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sábado, marzo 26, 2005

El Codigo Chavez

On Monday night, I attended the launch (here they call it a "baptism") of an important new book about Venezuela and the U.S. Titled The Chavez Code (perhaps in a nod to the popular DaVinci Code), this work by Brooklyn attorney Eva Golinger analyzes U.S. involvement in Venezuelan affairs over the last several years, relying heavily on declassified government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The book has aroused much interest, and the event was attended by numerous dignitaries -- all the way up to the Vice President of Venezuela, Jose Vincente Rangel. And of course, they all made speeches. Great practice for my Spanish comprehension skills.

The first speakers was Minister of Higher Education Samuel Moncada (roughly equivalent to the Secretary of Education for the U.S.) Moncada, also a professor of history, gave a lecture on the history of the region's colonization by Spain and continued interference by the United States in Venezuela and Latin America. Much of it was focused around the development and application of the Monroe Doctrine, which said that the U.S. would not allow any other powers (i.e. Europe) to interfere in Latin America, henceforth regarded as the United States' "backyard", and the Roosevelt Corollary, declaring that the U.S. would become the international police of Latin America, ready to intervene in any nation that wasn't acting sufficiently "civilized." [The Roosevelt Corollary was subsequently used to justify intervention in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Haiti.]

Throughout this period, he said, the relationship of Venezuela with the US was one of subordination. Venezuela and the rest of Latin America served as a strategic reserve of materials and production for the U.S., along with a market for U.S. goods and, with the advent of the Cold War, as providers of proxy armies. In the 1970s and 80s, the U.S. held up Venezuelan political party Accion Democratica as an example, worked to set them against Cuba and other "dangerous influences." "Nos usaron como peones."

After the Clinton era, which he described as a period of "almost friendship" with Latin America, relations with the U.S. fractured. Especially after 2001, the U.S. became much more aggressive. Now, rather than working to disarm Latin America, they want to arm and militarize it. Personally I'm not sure the Clinton era was so great either, but I don't really know enough to say. Certainly compared to the present day's constant verbal attacks on Venezuela by U.S. officials the previous period must look a lot better.

He concluded by arguing that only a dignified, unified, and strong response from Latin America to the U.S. can succeed. What we demand is respect for Venezuela and Latin America.

Next came Vice President Rangel. He started off speaking slowly, hesitantly, but quickly warmed to his subject. Underlining the importance of The Chavez Code, he described it as "in essence a book to counteract amnesia, to counter the fragility of memory."

Memory is erased or its warnings ignored by the forgetting or rejection of history; by the boredom and numbness of repetition of statistics; and by the notion of the past as something static and irrepeatable. The Chavez Code responds to all of these, and reminds us why we must remember. (I'm summarizing here, don't have the exact quotes.)

In this book, continued Rangel, it is robustly established how the U.S. intervened in Venezuelan affairs. In the coup of April 11th, in the oil stoppages of December 2002, money from the government [of the United States] was the determining factor, has been the incendiary. The Chavez Code should be required reading for all Venezuelans; and after this book, no one is innocent, because no one can plead ignorance He concluded by reading a brief message from Chavez.

Finally, Eva Golinger herself came up, to thank everyone and talk about her work on the book. She described it as the result of an exhaustive investigation into US involvement in Venezuela -- including over 4000 documents obtained through FOIA requests. My investigation, she added, doesn't end here -- I will continue this research, and hope to publish another book soon, because there's so much going on. Minister of Communication and Information Andres Izarro then spoke, but I don't think he added much to what had already been said (and by that time my concentration and comprehension were flagging).

After the speeches were complete, they did indeed baptize the book, with all the assembled dignitaries on stage taking part in sprinkling a copy. Luckily the "baptism" was done with rose petals and not with champagne! But abundant wine made an appearance shortly thereafter, in a reception and booksigning where the conversation went on for hours. The English couple I was with greatly enjoyed the free drinks ;-).

Unfortunately I can't comment on the book itself, since I haven't seen it! I was planning to go and buy it in English -- since the book and all the documents are translated from English anyway, it seemed to make more sense. But asking, I discovered that the English publisher, Common Courage Press, is on the verge of bankruptcy. So the English-language version probably won't be appearing real soon.

While I was finding all this out, the Spanish copies available at the event were snapped up. In sum, I still need to go get myself a copy. You can get yourself one too;
the book is available at: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/9590607233/qid=1111854822/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-7162790-5283163?v=glance&s=books&n=507846 (or just go to Amazon and search for "Golinger").

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