In a careless slip of the tongue in August, 2006 Virginia Senator George Allen shot himself in the foot and ended his political career. During a campaign rally Allen pointed to a man of Indian descent and remarked “This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is. He’s with my opponent. He’s following us around everywhere. And it’s just great.”
Allen’s supporters began to laugh.
“Let’s give a welcome to macaca, here,” the Senator added. “Welcome to
The word macaca is an ethnic slur meaning either a monkey that inhabits the Eastern Hemisphere or a town in
Allen’s infamous outburst was captured on video and circulated widely on the internet after the footage was posted on YouTube. The Senator’s campaign manager dismissed the issue with an expletive and insisted the Senator had “nothing to apologize for.” But once the story started to circulate, Allen sought to salvage his career by claiming that the word had no derogatory meaning for him. He then said he was sorry.
The issue however did not go away. S.R. Sidarth, the man who Allen had slurred, remarked that he suspected the
Allen’s stunning gaffe contributed to his defeat in the 2006 election when the veteran politician lost against long-shot Democrat Jim Webb. Some Republican strategists believe that Allen might have been a contender for the 2008 Republican presidential ticket if he had not made his macaca gaffe.
Racist Rhetoric in
Such ethnic slurs have no place in modern politics and yet the
Take for example the case of Rubén Costas, an opposition figure in
Fair skinned and European looking, Costas hardly resembles
Costas, like many of his white and mestizo racist followers, regard the Indians in the highlands with contempt. The
Following Costas’ election, the right opposition escalated its pressure on the Morales government, organizing protests in the city of Sucre against the President’s proposed Constitution which would have given the country’s indigenous majority a greater say in political decision making. An advocate for powerful business interests, Costas was also one of the right wing politicians who called for a referendum on autonomy for
A demagogic populist who likes to stir ethnic hatreds, Costas continued to up the ante last month. As a result of Morales’ victory in an August 10 recall referendum, the Santa Cruz politician called the President “murderous” and demanded that Morales cease his “bullying.”
Speaking in a plaza full of his supporters, Costas said
When asked by the Brazilian magazine Terra whether he would retract his statements about Chávez, Costas remarked “I don’t regret it at all.” The
Our Man in
Even as he was escalating the racist rhetoric, Costas sought importantly allies. On August 25th, he met with U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg. Though the diplomat claimed that he had met Costas in public while on a routine trip to
The diplomatic tit-for-tat brings political tensions to new heights. Last week, anti-Morales sentiment reached a crescendo when protesters burned government offices in
Even Virginia Senator George Allen, a politician with a long history of making racist comments, ultimately realized that he had made a mistake and apologized at long last. Not so Rubén Costas, a figure who is unabashed about his views. Far from shunning racist leaders like Costas, the
Nikolas Kozloff is a NACLA Senior Research Associate and the author of Revolution!