The recent UK TV screening of John Pilger’s War on Democracy feature-length documentary was a timely reminder of American governmental initiation and support of genocide and fascism, and the undermining of democracy, in Latin American over the last century. In typical Pilger style, it provided a highly emotive and powerful account of the suffering and resistance by the poor to this continual state violence and brutality. The film principally focused on Venezuela and the figure of Hugo Chavez. While remaining controversial to many, even on the left in the west, Chavez continues to symbolically embody the hopes for political and economic reform. As the film highlighted, and is a feature of Latin American social movements, the oppressed remain overwhelmingly indigenous Indians, Africans and ‘mixed race’. Integral to the Venezuelan democratic reforms is the undoing of the racial hierarchies endemic to the nations of the Americas. This article by Nikolas Kozloff in the excellent venezuelanalysis.com in 2005 offers a good analysis of Chavez’s racial politics and makes a strong argument for the centrality of anti-racism and (multi)cultural politics to universalist democratic politics:
A Real Racial Democracy?
Hugo Chávez and the Politics of Race
As the war of words heats up between the Bush White House and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, the firebrand South American leader has boldly sought to forge ties with poor communities of color in the United States. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Chávez provided relief assistance to the poverty stricken and largely African American victims of the disaster. The head of Citgo, the U.S. subsidiary of Venezuela’s state owned oil company, set up disaster relief centers in Louisiana and Texas in the wake of the hurricane and provided humanitarian to thousands of victims. Volunteers based at Citgo refineries in Lake Charles, Louisiana and Corpus Christi, Texas, provided medical care, food and water to approximately 5,000 people. In Houston, volunteers from Citgo headquarters provided similar assistance to 40,000 victims. What is more, Venezuela has provided hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil in energy assistance to the United States. Chávez followed up his bold initiative by announcing that he would soon begin to ship heating and diesel oil at rock bottom prices to schools, nursing homes, hospitals and poor communities within the U.S. The Venezuelan president has also offered to provide free eye surgery for poor Americans suffering from certain eye conditions. The firebrand South American leader, who proclaimed the plan during a recent visit to New York, will begin his oil program through an October pilot project in Chicago. There, the Venezuelan government will target poor Mexican Americans for assistance. Read more>>