Hugo Chavez seems to take great pleasure in tweaking George Bush’s nose. He’s repeatedly called Bush a “terrorist” and disparaged the US as a “terrorist state”. Just last week, Chavez fired off another broadside saying, “The planet’s most serious danger is the government of the United States … The people of the United States are being governed by a killer, a genocidal murderer, and a madman.”
He got that right.
For liberals and leftists Chavez’s fiery salvos have been a welcome respite from the weak-kneed groveling of congressional Democrats and the congratulatory purring of media brown-nosers. So far, the Venezuelan president has been the only leader on the world stage to state the obvious, that Bush and his maniacal group of liars, carpet-baggers, and war criminals are savaging the planet and putting millions at risk.
That doesn’t mean that Chavez hates the American people; far from it. Following the vast devastation of Hurricane Katrina Chavez responded more quickly than FEMA, offering to send cheap fuel, humanitarian aid and relief workers to the disaster area. He offered to provide $1 million of free petroleum via the state run Petroleos de Venezuela and its subsidiary CITGO for the relief effort.
According to civil rights leader, Jesse Jackson, Chavez also offered two mobile hospital units, 120 rescue and first aid experts, and 50 tons of food; considerably more than “Brownie” was able to produce.
“We have drinking water, food, and we can provide fuel,” Chavez told reporters
None of this was, of course, was reported in the American media which consistently lambastes Chavez as a “radical leftist”.
The self-proclaimed socialist, Chavez, is seen as a serious threat to expanding capital markets in the southern hemisphere and, therefore, ripe for regime change. This explains the hostile language the media uses in describing the ebullient and charismatic Chavez.
Chavez succeeded in using Katrina to blast away at the callousness and cynicism of the Bush administration saying, “Before the hurricane, they knew Katrina was coming and refused to evacuate people. In Cuba, when they know a hurricane is coming, chickens, hens, and people are all evacuated. A hurricane recently destroyed many towns in Cuba but not a single person died because no one was there. The government prepared its people and took them to shelters, whereas here they left the poor, without protection, especially the blacks. That’s horrible!”
“The government had no evacuation plan. The world’s only superpower is so involved in Iraq …but left its own people adrift,” Chavez said on live TV. “And, that cowboy, the king of vacations, stayed at his ranch and said nothing but, ‘You have to flee’. It’s incredible.”
“The king of vacations”?
Chavez also got his digs in at the recent economic summit at Mar Del Plata, Argentina where he was the center of attention. A throng of 35,000 celebrated his arrival and filled the local soccer stadium with protestors chanting, “Bush is the terrorist. Bush is the fascist”.
Chavez gave a 2 hour speech railing against Bush, his “immoral war” and his ruinous “neoliberal economic policies”
“The US has bombed entire cities, used chemical weapons and napalm, killed women and children and thousands of soldiers. That’s terrorism,” said Chavez. “The US government is a threat to humanity.”
The summit at Mar del Plata was billed as a “showdown” between Bush and Chavez and many of those attending anxiously awaited the face-off. Chavez even joked to reporters that “he would sneak up on Bush and scare him”.
No need. The normally boastful Bush was uncommonly subdued during the activities and slinked away to the safety of Air Force 1 as soon as he spotted an opening. The Crawford peacock had no intention of going nose to nose with his Venezuelan nemesis.
Bush prefers to limit his displays of bravado to televised appearances on the flight-deck of American aircraft carriers, cinched up in a warrior-jumpsuit and cod-piece, surrounded by a phalanx of security guards.
Chavez summarized Bush’s stealthy departure saying, “The real failure here was Mr. Bush. He left defeated, and he will keep being defeated. This century will be for the people of Latin America.”
Last week, Chavez took another swing at the Bush team by ordering the delivery of “12 million gallons of discounted home-heating oil to local charities and 45,000 low-income families in Massachusetts next month.” (Boston Globe)
The deal will provide nine million gallons of oil to institutions that serve the poor, such as homeless shelters. Families will be able to buy heating fuel at discount rates, keeping them from freezing to death in the bitter New England winter.
The plan is yet another blow to the administration and the rickety system of predatory capitalism.
Massachusetts congressman William Delahunt explained that there was a “desperate need” for affordable home heating oil that would not be met by state or federal governments.
No wonder. There’s been a 13% rise in the number of American’s living below the poverty line since Bush took office, and the fissures in the “free market” edifice are beginning to appear everywhere.
Bush has reinforced the feudal system of upward redistribution, creating even greater structural injustices that are hurting those who are least able to protect themselves. Chavez’s generosity shines a light on a voracious system that is increasingly turning inwards and wreaking havoc on the poor. Washington continues to siphon off the nation’s wealth to a small cadre of venal elites while others are struggling just to keep warm.
Chavez’s gift will be distributed by officials from Citizens Energy of Boston and CITGO, a Houston-based subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela. It should help to minimize the suffering of the working people who face a 50% increase in the price of oil.
The political implications of Chavez’s move are enormous. It’s a slap in the face to George Bush, who tried to remove Chavez 4 years ago in a failed-coup attempt. It also demonstrates that Bush’s “survival of the fittest” neoliberal policies have fallen on hard times. Chavez has assumed the mantle of Franklin D. Roosevelt redistributing Venezuela’s prodigious oil wealth to the people who need it the most, while the blinkered Bush has become a modern-day Herbert Hoover paving the way for economic Armageddon by shifting $1.3 trillion of wealth from the middle class to his friends at the top of the fiscal food-chain.
Just this week, Bush slashed another $700 million from the food stamp program leaving 235,000 needy Americans without enough to eat. These same people face the prospect of a frigid Bush-winter unless they can get help from Chavez.
Who could have imagined just 5 years ago that American citizens would be getting charitable assistance from Venezuela?
MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached: [email protected]