meanwhile, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company announced it would provide heating oil at discounted prices for low income families in Philadelphia.  The offer in Philadelphia came after Venezuela provided similar discounts to low income communities in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine. 

Ricardo Urrutia


At a time when business is booming for oil companies and the U.S. elite is pushing free trade (such as NAFTA and CAFTA) and warfare, Chávez is showing the world that oil revenues can be used to meet basic human needs. 


In a seminal display of compassion, Chávez has traded discounted oil for Cuban doctors and teachers.  He also signed PetroCaribe, an alternative trade agreement between Venezuela and several Caribbean nations.  Among its provisions, the agreement will set up a social and economic development fund to finance new infrastructure, assist with transport costs, and offer long term finance facilities at low interest rates.         

The George W. Bush administration and its close allies are escalating their rhetoric against Chávez.  As a result, the mainstream media reports that the Chávez administration is “authoritarian” and a “threat to democracy.”  We should therefore pay special attention to who the critics of the Chávez administration are.  


In late January, U.S. Senator John McCain publicly stated that the U.S. can no longer be dependent on oil from Iran or “wackos” in Venezuela. However, since 1989, McCain has accepted $261,010 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industries.  McCain has received $96,180 in 2006 alone. 


Over the course of 17 years, $261,010 arguably amounts to pocket change for a U.S. politician.  We should therefore consider the words of U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice


Secretary Rice goes beyond simple name calling and criticizes the Chávez administration as being a “threat to democracy.”  Again, consider the source. 


Rice’s previous experience lists her as sitting on the board of directors at Chevron Corporation.  So impressed was Chevron with Condoleezza Rice that the corporation built a 130,000-ton oil tanker and named it: “The Condoleezza Rice.”  Last year, Chevron Corporation announced record profits of $14 billion.


While commenting on rising tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, recently compared Hugo Chávez to Adolph Hitler. 



During the 1980s, Rumsfeld served on the President’s Advisory Committee on Arms Control and as Special Presidential Envoy to the Middle East.  Part of Rumsfeld’s accomplishments included selling arms to both Iraq and Iran so that both nations could annihilate each other. 


Fellow neoconservative Henry Kissinger articulated the thinking behind this strategy: “It’s best to let them kill each other off” and “oil is too valuable a commodity to be left in the hands of the Arabs.”


So McCain, Rice, and Rumsfeld are now telling us that Chávez is an undemocratic, authoritarian “wacko.”  Is there any reason we should believe the criticisms of any U.S. politician who is in bed with oil companies that are making record profits? 



Chávez of course, isn’t keeping quiet.  Unlike other world leaders, Chávez’s ability to respond to these criticisms rests in the fact that Venezuela is the fifth largest supplier of petroleum to the U.S.  Without this sort of leverage, Chávez couldn’t be so vocal in defending himself. 


And he’s very vocal.  Chávez publicly refers to Bush II as “Mr. Danger” and openly uses the word “imperialism” to describe U.S. foreign policy.  He has received standing ovations at the United Nations.  Those standing and applauding include the leaders of developing nations who don’t have the ability to speak up as Chávez does.  For these leaders, speaking out against U.S. foreign and economic policy could result in cuts in aid, economic sanctions, and/or military intervention. 


Several times we have heard Chávez’s announcement of U.S. plans to assassinate him or invade Venezuela.   In this case, history has repeatedly legitimized these concerns.  


Since World War II, the United States has used the CIA or military to intervene in Guatemala, Cuba, Costa Rica, Haiti, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Grenada, Nicaragua, Panama, and most personal to me: El Salvador.  These interventions have resulted in coups, assassinations, disappearances, death squads, military training, bombings, counterintelligence, and torture.  


And let us not forget the U.S. invasion of México in 1846—in the name of Manifest Destiny and Go West, Young Man!—to extort from México the Southwest portion of what has now been dubbed by much of the media as “America.”  This is the same area where neoconservatives—predominately Republicans—want to build their infamous 700-mile wall, separating today’s México from the United States (HR 4437).


And, of course, there was the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 and its progeny, resulting in some of the aforementioned bloodshed.  [This commentary does not delve into the genocide of Native North and South Americans (“New World”) by the European invaders (“Old World”), commencing in 1492.]


Yes, oil companies, and the politicians who serve them, want Chávez gone (dead or alive). 


In whose interest?

The idea that oil can be used for anything other than to boost the profits of corporations, like ExxonMobil and Chevron, is unacceptable to folks like Rice, Rumsfeld, Bush, McCain, or Reverend Pat Robertson (who recently called for the assassination of Chávez).  


While the cost of heating oil and gas rise, it’s not Rice, McCain, or Rumsfeld who are advocating on behalf of the poor and questioning the record profits of oil companies. 


Hugo Chávez has signed trade agreements that put human need at the forefront and has provided discounted heating oil to the working poor in the United States.  This teaches us that there are alternatives to neoliberal economics and free trade and, which puts corporate greed before human need.  


President Hugo Chávez has earned our solidarity, but, unfortunately, a probable visit from the CIA or the U.S. military may ensue.


Editor’s Note: If any reader cares to comment, kindly email: [email protected]. Gracias.  







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