- Created: Sunday, 20 September 2009 15:22
Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez swept like a refreshing revolutionary breeze into London between 14-16 May, returning from the EU-Latin American Summit in Vienna. The Bolivarian socialist lit up the rainy British capital with his sparkling denunciations of imperialism resonating in the belly of the beast.
In 2001, Chavez came to Britain on an official visit, meeting the Queen and the Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. Since then, Chavez has condemned Blair as an ally of Hitler (US President Bush) and a ‘pawn of imperialism’. In February 2006, Blair criticised Chavez in the House of Commons for not abiding by ‘the rules of the international community’ and for his close relationship with Fidel Castro and Cuba. Chavez reacted by demanding that Britain return the Malvinas Islands to Argentina and added: ‘Tony Blair, you have no moral right to tell anyone to respect international laws, as you have no respect for them, aligning yourself with Mr Danger [Bush] and trampling on the people of Iraq…Do you think we still live in the times of the British Empire?’
During the Vienna Summit last week Blair issued a veiled threat to Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales regarding control and use of energy resources. ‘What countries do in their energy policy…matters enormously to all of us’, he warned. Both Morales and Chavez responded by rejecting neo-liberalism. ‘Neoliberalism has begun its decline and has come to an end’, declared Chavez defiantly. The ‘final hours of the North American empire have arrived...Now we have to say to the empire: “We’re not afraid of you. You’re a paper tiger.”’
Blair was reported to be enraged by Chavez’s visit to London which was at the personal invitation of London Mayor Ken Livingstone who, paradoxically, is also a representative of Blair’s Labour Party. Such is the reactionary nature of British social-democracy that Livingstone stands out as a ‘radical’, even while he remains a leader of the imperialist Labour Party.
Because of the need to remain ‘respectable’ whilst stepping out of line with the Prime Minister, Livingstone manoeuvred to limit the incendiary influence of the revolutionary President, restricting his audience and controlling entrance to a public meeting in London. Thousands of supporters were denied the chance to hear Chavez, spokesman for revolutionary change in Latin America.
In a press conference on 15 May, Chavez repeated his offer of fuel aid to poor Europeans who suffer because of heating costs in winter. Britain has the highest number of avoidable deaths due to winter cold in western Europe. Last year the organisation Age Concern predicted that more than 20,000 people over 65 would die between December 2005 and March 2006 from cold-related illness in Britain; victims of poverty. Given that reality, Chavez’s offer could have a significant political and economic impact in Britain, a rich imperialist country marked by obscene wealth inequality. Chavez announced that already 100,000 poor US citizens are benefiting from cheap Venezuelan oil distributed through Citgo, the Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. Oil has also been donated free to some welfare centres, such as old people’s homes.
Chavez went on to condemn the manipulation of the media, part of the weaponry of capitalism, mocking ‘stupid questions’ posed by international media journalists and he warned the world to avoid ‘the madness’ of an attack on Iran, which would lead to more war, terrorism, more deaths and petrol prices doubling around the world. He outlined plans for a South American energy project with a 1,000km gas pipeline, which he called a project of social liberation, to secure cheap energy for 150 years and said the focus was on integration, solidarity and ending poverty.
Referring to the world’s fuel crisis, Chavez said that the biggest consumers of energy, those in the north, had to take responsibility for more rational use of energy. ‘In the last 20 years we have consumed more petrol than in the preceding 200 years. This is insane wastefulness! How many vehicles are on the roads in London, Vienna, Madrid and New York, and also in Caracas, although fewer? You know that 90% of those vehicles take one person, one person occupying three metres by two. This is stupid! An example of capitalism, the extreme of individualism. They go at a tortoise’s speed, listening to music, spending two or three hours to go a distance of five kilometres, that walking would take them 20 minutes, or in a bicycle, bus, metro or tram. This model, called The American Way of Life, of extreme capitalism, it is going to finish us off if we continue down this path. This is why we have chosen another path that is called socialism’, declared Chavez, adding that Venezuela was rejecting capitalism, with its individualism, egoism and destructive development.
Later that day it was announced that the US was banning all arms sales to Venezuela, on the pretext that Chavez had not cooperated in fighting terrorism. Chavez responded to the news dismissively saying ‘this doesn't matter to us at all’. He pointed out that Bush and the US administration were supporting self-confessed terrorist Venezuelan citizen Luis Posada Carriles, who is at the centre of the Miami Mafia and the CIA and responsible for four decades of terrorism against the Cuban Revolution. The US is ignoring Venezuela’s demand for Carriles’ extradition to stand trial. Pointing an audacious, revolutionary finger back at the US, Chavez labelled Bush as a murderer, responsible for genocide in Iraq and a terrorist.
FRFI 191 June / July 2006