There Is Much to Do: An Interview With Hugo Chavez | The Nation


There Is Much to Do: An Interview With Hugo Chavez

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About the Author

Greg Grandin
Greg Grandin
Greg Grandin teaches history at New York University and is the author of Fordlandia, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize...

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GG: Since President Obama has taken office, has US policy toward Venezuela changed since the Bush years?

HC: Yes, for the worst.

GG: For the worst?

HC: Yes, for the worst. The seven Colombian military bases. They are a threat to Venezuela. Why hasn't Obama--and today at the UN he listed all the steps he has taken [to improve relations with the rest of the world]--eliminated the Fourth Fleet? It was Bush that re-established the Fourth Fleet, a threat to all of Latin America, with the commander of the fleet saying that its purpose was to patrol South America's rivers. We are all worried about this in Latin America, and each country has expressed concern in its own way, Venezuela, Bolivia, even Brazil. Now with these seven military bases, the Colombian conflict is going to be spilling out across South America. Hopefully Obama will listen to other voices, and not just repeat what the Pentagon says, those same advisers of Bush, the war makers.

GG: Do you think it ironic that the Right in the US now uses the same tactics and rhetoric to attack Obama that the Venezuelan right uses against your government? Did you follow what happened just two weeks ago, with Obama's planned address to schoolchildren, when they attacked him in terms very similar to the criticism used against your education reform?

HC: Ah, yes, I read about that, that it was socialist indoctrination.

GG: Exactly.

HC: If only it were socialism! I believe they are scared. And this fear is dangerous. Because independent of whatever reasoned criticism we might have of Obama--such as that concerning the Fourth Fleet, which is an effort to make his actions be coherent with his words--here within the United States, the recalcitrant right is scared. And they hate him. First, because he is black...

GG: This is a debate now within the United States...

HC: Jimmy Carter is saying it. And hopefully Obama won't be assassinated because of it. But Obama has also taken up the theme of social reform almost as if it were a point of honor, because he made the pledge during the campaign. And also, as Obama knows, out of necessity. Everyday there is more poverty in the United States, everyday there is more uncared-for people who don't have medicine, doctors, or even education. This country is eating itself from the inside. What's happening to the American, how do you say it, Dream [in English]. I believe in the American Dream, but the dream of Martin Luther King Jr., not the dream of consumerism, unbridled capitalism or individualism, that craziness, that's not a dream it's a nightmare. Now, the recalcitrant right attacks Obama hard, calling him a socialist...

GG: Even a Nazi.

HC: Yes, a Nazi! When we met in Trinidad and shook hands, the right roasted him here for doing so: "Chávez! Why are you greeting Chávez?!" Imagine the craziness just for saying hello. It's irrational. The right here is scared that Obama is awakening a popular current in the people of the US, and they are trying to stop it. Where it is going to wind up, who knows? But I have a question, where is the US people? Where are the people, when their leader tries to propose something in benefit of the people? The people need to go out into the streets, not just to vote but to passionately protest, to support the president, so he can fulfill his promise. Where are the people?

GG: It is the right that is in the street.

HC: Yes, the right has taken over the street. There is much to do. Those who represent progressive thought--and I include you--need to know that without the people, there is no democracy. The people of the United States need to wake up, wake up and help construct a new country, a great nation, a true democracy. Obama can be an opportunity, and you need to support him with great force, in order to contain those that ferociously oppose whatever change. Like in Honduras. It's the same situation. The progressive community of the United States needs to support Obama to achieve change, and then it has to demand more change, and more change, and more change.

GG: There is a sense among progressives in the US that the Bolivarian Revolution has reached its limits, at least domestically. They have heard much about your anti-imperialism and your efforts to form a multipolar world, but they know less about what is happening in the country, the successes and failures in advancing a "protagonist democracy."

HC: Many political analysts--the majority of them spokespeople for the right--along with the media--also dominated by the right--go around creating the idea that the government of the Bolivarian Revolution is on the point of collapse. The fall of the price of oil affected us in a way, but not fundamentally, not at the roots or the base of the process. We are passing through stages. We are starting the second decade of the revolution, and are now approaching a new political horizon. The communal councils for example, continue to extend, continue to grow, and they have evolved into a more ambitious project, a socialist commune. We are leaving behind--slowly, but steadily, not in a day, a year or five years--oil dependency, advancing the industrialization of the country. If some people here believe--people of good faith, readers of The Nation--that the Bolivarian Revolution is exhausted, tell them that it isn't. You can tell them to come and see for themselves. Venezuela is of course a country that has problems, and its revolutionary government has failures, and has made mistakes, but it is an ongoing process.


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