|Listen to Cindy Sheehan’s interview with Hugo Chavez:
Cindy Sheehan: President Chavez, thank you for allowing the truth to be told about Venezuela, and about you and your revolution. Before the revolution, Venezuela was a nation ruled and used by the oligarchy. How did the revolution begin and how has it remained relatively peaceful?
President Hugo Chavez (HC): Thank you Cindy, for your efforts to find out our truth, we wish you luck in your struggles, which we share, against war, for peace, for justice, for freedom and equality, against imperialism. We accompany you in those struggles, you and the people of the US. The bourgeoisie of Venezuela dominated the country for more than 100 years, with force, with violence, through persecution, assassination, forced disappearances. Unfortunately the history of Venezuela is a history with a lot of violence. Violence of the strong against the weak. In the 20th century in Venezuela, dominated by the oligarchy and the bourgeois state, a reverse miracle happened. Venezuela was the top exporter of oil from the 1920s until the 1970s, and one of the largest producers of oil in the world throughout all of the 20th century. But when the century ended, Venezuela had more than 70% poverty and 40% extreme poverty, misery. That generated a violent explosion — all explosions are violent. An explosion of the poor to liberate themselves. We were just remembering the anniversary of Caracazo a few days ago, on February 27, you were there with us, with our people. Twenty-one years ago the people awoke and arose in a big explosion. And us in the military were used by the bourgeois state to massacre the people — women and children — and that awoke a consciousness and a pain in the military, and led us to join with the people. We later led two rebellions. Our revolution isn’t exactly peaceful. It’s relatively peaceful.
The violence of the revolution appears to have come from the counterrevolution. The Bolivarian Revolution has transferred power and wealth to the people and has been an inspiration and at the same time has been relatively peaceful.
HC: Yes, we got to power in a peaceful way. And we have been able to maintain it, relatively. We’ve never used violence, the counterrevolution has used it against us. So the central strategy of our peaceful, socialist revolution is to transfer power to the people. I’m sure you’ve been able to see some of it with your own eyes in the neighborhoods of Caracas. We are engaging in immense efforts to help the people be sovereign. When we talk about power, what are we talking about, Cindy? The first power that we all have is knowledge, so we’ve made efforts in education, against illiteracy, to promote the development of thought, study, analysis, in a way that has never happened before. Today, all of Venezuela is a giant school. Children and senior citizens, all of us are studying and learning. Then there is political power, the capacity to make decisions — Community Councils, Communes, People’s Power, grassroots movements. We have economic power, transferring economic power to the people, distributing the wealth to the people. That is the principal force that guarantees the Bolivarian Revolution will continue to be peaceful.
Why do you think the Empire makes such a concerted effort to demonize you?
HC: There are several reasons, but I have come to the conclusion that there is one major reason. The Empire is afraid. The Empire is afraid that the people of the US will find out the truth and something could erupt in their own territory — a Bolivarian movement, a Lincoln-esque movement. A movement of citizens, conscious citizens that seek to transform the system. Imperial fear killed Martin Luther King, Jr. The only way to stop him was to kill him. Then, they repressed the citizens of the US. So, why do they demonize us? They know the truth, but they fear the truth. They fear the contagious effect. They fear a revolution in the US. They fear an awakening in the US.
One of the biggest names they call you in the US is dictator. Can you explain why you are not a dictator?
HC: I am against dictatorships. I’m an anti-dictator. From a political point of view, I’ve been elected four times by popular vote. In Venezuela, we have elections all the time. Once, Lula, the President of Brazil, said that in Venezuela there is an excess of democracy! Every year there are elections, referendums, popular consultations, elections for governors, mayors — right now we are starting campaigns for elections in the National Assembly. In 2012, there will be presidential elections. What dictator is elected so many times? What dictator calls for elections all the time? I’m an anti-dictator. I’m a revolutionary. A democratic revolutionary.
You’ve announced your candidacy for the 2012 elections. You’ve come a long way but there’s still a long way to go. What do you think still needs to be accomplished in Venezuela?
HC: To tell you in a mathematical way, with everything we’ve done in education, healthcare, infrastructure, housing, employment, social security, etc., and in the context of everything we want to do, we’ve achieved about 10%. It’s been 200 years of abandonment. The people have been abandoned. And all the wealth of the country was in the hands of the oligarchy. So, we have to work really hard. There is still a lot to do to achieve Bolivar’s dream. Simon Bolivar taught us that the best government is one which gives the people the largest amount of happiness. That is our goal.
A couple of weeks ago in the US, a man flew his airplane into a tax building in Austin, Texas. Did you hear about that? There’s a lot of that frustration in the US, but instead of flying planes into buildings we should find each other and organize. The US is a system for the elite, ruled by the elite, a coporacracy. Can you give us some words of inspiration to help us have the courage to make true revolutionary change?
HC: We were the same, dominated, persecuted, and there was a lot of desperation, just like that man who flew the plane into the building. There was a lot of that, a lot of suicidal tendencies, but that’s not the path, the path is consciousness, an awakening of consciousness. We had our own experiences, a lot of us died as well, and went to prison. That’s why what you are doing is the right thing. The path is not to fly a plane into a building, it’s to create consciousness, and then the rest will come on its own.
I’d like to take this moment to say hello to the people of the US. We in the South have a lot of faith that the people of the North are going to wake up, just like you have awoken. We can do great things in the US, make great changes, and in a peaceful way, I hope. Because the future of the world depends on what happens in the US.
I think that despite everything, the people of the US, in the depth of their hearts, know how to appreciate the difference between truth and lies. They call us anti-US leaders, but we’re not! We’re anti-imperialist. We love the people of the US, we love humanity.
Translation and transcription by Eva Golinger. This interview was first published in the 19 March 2010 issue of Orinoco International; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.