[Editor’s note: The transcript of Chavez’s speech at the end of this article had some translation errors. We now post a more accurate translation.]
Caracas, Venezuela, September 20, 2006 —Borrowing a line from U.S. linguist and foreign policy critic Noam Chomsky, Venezuela’s President Chavez told the 61st UN General Assembly that the world currently faces the choice between continued U.S. hegemony and human survival. Chavez also called for the re-founding of the United Nations, so as to avert this danger.
"The hegemonistic pretensions of the American empire are placing at risk the very existence of the human species," said Chavez, holding up a copy of Chomsky’s book and to the applause of many attendees. Chavez continued, stressing, "We appeal to the people of the United States and the world to halt this threat, which is like a sword hanging over our head.”
Chavez’s speech, which, following his well-received appearance at the UN the previous year, as widely anticipated, also went on to refer to U.S. President Bush as the “devil” on several occasions. “Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world,” he said.
Chavez strongly criticized Bush’s speech of the previous day, saying that he seeks to impose an elitist model of democracy on the world. “They say they want to impose a democratic model. But that’s their democratic model. It’s the false democracy of elites, and, I would say, a very original democracy that’s imposed by weapons and bombs and firing weapons.”
Bush’s reference to the fight against extremists was another issue Chavez rejected, saying that those Bush sees as extremists are those who resist imperial domination, saying, “You can call us extremists, but we are rising up against the empire, against the model of domination.”
Chavez went on to mock Bush’s statement that he wants peace, pointing out how he is responsible for wars in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine and then Bush says, according to Chavez, “We are suffering because we see homes destroyed.”
The ways in which the U.S. is able to get away with its ambitions are proof that the UN system has “collapsed” and is “worthless,” according to Chavez, and is in need of being “re-founded.”
Concretely, Chavez repeated four proposals that he said Venezuela had made a year earlier. First, the UN Security Council should be expanded, with new permanent members from the Third World. Second, said Chavez, it needs “methods to address and resolve world conflicts.” Third, the abolishing of the “undemocratic” veto in the Security Council. Fourth, the strengthening of the role of the UN Secretary General.
Chavez also referred to his effort to have Venezuela represented on the Security Council, accusing the U.S. of “an immoral attack,” in its effort to prevent Venezuela from obtaining one of the two-year rotating seats. He then listed the many countries that have publicly declared their support for Venezuela’s effort to be on the Security Council, such the members of Mercosur, of Caricom, of the Arab League, of the African League, and Russia and China.
For Chavez, Venezuela is struggling to “build a new and better world,” but it is being threatened by the U.S., which supports his government’s overthrow. Chavez reminded his audience that the U.S. employs hired assassins, such as Luis Posada Carriles, who Cuba and Venezuela hold responsible for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner, who but is about to be freed from temporary custody in the U.S. He also mentioned that several other individuals who are wanted for terrorist acts in Venezuela have found safe harbor in the U.S.
U.S. Government Reactions
The U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, said that Chavez’s speech did not deserve a response. “We’re not going to address that kind of comic strip approach to international affairs,” stated Bolton.
Bolton added, though, "The real issue here is he knows he can exercise freedom of speech on that podium. And as I say, he could exercise it in Central Park, too. How about giving the same freedom to the people of Venezuela."
A White House spokesperson, Frederick Jones, similarly said Chavez’s speech was, "not worthy of reaction."
State Department Spokesperson Tom Casey said, "You know, the U.N. is an important world stage, and an important forum, and leaders come there representing their people and their country. And I’ll leave it to the Venezuelan people to determine whether President Chavez represented them and presented them in a way they would have liked to have seen."
Florida Republican Connie Mack called on the international community to block Venezuela’s entry as UN Security Council member, saying, "Chavez’s diatribe in the United Nations against liberty only strengthens the fact that he is no more than the paladin of demoralization and of despoitism and a sworn enemy of hope and opportunity," quoted the news agency EFE.
Full text of Chavez’s UN speech [Corrected version]:
Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, Delivers Remarks to U.N. General Assembly, New York,
September 20th, 2006
HUGO CHAVEZ, PRESIDENT OF THE BOLIVARIAN REPULIC OF VENEZUELA
President Chávez: Madame President, Excellencies, Heads of State, Heads of Governments, and high ranking government representatives from around the world. A very good day to you all.
First of all, with much respect, I would like to invite all of those, who have not had a chance, to read this book that we have read: Noam Chomsky, one of the most prestigious intellectuals of America and the world. One of Chomsky’s most recent works: Hegemony or Survival?
America’s Quest for Global Dominance. An excellent piece to help us understand what happened in the world during the 20th century, what is going on now and the greatest threat looming over our planet: the hegemonic pretension of US Imperialism that puts at risk the very survival of the human species. We continue to warn about this danger and call on the people of the US and the world to halt this threat that is like the sword of Damocles.
I intended to read a chapter, but for the sake of time, I will leave it as a recommendation. It’s a fast read. It’s really good Madame President, surely you are familiar with it. It is published in English, German, Russian, and Arabic (applause). Look, I think our brothers and sisters of the United States should be the first citizens to read this book because the threat is in their own house.
The Devil is in their home. The Devil, the Devil himself is in their home.
The Devil came here yesterday (laughter and applause). Yesterday the Devil was here, in this very place. This table from where I speak still smells like sulfur. Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, in this same hall the President of the United States, who I call "The Devil," came here talking as if he owned the world. It would take a psychiatrist to analyze the US president’s speech from yesterday.
As the spokesperson for Imperialism he came to give us his recipes for maintaining the current scheme of domination, exploitation and pillage of the world’s people. It would make a good Alfred Hitchcock movie. I could even suggest a title: "The Devil’s Recipe." That is to say, US Imperialism, and here Chomsky says it with profound and crystalline clarity, is making desperate efforts to consolidate its hegemonic system of domination. We cannot allow this to occur, we cannot permit them to install a world dictatorship, to consolidate a world dictatorship.
The speech of the tyrannical president of the world was full of cynicism, full of hypocrisy. It is this imperial hypocrisy with which he attempts to control everything. They want to impose upon us the democratic model they devised, the false democracy of elites. And moreover, a very original democratic model imposed with explosions, bombings, invasions, and cannon shot. That’s some democracy! One would have to review the thesis of Aristotle and of the first Greeks who spoke of democracy to see what kind of model of democracy is imposed by marines, invasions, aggressions and bombs.
The US president said the following yesterday in this same hall, I quote: "everywhere you turn, you hear extremists who tell you that you can escape your misery and regain your dignity through violence and terror and martyrdom." Wherever he looks he sees extremists. I am sure he sees you, brother, with your skin color, and thinks you are an extremist. With his color, the dignified President of Bolivia Evo Morales, who was here yesterday, is an extremist. The imperialists see extremists all around. No, its not that we are extremists. What is happening is that the world is waking up and people everywhere are rising up. I have the impression Mr. Imperialist dictator that you will live the rest of your days as if in a nightmare, because no matter where you look we will be rising up against US imperialism.
Yes, they call us extremists, we who demand complete freedom in the world, equality among peoples and respect for national sovereignty.
We are rising up against the Empire, against the model of domination.
Later, the president said, "Today I’d like to speak directly to the people across the broader Middle East: My country desires peace."
That is certain. If we walk the streets of the Bronx, if we walk through the streets of New York, Washington, San Diego, California, any city, San Antonio, San Francisco and we ask the people on the street: the people of the US want peace. The difference is that the government of this country, of the US, does not want peace; it wants to impose its model of exploitation and plundering and its hegemony upon us under threat of war. That is the little difference. The people want peace and, what is happening in Iraq? And what happened in Lebanon and Palestine? And what has happened over the last 100 years in Latin America and the world and now the threats against Venezuela, new threats against Iran? He spoke to the people of Lebanon, "Many of you have seen your homes and communities caught in crossfire." What cynicism! What capacity to blatantly lie before the world! The bombs in Beirut launched with milimetric precision are "crossfire"? I think that the president is thinking of those western movies where they shoot from the hip and someone ends up caught in the middle.
Imperialist fire! Fascist fire! Murderous fire! Genocidal fire against the innocent people of Palestine and Lebanon by the Empire and Israel. That is the truth. Now they say that they are upset to see homes destroyed.
In the end, the US president came to speak to the people, and also to say, "I brought some documents Madame President." This morning I was watching some of the speeches while updating mine. He spoke to the people of Afghanistan, to the people of Lebanon, to the people of Iran. One has to wonder, when listening to the US president speak to those people: what would those people say to him? If those people could talk to him, what would they say? I think I have an idea because I know the souls of the majority of those people, the people of the South, the downtrodden peoples would say: Yankee imperialist go home! That would be the shout that would echo around the world, if these people of the world could speak with only one voice to the US Empire.
Therefore, Madame President, colleagues, and friends, last year we came to this same hall, as we have for the past eight years, and we said something that today is completely confirmed. I believe that almost no one in this room would stand up to defend the system of the United Nations. Lets admit with honesty, the UN system that emerged after WWII has collapsed, shattered, it doesn’t work. Well, ok. To come here and give speeches, and visit with one another once a year, yes, it works for that. And to make long documents and reflect and listen to good speeches like Evo’s yesterday, and Lula’s, yes, for that it works. And many speeches, like the one we just heard by the president of Sri Lanka and of the president of Chile. But we have converted this Assembly into a mere deliberative organ with no kind of power to impact in the slightest way the terrible reality the world is experiencing. Therefore we again propose here today, September 20,  to re-found the United Nations. Last year Madame President, we made four modest proposals that we feel are in urgent need of being adopted by the Heads of State, Heads of Government, ambassadors and representatives. And we discussed these proposals.
First: expansion. Yesterday Lula said the same, the Security Council, its permanent as well as its non- permanent seats, must open up to new members from developed, underdeveloped and Third World countries.
That’s the first priority.
Second: the application of effective methods of addressing and resolving world conflicts. Transparent methods of debate and of making decisions.
Third: the immediate suppression of the anti-democratic veto mechanism, the veto power over Security Council decisions, seems fundamental to us and is being called for by all. Here is a recent example, the immoral veto by the US government that freely allowed Israeli forces to destroy Lebanon, in front of us all, by blocking a resolution in the UN Security Council.
Fourthly: as we always say, it is necessary to strengthen the role, the powers of the general secretary of the United Nations. Yesterday we heard the speech of the general secretary, who is nearing the end of his term. He recalled that in these ten years the world has become more complicated and that the serious problems of the world, the hunger, poverty, violence, and violation of human rights have been aggravated, this is a terrible consequence of the collapse of the UN system and of US imperialist pretensions.
Madame President, recognizing our status as members, Venezuela decided several years ago to wage this battle within the UN with our voice, our modest reflections. We are an independent voice, representing dignity and the search for peace, the formulation of an international system to denounce persecution and hegemonic aggression against people worldwide. In this way Venezuela has presented its name. The homeland of Bolívar has presented its name as a candidate for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council. Of course you all know that the US government has begun an open attack, an immoral global attack in an attempt to block Venezuela from being freely elected to occupy the open seat on the Security Council. They are afraid of the truth. The empire is afraid of the truth and of independent voices. They accuse us of being extremists. They are the extremists.
I want to thank all countries that have announced your support for Venezuela, even when the vote is secret and it is not necessary for anyone to reveal their vote. But I think that the open aggression of the US Empire has reinforced the support of many countries, which in turn morally strengthened Venezuela, our people, our government. Our brothers and sisters of MERCOSUR, for example, as a block, have announced their support for Venezuela. We are now a full member of MERCOSUR along with Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay. Many other countries of Latin America, such as Bolivia and all the CARICOM nations have pledged their support to Venezuela. The entire Arab League has announced its support for Venezuela. I thank the Arab world, our brothers of the Arab world and of the Caribbean. The African Union, nearly all of the African Union countries have pledged their support for Venezuela and other countries like Russia, China and many others across the globe. I thank you all deeply in the name of Venezuela, in the name of our people and in the name of truth, because Venezuela, upon occupying a seat on the Security Council will not only bring to it the voice of Venezuela, but also the voice of the Third World, the voice of the peoples of the planet. There we will defend dignity and truth.
Despite all this Madame President, I think there are reasons to be optimistic.
Hopelessly optimistic, as a poet would say, because beyond the threats, bombs, wars, aggressions, preventative wars, and the destruction of entire peoples, one can see that a new era is dawning.
Like Silvio Rodríguez sings, "the era is giving birth to a heart."
Alternative tendencies, alternative thoughts, and youth with distinct ideas are emerging. In barely a decade it has been demonstrated that the End of History theory was totally false. The establishment of the American Empire, the American peace, the establishment of the capitalist, neoliberal model that generates misery and poverty- all totally false. The thesis is totally false and has been dumped. Now the future of the world must be defined. There is a new dawning on this planet that can be seen everywhere: in Latin America, Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania. I want to highlight that vision of optimism to fortify our conscience and our will to fight to save the world and construct a new world, a better world.
Venezuela has joined this struggle and for this we are threatened.
The US has already planned, financed and launched a coup in Venezuela. And the US continues to support coup plotters in Venezuela. And they continue supporting terrorism against Venezuela.
President Michel Bachellet recalled a few days ago… pardon, I mean a few minutes ago… the terrible murder of the former Chilean Foreign Minster Orlando Letelier. I would only add the following: the guilty parties are free. Those responsible for that deed, in which a US citizen was also killed, are North Americans of the CIA. Terrorists of the CIA.
In addition, we here in this room must remember that in a few days it will be the 30th anniversary of that murder and of the horrible terrorist attack that blew up a Cubana de Aviación airplane in mid-flight killing 73 innocent people. And where is the worst terrorist of this continent, who admitted to being the intellectual author of the airplane sabotage? He was in prison in Venezuela for some years, but he escaped with the complicity of CIA officials and the Venezuelan government of that time. Now he is here living in the US, protected by the government even though he was convicted and he confessed. The US government has a double standard and protects terrorism.
These reflections are to demonstrate that Venezuela is committed to the fight against terrorism, against violence and works together with all people who struggle for peace and for a just world.
I spoke of the Cuban airplane. Luis Posada Carriles is the name of that terrorist. He is protected here just like the corrupt fugitives who escaped Venezuela. A group of terrorists who planted bombs in embassies of various countries, murdered innocent people during the coup and kidnapped this humble servant. They were going to execute me, but God reached out his hand, along with a group of good soldiers, and the who people took to the streets. It’s a miracle that I’m here. The leaders of that coup and those terrorist acts are here, protected by the US government. I accuse the US government of protecting terrorism and of giving a completely cynical speech.
Speaking of Cuba, we went happily to Havana. We were there several days. During the G-15 Summit and the NAM Summit the dawning of a new era was evident with an historic resolution and final document. Don’t worry. I am not going to read it all. But here is a collection of resolutions made in open discussion with transparency. With more than 50 Heads of State, Havana was the capital of the South for a week. We have re-launched the Non-Aligned Movement. And if there is anything I could ask of you all, my brothers and sisters, it is to please lend your support to the strengthening of the NAM, which is so important to the emergence of a new era, to preventing hegemony and imperialism. Also, you all know that we have designated Fidel Castro as President of the NAM for the next three years and we are sure that compañero President Fidel Castro will fulfill the post with much efficiency. Those who wanted Fidel to die, well, they remain frustrated because Fidel is already back in his olive green uniform and is now not only the President of Cuba but also the President of NAM.
Madam President, dear colleagues, presidents, a very strong movement of the South emerged there in Havana. We are men and women of the South. We are bearers of these documents, these ideas, opinions, and reflections. I have already closed by folder and the book that I brought with me. Don’t forget it. I really recommend it. With much humility we try to contribute ideas for the salvation of the planet, to save it from the threat of imperialism, and god willing soon.
Early in this century, god willing, so that we ourselves can see and experience with our children and grandchildren a peaceful world, under the fundamental principles of the UN, renewed and relocated. I believe that the UN must be located in another country, in a city of the South. We have proposed this from Venezuela. You all know that my medical personnel had to stay locked up in the airplane. The Chief of my security is locked on the plane. They would not let them come to the UN. Another abuse and outrage Madame President that we request to be registered personally to the sulfurous Devil. But God is with us.
A warm embrace and may God bless us all. Good day.