Venezuela’s Chavez Says World Faces Choice Between US Hegemony and Survival
Wednesday, Sep 20, 2006
Venezuela's President Chavez holds up a copy of Noam Chomsky's book Hegemony or Survival during his speech to the UN General Assembly.
[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.