Skip to comments.US Policy Analysts Fire Back at Venezuelan Dictator
Posted on 09/04/2003 2:06:08 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
A day after blasting industrialized economies for allegedly wreaking environmental and financial woe on third world countries, Venezuela's leftist dictator received a verbal pummeling of his own Tuesday.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez spoke Monday at the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, held in Havana, Cuba where one of Chavez' political allies - Fidel Castro - served as host. Chavez blamed globalism and what he called the "neo-liberal" policies of the industrialized world for the failures to address some of the major problems in Latin America and on the African continent.
"What they have done is absolutely insignificant given the gravity of the problem. Neo-liberalism is dead. Now we're going to bury it, starting this century," Chavez warned.
However, according to Steve Johnson, senior policy analyst for Latin America at the Heritage Foundation, "Chavez himself has no record to run on, his presidency so far has been a disaster." Johnson told CNSNews.com that Venezuela's economy was being led "down the toilet" by Chavez.
"A lot of the decrees [Chavez] has enacted -- to be able to confiscate private property, to limit foreign exchange, to quell freedom of expression -- are the kinds of things that would turn a normal economy into a failed economy," Johnson said.
He accused Chavez of driving both the workforce and investors out of the country, making it difficult for the private sector to support the state. "In terms of liberalism being something that's failed, it looks like in every sense of the word, it's just the opposite," Johnson said of the U.S.-led, market-based, global economy.
The American economy is the most developed in the world, operated by one of the most liberal governments, Johnson said. He referred to remarks by Chavez and Castro as "populist left-wing rhetoric" that was "basically a smokescreen for the belief in an old style feudal system."
"[America's is] the only economy that seems to be able to sustain so many other countries that are not liberal with massive amounts of aid, not just directly but through contributions to international and national organizations," Johnson said.
He cited the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as examples of U.S.-funded aid organizations, both frequent targets of anti-globalization supporters including the International Action Center (IAC), directed by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
A spokeswoman for the IAC came to Chavez' defense Tuesday.
"I think that 90 percent of the environmental movement would agree with President Chavez's remarks when it comes to the state of affairs, when it comes to those issues," Teresa Gutierrez, IAC co-director, told CNSNews.com . "Many scientists have come out more and more now, saying that global warming is in fact dangerous and the whole emissions issue and how the U.S. government isn't going along with that."
Given the "gravity" of the situation, Gutierrez said there was ample evidence to show that not enough attention was being paid to those problems.
"As far as neo-liberal policies, I think that anyone who follows developments in Latin America and the Caribbean knows that this continent is more or less raging with very important campaigns to change the situation... there is enough information to show how dire the situation is," Gutierrez said, mentioning unemployment and hunger as problems requiring fast action.
"Economists and sociologists alike, as well as political activists, of course, come back to the neo-liberal policies of the various countries where many structural adjustment programs are imposed that take out a lot of money from various countries but really give back very little in return," she continued. "In fact, these policies demand a tightening of the government and the denial of social services and it's just creating a horrible situation."
Gutierrez pointed to the recent activities of indigenous activists in Latin America, including traffic blockades in Peru and Indians refusing to have their water systems privatized in Bolivia.
"If humanity is going to move forward, then yes, the politics of neo-liberalism have to be combated and ended with, so we would share those sentiments with him (Chavez)," Gutierrez said.
IAC supports ending the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, citing humanitarian reasons. The group is affiliated with International Act Now to end War and Stop Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.) and both groups have ties with the World Workers' Party (WWP), the modern day Communist party.
"The United States government has imposed an economic and political blockade on the island nation for more than 40 years, causing $70 billion damage to Cuba's economy and inflicting unnecessary suffering on the most vulnerable in Cuban society," read a recent A.N.S.W.E.R. petition on WWP's website calling for an end to the trade embargo.
Brian Alexander, the former policy director with the now-defunct Cuba Policy Foundation (CPF), had worked to establish free trade with Cuba, even while disagreeing with Castro sympathizers.
"It's always ironic the degree of affection held for Castro when his role in the world is increasingly diminishing and bordering on irrelevant," Alexander told CNSNews.com . "It's incredibly ironic that a man like Chavez or Castro would criticize any economic system when they've so mismanaged their own. If anything, they appear to be looking to shift attention away from their own economic failures more than making any effective comments or criticisms about other economic practices."
Alexander resigned from the CPF, he said, over the recent jailing of Castro opposition activists and the executions of three Cubans who tried to hijack a ferry to Florida.
Dennis Hays, a former U.S. ambassador to Suriname and the current executive vice president for the Cuban American National Foundation, also believes the Latin American dictators are trying to shift attention away from their home bases.
"Anytime you have a Castro or a Chavez, they somehow seek to justify their failures and deliberate inflicting of misery on their people by pointing the finger at outside sources," Hays told CNSNews.com . "A lot of the problems in the region can be traced back to undemocratic regimes that won't listen to their own people. So to be lectured by a Castro or a Chavez on any of these issues is ludicrous."
The sixth U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, which wraps up Friday, is taking place without high-ranking officials from the 15-member European Union. The EU unanimously decided to reduce its high-level government visits to Cuba following Castro's crackdown on dissidents.
Who would have thought one communist would support another communist?