I teach political philosophy at Andres Bello Catholic University in Caracas, and I was one of Elisabeth Young-Bruehl's hosts during her trip, in my role as member of the board of directors of the Hannah Arendt Observatory. As you can see, I can write in English a little, which means that I speak Shakespeare's language a little too. I'd never try to analyze American history better than a native historian or philosopher, even if I were living among you. But I'm absolutely sure that my Spanish and my knowledge about my country, about the history and the political trends of my nation is more accurate than the knowledge of any American lawyer implanted in our soil to defend a tyranny or to enjoy a kind of political tourism financed by Chávez. I'm thinking about Eva Gollinger, because I don't know lawyer McFadden. Gollinger published a list of Venezuelan citizens who visited the US sponsored by different universities, diverse programs, in some cases by the NED, and so on. She accused many of my colleagues of being CIA agents, demanding prison for them. It reminds me of the McCarthy era. I seriously distrust the statements of so many foreigners who come to Venezuela trying to make a revival of the Spanish Civil War, when romantic people from all around the world went to defend the Republic and the values of the international socialism.
The stupid thing is (and this kind of thing happens when you are not a Venezuelan with expertise on political affairs) that many pro-Chávez deputies were on Gollinger's list, because they attended meetings for conflict negotiation and solution, to recover the possibilities of dialogue: One of the most memorable encounters between the opposition and the pro-government leaders was hosted by Ted Kennedy at Cape Cod. Sponsored by the NED. The President of the Communications Commission of the Congress said to Ms. Gollinger: "Lawyer, it is not a criminal act to receive a fellowship or a grant." Dr. Young-Bruehl was sponsored by the American government, and this is not an illegal act. Also, I don't think it discredits her vision or opinions. And if she didn't meet pro-government leaders it is because they never want to meet with us, although we constantly send them invitations, calls for meetings and conferences at our universities and cultural centers. They are very afraid of the consequences of encounters with American intellectuals or scholars: "You were dancing with the enemy, with the Empire" would be the accusation. Yes, it's the obsolete mentality of the cold war era, but it happens here: They are witch-hunting among themselves.
On the other hand, when Chávez invites foreign intellectuals like Gianni Vattimo, you (as an opposition activist) cannot talk with them, because they organize a secret agenda with no press conferences; so these visitors never listen to the opposition, and they never see that at least half of the country doesn't agree with the Cuban model imposed by Chávez. Most of the time, when we (I) receive foreign scholars, we try to put them in contact with the pro-Chávez leaders. We respect their intelligence, and we leave in their hands the privilege of making their own judgments and forming their personal points of view.
Thomas Christian Hilde, from Maryland University, was our guest, and I invited him to Gramoven to meet some leaders of the Fabricio Ojeda Cooperative, the top-model cooperative of the country in a very poor neighborhood in West Caracas. Let me point out that this visit was possible thanks to the Minister of Communications, an old friend of mine, a smart person who is not afraid of the interchange and confrontation of ideas. We have no problem dialoguing with pro-Chávez people or putting them in contact with our guest intellectuals.
Another intellectual we--the Observatory--recently invited was Fernando Mires, from Oldenburg University. And Fernando attended a discussion at the Francisco de Miranda Political Formation Centre and had a deep debate with José Luis Monedero, a Spanish sociologist who works very close to President Chávez designing the so-called Socialism of Century XXI.
My point is: Gentlemen and ladies pro-Chávez, don't be afraid to talk with American intellectuals, or with people like us. We are not afraid to talk with you, whenever you leave your pistol out of the room.
American readers sympathize with the notions of social justice, the vindication of the poor people and so on, and we do too--absolutely, yes. But we don't want to pay the price of destroying democracy and liberty in the name of the "social question," as Hannah Arendt brilliantly pointed out in "On revolution." To eradicate poverty you don't need a socialist state with thousands of Russian rifles in the hands of teenagers: You just have to accomplish the United Nations Millennium Goals we subscribed to together with hundreds of countries in order to reduce poverty and exclusion in real terms from 2000 to 2015.
Sep 14 2007 - 3:03pm