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Hugo Chávez: a leader of the extreme Right

By Gustavo Coronel

24.04.06 | Left and Right were terms coined in the 1790's and had to do with the location where certain political groups were seated at the French Legislative Assembly, royalists on the right and anti-royalists on the left. Other terms such as liberal were coined to define specific, time bound political situations in a country, in this case Spain. The term conservative is loosely applied to, and has to do, vaguely, with preservation of tradition, political decentralization and less government intervention, while the term liberal generally has to do with freedom, tolerance and acceptance of change. These terms do not have to become opposites, since a person with love of social tradition can be, at the same time, tolerant of economic change.

Today we keep applying these terms in a very loose and inaccurate manner. Many have defined Saddam Hussein as a Leftist when, in fact, he tried to be a monarch in Iraq, therefore a Rightist in the original sense. Václav Havel was termed a Rightist because he opposed the Communist Party in his native Czechoslovakia but the truth is that he was the symbol of freedom against the pretensions of absolute (monarchic) power attempted by the communists.

So, what is in a name? Hugo Chávez in Venezuela has been defined as a Leftist leader. And yet, he behaves like a monarch in times when monarchy is out of fashion. He favors extreme centralization of authority, a trademark of dictators. He promotes the exclusion of the middle class and of the political dissenters, while claiming to speak for the poor and promoting a policy of handouts to keep them contented (the strategy followed by populist demagogue Juan Perón in Argentina or abusive military ruler Velasco Alvarado in Peru). These are all fascist techniques, in the manner of Italy's Benito Mussolini, a well-known representative of the extreme, totalitarian Right. Chávez has exercised total political control in the country, a style closer to Stalin's when ruling over the collapsed Soviet Union than to the liberal democracies of the West.

This style of Chávez is, of course, not "Left" but "Right." Chávez has gone as far as trying to justify the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City, arguing that this was the result of American crimes elsewhere. In taking this stance, he aligned himself with Rightist extremists such as Hebe de Bonafini of Argentina and the American Nazi Party.

This matter of political labels would have no real significance except that there is new enthusiasm for Chávez on the part of the U.S. "Left," those thousands of people who went to pick coffee for the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, collected money for Fidel Castro or hate George Bush, and who candidly believe that Chávez represents the new hope of the oppressed and the poor in the Western hemisphere. The Venezuelan Embassy in Washington is recruiting these old and young hippies in droves, to serve as the shock troops of what Chávez sees as an "invasion" of the U.S., by his revolutionary ideological forces. Chávez means to use all the organizations ripe to be harvested: the afro-American groups that feel they are fighting racism in Venezuela (while actually promoting it), the owners of apartment buildings in Boston and other U.S. cities where Chávez is distributing subsidized oil (at the expense of the Venezuelan poor), the so-called Bolivarian Circles subsidized heavily with our Venezuelan money and, generally, all the mercenaries he can find.

I am sure that the U.S. flower children that are now paying Global Exchange to visit Venezuela would be shocked to hear that they are supporting a Rightist political leader. But this is what is happening. Hugo Chávez is in the same league with Mussolini, Perón, Velasco Alvarado, Mugabe, Castro, Gaddafi, Kim Il-sung and Hussein. Some of these leaders started out as radical reformers but all have ended up as tyrants, despots and oppressors of their people.

The innocent flower children have been had, once more.

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