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two articles on venezuela's revolutionary foreign policy

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  • Fred Fuentes
    Cuba and Venezuela Advance Anti-Imperialist Foreign Policy Venezuela Rallies International Resistance to U.S./Israeli War, by Suzanne Weiss Venezuela and Cuba
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 18, 2006
      Cuba and Venezuela Advance
      Anti-Imperialist Foreign Policy

      Venezuela Rallies International Resistance
      to U.S./Israeli War, by Suzanne Weiss

      Venezuela and Cuba Promote Solidarity
      and Resistance, by Derrick O'Keefe

      Venezuela Rallies International
      Resistance to U.S./Israeli War

      By Suzanne Weiss

      While Israel invaded and brutally bombarded Lebanon in July, most of
      the world's governments nodded in approval or folded their arms.
      Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, by contrast, roundly denounced
      Israel's aggression against the Lebanese people.

      "It really causes indignation to see how the state of Israel continues
      bombing, killing … with all the power they have, with the support of
      the United States," Chavez said August 21 after a military parade in
      Venezuela's northwestern state of Falcon. "It's hard to explain to
      oneself how nobody does anything to stop this horror."

      Chavez backed up these words with action: Venezuela withdrew its
      ambassador from Israel. On August 4, he declared he is "not interested
      in sharing any business, offices, or anything" with the Israeli state.
      Israel responded by recalling its ambassador to Venezuela on August 7,
      criticizing what it called Chavez's "one-sided policy" and "wild
      slurs."

      The Bolivarian government's actions, strikingly bold and courageous in
      the context of imperialist-dominated world diplomacy, were consistent
      with its foreign policy of defending and aiding countries under
      imperialist attack. Nor did Chavez hesitate to condemn the U.S.
      sponsors of Israeli aggression. "I am telling you with all honesty
      that the hand of the Americans is spurring (Israel) on," he told the
      Arab TV network Al-Jazeera on August 4. The "real threat to the world
      is the imperialistic threat posed by the U.S., and Israel is one of
      its imperialistic instruments in this part of the world."
      Venezuela's Mideast Roots

      Venezuela's stand in the Mideast conflict also reflects the direct
      experience of many of its citizens. About 1.5 million Venezuelans are
      immigrants or descendents of immigrants from Arab countries, many of
      them recent arrivals from Lebanon and Palestine. There are at least
      five deputies of Arab origin in Venezuela's National Assembly and one
      state governor of Lebanese descent. Across Latin America, 17 million
      are of Arab descent, of whom six million are Muslim.

      During July, there were many marches in the streets of Caracas and
      other cities in Venezuela – as well as in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay,
      Colombia – to show solidarity with the Lebanese and Palestinians.

      In 2005, the first Arab-South American Summit, held in Brazil, brought
      together heads of state and representatives of 33 countries. (A U.S.
      request for observer status was denied.) The summit adopted the
      "Declaration of Brasilia" calling for close ties between South America
      and the Arab world, and criticizing Israeli and U.S. aggression
      against Palestinians.

      The solidarity expressed in Brasilia was tested in July this year,
      when member governments of the South American trade pact Mercosur held
      a summit in Cordoba, Argentina. The meeting was also the occasion for
      Venezuela's formal entry into Mercosur. Plans had been laid for the
      signing at the Cordoba conference of a trade agreement between
      Mercosur and Israel. But the Mercosur nations refused to sign the
      accord and instead adopted an official document calling for a
      ceasefire and an end to the attack on Lebanon.

      The Venezuelan president's participation in the Mercosur summit
      doubtless played a role in this decision. And surely the presence of
      Fidel Castro, who came to sign a Cuba-Mercosur trade pact, also
      weighed in the balance. Cuba's solidarity with the victims of Israeli
      government aggression is of long standing, and the island has no
      diplomatic relations with Israel. On June 29, Cuba's Ministry of
      Foreign Affairs condemned Israel's military actions and called for the
      immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israeli troops from all
      occupied territories, the ceasing of state-terror actions by Israel,
      and respect for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
      Venezuela Walks the Talk

      In an August 3 address to the Venezuelan people, Chavez asked
      "everyone in the country to give what we can for this fundraising
      campaign for the reconstruction of Lebanon … destroyed by the
      genocidal and fascist hand of Israel and its masters, the U.S.
      empire."

      In addition, his government pledged to send Lebanon 20,000 tonnes of
      aid to "help alleviate the humanitarian crisis caused by the Israeli
      bombing," dispatching a Boeing 707 full of supplies as a starter.

      Hezbollah representative Mahmoud Komati, told the Latin America-wide
      TV channel TeleSur that Venezuela took measures that were "an example
      for revolutionaries when defending "the oppressed, enslaved and humble
      peoples of the world." (Associated Press, August 8)

      On world television channels one could see Venezuelan flags in
      demonstrations in Beirut, next to Lebanese and Palestinian flags. It
      was also reported that in Gaza and the West Bank city of Ramallah,
      people placed posters of Chavez next to those of Arafat and Che.
      (Al-jazeera, August 18)
      Addressing the Masses

      Israel's war on Lebanon coincided with an eight-nation tour by Chavez
      to discuss south-south cooperation and emphasize the need for a
      "multi-polar world," in which he advocated alliances to tie the
      third-word countries more to each other and break U.S. hegemony.

      Chavez denounced Israel at each stop. He called the Lebanese and
      Palestinians "heroic people" and repeatedly voiced his criticisms of
      Israel over its military offensive in Lebanon.

      During Chavez's visit to Iran, he called for a global coalition to
      combat "the U.S. imperialist monster" and reaffirmed that Venezuela
      would "stand by Iran at any time and under any condition." Iranian
      President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded that Hugo Chavez "one of the
      rare world leaders whose word and deed are the same."

      In Damascus, Chavez received a hero's welcome: thousands of Syrians
      waved banners and Venezuelan flags along the route Chavez took to his
      meeting with Syrian President Hafaz el-Assad. The Syrian government
      daily, Tishrin, described Chavez as "America's enemy number one,
      international leader and the biggest supporter of Arab cause." After a
      meeting with Assad, Chavez said, "We want to cooperate to build a new
      world where states and peoples self-determination are respected."

      While Chavez's official meetings were on a governmental level, his
      words were directed to the masses and had deep resonance throughout
      the Middle East.

      In many prominent Arab newspapers, columnists ask why Arab government
      leaders could not do for Lebanon what a Latin American non-Arab
      non-Muslim leader dared to do. A protest held in Kuwait after
      Venezuela withdrew its ambassador from Israel featured a large placard
      of Chavez that declared him a "true Arab leader."

      The Venezuelan news service Vheadline.com reported on August 6 that it
      had been inundated with email from Arab readers supporting Chavez's
      stand on Israel's war.
      UN Candidacy

      The second Arab-South American Summit took place in Caracas in July,
      with delegations from 15 Arab and 12 South American nations. Among
      other issues, the Summit approved Venezuela's application to join the
      Arab League, which was accepted in September. It also backed bids by
      Venezuela and Egypt for seats on the UN Security Council.

      The U.S. has "stabbed the Middle East peace process in the heart,"
      Chavez said as he left for the Summit. "We see a Security Council
      blocked by the power of the veto, that of the government of the United
      States especially…. If Venezuela could occupy a seat on the council,"
      he continued, it might be able to "contribute modestly towards the
      battle to free the world from the imperialist threat."

      Venezuela's foreign ministry is optimistic it will get the 128 votes
      it needs to gain a UN Security Council seat, despite strong opposition
      by the U.S. government.
      Strategy of Solidarity

      The outspokenly militant spirit of Chavez's comments were frequently
      out of step with the politics of his often conservative governmental
      hosts. In fact, he used a diplomatic platform to address the Third
      World masses, irrespective of the nature of their own governments. It
      is to the masses that he entrusts the cause of 21st century socialism.
      And the popularity of Hugo Chavez in the Mideast reflects new thinking
      among the working masses of these countries.

      Venezuela has taken initial steps toward socialism. Venezuela stands
      as a powerful example that the wealth generated by the oil industry
      can be used to improve the lives of Venezuelans and to aid working
      people in other countries, even as far away as the indigenous and poor
      people of Alaska. This is a contagious example that may not sit well
      with wealthy aristocratic and capitalist rulers in such countries as
      Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and nearby states.

      Behind Hugo Chavez's response to the Lebanon war lies a powerful
      strategic concept. On January 31, 2005, at the World Social Forum in
      Porto Alegre, Brazil, he declared, "It is impossible, within the
      framework of the capitalist system to solve the grave problems of
      poverty of the majority of the world's population." U.S. imperialism
      is not invincible, he said, repeating the words of Jose de san Martin,
      an Argentine independence hero, "Let's be free without caring about
      what anyone else says."

      Chavez's tour of the Middle East and Africa echoed this theme. "If we
      don't make that better world possible," he said, "if we fail through
      the rifles of the U.S. Marines, and through Mr. Bush's murderous
      bombs; if there is no coincidence and organization necessary in the
      South to resist the offensive of neo-imperialism, and the Bush
      doctrine is imposed upon the world, the world will be destroyed."
      (Granma, September 5)

      As he told Al-Jazeera August 4, "We must defeat imperialism in this
      century, so that this elite will not annihilate the world."
      Venezuela and Cuba Promote
      Solidarity and Resistance

      By Derrick O'Keefe

      This December, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is widely expected to
      win a convincing re-election, with his approval rating soaring and the
      Bolivarian Revolution bringing material gains to the country's poor
      majority. Nevertheless, the opposition is preparing a major campaign
      against Chavez, aiming to heap scorn on the Revolution's
      internationalism.

      In August, opposition candidates announced that they would forgo
      scheduled primaries to unite behind Manuel Rosales, the governor of
      the state of Zulia. Rosales, the candidate of Venezuela's oligarchy,
      has put a nationalist, populist spin on his criticism of Chavez.
      Unveiling the campaign slogan ¡Ni el imperio, ni el barbudo! (Neither
      the [U.S.] Empire, nor the [Cuban] bearded one!), Rosales stated, "No
      more dollars to any foreign country as long as there are slums in
      Venezuela, as long as there is unemployment and hunger." [1]

      With an opposition discredited by their ties to the ancien regime of
      neo-liberal austerity and by successive failed counter-revolutions –
      the April 2002 coup, the "oil strike" in the winter of 2002-2003 and
      the August 2004 referendum – those campaigning against Chavez appear
      set to focus much of their criticism on the Revolution's foreign
      policy. Unable to openly criticize the redistributive measures taken
      by the Chavez government too harshly, Rosales' strategy will be to
      demonize the Cuban government with which Venezuela has close
      relations, and to stoke chauvinism by attacking Venezuela's foreign
      aid. This strategy's prospects are difficult to predict, and Chavez's
      popularity has not yet suffered for his alliance with Cuba. In fact,
      poor Venezuelans have benefited greatly from the Cuban foreign aid
      programs that Caracas has now joined and supplemented.

      An examination of the foreign policy of Venezuela and its regional
      allies is an important part of understanding the dynamics of the
      December elections and the larger social struggles taking place
      regionally. It also helps to counter to steady stream of
      disinformation coming out of Washington and the corporate media in
      North America about Venezuela's foreign policy, their alliance with
      Cuba, and their aid to movements throughout Latin America.
      ALBA's Challenge to the Empire

      So-called "free trade" agreements like NAFTA and the FTAA (Free Trade
      Agreement of the Americas) have always been in reality agreements to
      maximize the power of capital over labour across borders, designed to
      minimize restrictions on corporate power. The Bolivarian Alternative
      for the Americas, whose Spanish acronym "ALBA" means "dawn," formally
      signed in December 2004 by the governments of Cuba and Venezuela, is a
      comprehensive challenge to agreements like the FTAA. ALBA proposes a
      framework for Latin American regional integration that encourages
      economies of social solidarity, genuinely fair trade, and cooperation
      on a number of levels. A joint declaration issued at an April 2005
      conference for the implementation of ALBA stated this perspective:

      We fully agree that the ALBA will not become a reality with
      mercantilist ideas or the selfish interests of business profitability
      or national benefit to the detriment of other peoples. [2]

      The ALBA signatories' vision for a future Latin America was given an
      important boost with the December 2005 election of Evo Morales in
      Bolivia. At the end of April 2006, Morales traveled to Havana to sign
      Bolivia into ALBA. Concrete measures now being taken to implement
      ALBA's goals include, among others: elimination of tariffs between the
      three countries, cooperation on literacy and health care programs
      including HIV treatment and optometry programs, and energy technology
      and resource sharing.

      The ALBA agreements can be viewed as the codification of a
      revolutionary vision for Latin America in confrontation with U.S.
      imperialism. For Rosales and Venezuela's elites, this foreign policy
      is not just a "wedge issue" where they believe they can score some
      electoral points against Chavez; it is also a serious threat to their
      long-term interests. What is less easy to understand, however, is why
      the activities being undertaken to implement ALBA are coming under
      criticism from some socialist forces internationally.
      Left Critics of ALBA

      The leading role of Cuba in ALBA is the target of criticism in a
      recent article by Chris Harman, a leading member of the British
      Socialist Workers Party. He describes Cuba's international solidarity
      as a mechanism to curry favour with capitalist governments and to
      quell revolutionary movements:

      The Cuban government itself has long seen mass movements in other
      countries as little more than a means of putting pressure on
      established capitalist governments to establish friendlier relations
      with Cuba…

      Dressing up the commercial exchange of Cuban doctors for
      Venezuelan oil as an act of "socialist solidarity" is then used to
      attempt to derail revolutionary possibilities today just as the
      exchange of Cuban sugar for Russian oil was 46 years ago. [3]

      Harman does not mention ALBA explicitly, but Cuba's socialist
      solidarity in Latin America is a concretization of the ALBA vision
      shared with Venezuela.

      The sugar analogy here is faulty, to say the least. Cuban teachers and
      doctors are surely commodities of a qualitatively different sort than
      sugar. To take only the most obvious and salient difference: Socially
      conscious doctors and teachers willing to serve the poor and
      marginalized for little or no financial reward are exceedingly
      difficult to produce at the early stages of a process of social
      transformation. Cuba's infusion of these health and education workers
      has made possible huge strides forward for the revolutionary process
      in Venezuela, and now in Bolivia as well. In a recent interview,
      Bolivian President Evo Morales described the aid received since his
      inauguration eight months ago:

      Fidel helps us a great deal. He has donated seven eye clinics and
      20 basic hospitals. Cuban doctors have already performed 30,000 free
      cataract operations for Bolivians. Five thousand Bolivians from poor
      backgrounds are studying medicine at no charge in Cuba. [4]

      The scope of the human capital deployed by Cuba is indeed staggering.
      Le Monde Diplomatique recently profiled the medical internationalism
      of Cuba, explaining how the island's human resources are now being
      supplemented by Venezuelan technology and financing:

      There are currently some 14,000 Cuban doctors working in poor
      areas of Venezuela. The two governments have also set up Operation
      Milagro (miracle) which, during the first 10 months of 2005, gave free
      treatment to restore the eyesight of almost 80,000 Venezuelans,
      transferring those suffering from cataracts and glaucoma to Cuba for
      operations. More widely, the project offers help to anyone in Latin
      America or the Caribbean affected by blindness or other eye problems.
      Venezuela provides the funding; Cuba supplies the specialists, the
      surgical equipment and the infrastructure to care for patients during
      their treatment in Cuba. [5]

      One would have to be suffering from a certain schematic blindness to
      describe this cooperation as part of an effort to "derail" Venezuela's
      transformative social process. Venezuela's foreign policy is now
      thoroughly integrated with Cuba's internationalism, and this has
      extremely positive implications for the entire region's prospects.
      ALBA is part of a conscious and coordinated effort to promote economic
      integration and cooperation in Latin America, not a to prop up
      capitalist power but to build unity and strength against the imperial
      centre in North America.
      Axis of Evil or of Hope?

      Chavez, for his part, has never attempted to conceal his admiration
      for the Cuban Revolution; in recent weeks, for instance, he has made
      two highly publicized visits to the bedside of Fidel Castro, who has
      been recovering from an emergency intestinal surgery. It is perhaps
      the fear of the combination of Venezuela's oil power with Cuba's human
      resources that prompted the far right-wing National Review to run a
      recent hysterical cover story about the "real Axis of Evil." [6]

      Venezuela's potential to become something of an "anti-Saudi Arabia" –
      a regional power spreading oil wealth to bolster progressive causes
      and movements – extends even to the possibility of intervening to
      assist the poor within the United States of America. Over the past
      year, Chavez has signed agreements with U.S. state governments to
      provide preferential prices for heating oil to poor communities,
      including in places as unlikely as Maine. (Surely no critic on the
      Left would assert that this is an effort to prop up the capitalist
      regime in the United States?)

      What is critical about the emerging 'Axis of Hope'
      (Cuba-Venezuela-Bolivia), as author Tariq Ali dubs it in a forthcoming
      book, is that it shows that a different foreign policy is possible.
      Given a revolutionary mass upsurge and a successful struggle for
      government, it is possible to wield the power of the state to the
      purpose of technology transfer, cooperation in health and education,
      and the larger process of integration and unity against the prevailing
      neo-liberal economic order. This example will certainly be spotlighted
      at this week's Summit of the Non-Alignment Movement in Havana, Cuba.

      The global outlook of the process, it should be noted, has developed
      together with the consciousness of its protagonists, the poor and
      working people of Venezuela. The internationalism of the Bolivarian
      Revolution is, then, much more than just a good idea of the
      leadership, although it tends to sometimes be understood that way, as
      seen in the growing popularity in recent weeks of Hugo Chavez across
      many Arab countries for his strident denunciation of the Israeli
      aggression against Lebanon.

      This example from Latin America can allow us all to think about
      fighting for real social change and for foreign policies that seek
      genuine international cooperation among the world's peoples to fight
      the scourges of poverty and Empire.

      Notes

      [1] "Heading for presidential elections." ElUniversal.com, August 26, 2006.

      [2] "An alternative to the FTAA begins its implementation."
      Venezuelanalysis.com, September 7, 2006.

      [3] "Cuba behind the myths," by Chris Harman. International Socialist
      Review, Issue 111, 2006.

      [4] "Capitalism has only hurt Latin America: Evo Morales interviewed
      by Spiegel." Znet, September 4, 2006.

      [5] "Cuba exports health," by Hernando Calvo Ospina. Le Monde
      Diplomatique, August, 2006.

      [6] "Latin America's terrible two: Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez
      constitute an axis of evil," by Otto J. Reich. National Review, April
      11, 2005.
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