Thursday, July 20, 2006

Regarding COHA’s July 20 Press Release “MERCOSUR Meeting in Cordoba Begins Today”

Venezuela’s July 4 official accession to the Mercado Común del Sur (MERCOSUR), of which Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay already are a part, undoubtedly adds decisive economic clout to the trade group; however recent squabbles and some misguided moves make it clear that the country’s inclusion also aggravates various traditionally anti-Chávez Venezuelan constituents as well as the smaller MERCOSUR states. The latter already fear the growing clout of dominant bloc members, Argentina, Brazil, and now Venezuela.

Full article...

~I was struck by the patronizing and arrogant tone of the article. For example: the country has little to offer its new trade partners, (then why did they agree to Venezuela’s membership?)… While some Venezuelan economic theorists (these would be who?) claim that multilateral integration is unnecessary …most orthodox thinkers (these would be who? What “orthodoxy” exactly? what about UNorthodox thinkers?) go further by insisting that Chávez’s way is the path to ruin. (as does Condoleezza Rice, the CIA, the entire economic elite, etc. etc. etc.) These constituents fear that the lower tariffs provided by MERCOSUR will weaken the local non-oil-based economy… (Theorists, thinkers and constituents; such polite names for those who denounce (hate?) Chavez. Do they want to see him dead, as many business people have called for? And what would you call the economic advisors who assist Chavez? Not that we hear from any of them in the article!)

(It’s nice that you mention that the people and groups whose views youare presenting in such fine detail supported a coup against him. You also say that they supported “a general strike”. This is false. There was no general strike. There was a management instigated lockout at the state-owned oil company which was meant to destroy the economy and cause Chavez to be overthrown. Therefore their present “fears” seem self-serving and fake.) “Chávez typical antagonizing…could cause a lamentable departure from progress…his persistently conjured-up vision”… this sounds like an unruly schoolchild’s report card.

Finally, you graciously (and modestly) order Chavez how to behave; evidently he needs lessons: Chávez must avoid spurring the departure of Paraguay and Uruguay…President Chávez should proceed with great caution…Chávez should step lightly…He should be more the observer than the galvanizer…

Who the hell do you think you are? What qualifies you to instruct a head of state who has been in office since 1998, raised the living standards of his country, eliminated illiteracy, and successfully carried out commercial and diplomatic missions around the world etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.? Of all the international thinkers whose opinions he might solicit - for instance Noam Chomsky, Professor F.T. Lee, and Tariq Ali, just to name three, not to mention his own experienced people such as Ali Rodriguez (former head of the state-owned oil company, former acting president of OPEC, present foreign minister) - what gives you the idea that he should (or will) listen to YOU?

I think you owe Chavez an apology, and maybe you could provide him or his representatives a chance to answer the attacks of his enemies in your overbearing and condescending article.

Richard Coleman~

~COHA Responds:

I think that it would be helpful for you to be reminded of the fact that we have 31 interns here at COHA and they work very hard – often seven days a week – to give a voice in Washington to something akin to what I am certain is your point of view. When an intern turns in a credible and well-researched piece investigating an issue like some aspect of President Chavez’s policies, we’re not going to easily turn it down because it is not entirely congruent with our own thoughts on the subject – at the very least, that would smack of Stalinism.

As for our mandate, we get part of it from my being present, as an official of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL), at the time of the Pinochet coup. There we witnessed the small non-structural mistakes being made by President Allende that did so much damage to his admirable experiment. Regarding COHA’s bona fides on Venezuela, we have done hundred upon hundreds of studies which have been very supportive of the Chavez presidency and the various admirable reforms he already has, or would like to see implemented, a fact which President Chavez has seen fit to publicly acknowledge, to our great pride.

Surely your offensive rant doesn’t mean to suggest that a respect for Chavez demands silence on the part of his well-wishers when important differences come up. If this is so, one becomes not a heavy hitter for a democratic socialist cause, but somehow dissolves into advocating some kind of authoritarian trajectory. It is shameless to implicitly demand that the choice is that one must either slavishly dedicate one’s intellectual fiat to others, or have to be mute to some of Chavez’s less thoughtful sorties.

We at COHA immensely respect Chavez, enough to counsel him in a forthright way – and as a friend of the court – and we know that when we say to him, ten cuidado, he will give thoughtful consideration to what we say, because that is the kind of relationship we have established with this good man. In all humility, we ask you to arm yourself with the same weapons which would then allow you to substitute a reasoned dialogue for your otherwise harsh, if shallow rhetoric.

COHA Director Larry Birns~

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