A charismatic leader who had the audacity to hope for a new day for his country and who wasn’t afraid to fight for hope and change for the people he represented and loved dearly has been in the news a great deal lately. He was a democratically elected President but his name surprisingly does not rhyme with Yo Mama. The President I’m referring to is Hugo Chavez who recently passed away after battling cancer for years. Venezuela’s best known exports include steel, major league baseball players and, wait for it…oil and lots of it. Chavez represented for many, not just in Venezuela but throughout Latin America, a leader who was beholden not to the multinational corporations and the uber-wealthy but to the people who actually put him in office in the first place. This is exactly why the United States and its
allies bootlickers couldn’t stomach the man and the reason the private oil industry which Chavez nationalized sought to depose him by any means necessary. These means included a poorly planned coup d’état that resulted in Chavez being returned from exile by, wait for it again…the people a mere 48 hours later. In that two day span, a business partner of U.S. oil companies declared himself President, the New York Times went on the record with their approval of the coup and the U.S. ambassador attended an inauguration party with oil and banking grand poobahs. Then when the two day door closed, God opened a window for Chavez to climb through to return to the palace he had left just days earlier at gunpoint. His supporters even conjured up Joshua at the walls of Jericho when they surrounded the presidential palace until he was reinstated. Now that’s what democracy looks like my friends.
I am embarrassed to admit that my familiarity or, as elementary teachers love to say, background knowledge of Chavez was previously slim to none. The public outpouring of support on the streets of Venezuela and around the globe as well as the ensuing demythification (totally made that word up) of Chavez is critical as it brings to light the stark hypocrisies of the current POTUS. All of the major media outlet’s reporters, including National Puffpiece Radio (NPR), have been careful to add derogatory adjectives to any description of Chavez when discussing the divisive (see, I can do it too) leader. In fact, NPR has pretty much abdicated its role as a source of independent journalism when it comes to foreign affairs or anything related to “homeland security”. For these issues its correspondents pretty much read verbatim from the State Department scripts it would appear they hand out at the weekly staff meetings. I’ve learned that Chavez even allowed people who were beholden to him for his country’s generous oil subsidies to repay their loans at nominal interest rates with local currency, beans and stonewashed jeans. Although, word on the street is the banks will take a box filled with my
hard earned cash drug money that has been shaped to fit the teller’s window, they sure as sugar won’t accept beans and jeans to pay for that overdraft or ATM fee. Fortunately, for many Carribean and Central American countries, “that monkey”, as the white elites in Venezuela referred to him, did take their goods as part of their repayment for debts. Chavez even cancelled Haiti’s debt in full after the earthquakes in 2010 where relief organizations have still not managed to find permanent housing for hundreds of thousands of residents still living in tent camps.
Finally, I came across an incredible poem recently by fellow blogger lens1 at The Vigilant Lens that juxtaposed verse and imagery in a manner that evoked a strong response in me upon further reflection. The picture shows a man at a protest for a Native American woodcarver who was shot to death by police for carrying a knife. When I read the poem, the thought that came to mind was “When was the last time there was no war or no threat of war in my consciousness?” I’m acutely aware that my children have grown up with this foggy soup of war always hanging about, like Pigpen’s perpetual cloud of dirt. Whether its on the radio or the television or the internet, there is always some voice droning on about “this threat”or “that threat”, with little factual context given to justify their stance. What affect does this have on the psyche, especially that of a child or young person? Then, insert graphic images of violence and unrest in brown and black parts of the world and you have the makings of trauma based conditioning. What the world needs now is more Chavez’s who have the cojones to stand up to the bankers and billionaires in order to bring forth a brighter day not just for their people today but for future generations. This will not happen without nonviolent resistance and sacrifice but just as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers are marching 200 miles for farmworker justice in Florida, so too, will more people join the struggle for justice and dignity for all peoples. Peace and solidarity to the people of Venezuela and to all readers.