Thursday, November 24, 2005
I have been an admirer of the Venezuelan supremo Hugo Chavez for many years now. His recent moves to provide cheap heating oil to BPL US citizens for the winter of 2005 is a major political master stroke that only reinforces my respect for his political acumen. What we are witnessing is a paradigm shift in the way the world works. Aid has always been a tool of leverage. In this case Chavez is using it to leverage open the minds of the recipients. What is being made clear to the US electorate is that their neo-liberal rulers don't give a whit as to the effects of winter on those who cannot afford the rates. It is to be noted that the war in Iraq has been exploited by the US oil majors to harvest windfall profits, and the same war is arguably the cause of this shortage. For the small subsidy on 12 million gallons of heating oil Chavez is able to underline the lacunae of the current global financial system and buy mindshare. To me this is like taking a leaf off the Marshall plan that "rebuilt" Europe and ensure the creation of a large beneficiary population within the zone of conflict.
What makes this even more interesting is that it is probably the first credible challenge to the Monroe doctrine of the US, that supposes that the entire Americas, especially meso and south America are a kind of US protectorate and will serve the purpose of a colony for the US. (This brings to mind Kipling rather honest appraisal of colonies as " A source of raw material and a market for our manufactured goods.") If and this is a big if, Chavez is not deposed, shot or imprisoned for "crimes against humanity", the scuttling of the Mar del plata economic summit is probably the tip of the iceberg.
Of course this is one side of the picture (the majoritarian one, and hey isn't that what democracy is about), there is no lack of Chavez haters (predominantly from the ex-ruling class of Venezuela which is remarkably articulate and well networked if a bit lacking in credibility). Some choice counter opinions here.