Revolution, A Love Story
By Cindy Sheehan
(Written March 2011 before President Chavéz was diagnosed with Cancer)
Amazingly, at the time, I really had no idea that the World Social Forum was about socialism, and I really didn’t know much more about President Hugo Chavéz then he was a very vocal opponent of my opponents: George Bush, and the U.S. Empire. That trip to Caracas was a whirlwind of speeches, meetings, and rallies.
At one point, I was pulled out of a meeting to go to the presidential palace, Miraflores, to meet with President Chavéz. Along with a few colleagues, he gave us a tour of some of the places where the US - CIA backed coup attempt occurred in April of 2002 — a living “ The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” with our guide being the “star” of the show. Chavéz not only survived that coup attempt, because of his people, but also has thrived as the socialist/anti - imperialist president of Venezuela for over ten years, now.
That year in Caracas, I stumbled through my meetings and obligations, just knowing enough to survive that trip. However, after I did go down to Venezuela for that WSF and meet with President Chavez (Che Guevara’s daughter, Elena, helped treat me for a migraine), I was “greeted” with deep - seeded hostility when I returned back to Il Imperio (The Empire), even from people whom I would consider on “the left.”
“Cindy, the enemy of your enemy is not your friend.” “Hugo Chavéz may hate George Bush like you do, but he is an oppressive, anti - American, Communist dictator.” “Blah, blah, blah!”
I was even hauled in before Arianna Huffington and soundly scolded for my “indiscretion.” (A working definition of irony: I have stuck to my “ peace at all costs ” platform all these years and am nearly broke, yet Arianna is a political chameleon who just sold her soul — oops I mean website — to AOL for hundreds of millions of dollars?)
In the early years of my activism, I did a lot of things that I wasn’t ready for — and meeting this “anti - American Communist, dictator” was one of them. Because of the criticism from what passes as the left in this country, I started to do a little more research in to Venezuelan politics, Hugo Chavéz, and the Bolivarian Revolution.
Simon Bolívar, the liberator of Latin America and his vision has been part of the inspiration for the revolution of Chavéz. What I found after my studies greatly relieved me! I felt justified in defending Chavéz and in my support of him and his policies.
Once when I was invited to be on MSNBC’s Hardball, the guest hostess Norah O’Donnell made some blatantly untrue comments about President Chavez, so I had to correct her and she asked me: “Would you rather have Hugo Chavéz as your president, than George Bush?” What else could I say but, “Yes. ” It’s not everyday one is faced with such a clear - cut choice, but I sure set off a shit - storm of Anti - Sheehan attacks after that rare bit (for TV, but not me) of honesty.
Since the beginning of 2006 and my trip to Caracas, I have traveled the world and met people from presidents on down to beggars on the streets that can usually “thank” The Empire for the foundation of their poverty; I have run an unsuccessful campaign for Congress against a card - carrying member of the oppressor - class here in the US, Nancy Pelosi; I have been arrested many times and harassed because of my beliefs and activities; I have published five books; been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and have been gifted with three grandchildren (note: four now),— and all of these experiences have combined, along with the death of my son in 2004, to bring me to the conclusion that the system we live under in the US — whether one wants to call it Capitalism, Crony Capitalism, Corporatism, Imperialism, Oligarchy, ( or whatever name for this cyst - em that makes you happy) — is a profoundly diseased and crumbling system.
For decades, Venezuela suffered under the US corporations, CIA, and “leaders” who were dependent on and supporters of the rape and pillage of their country by the US (kind of like Hosni Mubarak). The people were strangled by this system and rose up against it many times, and failed, but the soil was being prepared for one to step in and show the people of Venezuela a new way — an alternative to the stranglehold US capitalistic imperialism had on his country.
So, in 2010, after I became what I like to call an “organic Marxist,” writing my own wo(man)ifesto in 2009, called: Myth America: 20 Greatest Myths of the Robber Class and the Case for Revolution, I wanted to go back to Venezuela to chat with Chavéz about something more important than “Senor Peligro,” (Mr. Danger), George Bush. I wanted to witness a socialist revolution in process. I wanted to be able to come back to the US with evidence of a better way. To do that, I also felt it was urgent to dispel the “myths” about President Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, too.
I received permission to interview the President and I raised the money to travel there with two camera operators — and our “mission” was to interview the president, and talk to people in the “barrios” of Venezuela to see how this revolution was affecting them — screw the oligarchy and opposition that still remain there — their sob-stories of stolen lost wealth to the socialist way are told over and over and over and over and over again in Venezuelan media and our media, too.
I have no sympathy for the robbers who became a little less wealthy sitting behind their walls in their mansions feeling sorry for themselves. I wish that would happen here in the US — wouldn’t it be a shame if Mr. Rockefeller had to have a few of his oil wells and properties expropriated to pay for healthcare, environmental clean - up, jobs, and education for we the people here in the US? No, it wouldn’t be a shame — the wealth that such people like Rockefeller, Morgan, Vanderbilt, Rothschild, Gates, Soros, Koch, Winfrey, or T. Boone Pickens, have accumulated is obscene and belongs to everyone, not just them.
I asked one formerly illiterate and disadvantaged person in the barrio of San Agustin what she thought about the amendment to the Bolivarian Republic’s new Constitution (more about the Constitution later) that allows Chavéz to run for president without term limits. She said: “I hope he is president for life, we would die for him and the revolution.” In fact, many people did die in 2002 during the coup attempt defending and supporting Chavez.
Chavéz loves the people of Venezuela — he owes them his life. But what, if anything, do we owe to such a person and his country that are being unfairly and unjustly demonized at every opportunity by our own country? We owe Chavéz a balanced look at what he’s done, why he’s done it, and what he is still attempting to do with all the obstacles placed in his way from El Imperio and to the less (maybe) sinister problems of global climate change.
This book is my inadequate attempt at showing appreciation to my supporters and to President Chavéz for helping me see that there is a better way to do things than we do them here in the US.
Revolution cannot be achieved or accomplished by one person, no matter how dedicated he/she is. Is they way of Chavéz perfect? I don’t think so, (and I will examine the challenges, too) but that’s the beauty of revolution — it’s a continuing process that takes everybody working together to achieve as close to perfection as mere humans can.
The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela is not an uprising like we see happening in the Arab world and closer to home in Madison, Wisconsin. No, it is a plan and Chavéz told me during our interview in Montevideo because of all the “obstacles” and “challenges,” they have really only accomplished about 10% of what the Revolution has set out to do . (Does that sound like an autocrat? If he were one, at least 90% would be accomplished).
The Representative Republic that was formed by the plutocracy in the US has only led us to increasing fascistic oppressions and a growing income disparity that is the largest in so - called developing nations.
Chavéz is successfully leading a “Great Experiment” in Venezuela at a time when the “Great American Experiment,” in the US described by Alexis de Tocqueville in the 19th Century is failing.
Capitalism, US style, is trying so hard to save itself for the wealthy and power mad, that it attacks small countries and leaders like President Hugo Chavéz because the plutocracy still calls the shots and is terrified of, “ the threat of a good example.”
I want to disclose up front that I love this subject. It is not a non - biased look, but I can promise you it will be an honest look and one that you won’t find in very many other places. I will present statistics and facts, tinted with enthusiasm and inspiration that can’t be woven around a web of Imperial lies.
I guarantee you that there is a better way — there is a path we can follow to peace and freedom.
It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth every step we MUST take.
Vamos, mis amigos.
(Let’s go, my friends!)
March 5, 2014
One of the last times I spoke with Hugo Chavéz in 2010, he greeted me warmly and said, "Welcome home, Cindy. Our country is your country; your son is our son."
I was called back to Caracas 15-months after that visit and I missed seeing Chavéz because I was told that he had a "pulled groin muscle." Within the next several weeks we learned that he was diagnosed with the cancer that would kill him a little less than two years later.
His dedication to fighting the cancer matched his unrelenting dedication to the people of Venezuela. Chavéz had been young and vibrant: he was not ready to go. I can imagine his agony over leaving three children, his grandson, and his beloved Venezuela. One year ago today, the world lost a great human, father, leader. I was at a grocery store when I received a text from my sister telling me he had passed: I put my head on the cold door in the frozen food section and openly wept. I wondered if people were thinking I was crying because my favorite frozen pizza was not in stock. I didn't care. I replaced the items I had in my hand basket and quickly left and cried all the way on my walk home.
I wept for my friend Chavéz and myself; for the people of Venezuela, and the world.
What President Chavéz and his Bolivarian Revolution were able to do in Venezuela inspired many oppressed Latin American and Caribbean nations to work together to begin to break the chains that bound them to The Empire that has long been crushing them under its neo-liberal/violent boot heel.
Now, of course the US is ramping up its campaign against the transparently and democratically elected government and Revolution in Venezuela, but I have confidence in the people that they will not go back to the way it used to be. The greatest accomplishment of Chavéz was to empower the people and once empowered, never, ever again enslaved.
The Bolivarian Revolution and the leadership of Hugo Chavéz is one of my inspirations for my run for Governor of California. If Venezuela was able to dramatically close the income gap, educate people, improve their access to nutritional food, and empower them, imagine what we could do here in California.
US Presidents come and go with nauseating, "electoral" regularity, but in my opinion, history will look back on Hugo Rafael Chavéz Frias as one of the most significant figures in the early 21st Century.
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