WHILE President Mugabe and 14 other G15 leaders sat in the air-conditioned auditorium of Caracas last week the Venezuelan N
ational Guard was engaged in pitched battles with protestors.
The ZBC and Herald news crews who accompanied Mugabe to Venezuela did not tell us three people were killed and up to 50 injured, including two journalists, in the clampdown.
Troops firing tear gas and plastic bullets stopped opposition protesters from marching to the venue of the summit to demand a recall referendum against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
Reports say Chavez backers in distinctive red berets were allowed into the venue of the summit despite a ban imposed by Interior minister Lucas Rincon. The supporters were escorted by a National Guard tank.
Three months after the opposition umbrella group, the Democratic Co-ordinator (CD), gathered more than three million signatures for a referendum against the leftist Chavez, Venezuela’s electoral authority was poised to reject the petition.
The only way to revive the referendum, guaranteed under Chavez’s 1999 constitution, would be for hundreds of thousands of signatories to reaffirm their intentions – an option that seemed certain to be rejected by the CD as impractical, hence the demonstration.
The demonstrations did not however deter Mugabe from piling accolades on Chavez whom he praised for taking a hard line against perceived Western enemies. After Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Chavez is poised to be our octogenarian president’s key ally in the fight against imperialism.
Mugabe’s choice of friends should be beneficial to the whole nation though and we hope Chavez will be a worthy ally. His country is a major oil producer!
It is not surprising that Mugabe was at his best in praise of Chavez. In his speech, Mugabe made it clear that all the problems in Venezuela and Zimbabwe were the fault of the United States and the United Kingdom respectively.
Associated Press reports that Chavez bestowed Mugabe with a replica of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar’s sword.
“I give you a replica of liberator Simon Bolivar’s sword,” Chavez said last Thursday after the two leaders signed an energy cooperation agreement.
“For you, who like Bolivar, took up arms to liberate your people. For you, who like Bolivar, are and will always be a true freedom fighter,” Chavez said. “He continues, alongside his people, to confront the pretensions of new imperialists.”
Journalist Francisco Toro writing from Caracas said Mugabe in his speech hit an “emotional high talking in heart-rending terms about how transnational capitalism robs the children of Zimbabwe of their food”.
Toro was quick to attack Mugabe’s posturing by pointing out who was making Zimbabwe’s children go to bed empty.
“I didn’t know that I could despise any political message more than I despise Chavez’s,” said Toro.
“But today, I was proven wrong. Robert Mugabe’s speech to the G15 summit was a document of such far-reaching criminal cynicism it made JVR (Fifth Republic Revolutionary Youth, an affiliate of Chavez’s party) look like a grammar school kid, and Chavez himself like an amateur.”
“No, Mr Mugabe, if Human Rights Watch is to be believed, you are the one who makes sure your children go to bed hungry at night, and quite literally,” he said.
Civic groups and the media in Venezuela were quick to jump on President Chavez, accusing him of borrowing Mugabe’s tactics in dealing with protestors.
“In the last 72 hours, Venezuelans have seen thousands of soldiers round up on a large peaceful protest firing hundreds of tear gas canisters, plastic pellets and, on occasion, live ammo – and leaving two dead and 30 injured,” said an Amnesty International release.
“They’ve seen tank and troop movements through many cities, for ill-understood reasons. They’ve seen President Chavez praise Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as a freedom fighter and immediately turn around and implement some of his tactics. For the first time, Chavez blamed all of the country’s problems on the US bogeyman.”
The Financial Times this week reported diplomats in Caracas as saying Chávez was attempting to fan nationalist sentiment at home and set up an external distraction to domestic political troubles.
“Chávez is playing the rebel, using the old Latin American mythology of the tough comandante fighting US imperialism,” a diplomat in Caracas said.
Such is Chavez’s hatred of the United States that he fired choice insults to George Bush at a huge rally in Caracas on Sunday. Chavez accused the US of backing opposition efforts to topple his leftist government. He accused Bush of heeding advice from “imperialist” aides to support a brief 2002 coup against him.”El muy pendejo se lo creyó (He was an asshole to believe them),” Chavez roared.
The offensive word pendejo in the lexicography of revolutionary times could translate to “moron”, we have been told.
Chavez is learning fast. Remember our “Howard is a genetically-modified kangaroo” and the Blair toilet!