Saturday, June 23, 2012

(HERALD) When democracy becomes defiance

When democracy becomes defiance
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 22:49

IN December 2005, CITGO, the Houston-based subsidiary of PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owned national oil company, flighted a full-page advert in major US newspapers with a screaming header “How Venezuela Is Keeping the Home Fires Burning in Massachusetts.”

The advert was about a programme initiated by Hugo Chavez’s government to sell heating oil at discounted prices to low-income communities in Boston, the South Bronx and other parts of the United States. This was of course an ironic gesture in the strained relations between Washington and Caracas.

The background to this development was an initiative by a group of US senators who decided to send a letter to nine major oil companies requesting them to donate a portion of their record profits to help poor Boston residents to cover their bills. Ironically, the only response came from CITGO, eliciting stinging criticism from US politicians and a legion of commentators who accused Chavez of overlooking the needy people in his homeland Venezuela in pursuit of illicit political ends, sought by cheaply reaching out to desperate US citizens.

This of course is unlike USAID which runs purely humanitarian programmes across the world, regardless of the fact that there are desperate and needy people in the United States. Even Britain can afford to give Malawians hundreds of millions of pounds in the midst of a crumbling economy back home, a purely humanitarian commitment righteously inspired by the genuine charity of the white man towards a hopeless black population. There is no pursuit of illicit political ends whatsoever in these cases and Lady Banda of Malawi is convinced about this.

Chavez’s oil heating programme became a scathing challenge to Washington’s planners of grand strategy, following as it did the noisy protests against George W. Bush when he visited Argentina to attend the Summit of the Americas in November 2005.

Chavez’s help for desperate and poor Americans was like salt to a festering wound, coming at a time the Southern hemisphere began its triumphant fallout with the

US, with left-centre governments taking power almost all the way throughout South and Central America. Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador are triumphantly leading the efforts at independent nationalism against US hegemony in the hemisphere.
This has been compounded by the increasing economic integration of Latin American states, further strengthened by the South-South co-operation featuring major powers like Brazil, South Africa and India, as well as the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) alliance.

China has made significant inroads in the acquisition of raw materials from countries like Chile and Venezuela and the dependency of Latin American countries on the US has drastically reduced in the last decade, a development not so impressive for Washington foreign policy planners.

The major headache for Washington in the Americas is Venezuela, a net provider of 15 percent of US oil imports, whose leader President Chavez is after the kind of independence defined by the US as defiance.

When democracy results in the empowering of local people, it becomes defiance for those that define democracy as the dependency of lesser people on the benevolence of profiteering Western investors.

Right now the United States is so distressed over countries like Zimbabwe and Venezuela for their stubborn pursuance of people-oriented policies at the expense of

profiteering Western corporations, nationalising industries and refusing Western corporations free access to their natural resources.

Despite repeatedly winning free and fair elections in Venezuela, Chavez continues to be labelled an authoritarian and a dictator by the West, facing unprecedented scathing attacks from a ruthlessly hostile Western media.

The rise of Venezuela under the leadership of Hugo Chavez at a time Europe is reeling under an excruciating financial crisis has generated debate on the viability of capitalism, just like it has become increasingly questionable to hold in esteem the imposed notion that Western representative political systems are the standard paradigm for democracy.

Questions over the efficiency of capitalism arise when one looks at protests by thousands of people in Europe against the much-talked-about austerity measures being forced on a resistive population by sheer police brutality and the power of the bayonet. The Economic Restructuring Programmes are so unpopular that they have so far cost France’s pygmy war-mongering leader Nicolas Sarkozy a second term election loss, as what happened to Berlusconi of Italy earlier on.

European governments have very little choice in the wake of pressure from the IMF and the World Bank — institutions that have been forced by circumstances to keep cracking the whip on European politicians in order to force through reforms that favour the survival of Western corporations.

Increasingly liberal democracy is shaping up to be a huge hoax in the face of a China-dominated market, and it is turning out that Western secularism is no panacea to governance challenges. If one were to talk about a perfect example of how the titanic clash between a crisis of capitalism and that of Western representative democracy can inevitably produce a popular revolution, two countries that stand out in the last decade are Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

In Venezuela the popular revolution started in 1999 and it is called the Bolivarian revolution, reclaiming vast tracts of land from foreign holders and giving it back to indigenous Venezuelans as well as nationalising the oil industry and even the financial sector, of course for the benefit of the local people.

In Zimbabwe the revolution is called the Third Chimurenga and it started with the popular reclamation of colonially stolen farmlands in 2000, culminating in the current economic empowerment programme targeting to ensure 51 percent local ownership of all huge businesses in the country, and full control of national resources by the locals. Such popular revolutions are destined to create a new era for the livelihoods of any people, the way the land reforms of both Zimbabwe and

Venezuela have done for the traditionally maligned indigenous peoples.
When a government aspires to benefit its own people at the expense of foreign investors, such a government can be vastly popular at home but will be deemed dictatorial by definition from a Western viewpoint, or precisely from the viewpoint of Western elites.

Both Zimbabwe and Venezuela have been resilient victims of manic efforts by Western media to discredit both the popular pro-people policies and the individual leaders of the two countries — Presidents Robert Mugabe and Hugo Chavez Frias. The idea here is not only to discredit political systems of the two countries but also to destroy the embryo of an alternative society independent of the grip of traditional imperialistic powers. A Zimbabwe with a people reliant on Western investment and aid is naturally more democratic in the eyes of the West than a truly independent Zimbabwe in full control of its resources and wealth.

Both Zimbabwe and Venezuela are facing elections in 2012, with Venezuela heading for the polls on October 7 while Zimbabwe is yet to announce a date for an election meant to end the lifespan of an unworkable coalition between the revolutionary Zanu-PF and the Western-sponsored MDC factional groupings.

In Zimbabwe Zanu-PF is confidently pushing for an election while the West is backing a weakened MDC-T in its cowardly efforts to push for the postponing of elections until the party feels it stands a better chance of winning. The propaganda pretext being peddled is that a new constitution must be ushered in first so that it “creates an environment for free and fair elections.” This is despite that the hotly disputed draft constitution could fail to pass the vote at a referendum to be held any time soon or, worse still, fail to make it to the referendum stage, a situation that could mean that elections would have to be held under the current Constitution.

That scenario would thwart Tsvangirai’s idea of a free and fair election, ostensibly reliant solely on the notion of a new constitution.

Morgan Tsvangirai is scared of the electorate and the military, both groups sharing resentment for the MDC-T’s treacherous politics of pandering to Western diktats, as well as for the puppet stigma that Tsvangirai carries in the eyes of Africans across the continent.

Despite being significantly popular in parts of Zimbabwe, the MDC-T leader commands an aura of encyclopaedic confusion, passing himself as a politician of legendary inconsistencies, like his recent call that Zimbabwean army generals must stay out of politics at a time that he himself finds it logical to hold a political meeting with US General Wesley Clark in Austria — a political meeting whose agenda had a direct bearing on the Zimbabwean generals that Tsvangirai beseeches to be apolitical, simply on the basis that Clark is the face of an enemy to those tasked with defending Zimbabwe, being a former Nato commander.

Despite profuse rhetoric from Western mouthpieces against the personality and character of Hugo Chavez, the man continues to command impressive approval ratings, like the April rating of 57 percent, something that infuriates so much most of his foes in the West.

As expected, Western media have embarked on a furious disinformation campaign against both Chavez and President Robert Mugabe, attacking unabatedly both the Bolivarian and Chimurenga revolutions.

For Chavez there have been shameless efforts at peddling baseless and biased manipulative stories about the persecution of the man’s opponents, especially opposition leader Capriles Radonski, whose party is curiously named “Justice First,” a clear message that a people’s fundamental livelihood can be shelved in pursuit of Western-sponsored rhetoric on justice and human rights. This is why the rhetoric about alleged human rights abuses and retributive justice has become the

MDC-T’s idea of governance policy and election manifesto, vainly trying to impress upon Zimbabweans that matters of civil liberties are more pressing than land and economic empowerment, essentially that civil liberties supersede food and welfare rights.
Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!

* Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in Sydney, Australia.



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