The Sound & The Fury
Venezuela's leader talks to TIME's Tim Padgett about why he
lashes out against President Bush
By TIM PADGETT
09/24/06 "Time" -- -- TIME: Why do you attack President George
W. Bush with such jolting language?
CHAVEZ: I believe words have great weight, and I want people to
know exactly what I mean. I'm not attacking President Bush; I'm
simply counterattacking. Bush has been attacking the world, and
not just with words--with bombs. When I say these things I
believe I'm speaking for many people, because they too believe
this moment is our opportunity to stop the threat of a U.S.
empire that uses the U.N. to justify its aggression against half
the world. In Bush's speech to the U.N., he sounded as if he
wants to be master of the world. I changed my original speech
after reading his.
TIME: But doesn't your rhetoric--referring to Bush, for example,
as an "alcoholic"--risk alienating potential allies?
CHAVEZ: First of all, Bush has called me worse: tyrant, populist
dictator, drug trafficker, to name a few. I was simply telling a
truth that people should know about this President, a man with
TIME: Is all of this mostly for domestic consumption back in
CHAVEZ: No. American author Noam Chomsky in his book [Hegemony
or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance] talks of two
superpowers in today's world--one is the U.S., which
aggressively wants to dominate the world, and the other is
global public opinion. I don't consider what I'm saying personal
attacks on President Bush--I want to wake up U.S. and global
public opinion about him.
TIME: Do your feelings about Bush reflect your feelings toward
America in general?
CHAVEZ: No. I revere America as the nation of Abraham Lincoln,
Martin Luther King and Mark Twain--who was a great
anti-imperialist, who opposed U.S. adventurism in the
TIME: You often speak of the link between U.S. foreign policy
and its appetite for oil.
CHAVEZ: Bush wanted Iraq's oil, and I believe he wants
Venezuela's oil. The blame for high oil prices lies in the
consumer model of the U.S. Its reckless oil consumption is a
form of suicide.
TIME: You said recently that you believe the "Bolívar Doctrine
is finally replacing the Monroe Doctrine" on your watch. Why?
CHAVEZ: For two centuries in this hemisphere we've experienced a
confrontation between two theses--America's Monroe Doctrine,
which says the U.S. should exercise hegemony over all the other
republics, and the doctrine of Simón Bolívar, which envisioned a
great South American republic as a counterbalance. Bush has
spread the Monroe thesis globally, to make the U.S. the police
of the world--if you're not with us, he says, you're against us.
We're simply doing the same now with the Bolívar thesis--a
doctrine of more equality and autonomy among nations, more
equilibrium of power.
TIME: What's the difference between your "socialism for the 21st
century" and past attempts to fix the region's economic
CHAVEZ: When I was released from prison [in 1994] and began my
political life, I naively took as a reference point Tony Blair's
proposal for a "third way" between capitalism and
socialism--capitalism with a human face. Not anymore. After
seeing the failure of Washington-backed capitalist reforms in
Latin America, I no longer think a third way is possible.
Capitalism is the way of the devil and exploitation, of the kind
of misery and inequality that destroys social values. If you
really look at things through the eyes of Jesus Christ--who I
think was the first socialist--only socialism can really create
a genuine society.
TIME: Yet one slogan of your re-election campaign is "Against
Chávez, Against the People." You also seem to have taken on a
CHAVEZ: The difference is ethics and morals. We're not
threatening anyone. That slogan is simply a call for conscious
reflection on national unity. We're not going to enforce it by
bombing or invading anyone.
TIME: Critics have noted that while you were free to slam
President Bush on U.S. soil, a new defamation law in Venezuela
makes people subject to criminal prosecution for slander against
officials like you.
CHAVEZ: They need to visit Venezuela. If you think Chávez is
intimidating free expression, just watch television there--my
God, devil is the least of things the opposition is allowed to
call me on the air.
TIME: Could Venezuela play an interlocutor role between Iran and
the U.S.? You and President Bush have some things in common--you
both hail from cowboy country and enjoy Clint Eastwood movies.
CHAVEZ: I like Danny Glover movies better. But I don't believe
there is anyone who can play the interlocutor with a leader who
considers himself master of the world, as Bush does. Before the
2002 coup attempt against me--which Bush backed--various
Presidents around the world tried to be interlocutors between
Bush and Chávez. I said sure, please give him my regards. But
they found it a waste of time with this U.S. President. I could
talk to Clinton, but not Bush.
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