Skip to comments.My lover, the great dictator (Chavez)
Posted on 05/13/2006 5:19:24 PM PDT by Pokey78
The ex-mistress of Venezuelas leader, darling of Britains left, predicts an autocratic disaster, reports Tony Allen-Mills
THERE are many reasons why Herma Marksman still looks back fondly on the 10 years she spent as the mistress of Hugo Chavez, who at the time was an ambitious lieutenant-colonel on his way to becoming the president of Venezuela. I keep the best memories of him close to me, Marksman said last week. Hes the kind of man that showers you with flowers and chocolates, serenades you with romantic songs and never forgets your birthday. People say he is a violent man, but he never raised a hand or his voice to me.
Yet Marksmans tone changed when she talked about his role as the leader of the so-called Bolivarian revolution the populist Latin American phenomenon that has turned Chavez into a global icon of anti-American agitation.
For almost a decade in the 1980s and 1990s, Marksman encouraged her military lover as he used her home to plot a coup against Venezuelas decadent civilian government. The couple shared a dream, she said, of a prosperous Venezuela where justice would reign.
That dream, for her at least, is shattered. Now you cant trust him, she went on bitterly in her first interview with any foreign media. He is imposing a fascist dictatorship. A totalitarian regime is coming because he doesnt believe in democratic institutions. Hugo controls all the powers.
It would be easy to dismiss Marksmans criticisms as the vengeance of a scorned woman. Chavez once begged her to marry him and promised to leave his wife. But the 1992 coup attempt turned him into a national celebrity, even though it failed and he was briefly jailed.
Emerging as a champion of the Venezuelan underclass, he was surrounded by adoring women. He split with both his wife and his mistress; later a second marriage also ended in separation.
Yet Marksman, now in her mid-fifties, is scarcely an angry ex-bimbo keen to slag off the man who dumped her. She is a professor of history who has written two books about Chavezs politics.
During our interview she called him sweet and kind as a lover. But as a president, she added, hes the caudillo (strongman) you have to say yes to. At the rate hes going, his end can only be violent.
Somewhere between charm and menace lurks the real Chavez. The president who will sit down in London tomorrow for lunch with Ken Livingstone, the mayor, has made more headlines around the world than any South American icon since Evita Peron.
Yet rarely has any world leader least of all one elected democratically proved quite so hard to define.
Is Chavez another Fidel Castro? asked Alberto Garrido, a Caracas political scientist. Is he a 19th-century caudillo? Or is he a Peron with oil? Venezuelans debate this continuously, and all we know for certain is that the Chavez phenomenon is different from everything that has gone before.
In one sense, Chavezs emergence as a rude and occasionally bellicose voice of South Americas downtrodden is easy to understand. If you take a ride on the gleamingly efficient Caracas metro a model of 21st-century urban transport and then take a dilapidated bus to the barrio slums a model of 19th-century neglect you arrive at a small supermarket in La Vega run by Ingrid Cordoba.
Three years ago this was a bare patch of land used as a sports field. Then Chavez arrived with a pocketful of booming Venezuelan oil profits and began what he called his evangelical missions to transform the lives of the poor.
Suddenly, in parts of the city that governments had for decades ignored, there were new health clinics, Cuban doctors, subsidised mercals (food markets) and literacy programmes one named after Robinson Crusoe, one of Chavezs favourite books.
Among the shoppers at Cordobas mercal was Josefina Anton, a community activist who has met Chavez three times on his regular visits to the slums. They were beautiful, beautiful visits, she said. The day he was elected president (in 1998) was the first I ever felt that I had a part in the government.
No president before Chavez ever talked to poor people, or ever took us into account.
Cordoba added: We owe this shop to Chavez.
At a private briefing for diplomats last week, a leading Caracas opinion pollster calculated that of the 10m votes likely to be cast in a presidential election in December, Chavez could win up to 7m, mostly from people like Anton who regard him as a hero of the poor.
While President George W Bush and Tony Blair languish with the lowest poll ratings of their respective careers, their most vociferous Latin American critic is heading for a 70% victory. He has threatened to stay in power until 2030 and beyond.
Yet a little further along the choked streets of La Vega, a different picture emerges. In a shaded square next to a statue of Simon Bolivar the anti- colonial liberator after whom Chavezs revolution is named a group of about 100 people waited last week for the arrival of three food lorries promised by the municipality. Every three months, under yet another of Chavezs programmes, the poorest of the poor are given food.
One lorry came in mid- afternoon and those at the front of the queue departed with their sacks of rice and beans. But by 4.30pm, the hour that municipal workers go home, the other two lorries had not arrived. Was it bureaucratic incompetence or corruption? Nobody knew for sure, but few present were in a mood to sing Chavezs praises.
My shanty is falling apart. I dont have a stable job. How is Chavez helping me? complained Veronica Marcano, a mother of six children who gets occasional work as a municipal cleaner.
Venezuelas opposition leaders claim that behind the facade of a supposedly flourishing welfare programme, Chavez has done nothing to improve a civic infrastructure riddled with fraud and ineptitude. In Venezuela they say we have no good presidents or bad presidents, said Julio Borges, an opposition candidate in Decembers poll. We have presidents who either benefit from high oil prices or suffer from low oil prices.
Chavez had the luck to be a president with high oil revenues, but hes like a man who wins the lottery and at the end he spends it all and turns out more broke than before.
Other critics notably in Washington point to Venezuelas soaring levels of violent crime and drug trafficking, and to Chavezs failure to curb a notoriously brutal police force that human rights activists blame for much of the violence. Caracas now has the worlds highest murder rate per capita.
Theres no sign yet that voters are blaming Chavez but opponents have noted that some of his most popular initiatives depend heavily on the import of manpower from Cuba.
Western officials acknowledge that the price of oil is unlikely to fall significantly any time soon, and with Venezuela controlling the largest oil reserves in the western hemisphere and supplying America with 15% of its oil needs no early escape is likely from the man who has turned Bush-baiting into a national sport.
One western diplomat concluded: He has brought these people things they have not seen before, but I dont believe he is building a long-term sustainable base. If those oil prices do fall, how are you going to say to those mercal customers, sorry, were running out of money, we cant give you cheap food any more? Chavez has used Venezuelas oil fortune to buy influence and annoy America in countries around the globe. He has cosied up to North Korea which is planning to move its sole Latin American embassy from Peru to Caracas fuelling concerns in Washington that North Korean weapons may start to circulate a couple of hours flying time south of Miami.
He has also improved relations with Iran, provoking feverish intelligence warnings that terrorists may converge on the region through Venezuelas back door. All this has served to cement his power base in the Venezuelan barrios, which are only too happy to blame America for their ills, and turned him into an heroic figure for countless Europeans and others still furious at Washington over Iraq.
Yet Chavezs efforts to expand his revolution and to build a new Bolivarian alliance of regional anti-imperialists are not going smoothly. There is a growing sense across the continent that Chavez has become a dangerous irritant, and an obstacle to Latin American development.
In Peru, the nationalist presidential candidate that Chavez publicly endorsed has plummeted in the polls. Ollanta Humala has been forced to distance himself from Venezuela. Humalas wife, Nadine, publicly declared last week that Chavez had a loose mouth.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a Mexican presidential candidate linked to Chavez, is also losing ground in the polls. The president of Guatemala has publicly criticised Chavez, Brazilian officials complained about Venezuelan oil policies and there was even criticism in Bolivia of his closest ally, President Evo Morales, who recently flew to a summit in Brazil on a Venezuelan plane. The former Bolivian president, Jorge Quiroga, warned that Bolivia was beginning to look like a colony of Venezuela.
Chavez is best-known for his weekly television programme, Allo Presidente. It is part variety show slapstick with Chavez breaking into song and discussing rumours about his love life and part presidential pulpit. Chavez also uses the show to bash his critics and to make political announcements.
This bizarre combination of popular exhibitionism Chavez cavorts across the airwaves for up to seven hours every Sunday and intense political secrecy are a key part of the Chavez mystique. Is he a dictator or a democrat? Is he a caudillo or a clown ? A senior official who studies Chavez closely wearily shook his head. He could be having three women a night at the presidential palace or be celibate as a priest and we wouldnt have a clue, he said. It is astonishing how much of his work is done in secrecy and how little the people of Venezuela really know about his life, what hes doing and who he is speaking to.
Marksman is one of the few Venezuelans who have seen Chavez up close. It is plain she still aches for the sweetness she knew, the ballads he sang for her, and the harmony and companionship they shared.
But she no longer watches Allo Presidente. Marksman now believes that Chavez disguised himself as little Red Riding Hood and turned out to be the wolf.
Additional reporting: Flora Bagenal
SAYINGS OF CHAVEZ
Mr Blair, you are an imperialist pawn who attempts to curry favour with Danger Bush-Hitler, the number one mass murderer and assassin there is on the planet
If someone is sleeping together it is Bush and Blair. They share the same bed
I hereby accuse the North American empire of being the biggest menace to our planet
Capitalism leads us straight to hell Fidel, I think you were always right: its socialism or death
BRITAIN'S CARACAS FAN CLUB
The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, is far from being the only British leftwinger to have succumbed to the charms of Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, who arrives in London today to promote his populist revolution, write Tony Allen-Mills and Tom Walker.
A steady stream of British leftists clinging to dreams of workers rule have been turning up in Caracas.
Among recent visitors was Keith Douglas, 60, an optician from Hertfordshire who told his hosts he regarded Cubas Fidel Castro as one of the few giants of the 20th century . . . I dont think you should be ashamed that he is influencing Chavez.
At a meeting videotaped by a Venezuelan participant, Douglas complained that the British media were almost totally biased against Chavez and that the only newspaper to give a balanced view was the Morning Star, the communist daily.
At the same meeting Geoffrey Bottoms, a Catholic priest from Lancaster, called Britain an imperialist state where the people felt disenfranchised.
Chavez has also attracted the support of 11 MPs who have launched the Labour Friends of Venezuela group, comprising mostly leftwingers critical of Tony Blair. Among them Colin Burgon warned Blair that it was foolhardy to blackball the worlds fifth largest oil producer at a time of rising energy prices.
Its a deliberate process emanating from Washington, he said. But the bloke is human and doing good things and should be judged on that record.
Another Chavez enthusiast, Jeremy Corbyn, well known for his anti-Iraq war views, said the man who once called George W Bush an asshole and described Blair as the main ally of Hitler for supporting the US president had played a huge role in political change with his anti-poverty drives and the redistribution of oil resources.
The Labour MP added: Hes promoted healthcare and education and is providing lessons for everybody our own dear leader could examine the process.
"Hey Hugo. If your johnson is half of what Jesse is packin' this Casa will be rockin' tonight jeffe." (:^*)
Not even for the get away?
Yup, but she would clean up nice, a face lift, a little make up, cosmetic breast surgery, a little lyphosuction and "voila", Barbie and Ken!Amazing what communists can do with their money!
You are right but maybe a lesson can be learned from Lee Harvey Oswald, who hung around too long, but then technology has changed. A .50 cal Barret sniper rifle can hit from a mile away. A calm walk should do the trick, to redundantly pre-parked crotch rocket style motorcycles and then to the nearest private airport.
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