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VENEZUELA: 'Viva Chavez': A exile's view from the US

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  • Walter Lippmann
    From Green Left Weekly, June 7, 2006. VENEZUELA: Viva Chavez’: A exile’s view from the US Coral Wynter & Jim McIlroy, Caracas Oscar Rodriguez* is a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 4, 2006
      From Green Left Weekly, June 7, 2006.

      VENEZUELA: 'Viva Chavez’: A exile’s view from the US

      Coral Wynter & Jim McIlroy, Caracas

      Oscar Rodriguez* is a Venezuelan exile who currently lives in the
      United States, but he visiting his homeland and is full of hope for
      the “Bolivarian revolution”, which he had observed developing over
      the past decade.

      He is normally resides in Miami, Florida, where the supporters of
      President Hugo Chavez are in a minority among the Venezuelan
      expatriate population. Chavez supporters are forced to live “in the
      closet” by the terrorist threats of the Venezuelan right wing and
      their anti-Castro Cuban allies, who are backed by the US government.

      Rodriguez spoke to Green Left Weekly about his aspirations for the
      future of his homeland. He is involved in the Bolivarian Circles in
      the US, which are attempting to support the Venezuelan revolution and
      publicise the truth about Venezuela under difficult circumstances.

      “In my youth in the late 1950s, I grew up during the dictatorship of
      Perez Jimenez”, he explained to GLW. Marcos Perez Jimenez ruled
      Venezuela from 1952 to 1958.

      “Through contact with the clandestine parties I began to learn how
      horrible the repression was at that time”, Rodriguez said. “There was
      no freedom. I started to be involved in the left movement, and began
      to be part of their cause. While I was still in high school, a number
      of my political friends 'disappeared’.”

      After the Jimenez regime fell in 1958 and Romulo Betancourt was
      elected, “the repression soon started again”. Rodriguez recounted how
      when Richard Nixon, who was US vice-president at the time, visited
      Caracas in 1960, “he found almost the entire city against him”. “He
      was pelted with tomatoes and other objects. He returned to Washington
      and ordered Betancourt to crack down on the Communist Party and the
      other leftist parties. At that time, the Venezuelan CP was the
      biggest left party in the whole of Latin America.

      “We members of leftist groups gathered in secret to denounce the
      repression, which seemed worse under 'democracy’ than under the
      dictatorship. Many of my friends were in prison or disappeared. I
      felt that my country was sinking into a 'black hole’.”

      So in 1964, Rodriguez left for the United States. “I was away for 45
      years, hoping every day for the changes that are going on today in
      the Bolivarian revolution. I call Chavez the saviour of my country.”

      Rodriguez said it was “like torture” to live in exile, “waiting every
      day for change to happen”. But, “finally today, I am extremely happy
      to be back in the most democratic country in the world. Just read the
      Bolivarian constitution to see the truth of this [Venezuela adopted a
      new constitution in 1999 that enshrined the principle of
      participatory democracy].”

      “I understand the difficulties facing this revolution, flowing from
      the results of 45 years of repression and economic destruction”,
      Rodriguez told GLW. “Chavez came just in time to save the country
      from bankruptcy.”

      He said that the revolution inherited corruption, and class
      differences remain. “The revolution requires discipline and constant
      checks for it to survive. All that we are looking for in this
      revolution is to live on this earth in happiness, peace and social
      justice.

      Rodriguez was relieved to escape the repression of Venezuela in the
      1960s, but in the US he “soon noticed the discrimination faced by
      Black and Latino people”. “I arrived in Charleston, South Carolina,
      where the majority of the population is Black. They faced
      discrimination from the police and [on] the buses, and restaurants
      were still racially divided in the 1960s.” He said that racist
      discrimination still exists in the US, “but in a more sophisticated
      form now”.

      “I was not involved in political life in the US, but listened to
      Radio Havana every day for news of home”, he explained. “I never
      quite adjusted to the North American way of life, to be truthful.”

      After Chavez was elected in 1998, “I started coming back to Venezuela
      to enjoy this chaotic, but vibrant, society, undergoing revolutionary
      change ...

      “The majority of the Venezuelan community in the US, especially in
      Florida where I currently live, is against Chavez, mostly because of
      mass-media distortion and manipulation. We supporters of Chavez are
      largely 'in the closet’.” But he believes that “the majority of the
      US population are in favour of him, including Latinos in general
      living in the states. During the Washington DC demonstration in
      November 2005 against the Iraq war, there were four blocks of people
      for Chavez, carrying banners and placards, and chanting slogans like
      'Chavez for president’.”

      The “Bolivarian Circles”, set up in the US and other countries to
      support the Venezuelan revolution, have frequent meetings to discuss
      the latest news from Venezuela and Cuba. “In Florida, they also
      organise public forums with guest speakers and show movies about the
      Venezuelan revolution in some universities and hotels. They need to
      provide strong security on these meetings, because of threats from
      anti-Chavez forces.”

      Rodriguez concluded: “In the time that I have followed the
      revolutionary process in Venezuela, I have come to believe that it
      will take at least 25 years to bring a new generation to fully
      understand the great freedom and democracy that this country now
      offers to its people. However, I notice the great support the
      Venezuelan people have for this revolution, and believe that the old
      system of government will never come back.”

      [*Name changed.]
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