38 year old free-lance activist writer Jason Miller: Driven by obscene greed and hubris, the Oligarchs ruling America attempt to mercilessly crush those who stand in the way of their imperialistic ambitions.
John Steinbeck once wrote: “It always seemed strange to me that the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second.”
The plutocrats rule America behind the clever guise of a constitutional republic rife with corruption. With an unmatched ferocity in embodying the “traits of success” discerned by Steinbeck, their Neocon representatives in the government vigorously protect the interests of the wealthy and tirelessly push the American system of corrupt avarice on the rest of the world. Strategies they typically employ include economic pressure, psychological manipulation through propaganda and media control, covert intervention by the CIA, and in cases like Iraq, invasion and occupation.
What the proletariat has needed for a long time is a champion for their cause. Plebeians of the world, meet Hugo Chavez.
Yes, there is a viable alternative to plutocracy
With America’s government fiercely advancing the interests of avaricious corporations around the world, Hugo Chavez has emerged in Venezuela as a welcome antithesis. While there is little doubt that Chavez is complex, acts with a degree of self-interest and has a multi-faceted agenda, he has remained steadfast in his promise to provide for the poverty-stricken in Venezuela. His open defiance of US imperialism and nascent attempt to implement a social democracy make him a rare breed in this world. As they sustain blows to their economic security, civil liberties, and intellectual freedoms almost daily under the Bush administration, people around the world can look to Chavez as illumination in a very dark age.
Chavez has tenacity.
He was elected President of Venezuela in 1998, and again in 2000, by significant margins of victory. Contrary to claims of corruption by the Bush administration and its media lap-dogs, international observers declared both elections to be free.
Chavez survived a coup attempt in 2002, which was openly supported by the Bush administration. Dogged by the opposition of the Oligarchs in his own country, Chavez overcame a recall election in August 2004. His approval margin was a comfortable 59%.
The recall was organized and supervised by the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Carter Center … Jimmy Carter, noted for his sterling integrity, helped supervise the referendum process. Carter himself confirmed the legitimacy of the procedures.
Unlike Americans, Venezuelans can rest assured that their recent elections have not been rigged. Having tenaciously survived several rigorous tests, Chavez is a President who truly represents a majority of his people, and has the chutzpah to go toe to toe with the Neocons.
In 1998, Chavez inherited a nation of extreme “haves” and “have nots.”
For years, corrupt Oligarchs had plundered the revenue from Venezuela’s rich oil reserves.
Chavez rode to office on a wave of populist support for his promises to bring social and economic justice to his nation. When he took the reins of leadership, 3% of the population (mostly of white European descent) owned 77% of the country’s land.
About 80% of the Venezuelan population was of black and Indian descent … they comprised most of the 21 million poverty-stricken people in a nation with a population of 25 million. Widespread poverty in a nation that sits atop the largest oil reserves in the Western Hemisphere ? The word unconscionable could only begin to describe the situation. Enter Hugo Chavez with his grand designs to beat back the economic disparity.
Hollow rhetoric or real promises?
In Venezuela , just under a million children who live in the many shameful shanty towns now receive free education. Three new universities offer a secondary education to 250,000 who would not have had the opportunity for further education under the Oligarchs. By the end of 2006, there will be six more universities. In exchange for subsidized oil, Chavez has arranged for the immigration of 10,000 Cuban doctors to operate free clinics for the poor. He has tripled the healthcare budget. Under Chavez, over 100,000 families have received land under his Agrarian Reform Act … despite stiff legal and sometimes violent resistance from landlords. State subsidized markets offer necessities to poor consumers for as little as fifty percent of market cost. In 2004, 84% of the poor in Venezuela saw their income increase 33%. Unemployment decreased from 17% in 2004 to 14% by February of 2005.
How has America fared under the Bush Oligarchy?
In a poll conducted in February of 2005, Chavez’ approval rating in his country was 70%. Bush’s approval rating in April of 2005 was a paltry 45%. The numbers demonstrate who is acting in the interest of their electorate, and who is not. Despite victory (by landslide popular votes) in two Presidential elections and the recall, Bush still questions Chavez’ legitimacy. Tremendous controversy surrounded both of Bush’s presidential “victories” and he lost the popular vote in 2000.
Who is in a position to question whom?
Since the Bush Oligarchy came to power, over 1,600 Americans have died in an imperialistic war which the Neocons initiated by flagrant lies. The Patriot Act placed stunning restrictions on the civil liberties of Americans as Bush and the Neocons leveraged the fear inspired by 9/11. Theocracy has crept into what is left of America ’s democracy through Bush’s “faith based initiatives.”
Corporate interests predominate over the welfare of individuals. At $5.15 per hour, the pitifully low minimum wage has not increased since 1997. Organized labor continues to weaken as union membership has declined to about 12% of the workforce. Greedy, profiteering corporations like Wal-Mart grow exponentially as they strip-mine the American economy. 45 million Americans do not have health insurance and the Oligarchs are deepening the problem by slashing Medicaid’s budget.
Under Bush, the wealth gap has become a chasm … the top 1% of Americans own 40% of the nation’s assets, and lay claim to as much wealth as the bottom 95%. The American government is infested with Neocon disciples of Leo Strauss like Paul Wolfowitz and Karl Rove. American leaders are driven by a Machiavellian lust for power and practice deceit like an art-form.
Wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth
Treading in deep water in Iraq, America’s Oligarchs do not have the resources to deal with Chavez in their usual ways. He has fostered a close relationship with long-time “enemy of the state” Fidel Castro. Venezuela is the 5th largest oil producer in the world and accounts for 15% of US oil imports. Chavez has led a resurgence in the power of OPEC to influence the world oil market. Under his leadership, oil-rich developing nations are increasingly demanding a just price for their precious resource to enhance the quality of life for their populaces. Having learned to wield oil as an economic weapon to subdue the Neocons, Chavez presents a tremendous challenge for Rumsfeld and company.
Chavez also represents a growing threat to the Neocon agenda to advance the cause of “freedom and liberty” around the globe. His philosophy of government is that of a “new socialism”, which carefully balances democratic principles, a constitution, government intervention in economic matters, and the existence of a private business sector. In contrast, America espouses laissez-faire capitalism and media-induced psychological tyranny masquerading as “freedom and liberty.” As evidenced by the occupation in Iraq, George Bush has vowed not to take “no” for an answer.
Chavez is forcing Bush to face rejection.
Bush’s media loyalists like Fox have attacked Chavez’ sanity, reputation, competence, and legitimacy. The Neocons have tried to unseat him by supporting a military coup in 2002. Accusations from Chavez, leaks from the CIA, and US history in Latin America all point to a potential CIA assassination attempt against Chavez in the near future. What the Neocons would not give to use their military might to crush Chavez and seize the bountiful oil fields of Venezuela . With Saddam Hussein, the Neocons did not need to throw too much mud to turn public opinion against him. Chavez is another matter. Even the masters of deceit do not lie well enough to discredit him in the court of public opinion. How galling for them that Chavez’ devotion to the poor inspires such fierce loyalty in his supporters, Venezuelan or otherwise.
Undaunted by coups, recall elections, or the $500 million of US military aid to Colombia (his neighbor), Chavez persists in aggressively pursuing his agenda. With unflinching devotion, he works to strengthen his nation, tend to the needs of the poor, and advance his “Bolivarian Revolution.”
To defend his people, he recently purchased military hardware from Russia , which included 100,000 AK 47s and 10 military helicopters. He is utilizing PDVSA, the state-run oil titan, to finance his social programs for the poor.
To the tune of $4 billion per year (drawn from a company with estimated profits of $6.5 billion), Chavez is making good on his promise to share the oil wealth of his nation. He is expanding his profit base by finding new markets for Venezuelan oil in Brazil and China. Chavez has increased the royalties that foreign oil companies (like Chevron) pay to Venezuela. Having raised them from 1% to 16.6%, he is now pushing for 30%. Following the example of Simon Bolivar, the liberator of South America from European powers, Chavez’s ultimate goal is to form a coalition of independent South American nations to reject US leadership and intervention.
“Hello, Mr. President”
Despite drawing the wrath of the Bush administration for his courageous defiance of their insidious agenda, Chavez remains faithful to his causes. In his weekly addresses to his constituents called “Hello, Mr. President,” he continues to express his views opposing the American government quite candidly:
[US government advisers and planners are] “not only planning the death of the world, but are executing it. They are killing the world, our world, and our grandchildren’s world…..(in reference to US imperialistic and environmentally damaging policies)
“….because we have generals, commanders and soldiers who are patriots, and who will not bend their knees before the US empire; they know that there are people with a conscience who they will not be able too confuse through the media they control.”
“Look at the example of Iraq; there was a campaign against Saddam Hussein, accusing him of having chemical weapons, accusing him of being a menace, by presenting evidence that resulted to be false, to justify the aggression.”
….”poisoned medicine…” and “That is what is killing the peoples of Latin America….This is the path of destabilization, of violence, of war between brothers.” (Chavez’ condemnation of Bush’s capitalist free-trade policies)
The world needs him
Controversial as he may be, Hugo Chavez has spine, and he has stood by his devotion to economic justice. He has weathered multiple political storms. Regardless of the lies perpetrated by the Neocons and their lackeys in the media, Chavez ascended to the presidency, and has maintained office, through legitimate means. Too little time has passed to judge the long-term efficacy of his economic or political ideologies, but his ideals are admirable, and he has done much to enhance the quality of life for the poor of his nation.
His successes notwithstanding, Mr. Chavez has many forces working against him. His fortunes are inextricably linked to the volatile crude oil market. He inherited an economy that was in shambles, and robust economic health is still years away for Venezuela. The wealth gap remains wide despite his programs that have provided desperately needed assistance to the impoverished.
Chavez bears the universal burden of being human, all too human, and could fall prey to the corruption that often accompanies power.
As a substantial obstacle to Neocon expansionism in Latin America , Chavez has a highly visible target painted on his back. He is in the cross-hairs of a well-armed and experienced hunter. It is a steep grade, but Chavez has the juice to keep climbing.
Bush and his Neocons have the deck stacked in their favor.
However, Hugo Chavez is no light-weight and will not go down easily.
America’s Oligarchs need to learn their place in the world community, and Chavez appears poised to teach them.
The real hope for the perpetuation of human civilization is the success of Chavez, and others like him.
We need leaders who will champion the rights of the poor and the plebeians. Strauss’s disciples offer humanity the misery of perpetual war, poverty for the masses, tyranny, and desecration of our planet. Bush and his Neocons long to awaken from their nightmare in Latin America, but fortunately for the plebeians, their real angst has just begun.
Thank you, Mr. Chavez!