Caracas, Venezuela, January 16, 2006—In his annual speech to the nation and to the National Assembly, last Friday, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez summarized his government’s accomplishments of 2005, outlined plans for the near future, and lambasted the U.S. government for its imperial ambitions and its efforts to interfere in Venezuelan affairs.
Chavez said the U.S. government is attempting to Venezuela from buying arms. Chavez said, “the horrid US empire wants to impose itself on the world. They don’t respect anything, nothing.”
Chavez’s speech lasted several hours, covering many topics, such as poverty, public sector pay increases, defense, and accusations of anti-Semitism.
Chavez said the Venezuelan state was no longer controlled by, “neither the transnationals, the IMF, North American imperialism, nor domestic elites.” Nonetheless, “we still have infiltrated enemies, infiltrated corruption, and many vices to defeat,” said Chavez.
Poverty, according to Chavez dropped from 47% to 37% between 2004 and 2005 and extreme poverty to 13.3%, down from 17.1% in 1997%. Referring to the end of a possible second six-year term in office, Chavez said, “By 2013 we should be much closer to the goal of the “Christ” mission, of zero poverty.” Recently the Chavez government declared that all of the country’s social missions combined would be considered the “Christ” mission, whose aim is eradicate poverty in Venezuela by the year 2021.
Chavez said public sector workers at the lower end of the pay scale would receive a pay raise of up to 80% this year. According to Chavez, the government has set aside $1.2 billion to pay for the salary increases.
Not all public sector employees have benefited equally in the past with doctors gaining a 500% pay increase last year and others workers getting none. The details of who exactly will benefit from the increases have not yet been provided.
Chavez claimed the US was putting more pressure on Venezuela. Chavez said, “a new international offensive against Venezuela is commencing.” U.S. attempts to stop Venezuela from buying military planes from Spain and Brazil were a sign of this said Chavez.
The AK47 rifle and helicopter purchases from Russia are, “a necessity for a country threatened as we are, a place under the sights of the most powerful empire in the world,” said Chavez. Considering Venezuela’s position, “we have a responsibility to maintain a minimum capacity for our armed forces.”
The Venezuelan President also robustly denied accusations of anti-Semitism. The U.S.-based organization Simon Wiesenthal Center said Chavez made an anti-Semitic statement a few weeks ago, when he made a speech he on Christmas Eve, in which he spoke about the minority that “killed Jesus” and Simon Bolivar. Supporters of the president pointed out, though, that Chavez was referring to the world’s rich elite, since Simon Bolivar was not killed by Jews.
Chavez said, "Anti-liberal I am, anti-imperialist even more so, but anti-Semitic, never, that's a lie." Chavez said he thought the attack was, “an offensive of the empire.” The Venezuelan President also said he hoped that Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, would recover after his stroke.
Chavez also made another attack against Peruvian President Toledo. Chavez temporarily started singing after he said, "My friend Toledo reminded me of the song that goes 'You are so like Bush, you can't trick me.'" Chavez continued by saying, "In any case, Toledo doesn't have much time left. I wish him luck. I would have liked to have worked with him."