For and against Chavez

During my visit to Iran in June this year, I noted the unhealthy relationship between the Latin American left and the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The international Left have remained generally quiet on this issue, refusing to chastise Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez for cosying up to the Islamic Republic.

My friend, journalist Rodrigo Acuna, has expanded on this argument:

Although it might be natural for Venezuela, as a member of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries , to have political and trade relations with another OPEC country like Iran, awarding Ahmadinejad the Collar of the Order of the Liberator — Venezuela’s highest honour for visiting dignitaries — as Chávez did in September last year, is not only embarrassing, it is shameful.

Last year, groups on the Iranian Left — like the Iranian Revolutionary Socialists League (IRSL) — criticised the Chávez-Ahmadinejad relationship as one that would ”˜boost the [Iranian] regime and weaken the mass movements in Iran — particularly the struggles of workers for their basic trade union rights.’

Even if Chávez feels Iran needs strong diplomatic support to stave off a possible US attack, the collateral damage from such moves is extensive — not least for those on the Left who would prefer to support Chávez more.

For Venezuela’s hard-core supporters in the international Left however, the singing President can do no wrong. The words ”˜contradictions’ and ”˜inconsistencies’ are not a part of their vocabulary.

It is possible, as I have done for years, to celebrate the rapid democratisation that has occurred under Chavez and also express disquiet about his growing authoritarianism and love affair with a dictator like Ahmadinejad.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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