"Imperialism is Not Invincible"

(The following is excerpted from an article appearing on Venezuelanalysis.com, which highlights parts of a speech by the Venezuelan President to the World Social Forum)

Caracas, Jan 30, 2005

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was warmly received at the 2005 edition of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where he held several meetings with local leaders, intellectuals and activists, and gave the closing speech at the Gigantinho Stadium. Chavez generated great interest among Forum participants, many of whom see Chavez and his project of political transformations being implemented in Venezuela, as an inspiration in the struggles for a more better world.

The Venezuelan President visited the Lagoa do Junco agrarian settlement in Tapes set up by Brazil's Landless Movement (MST), and later held a press conference with more than 120 media organizations, where he criticized the U.S. government for claiming to lead a fight against terrorism while undermining democracy in Venezuela.

Chavez highlighted the recent creation of Latin American satellite TV network TeleSur, "which will allow us to tell our people’s reality in our own words." He added that TeleSur will be at the disposal of the people, not of governments.

The leader added that his country's military forces are undergoing a period of modernization of its weapon systems and resources, but asserted that it is aimed at defending the country's sovereignty. "Venezuela will not attack anybody, but don’t attack Venezuela, because you will find us ready to defend our sovereignty, and the project we are carrying forward," he added.

"The FTAA is death"

During the closing speech at the Gigantinho Stadium, the president added that 2005 arrived and the FTAA was not implemented. "The FTAA is death, what they go was mini-FTAA’s because the U.S. imperialism did not have the strength to impose the neocolonial model of the FTAA."

The President highlighted the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), a proposal made by Venezuela in opposition to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), and which emphasizes social and cultural exchanges above profit-based economic deals. "We can’t wait for a sustained economic growth of 10 years in order to start reducing poverty through the trickledown effect, as the neoliberal economic theories propose."

He praised the cooperation with Cuba, which, along with several Central American countries, receives Venezuelan oil at below market prices, in exchange for assistance in healthcare, education, agriculture and other areas. He highlighted that about 20.000 Cuban doctors work in Venezuela at free medical clinics in poor neighborhoods, and that Venezuela has used a Cuban literacy method approved by UNESCO that has allowed more than 1.3 million Venezuelans learn how to read and write. He said Venezuela is using Cuban vaccines, which now allow poor children to be vaccinated against diseases such as hepatitis.

The President criticized alleged media distortions with regard to plans by Fidel Castro and him to spread Communism in the Americas, overthrow governments and set up guerrillas, "after 10 years it seems like we haven’t been very successful."

"Cuba has its own profile and Venezuela has its own, but we have respect for each other, but we celebrate accords and advance together for the interest of our peoples." He said that any aggression against either country will have to confront the other, "because we are united in spirit from Mexico down to the Patagonia."

Chavez said U.S.-Venezuela political relations are unhealthy because of “permanent aggressions from there”. He criticized U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who recently asserted that Chavez was “a negative force in the region.” He said those relations will stay unhealthy as long as the U.S. continues its policies of aggression. "The most negative force in the world today is the government of the United States," he said.

The President criticized the U.S. government for asking other countries to pressure Venezuela in the crisis with Colombia over the kidnapping of a Colombian guerrilla activist in Caracas last December. “Nobody answered their call… they are more lonely everyday.” He praised the cooperation of other Latin American countries in the resolution of the crisis, and mentioned that Cuban President Fidel Castro held talks with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to try to help in the resolution of the crisis. Chavez agreed to meet Uribe early in February to settle the dispute.

"Imperialism not invincible"

Chavez added that U.S. imperialism is not invincible. "Look at Vietnam, look at Iraq and Cuba resisting, and now look at Venezuela." In reference to the recommendations of some of his close advisors, he said that "some people say that we cannot say nor do anything that can irritate those in Washington." He repeated the words of Argentine independence hero José de San Martin "let’s be free without caring about anyone else says."

"When imperialism feels weak, it resorts to brute force. The attacks on Venezuela are a sign of weakness, ideological weakness. Nowadays almost nobody defends neoliberalism. Up until three years ago, just Fidel [Castro] and I raised those criticisms at Presidential meetings. We felt lonely, as if we infiltrated those meetings."

He added that those ideological and economic weaknesses will continue to increase. "Just look at the internal repression inside the United States, the Patriot Act, which is a repressive law against U.S. citizens. They have put in jail a group of journalists for not revealing their sources. They won't allow them to take pictures of the bodies of the dead soldiers, many of them Latinos, coming from Iraq. Those are signs of Goliath's weaknesses."