Sunday, March 06, 2005

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Saturday sang and danced along with thousands of people in Kolkata where the Communist leader was accorded a rousing welcome. Chavez swayed to the tunes of Spanish songs dished out by a musical group at a football stadium, where about 50,000 people packed in to hear an emotional anti-imperialist speech by the Venezuelan leader. "The US can not expect to grab and enjoy all the good things in the world. We will not let that happen," Chavez, who spoke in Spanish, said to a huge roar of approval from the crowd. While Chavez spoke animatedly against "US imperialism", top Communist leaders of West Bengal, including Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattachaya, nodded and clapped, agreeing with what he said. "We will provide more oil to countries like India and China. We have come forward to help India with oil so that it can become a front ranking country in the world," he said. Thousands of people, including school students and women, waited for hours for Chavez to arrive. He was late by about two-and-a-half hours as people whiled away their time listening to Spanish songs played on a public address system. Schoolchildren waved flags of India and Venezuela.

Not that you'd know it by watching the news or anything, but Hugo Chavez has been in India. He is beginning to look like the leader of the developing world's opposition to the US. I think there are several reasons he can do this. First and foremost, he is extremely charismatic, and has so far stood the test of time.

Second, he is president of the world's fifth largest producer of oil. Oil is always sure to piss off the US. Instead of handing contracts to US multinationals, he can give them to Brazilian, or Indian companies. Chavez can provide oil contracts beneficial to the third world in order to level the playing field with the US and Europe.

Third, Venezuela is in the Western Hemisphere. The US can only try covert operations, never direct action, Latin America would never stand for it. And Venezuela's opposition is so fragmented and corrupt, covert ops are not likely to get far.

Fourth, the international policies of the US over the past 50 years (not just the past 4) have led to a number of new style leftist governments in important countries all over the developing world; Brazil, India, Bolivia, to name a few. This provides Chavez with a natural alliance. When lumped in with the OPEC countries, what's left of the old school communist countries (China, Cuba, North Korea), and a few "rogue nations", like Iran and you have an alliance of countries vastly different in makeup and belief, but all desperately poor and have felt first hand the results of US imperialism. This alliance could be nothing to shake a stick at, and also makes Chavez appear more Statesman like, and less of saber wielding strongman.

An alliance like this is unlikely, the US has succeeded for so long by exploiting the differences of the developing world. But left unchecked by the Soviets, and the inept brazenness of Bush, it's not at all impossible.

Here's some more links about the trip to India and Chavez in general, if at all interested. Here, here,here and here