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Venezuela's former UN ambassador speaks out at NYU

By Alexandra Beech,

On Wednesday evening, Venezuela’s former UN Ambassador Milos Alcalay gave a presentation at New York University. Before his talk, he showed a video of the atrocities committed by the National Guard against ordinary Venezuelan citizens on February 27th. The video included bodies pierced with rubber bullets, infants with tear gas inhalation, a woman being savagely beaten by the National Guard, and many others running or being beaten with rifles.

After viewing these images, it is a wonder that anyone in New York could support Chavez. Yet some still do, and they showed their support either by asking questions or by standing outside the building shouting at those who entered and exited.

I’m a student here, claimed the first young woman, when the questions and answers session began.

Holding up a notebook, she asked Ambassador Alcalay why he had failed to report the thousands of deaths that took place in 1989 during El Caracazo.

Another young man, a reporter for the pro-Chavez site Aporrea, (though he only identified himself as a “student” during the event), asked Ambassador Alcalay why he had failed to report the deaths of 76 peasant leaders who had been assassinated during the past five years, presumably by paramilitaries.

While Ambassador Alcalay said that he had reported and expressed concerned over the deaths, the pro-government activists seemed less interested in his responses, and more interested in their questions. Forgetting, of course, that only until last Wednesday, he represented the Chavez government at the UN.

The third pro-government activist asked Ambassador Milos directly about the video. “Did you not hear”, she wondered, “about a man who was in prison and complained of human rights abuses, but a hidden camera later revealed that he had cracked his own skull open?” She then asked him about how images can be manipulated to promote an agenda, an issue that for me comes to mind only when viewing the fiction piece, “The Revolution Will not be Televised.”

Slowly, I started to understand these Stepford Children who share New York with me. In order to exist in their world, they must believe that the images of torture and repression surfacing from Venezuela have all been manipulated by the evil media, that people shoot themselves with their own rubber bullets, crack their own skulls open, electrocute themselves, bruise their own bodies beyond recognition, and worst off all, kill their children with their own rifles. When former PDVSA Intevep manager Jose Vilas was killed by the National Guard, the government said he had been shot by the opposition.

When another pro-government activist brought up how the CIA has financed all of Chavez’s woes, including his April 11th ouster, Ambassador Alcalay made a poignant statement: “We, as Venezuelans, refuse to take responsibility for our own actions. We always want to blame someone else for our problems. At first, the Chavez government blamed everything on the ‘Fourth Republic’, [his term for the governments spanning the forty years prior to Chavez’s mandate]. After his April 11 ouster and the general strike, he started to blame his problems on the ‘coup-plotting opposition.’ And now, it was the CIA and Bush.”

When is Chavez going to look in the mirror and ask himself why he has failed so miserably? The opposition does not reject him because his lips are large, as ruling party lawmaker Nicolas Maduro recently suggested in New York. They don’t reject him because of his skin tone or hair texture, as he has convinced Danny Glover and the TransAfrica Forum. They don’t reject him because he speaks directly to the poor in slang, as Brian Ellsworth suggests in the New York Times in “The Oil Company as Social Worker”. Let’s not forget that he was elected with the same physical and personality traits in 1998.

The opposition rejects Chavez because he has violated the country’s trust. He passed laws with no public participation. He rotted the country’s military to the core, giving money to generals who enriched themselves with funds intended for schools and public education. He replaced the old corrupt politicians with new (and hungrier) corrupt politicians, willing to bend the laws to serve his political needs. He violated the freedom of expression by inciting violence against the media when it became critical of him, forgetting that the private media had also supported him during his campaign. He incited violence against anyone who opposed him. When opposition organizations sought support from the outside as the inside crumbled around them, he accused them of plotting coups against him, demonstrating a total ignorance of the plurality that marks healthy democracies. When the opposition march headed towards the presidential palace on April 11th, it was his followers and mysterious snipers who shot from a bridge and buildings that only his personnel could access. It was his international followers who made a video distorting the events of that day in his favor. I wonder what a video of the last few weeks would look like.

The opposition rejects Chavez because he represents everything that is wrong with the country, and nothing that is right. He feeds the poor with food and hope to maintain their support long enough to remain in power. He turns Venezuelans against their fellow Venezuelans. He keeps Venezuela split, instead of united. He distorts the concept of democracy so that his opponents are coup plotters instead of citizens who want to exercise their freedom to sign him out of power. In his paranoid state, every action is a coup, every opponent an enemy to be crushed. Steeped in narcissism, he thinks Venezuela is about him rather than of the millions of Venezuelans who are Venezuela. He uses Castro to control his military and indoctrinate his followers, and allows himself to be used by Castro in support of his “revolution”. A revolution alright, but a revolution that has revolutionized how quickly a country can become extremely poor, desperate, and miserable. His current hero is Mugabe, hardly an example of someone who values freedom and democracy. In fact, the truest racist of all.

The opposition rejects Chavez because he continues to impose himself on the country long after his appointment with history ended. But by blocking the referendum through manipulation and repression, he is finally acknowledging that he is a dictator with no need for a pluralistic, democratic, and free-thinking society. Venezuelans oppose him because they yearn for a free and democratic society, not the structures of the past, but not this volatile state either.

Leaving the event at NYU, a priest said that he was verbally attacked by pro-government protestors outside the building. “A white collar thief”, they screamed. Sadly, he remarked, one of them is the receptionist at the Venezuelan consulate in New York. A symbol of the decadence of Venezuelan politics, the man entrusted to welcome all Venezuelans, instead screams at women and priests for an extra buck. He will likely be congratulated when his boss reads this.

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