And these come straight from Chile. Enjoy!
Sen. Alejandro Navarro on Monday demanded an apology from Chile’s Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley for criticizing the behavior of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the XVII Iberian-American summit held last weekend in Santiago.
The king’s flare-up at the summit followed days of criticism by Chavez and other left-leaning Latin American leaders who expressed exasperation with Spain’s continued political and business influence among its former colonies. The spark came when Chavez repeatedly accused Spain’s former conservative Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar of being a fascist who backed the April, 2002 coup in Venezuela that almost toppled the Chavez government.
Chile’s Foxley subsequently criticized Chavez on Sunday evening, saying that his behavior had "overshadowed" the accomplishments of the summit. Foxley also spoke out in favor of the Spanish monarch.
Foxley also criticized Chavez’ suggestion that the summit should have been focused on "social transformation" and not "social cohesion."
"Let’s look at what Chile has accomplished over the last 15 to 20 years in the area of ‘social transformation,’ as compared to certain pseudo-revolutionary experiences," Foxley said, referring to Chavez’s social programs, which the Venezuelan president has dubbed the "Bolivarian Revolution." "Which country has the better indicators (in terms of reducing poverty)?"
The Foreign Affairs Minister also rejected Chavez’s suggestion that Santiago’s public transport system, Transantiago, should be subsidized by Venezuela. Foxley said Chile didn’t need "an outsider’s lectures" and that if Chavez really wanted to show solidarity, he should propose lowering oil prices.
"Taking into account both Chavez’s personality and also the norms for debate in international forums such as this one, Chavez’s actions should be considered as normal. Chavez never committed an offense by openly questioning Aznar for things that he had done," Navarro told the Santiago Times.
"I think that Minister Foxley thinks of himself as the Finance Minister. In order to prioritize relations with Spain, he turns to economic issues. He places too heavy a focus on economic issues. Still, in international relations, one must include other parameters, other values, other variables," he went on to say. "I think that Minister Foxley should ask for forgiveness. By waiting for the Venezuelans to leave Chile before making the comments that he made, Foxley was not being diplomatic. He was not following the ethics of international relations."
So. It looks an awful lot like it wasn’t just Chavecito’s big, busy mouth that was the problem. It was this grating issue: Spain has huge private investments in all of Latin America, particularly Venezuela, and of course, that means that the investors want a conservative leader. One who doesn’t give a shit about eliminating poverty; one who is content to mouth all the usual Washington Consensus platitudes about how private foreign investment is the magic answer to poverty. One who, in short, ignores the mounting evidence that private foreign investment is no answer to anything, let alone a nagging problem like poverty.
Do I need to remind anyone that investment is all about taking out more money than you put in? Where do you suppose that money is going to come from, eh? Investment is certainly not about getting rich through hard work, or at least, not the sweat of your own brow. Investors get rich doing nothing harder than picking up a phone. It is the workers, not the investors (and certainly NOT the investors’ money, contrary to bankers’ crapaganda!), who are doing the work, generating the profits.
And as Clara Fraser rightly points out (in Revolution, She Wrote–which I double-dog dare you to read!), profit is unpaid wages.
The implications, then, are clear for any country in which private foreign investors are drawing profit. Every penny of that profit is coming out of someone’s unpaid wages.
And in Venezuela, as in much of Latin America, there are slums populous enough to be cities unto themselves. There are people who make their living scrounging through garbage dumps to scratch up a living. They look for recyclable materials to sell, old clothes to wear or peddle, not-yet-rotten food from richer tables to eat. Some of them prostitute themselves or their children for a laughable sum. All of these people could have been employed for a decent wage, but the multinationals and their investors don’t give a flying fuck for that. What they want is not a fully employed, secure, contented workforce, but more money out than they put in.
And of course, all that chafes Chavecito, and he will not be silent about it. As he so eloquently says at the press conference he gave to journalists afterwards (see video below), “We’ve been here for 500 years, and we will never shut up.”
And why should he? He is himself from the poor classes; he went to school barefoot and sold his grandmother’s homemade sweets to support the family, and went into the army rather than to a private university so he could get a good postsecondary education and play baseball. 500 years of meekly shutting up when the rich hiss got the poor of Venezuela absolutely bupkus, as he knows only too well from experience. Only those who speak out against that system stand a chance of changing anything.
This is why I included Alejandro Foxley’s remarks–which are inexcusable, and also more than a little redolent of bovine feces. Chile may, on paper, look a bit better off than Venezuela, but it hasn’t made the strides it should have since Augusto Pinochet was edged out of office. The reason? The economic wreckage that Pinochet left behind could not be adequately addressed by the current Chilean system. A lot of the legal, political and economic structures the dictator left behind are still there, blocking progress. The “economic growth” Chile boasts on paper comes at the cost of barely-budging poverty and unemployment rates. Which makes it all seem a little empty.
Meanwhile, in Venezuela, economic growth is actually showing on more than paper. Poverty and unemployment keep going down and down, along with illiteracy and mortality–and more rapidly than anywhere else in Latin America. This is why Foxley’s “pseudo-revolutionary experiences” crack is so uncalled for. There is no pseudo about it; this kind of achievement is revolutionary, period.
And let’s not forget that when Chavecito speaks of letting Venezuela subsidize the Chilean transit system, he’s not talking about private foreign investment to make some Venezuelan businessman lotsa potsa money. That would have been quite all right with Alejandro Foxley, I’m sure, since it is right in line with Milton Friedman’s economic “miracle” policies. It would create negligible amounts of jobs and barely dent the Chilean poverty figures. But that would be all right, as long as someone else gets rich. No, Chavecito was talking about actually making it easier for poor Chileans to take a public bus. Not about making it cheaper for rich Chileans to drive a car, as Foxley would have liked it. Because it’s those who buy the gas that benefit from lower oil prices; those who rely on public transit won’t see that benefit reflected in their fares.
(Let’s not forget, either, what it was that sparked the Caracazo in 1989–it was a 200% bus fare hike, in line with non-subsidized gas prices. Chavecito remembers that full well. It was what prompted him to rebel against Venezuela’s own Friedman-sucking brain-box government three years later.)
Foxley notwithstanding, Chavecito’s subsidy offer was an act of solidarity–with the poor of Chile. It was a practical offer, not a “trickle-down” crumb toss.
Most interesting is that a Chilean senator, Alejandro Navarro, has come to Chavecito’s defence. He makes several points which should go without saying, but apparently can’t be repeated often enough:
that Chavez’s remarks are not shocking because they are par for the course, both for Chavez himself and for a summit in which heated, contentious debate is bound to happen;
that Chavez had a perfect right to question Aznar’s deeds, becuase the Spanish ambassador was the only one, besides the US’s, to welcome the coup against Chavez–and ambassadors simply don’t operate in a vacuum, but on the orders of the governments that sent them;
that Foxley’s putting trade with Spain ahead of solidarity with other LatAm governments is reprehensible and out of line at a summit whose theme was, after all, “social cohesion”;
and that Foxley was being cowardly and undiplomatic by waiting until the Venezuelan delegation had left Chile before letting rip on them, because they could not answer his remarks.
I think he also had a point about them all maintaining closer ties to Spain than to each other. Which, incidentally, is also what Chavecito is trying to address with his ALBA alliance–it is meant to foster closer relations and social progress within Latin America, to counterbalance all the centuries of outer-directedness that have been so detrimental to the people. (Want to know how detrimental? Read Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America–go on, I triple-dog dare ya.)
Shut up, you say, Your Majesty? After 500 years, I think it’s time Spain held its tongue and listened.
And so does Chavecito: