“Chavez Embodies a Revolution"

Hugo Chavez embodies a revolution. It signifies much more than a change in the government. In revolutionary processes mistakes are made, there are things which could have been done better, but history is like that. His victory signifies a change in the political system of Venezuela.

By Richard Gott - Red Pepper Blog
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[Below is an English translation of an interview with British journalist Richard Gott which first appeared in Spanish on the Rebelion website. Gott's book, Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, has just been published in Spanish by Ediciones Foca. To read the original Spanish version of the interview click here.--Ed]

Publication Date: September 15, 2005

Translation and footnote by Pablo Navarrete

“Hugo Chavez embodies a revolution. It signifies much more than a change in the government. In revolutionary processes mistakes are made, there are things which could have been done better, but history is like that. His victory signifies a change in the political system of Venezuela”, says Richard Gott, author of Hugo Chávez y la Revolución Bolivariana (Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution), published by Ediciones Foca. Born in the UK in 1938, this veteran journalist of The Guardian, and a renowned Latin America scholar since the 1960s, says that, “The most fascinating thing is that at the time of the Cuban revolution, half a century ago, it was impossible to undertake a radical change without it involving a guerrilla campaign. Now it is feasible, and Chavez has succeeded in uniting more than half the country around him…”

Question: Hugo Chavez’s political trajectory is strange: a military coupster turned leader of the democratic left.

Answer: I think that Chavez has always been a man of the left. In Latin America there is a tradition of progressive members of the military. The problem is that in Europe we know all about Pinochet or other reactionary and fascist generals, but we’ve forgotten that another tradition also exists, which is the tradition that Hugo Chavez comes from.

Q: You say that the political figure of Hugo Chavez changes significantly following the April 2002 coup…

A: Shortly after the coup the English historian Eric Hobsbawm called me and said, “Richard, this is Hugo Chavez’s Bay of Pigs”, and in truth that was the case. I think that for Chavez the coup showed him that it was possible to go further, to radicalise his rhetoric; especially after the [December 2002] oil strike, when he made the state’s power count.

Q: Venezuela is now nearing new elections. Is there any alternative to his hegemony?

A: The big problem in Venezuela is that the opposition is extremely worn out and discredited. In my opinion, it’s impossible for this opposition to be successful, neither now nor in the future. I think that the real opposition to Chavez will come from within chavismo.[1] The country has entered a totally new phase and the old politicians from previous years will never reappear.

Q: To what extent has Hugo Chavez become a reference point for the left in Latin America?

A: The left in Latin America is in total crisis, as it is in the rest of the world. People say that there is a leftist wave in the region but I don’t think that this is that relevant. There is a mixture of ideas in Latin America, something really new, which is reflected in the resurgence of indigenous movements and in the rejection of globalisation or neoliberal policies. And Chavez is part of this new wave. We don’t know how far it will go, but I think that it is a movement that we haven’t paid enough attention to.

[1] The term commonly used in Venezuela to describe individuals and organisations who support Hugo Chavez.