There is a lot of talk about Venezuela these days. Few can have missed that the Reverend Pat Robertson called for the assassination of President Hugo Chavez in his own TV-channel Christian Broadcast. In short he said: ‘We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability, ?We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator, ? It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with, ? You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it,? It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war … and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.’
The official comments from the US government have been few and unclear. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: ‘We don’t do that kind of thing, it is illegal’. He has also said that Pat Robertson is ‘just a private citizen’. Well, Pat Robertson is a private citizen, but not just. He is a Reverend; he was a candidate for the Republican Party’s Presidential nomination in 1992, along with the millions of supporters of his Christian Coalition 700 Club, they are a key constituency of the Republican Party, he is a televangelist and he owns his own TV-channel. He is also a personal friend of US president George W Bush Jr.
In Sweden lately the news has reported on another friendship; President Chavez comradeship with Fidel Castro. Meanwhile no news has reported on President Bush’s friendship with Pat Robertson. In Sweden, there will be a conference on democracy 28th-30th August. It will be held in the national parliament and it is closed to the public. Understanding today’s obstacles to democracy is the theme for the 7th world meeting of democracy promoting foundations, and it is organised by the Swedish parliamentary foundations and International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). The Swedish Government will participate.
In that conference a panel named Supporting regime change – democratic support or intervention is on the programme. The first programme had both Carl Gershman, president of well-known National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Eva Golinger, US citizen, lawyer and author of the book The Chavez code, cracking U.S. intervention in Venezuela. In that book she shows how the Bush administration finances and participates in the campaign to overthrow Venezuela’s elected president Hugo Chavez. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) plays an important role in this campaign as the U.S. government financed organ for what they say is promoting democracy in the world.
Now Eva Golinger has been removed from the programme. She received a letter, saying that she at this late stage no longer fitted into the programme, when she was already on. Reasons for removing her have been that she is democratically dubious, as she has said condescending things about NEDs president. According to, of course, unofficial sources it was the NED that conditioned their participation upon her removal. The organisers´ intervention implies that there will be no critical or alternative voice on that panel; no one that could argue that supporting regime change might actually be intervention, rather than democracy building.
To call a democratically elected president ‘a strong armed dictator’ as Pat Robertson did is quite extreme. The US government usually claims that Venezuela has problems with democracy. In Sweden the bourgeois political parties call Chavez an anti-democrat. (They sometimes call the Swedish Government anti-democratic as well; democratic one-party-state is a concept the Swedish People’s party use.) What makes the conference in Sweden different is that the Swedish Government will participate in the conference. The social democratic government is thereby sanctioning a rather dubious action: to remove a critical voice from a panel in a conference about democracy.
On top of that, the Swedish minister that will speak at the conference is the minister of development. And if there is something interesting going on in Venezuela it is development.
Actually what makes Venezuela so interesting is the process the country is going through. Venezuela is a model of development in a world were “making poverty history” is a bracelet you can buy. In Venezuela they are making poverty history by using the countries wealth to make society richer. And when the rest of the world is saying that it is impossible to erase homelessness in Stockholm, rebuild the underground in New York, or feed and educate everybody in the African continent Venezuela is doing all these things at home.
Venezuela has recently been proclaimed the second country of Latin America free from illiteracy. People are getting increased access to housing, food, health education and huge numbers participate in a vibrant democracy. The Venezuelan government promotes development in the rest of the Latin American continent. Venezuela, along with Uruguay, Cuba and Argentina promotes cultural diversity through the regionally oriented television station Telesur. Integration and mutual development is talked about in various meetings with Latin American presidents and prime ministers. Venezuela has close cooperation and trade ties with Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador, and the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM).
One day – if the process is not interrupted – the level of welfare will be a high as Sweden. Indeed the Venezuelan process has many similarities to the development of the Swedish Model.
In a democracy people participate and decide, there is a process going on, and people have the opportunity to decide over economy and welfare. That all happened in the building of the Swedish welfare state. A majority of the people is rarely given, but has to struggle for, freedom, welfare and democratic rights. People did that in Sweden, as well as in Chile and now in Venezuela.
Sweden ceased long ago to be the country with a prime minister who marched with the anti-Viet Nam war movement, that hosted the famous Russell tribunal in its capital Stockholm and that stood up for small third world countries at the UN. The difference between Sweden and the rest of the Western countries has been steadily decreasing since the 80s. But still the Swedish government’s development policies have been respected. Yet having a social democratic development minister that is more interested in the NED than in development suggests a future that is anything but bright.