Listen to Amy Goodman’s interview with Oliver Stone and Tariq Ali:
Oliver Stone: So, Chávez was sort of a natural [as a subject for his work] because he is such a demonized, polarizing figure, but when I met him, it was not at all what I thought, you know, what we made him out to be. So, I went on from talking to Hugo — he suggested, “Go talk to other people in the region, don’t believe me necessarily” — so we went around and we talked to seven other presidents in six countries. We got this amazing unity in referendum saying, hey, these guys are changing the way Latin America is. . . . Peru and Colombia really are the two American allies in the region. So, what struck me as news, as something that is historic, is that I’ve never seen these countries in South America in a sense unified by an idea before . . . because in the past, when Chile or Argentina or Brazil happened, we picked off the reformers, one at a time. . . . It didn’t happen in a unity. This is the first time we’ve seen that since, what, Bolívar maybe. . . .
He [Chávez] is not rich, his father is not rich, he was also a military man, he comes from a poor family, and he is what he is. He works for the people. I’ve never seen a man work so hard. He really cares. So do all of them, by the way. Every single one of them I met was elected duly, democratically, which the Americans don’t know, and they serve the people, unlike the lot of oligarchs and dictators who ruled prior and we supported. We are against these people — that’s what amazes me. What is it about America that needs enemies and makes enemies out these people who are reformers in their countries, whether it’s Allende or people in Argentina or Brazil or Torrijos in Panama or — the list is long, you know. Why? . . .
Mark Weisbrot — who is with the Center for Economic Policy and Research and is a co-founder of that — brought that [IMF] element in this film. It’s very important. . . . Mark points out that in the 1990s there was about $20 billion in loans from the IMF to Latin America and now there’s about a billion, which is interesting. They got rid of it. Néstor Kirchner of Argentina is a real hero here. He did technically default on the IMF but then he paid them off, and he defaulted on the corporate bonds, which is a big scandal; yet Argentina’s economy, which was predicted to be a disaster, improved radically. So did Chávez’s economy for six years. I think their Gross National Product went 90% up — up 90% — poverty was cut in half. So, all these changes in all these countries have been positive since the IMF was out of there. They don’t want their money, they don’t want their loans. It’s important . . .
A Clip from South of the Border: Chávez’s reforms provoked fierce resistance from the country’s oligarchy. “We have a government that lies — they are all a bunch of liars” (Venezuelan corporate media). They control the Venezuelan media and used it to foment opposition. They also mobilized support within the military and received help from the United States and Spain. . . . “The coup against Chávez had one motive: oil. Bush made a plan: first Chávez — oil; second, Saddam, Iraq. The reason behind the coup in Venezuela and the invasion of Iraq is the same: oil” (Chávez). . . .
Oliver Stone: . . . By the way, the mainstream — the Washington Post, the New York Times — is awful. I mean, it’s almost as if the New York Times guy, Simon Romero, what’s his name, he sits there for years, and he’s a sniper, he doesn’t say one positive thing. It’s like every week or two, he has to file a story and make it negative. It seems like that’s the directive. . . . He never goes to the other side — he never gets the other side of the story. He takes a complex little incident and builds it up into this madhouse. It seems like Chile again, like Allende, it’s like the economy is crashing. On the contrary. It’s true. It’s a very rich country, it’s a regional power, it’s got apparently 500 billion barrels of oil in reserve, it’s a major player for the rest of our time on earth as long as we go with oil. They’re not gonna go away. . . . And that raises a whole interesting issue: what recently happened in Iran when Lula from Brazil went over there with Turkey’s Erdoğan. That was a very interesting moment for me and for Tariq. I grew up in the 50s and so did he, we remember the neutral bloc, we remember Nehru and Nasser and Sukarno and the fellow in Cambodia, Sihanouk. I mean, there was a bloc of people who used to say, hey, this is what we want, this is not what the United States wants. And they were the mediator, the third rail, between the Soviets and us. That’s gone in the world. . . . So, when Lula did that, I couldn’t believe the outrage of people like Tom Friedman attacking him. It was disgusting — it’s really disgusting — he never presented the point of view of Brazil and Turkey, which are major countries, huge powers, regional powers. . . .
Tariq Ali: . . . I mean, everyone was surprised in the West: how dare these countries have the nerve to go over our heads and negotiate an independent deal with Iran? But this is what the world once used to be like. No one accepted US hegemony unquestioningly as many of the Security Council members do. The other point is that Brazil was very courageous to do this, Lula particularly, because Brazil has been trying to get a permanent Security Council seat for a long time and they’ve now jeopardized that process — they’ll never be allowed it. So, they did it for a good, principled reason: showing the world that Iran is prepared to do a deal, it’s you who don’t want to do it, because you’re permanently under pressure from Israel.
Oliver Stone is a filmmaker. His latest films are South of the Border, out this week in the United States, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Tariq Ali is a writer, activist, and editor of New Left Review. The official South of the Border Web site is <southoftheborderdoc.com>. This interview was aired by DemocracyNow! on 21 June 2010. The text above is an edited partial transcript of the interview.