Caracas, Venezuela, September 21, 2005—Upon his return from a three-day trip to New York, Venezuela’s President Chavez let himself be celebrated, on Sunday, by supporters in front of Miraflores Presidential Palace, where he declared, “Venezuela is no one’s backyard,” in a reference to a common view in the U.S. that Latin America is the backyard of the U.S.
Chavez went on to outline the accomplishments of his trip to New York and the United Nations, where he held one of the most applauded speeches of all the world leaders that came to address the opening of the 60th General Assembly. In his UN speech, which he gave on Friday, Chavez called for a revolution of the UN, not mere reform. He argued that UN was being dominated by the U.S., which itself was not playing by international rules, such as when it invaded Iraq.
For a while, Chavez was not sure if he should go to the UN summit, he said, because he always felt that such summits are a waste of time. A few years ago, Chavez complained that while world leaders go “from summit to summit, our peoples go from abyss to abyss.”
Chavez said that he became determined to go the UN meeting when the U.S. embassy in Venezuela did not provide his delegation the necessary visas on time. “Evidently the U.S. government was trying to sabotage our trip to the UN and this is what provided me with the impulse to go. So I said, ‘they don’t want me to go, so now I will definitely go.’” Also, he felt that it was necessary to tell the world the truth about what is happening in Venezuela, given all of the disinformation.
Visit to the Bronx
Following his UN speech on Friday, Chavez gave several interviews to U.S. media outlets and held speeches in the Bronx and in Manhattan. U.S. Representative José Serrano, who has on several occasions criticized the Bush administration’s policy towards Venezuela, organized his speech in a Bronx community center, known as the Latin Pastoral Action Center.
Prior to the forum in the community center, Chavez toured the Bronx, where he saw the Bronx River and told Felix Rodriguez, the CEO of the Venezuelan oil company Citgo, to initiate a study of the river to see how it could be cleaned up.
Aside from helping solve the problem of the Bronx River’s contamination, Chavez said that Citgo would also become involved in helping people of the Bronx to get free eye operations via “Mission Miracle,” which is to provide operations to North and South Americans in Cuba. Venezuela would help conduct preliminary examinations and would provide transportation to Cuba for the operations.
Another plan Chavez offered, which he had first announced a few weeks ago, was for Citgo to sell heating oil to poor U.S. communities at below-market rates.
Representative Serrano praised Chavez, saying, “This man is much more democratic than some of the people we know of here,” alluding indirectly to President George Bush.
Chavez’s speech to members of Bronx community groups and youth focused on the need to develop the “socialism of the 21st century,” which would counter the neo-liberal economic policies of U.S. imperialism. According to Chavez, this new socialism must be based in Christianity. “A new Christian Socialism … the first great socialist was Christ,” said Chavez to the crowd.
Chavez’s next stop was the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where he praised U.S. icons such as Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Martin Luther King, John. F. Kennedy, and praised Marquis de Lafayette’s role in providing inspiration and support for Venezuelal’s independence struggle.
The forum for Chavez’s speech was called, “Social Forum on Poverty and Justice in a Globalized World,” and was also attended by Rev. Jesse Jackson; Father Roy Bourgeois, Founder of SOA Watch; Danny Glover and other personalities.
Chavez defended the role of the pro-Venezuela groups know as Bolivarian Circles in the U.S., which have been accused of being dangerous agents of the Venezuelan government infiltrated in the U.S.