VENEZUELA: 'Viva Chavez': A exile's view from the US
- From Green Left Weekly, June 7, 2006.
VENEZUELA: 'Viva Chavez: A exiles 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.