Monday, December 06, 2004

Raven has been busy translating an article for me from yesterday's (Sunday) paper:

From La Jornada, December 5, 2004 (


Caracas. “Some day Mexico will return to Latin America”, said the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, during the event “In Defense of Humanity”, and added: “Any government that represents its people’s interests is going to be strongly pressured.” The head of state declared himself villista and Zapatista, and exclaimed “Viva Mexico!”

Responding to questions from Mexican participant Gerardo Fernandez Casanova, the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution indicated that Mexico is very important in the construction of a Latin American community, and that Mexico has looked more toward the north and must look, sooner or later, toward the Southern Cone because of its culture and history.

--The Empire Strikes Back—

The most serious threat to humanity and the well-being of the world today is the immense power of the United States to destroy the planet with the huge quantity of nuclear arms it has accumulated, affirmed Ramsey Clark, US attorney general during the governments of Kennedy and Johnson. Clark added that the problem is a military power superior to that of the rest of the nations put together.

The second speaker designated to present in the workshop of the “Gathering of Intellectuals and Artists in Defense of Humanity”, the lawyer spoke “from the belly of the beast”, assuring the participants that the world would be much better if the people of the US had better criteria at the moment of choosing their leaders.

Remembering Martin Luther King, he indicated that the principal purveyors of violence in the world is “my country·, and added that the man with a dream never imagined how violence was going to increase in his country in the years after his death.

The former cabinet member recounted a long list of aggressions by the Bush administration against other nations as well as against US citizens. Other nations, he said, have the right to be free of the threat of invasion by the US.

Clark indicated in detail how the decisions of the UN are not respected by the US government and how they wanted to avoid the creation of the International Criminal Court, but because they couldn’t they refused to accept its jurisdiction.

He spoke very dramatically about the situation in which prisoners are living in Guantanamo. According to him, the message which the superpower is sending to the world is unequivocal: “He who dares to challenge us, just see what we are doing in the military base.”

He denounced that the bellicose offensive of Bush has provoked crimes against humanity, both by the use of “intelligent” bombs and the use of depleted uranium. It has also caused the celebration of torture.

Clark referred to the invasion and devastation of Iraq, and the terrible and emblematic destruction of the city of Fallujah, converted into a tragic symbol of this moment in history.

Presenting himself as “a lawyer who is not distanced from crime and delinquency”, he profoundly lamented the invasion in Haiti, just after the country had celebrated 200 years since the abolition of slavery, and the replacement of an elected government by a puppet regime. “The Haitian people”, he remarked, “are those who have suffered the most.”

From his point of view, the difference between what happened in Haiti in 2004 and what happened in Venezuela in 2002—year of the coup against Hugo Chavez—“is that in 2002 what the US wanted to happen didn’t work.”

Finally, he described the president of Venezuela as a good man, an effective leader very difficult to find in other governments and who is able to give his people well-being, health and education.

--The Chicken and the Cook—

The goal of the workshop was to establish a dialog the participants in the event and the President of Venezuela. It was kicked off by the writer Luis Brito Garcia, holder of the National Award for Literature, who gave a detailed account of the tasks necessary to defend humanity today: stop the horror of financial capitalism, recognize the right of countries to decide their destiny, resist the imposition of one form of thinking, stimulate a liberating economy, insure knowledge for everyone, vindicate the principle of people’s sovereignty, avoid that the monopoly of information be converted into the monopoly of political power and defend memory. He concluded his presentation by reminding the participants that the nightmare lasts only as long as they want it to.

Brito Garcia also read a letter that Eduardo Galeano sent to the meeting, in which the Uruguayan writer wrote: “the culture of dignity is the answer to the culture of fear dominant in the world today.”

Galeano was also remembered by Adolfo Perez Esquivel (Nobel Peace Prize recipient), another of the speakers in the workshop. As an example of the situation in which humanity is living, the Argentinian defender of human rights recounted a story to the author of The Open Veins of Latin America during a trip to Italy: “a cook called a chicken, some ducks and some piglets to a meeting in the kitchen. The Cook told them:

“I have called you together to ask you a question—with which sauce do you want to be cooked?”

The poor animals were stupefied. Finally, the chicken responded:

“I don’t want to be cooked.”

“No, no”, the cook replied. “That’s out of the question. The only thing you can choose is the sauce in which you want to be cooked.”

What can prevent all of us being cooked, added Perez Esquivel, is resistance in order to construct another possible world, the building of a project of life instead of death and the construction of new spaces for freedom.

Faithful to the narrative style he chose for his presentation, the Nobel remembered the recommendation of a council of elders of an African nation: If you don’t know where you’re going, go back to try to find where you came from. He concluded by asking the participants, “Do we know where we’re going? What are our roots?”

The last person to speak before Hugo Chavez Argentinian journalist and congressperson Miguel Bonaso made some practical proposals to follow up the event.

He suggested globalizing the resistance in defense of humanity, creating a networking group under the host’s responsibility, creating a foundation to produce informative and pedagogical materials, publishing a weekly newsletter, naming an advisory committee and encouraging the formation of national capitals for the network.

He repeated an issue that was discussed in various roundtables during the event: breaking the information hold of CNN in the region, confronting the media monopolies and creating a Latin American television network.

--The Truncated Insurgency—

To reiterate his call for mounting an offensive in defense of humanity, President Chavez gave a recount of some recent actions of his government. He proudly told the participants about a scholarship program which awards the equivalent of 100 dollars a month to half a million students.

Wearing a military shirt, he announced that poverty and misery are the biggest problems in the world, and in order to combat them “we must give power to the poor people. They are their own emancipators.”

He read and analyzed in detail the most recent survey by Latinobarometro in regard to support for democracy in Latin America. The results showed an ample support for the Venezuelan government and for democracy in the country, as well as the rejection of the use of military solutions. Chavez abstained from making commentaries about the figures he read which showed different attitudes and opinions from those documented in other nations of the region.

As is his custom in public presentations, he referred amply to the life and struggle of Simon Bolivar to point out a moral: the revolution which Bolivar headed almost 200 years ago is still unfinished. What is being lived today in Venezuela and other countries of the region is the backlash of this truncated insurgency.

To close the workshop, dozens of participants from the 52 countries represented gave speeches, in many cases to express their solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution.

At that point, in the name of 39 US citizens present in the event, a delegate read a document in which they demanded an end to the aggressions by the US government against the democratically elected government of this South American nation and expressed their solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution.

A big part of the community of progressive intellectuals has declared its love for a process with which only a few months ago they marked a distance. The honeymoon has begun.

Postscript by the translator: In order to begin funding the Network in Defense of Humanity, President Chavez has donated the Kadhafi Prize for Human Rights of 225.000 dollars which he recently received in Libya.