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Chavez talks to union leaders in New York City
Source Julio Huato
Date 09/09/26/10:02

JUST TO SAY THAT, last night, invited by the New York Left Labor
Project coordinated by Larry Moskowitz, I attended a meeting with
president Hugo Chavez of Venezuela at the Venezuelan consulate near
the UN compound.

Chavez spent several hours with us, a small group of New York
labor-union and political activists. After brief introductions by two
SEIU leaders, Chavez spoke for over an hour. In response to the
thank-yous for-keeping-the-socialist-flame-lit-in-the-21st-century
expressed by those who preceded him, Chavez replied that he viewed
himself and other regional leaders (Morales, Correa, etc.) as effects
rather than causes -- specks just trying to navigate a hurricane, the
rise of the peoples of Latin America. He then tried to place the
struggles today in the broader scope of the secular struggle of the
Latin American peoples against colonialism and imperialism.

On the Soviet Union, he argued that it never represented a threat to
the national security of the U.S. That the threat was made up by the
strategists of the empire. He referred to the plebeian revolutionary
thrust of October, and praised the effort. He said he had recently
visited factories in places that were previously part of the Soviet
Union, illustrating this with an anecdote about workers in a truck
manufacturing plant in Kiev. He then noted that by the time the
Soviet Union disintegrated, none of these workers raise up, which
showed that regretfully the socialist content had by then been emptied
out of the Soviet Union shell.

Regarding Obama, he said he often had the impression that there were
two of them, one giving great speeches and another one implementing
policies that contradicted his speeches. He referred Obama's speech
at the UN general assembly in which the U.S. president said the U.S.
was interested in promoting peace and disarmament, yet he was
installing military bases in Colombia. He said it was telling that
Obama in his speech made no reference whatever to Honduras. He said
that Obama could play a tremendously positive role in the U.S. and the
world, but that he needed to be "enlightened by the gods," which -- in
concrete terms -- translated into working people in the U.S. and the
world raising up to challenge him and pressure him to deliver on his
promises. Chavez referred to the anger Obama's mild attempts of
reform was eliciting among right-wingers.

Chavez said he, as a representative of the Venezuelan people, wanted a
good relationship with Obama. He wanted to be able to talk with him,
and encourage him to cooperate to address the issues he said the U.S.
wanted to promote. But that there were some surrounding Obama who
didn't want that kind of direct relationship to happen. So, he needed
our help, the help of regular U.S. working people to get around the
obstacles. He repeated that Venezuela posed no threat to the U.S.,
which he deemed a great country.

In the Q&A segment, he took five questions from the audience, most of
them union activists and leaders. He devoted over an hour to
answering these questions, even though he was hard pressed to go see
next a movie with Evo Morales and Oliver Stone, and then use some of
his night to prepare his U.N. speech this afternoon. (Not that he had
to start from scratch crafting his speech, which he never reads,
because I'm under the impression that he used us to test some of the
lines he'll deliver this afternoon at the UN podium.) Most of the
questions were about exploring avenues of cooperation between
Venezuela and working people in the U.S. (e.g. whether CITGO could buy
Stella D'Oro and allow a coop of workers to run it), Iraq, etc.
Chavez made the point that the government-to-government agreements
that constituted the ALBA (Boliviarian Alternative for the Americas)
were meant to be the spearhead, but that the shell had to be filled
with people cooperating horizontally. He said there was a
social-movement council in ALBA that could incorporate U.S. working
organizations, just as it included Indian movements and other
grassroots organizations in Latin America. He just said that we had
to be careful, since it was always possible for the powers that be to
present any cooperation with Venezuela as "Chavez setting up cells of
Hizbollah in New York City." (All quotes are from my admittedly
deficient memory.)

One question gave him the opportunity to reflect on the changes that
have happened in the region and the world in the last ten years plus,
since he became president of Venezuela. He didn't really take credit
from them, since -- he said -- all one individual can do is "try and
navigate the hurricane." He concluded by referring to Marx and Engels
and their ever-more-valid Manifesto call for the workers of the world
to unite.

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