Three years ago, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez caused a stir when, in a speech to the UN General Assembly, he called President George W. Bush the devil. "I can still smell the sulfur," he said, standing at the same podium where, a day earlier, Bush had given his own address. In September Chávez once again followed a US president onto the UN podium, but this time he caught a whiff of something different--"the smell of hope."
In an interview conducted at Venezuela's UN mission in New York, Chávez talked with our frequent Latin America correspondent Greg Grandin about Barack Obama as well as about the Honduran crisis, US plans to extend the Pentagon's presence in Colombia, Chávez's domestic successes and challenges, and the legacy of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. [See "There Is Much to Do: An Interview With Hugo Chávez ," posted September 27.]
About the new president, Chávez said, "It seems as if there are two Barack Obamas. And hopefully, the Obama who spoke today at the United Nations will win out in the end. But it was Obama who also approved the seven military bases in Colombia. So Obama is full of contradictions, and hopefully the people of the United States, you, the thinking public, need to push your president.... Obama can be an opportunity, and you need to support him with great force, in order to contain those that ferociously oppose change."
About Venezuela, Chávez said, "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 believe--people of good faith, readers of The Nation--that the Bolivarian Revolution is exhausted, tell them 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 has an ongoing process. We have achieved nearly all the Millennium Development Goals."
Chávez hailed "the new winds blowing from South America, the winds of change, I would say even winds of revolution. It is different from the revolution of the 1970s. This one is carried out not with rifles but by a peaceful people. It is a democratic revolution."