Comment: Venezuela’s Presidential elections: Chavez or Capriles?

Carl Packman looks ahead to today's Presidential elections in Venezuela between incumbent left-winger Hugo Chavez and centre-right challenger Henrique Capriles.

 

I nearly did the unthinkable as a left-winger earlier this year: not only did I not want to see Hugo Chavez win the coming election in Venezuela (votes are today), but I was going to positively support the centre-right candidate Henrique Capriles.

The reason being is as follows: in Chavez, I once supported the popular democracy concerned not about making good on multinational contracts but ensuring a good deal for the people he presides over (the two historically being mutually exclusive in the region) – but what I was less enthusiastic about, nay, agitated to the point of screaming about, was Chavez’s persona, connections and overall political strategy on an international scale.


What Capriles saw fit to do was an act of political genius. There is a naturally small c conservative element in the Venezuelan people, even with those who support Chavez, but the key to Chavez’s success has been to openly wage war on the blatant inequality of the country. So much so that he has forged a political consensus on it.

Capriles then went about trying to change his own political colours. To his name he has already set up 70 free health clinics in poor neighbourhoods of Miranda state and provided subsidised food to low-income families.

With speeches that espoused the political economics of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – matching income redistribution with tamer perceptions of the market – he was starting to look and sound like the sort of centre-left politician I would support anywhere.

To be sure Chavez has been on a downward spiral for a long while now, and not just in terms of his health. His image on the international stage seems to get nuttier by the year. Producing empty threats and “severe consequences” to the UK if it raids the London embassy to arrest Julian Assange was what perked the ears up of many, but doesn’t describe the half of it.

The problems surrounding anti-Semitism in the Chavista camp have only been bolstered by the fact Capriles is of Jewish extraction, despite being a devout Catholic today. An article that appeared on the website of Venezuelan National Radio in February of this year accused Capriles of belonging to a secret Jewish movement in Venezuela and working on behalf of Zionist ideology.

Antagonism towards Jews is not new. Nobody should accuse Chavez himself of being anti-Semitic, but problems arose when Chavez was either ignoring, or acceptant of, the blatant anti-Semitism of colleagues Martín Sánchez of the Venezuelan Consul General in San Francisco and Gonzalo Gómez, an active member of the governing PSUV party, whose website aporrea.org is awash with anti-Semitic, and historical revisionism.

The Judeosphere website at the time translated some of the material that could be found on apporrea.org:

Failed Zionists, Jews, Fascists, Murderers”:

Written in response to the war in Gaza, the commentator says the Zionists:

“…coolly determined that killing thousands of Palestinians in a single operation would facilitate the final dispossession of the ancestral lands of the village that gave birth to the Messiah, whom their predecessors murdered 2009 years ago.”

Jews, Schemers, and Murderers”:

A bizarre “history” of Jewish intrigue, beginning with the observation Jews have carried the stigma of cowardice ever since their false God Yahweh killed 200,000 Israelites in retribution for King David’s census (because the Jewish God feared Moloch and needed to prove his credentials as a powerful warrior).

Hunting Jews”:

An “expose” about the “alleged” Holocaust:

“If we stop a moment and review the history, we should ask: Why has the supposed extermination of the Jews had and still has more notoriety than the actual extermination of African people? Why has the alleged extermination of Jews achieved major fame?… Does this have to do with a particular project which has sought to make Israel and the Zionist Jews the real owners of this world?”

In 2010 Aporrea claimed the true essence of Judaism cannot be found in the Torah, “but in the realities of capitalism”. This isn’t just anti-Zionism, this is anti-Semitism. And Chavez could not contain it. Chavez’s former adviser and confidante Norberto Ceresole was also a known Holocaust denier and Venezuelan attacks on Jews have risen significantly.

These mustn’t be attributed to Chavez, but it does show a failure to curb anti-Semitic behaviours around him on his watch.

Last year the state-run radio station broadcast a reading of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, during which the journalist reading, Cristina Gonzalez, expressed:

“…her admiration for the Jewish community and “non-Zionist” Israelis before plucking what she called “little pearls” from the book to explain to listeners why Zionists have been able to amass a concentration of power and wealth.”

This is not the first time either; in 2008 on the same station, it was broadcast that:

“Hitler’s partners were Jews… like the Rockefellers, who were Jews [Editors’ note: The Rockefellers are not Jews]. These were not the Jews murdered in the concentration camps. [Those killed] were working-class Jews, Communist Jews, poor Jews, because the rich Jews were the ones behind the plan to occupy Palestine.”

Not helping matters much, Chavez then went on to liaise with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – the same Ahmadinejad who sanctions the kidnapping of trade unionists, pretends there are no gays in his country (before murdering them), denies the existence of the Holocaust and allows the perversion of justice and exploitation of Islamic law to stone women for adultery even though stoning, apparently, is “never used as a judicial punishment”.

Chavez made no bones about trading with all manner of horror either. This was where Capriles managed to step in again and show he wasn’t going to kowtow towards people we found politically sinister. In declaring reconsideration of all contracts signed with China, Russia and any other nation deemed not good for Venezuela, he showed signs of, not unfettered neo-liberalism, but something akin to capitalism with a conscience.

Dare I even mention Chavez enjoyed good relations with Gaddafi until the bitter end, awarding the dictator the Orden del Libertador Simón Bolívar – something usually reserved for people offering outstanding services to the country.

While the rebels were escalating in Benghazi, Chavez decided he’d send a tweet from his official twitter account saying:

“Long live Libya and its independence! Kadhafi faces a civil war!”

Chavez is one architect of the politics of my enemies’ enemy is my friend. He erroneously tried to, like so many on the left unfortunately, predicate the global fight as between the west and the league of anti-American nations; really, no socialist should ever be in league with Ahmadinejad, but tha’’s because Chavez is not a socialist, but in political freefall picking up friends with grim politics to stick, in a most unsophisticated way, two fingers up at the “Yankees”.

It rather reminds me of when Socialist Workers Party top dog Alex Callinicos said:

“If Bush attacks Iran tomorrow, which side are you on? I would be on Iran’s but – as Lenin put it – I would refuse to paint Ahmadinejad in communist colours; in other words, I would be for an Iranian victory despite his anti-Semitic rantings, despite the regime’s capitalist class base, despite the repression it perpetrates.

This is the politics of permanent revolution, which seeks the overthrow of imperialism and of the local bourgeois regimes, with the complex relations of collaboration and conflict that they have with the main capitalist powers.”

In other words, towards the fight against capitalism (or, translated, America) we would have to carry round with us all manner of tripe. And this is left wing politics is it?

Chavez’s political project doesn’t represent me, but could I really support Capriles? The supposed leaked document addressing the latter’s neo-liberal plans does put me on edge and Chavez has reduced extreme poverty by 70%; I think it is fair to say I’m torn, or perhaps I should just accept I want nobody to win.

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