The American press was all over Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s characterization of President Bush as the devil on Wednesday at the United Nations. And, just as you would expect, Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi had no problem roundly denouncing his words, even as they meekly assented to the wonderful new provisions for torture about to be enacted as a part of the intra-Republican “compromise” this week.
But for all of the fire and brimstone about his Bush comments, was a diabolical comparison all that Chavez had to say? He spoke for twenty-four minutes. And while the UN’s site has not made the text of his speech available (almost everything else from Wednesday has already been posted in at least one language), the Washington Post has an almost-complete transcript of the English translation.
The transcript skips over the first couple of minutes of Chavez’s address. In the first minute, he greeted the assembly and recommended Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival.
Chavez summarized Chomsky’s argument saying (in translation) that the “hegemonistic pretensions of the American empire are placing at risk the very survival of the human species.” That threat is like a “sword hanging over our heads”. That point is where the WP transcript begins, at 1:45 into the address.
Chavez used the word “devil” (or, in one case “Devil’s”) eight times in the speech. All but one usage came within six short paragraphs, just after the Chomsky promo. Those six paragraphs were over by the fourth minute of the speech. In the third minute, Chavez also called Bush a threat, and someone who talked “as if he owned the world.”
Chavez implied Bush is crazy and called him “the spokesman of imperialism” who came to the UN to preserve the status quo of power in the world. He made a lame reference to Hitchcock that contained his next-to-last diabolic reference.
The theme of US domination of the world continued. Chavez said that democracy spread by military force is hypocritical.
Building on the hypocrisy of externally-imposed democracy, Chavez claimed Bush sees people of color as extremists.
Chavez said President Evo Morales of Bolivia is seen as an extremist by Bush, that “imperialists see extremists everywhere”. Chavez said that people around the world are waking up and “shouting for equality, for respect, for the sovereignty of nations”.
Chavez quoted Bush saying the US wants peace and claimed while the people of the US want peace, the US government does not. He said the government wants “to exploit its system of exploitation, of pillage, of hegemony through war”. He began to ask about peace in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and Latin America.
Chavez mentioned US threats against Venezuela and Iran. He talked about Bush’s words to the “people of Lebanon” and said it was cynical to claim the bombing of Beirut was “crossfire” as Bush characterized it. He said Bush must be “thinking of a western”. Chavez juxtaposed the paraphrase “We’re suffering because we see homes destroyed” with what he called the “imperialist, fascist, assassin, genocidal” attacks on Palestine and Lebanon by “the empire and Israel”.
Chavez mentioned the people of the world and the specific nationalities Bush addressed during his speech and wonders what those people might say back “if they were given the floor”.
Chavez suggested the answer to his question might be “Yankee imperialist, go home”. He then returned to a point he had made at a previous assembly, that the UN system has “collapsed”.
Chavez said the UN was good so far as it brought everyone together to make speeches and produce documents. He praised two in particular: “Abel’s (ph)” in the transcript is a reference to Evo Morales Aima of Bolivia; “President Mullah’s (ph)” is Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva of Brazil (listen to the Spanish version). He said the UN needs to be re-established.
Chavez mentioned four proposals made last year. Both Chavez and da Silva have proposed expansion of the Security Council, including the permanent membership (da Silva mentioned this in his 19 September speech). Second, Chavez says he wants transparent decisionmaking and “effective methods to address and resolve world conflicts”. Third, he called for an end to the Security Council veto mechanism.
The veto, in Chavez’s opinion, allowed the US to prevent a resolution against Israel for their attack on Lebanon. The final proposal was for a strengthening of the powers of the UN Secretary General. He said that Kofi Annan’s opening speech had recognized that “hunger, poverty, violence, human rights violations have just worsened” over the past decade, and blamed that on a collapse of the UN system and “American hegemonistic pretensions”.
Venezuela is attempting to work within the UN system, Chavez said. He claimed Venezuela is looking to reform international relations and fight hegemony. He mentioned that Venezuela sought a nonpermanent seat on the Security Council and that the US has worked to prevent other nations from freely casting their vote for Venezuela.
Chavez said the US was afraid of the truth and independent voices. He gave his thanks to countries that had openly supported the Security Council bid, even though it is a secret ballot. He thanked the Latin American trade organization Mercosur and its member nations, other Latin American countries, and the Arab League.
The accolades continued, for Arab countries, Caribbean countries, most of Africa, Russia, and China. Venezuela will defend dignity and truth on the Security Council, according to Chavez. He claimed to be optimistic that a new era is dawning.
Chavez derided “the end of history” as a “false assumption” and said the Pax Americana and a “capitalist neo-liberal world” were failed ideas that “generate mere poverty”. He repeated his optimism about the dawn of a new world.
Chavez claimed that the US was behind the 2002 Venezuelan coup attempt and that it “continues to support coup attempts in Venezuela and elsewhere.” He referred to an earlier speech by President Michelle Bachelet of Chile who had mentioned the 30th anniversary of the assassination in Washington, DC of Orlando Letelier.
The killers of Letelier and and American citizen are not only still free, they were “CIA killers, terrorists” according to Chavez. He brought up another 30-year-old incident — the Cubana de Aviacion airliner bombing that killed 73 — in which the convicted terrorist was sprung from Venezuelan jail by former government officials and the CIA and now lives in the US. He condemned the US for double standards on terrorism and said Venezuela is “fully committed to combating terrorism and violence” and is “fighting for peace”.
Chavez named Luis Posada Carriles, the man convicted for the Cubana bombing and said others who “bombed various embassies, that assassinated people during the coup” were living in the US “under protection”. He accused them of kidnapping him, saying that they were going to kill him but that he was saved by God, the people, and the army. The leaders of the coup are in the US, he said. He went on to mention Cuba.
The Summit of the Nonaligned in Havana was touted by Chavez as a bulwark against hegemony and imperialism. He mentioned that Fidel Castro was the president of the organization for the next three years (we’ll just have to see about that) and encouraged support for him and the organization.
Chavez gave an upbeat health report on Castro. He said that “a new, strong movement has been born, a movement of the south” (I don’t think he means that in the same way, say, George Allen might). He recommended Chomsky’s book one last time and started off on the “new era” again.
Chavez called for a “world of peace” based on a “renewed United Nations”. He proposed moving the UN somewhere in the south; maybe Venezuela. He closed by remarking that his doctor and chief of security had to stay in his locked plane and weren’t allowed to “arrive” or attend the meeting. With one more reference to the Devil and sulpher, he was done.