ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Venezuela, Chávez told me, has more oil than Saudi Arabia. A nutty boast? Not by a long shot.
In fact, his surprising claim comes from a most surprising source: the U.S. Department of Energy
Writings by Greg Palast
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Writings on the Caribbean
(Roger Bastide) /
Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (Beckles & Shepherd, eds.)
(Angela Davis) /
The Story of The Jamaican People (Sherlock and Bennett) / Eric. From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean, 1492 -1969 (Williams)
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Greg Palast Interviews
Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela
By Greg Palast
Youd think George Bush would get down on his knees and kiss Hugo Chávezs behind. Not only has Chávez delivered cheap oil to the Bronx and other poor communities in the United States. And not only did he offer to bring aid to the victims of Katrina. In my interview with the president of Venezuela on March 28, he made Bush the following astonishing offer: Chávez would drop the price of oil to $50 a barrel, not too high, a fair price, he saida third less than the $75 a barrel for oil recently posted on the spot market. That would bring down the price at the pump by about a buck, from $3 to $2 a gallon.
But our President has basically told Chávez to take his cheaper oil and stick it up his pipeline. Before I explain why Bush has done so, let me explain why Chávez has the power to pull it offand the method in the seeming madness of his take-my-oil-please! deal.
Venezuela, Chávez told me, has more oil than Saudi Arabia. A nutty boast? Not by a long shot. In fact, his surprising claim comes from a most surprising source: the U.S. Department of Energy. In an internal report, the DOE estimates that Venezuela has five times the Saudis reserves.
However, most of Venezuelas mega-horde of crude is in the form of extra-heavy oilliquid asphaltwhich is ghastly expensive to pull up and refine. Oil has to sell above $30 a barrel to make the investment in extra-heavy oil worthwhile. A big dip in oils priceand, after all, oil cost only $18 a barrel six years agowould bankrupt heavy-oil investors. Hence Chávezs offer: Drop the price to $50and keep it there. That would guarantee Venezuelas investment in heavy oil.
But the ascendance of Venezuela within OPEC necessarily means the decline of the power of the House of Saud. And the Bush family wouldnt like that one bit. It comes down to petro-dollars. When George W. ferried then-Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah of Saudi Arabia around the Crawford ranch in a golf cart it wasnt because America needs Arabian oil. The Saudis will always sell us their petroleum. What Bush needs is Saudi petro-dollars. Saudi Arabia has, over the past three decades, kindly recycled the cash sucked from the wallets of American SUV owners and sent much of the loot right back to New York to buy U.S. Treasury bills and other U.S. assets.
The Gulf potentates understand that in return for lending the U.S. Treasury the cash to fund George Bushs $2 trillion rise in the nations debt, they receive protection in return. They lend us petro-dollars, we lend them the 82nd Airborne.
Chávez would put an end to all that. Hell sell us oil relatively cheaplybut intends to keep the petro-dollars in Latin America. Recently, Chávez withdrew $20 billion from the U.S. Federal Reserve and, at the same time, lent or committed a like sum to Argentina, Ecuador, and other Latin American nations.
Chávez, notes The Wall Street Journal, has become a tropical IMF. And indeed, as the Venezuelan president told me, he wants to abolish the Washington-based International Monetary Fund, with its brutal free-market diktats, and replace it with an International Humanitarian Fund, an IHF, or more accurately, an International Hugo Fund. In addition, Chávez wants OPEC to officially recognize Venezuela as the cartels reserve leader, which neither the Saudis nor Bush will take kindly to.
Politically, Venezuela is torn in two. Chávezs Bolivarian Revolution, a close replica of Franklin Roosevelts New Deala progressive income tax, public works, social security, cheap electricitymakes him wildly popular with the poor. And most Venezuelans are poor. His critics, a four-centuries old white elite, unused to sharing oil wealth, portray him as a Castro-hugging anti-Christ.
Chávezs government, which used to brush off these critics, has turned aggressive on them. I challenged Chávez several times over charges brought against Súmate, his main opposition group. The two founders of the nongovernmental organization, which led the recall campaign against Chávez, face eight years in prison for taking money from the Bush Administration and the International Republican [Party] Institute. No nation permits foreign funding of political campaigns, but the charges (no one is in jail) seem like a heavy hammer to use on the minor infractions of these pathetic gadflies.
Bushs reaction to Chávez has been a mix of hostility and provocation. Washington supported the coup attempt against Chávez in 2002, and Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld have repeatedly denounced him. The revised National Security Strategy of the United States of America, released in March, says, In Venezuela, a demagogue awash in oil money is undermining democracy and seeking to destabilize the region.
So when the Reverend Pat Robertson, a Bush ally, told his faithful in August 2005 that Chávez has to go, it was not unreasonable to assume that he was articulating an Administration wish. If he thinks were trying to assassinate him, Robertson said, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. Its a whole lot cheaper than starting a war . . . and I dont think any oil shipments will stop.
There are only two ways to defeat the rise of Chávez as the New Abdullah of the Americas. First, the unattractive option: Cut the price of oil below $30 a barrel. That would make Chávezs crude worthless. Or, option two: Kill him.
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Q: Your opponents are saying that you are beginning a slow-motion dictatorship. Is that what we are seeing?
Hugo Chávez: They have been saying that for a long time. When theyre short of ideas, any excuse will do as a vehicle for lies. That is totally false. I would like to invite the citizens of Great Britain and the citizens of the U.S. and the citizens of the world to come here and walk freely through the streets of Venezuela, to talk to anyone they want, to watch television, to read the papers. We are building a true democracy, with human rights for everyone, social rights, education, health care, pensions, social security, and jobs.
Q: Some of your opponents are being charged with the crime of taking money from George Bush. Will you send them to jail?
Chávez: Its not up to me to decide that. We have the institutions that do that. These people have admitted they have received money from the government of the United States. Its up to the prosecutors to decide what to do, but the truth is that we cant allow the U.S. to finance the destabilization of our country. What would happen if we financed somebody in the U.S. to destabilize the government of George Bush? They would go to prison, certainly.
Q: How do you respond to Bushs charge that you are destabilizing the region and interfering in the elections of other Latin American countries?
Chávez: Mr. Bush is an illegitimate President. In Florida, his brother Jeb deleted many black voters from the electoral registers. So this President is the result of a fraud. Not only that, he is also currently applying a dictatorship in the U.S. People can be put in jail without being charged. They tap phones without court orders. They check what books people take out of public libraries. They arrested Cindy Sheehan because of a T-shirt she was wearing demanding the return of the troops from Iraq. They abuse blacks and Latinos. And if we are going to talk about meddling in other countries, then the U.S. is the champion of meddling in other peoples affairs. They invaded Guatemala, they overthrew Salvador Allende, invaded Panama and the Dominican Republic. They were involved in the coup détat in Argentina thirty years ago.
Q: Is the U.S. interfering in your elections here?
Chávez: They have interfered for 200 years. They have tried to prevent us from winning the elections, they supported the coup détat, they gave millions of dollars to the coup plotters, they supported the media, newspapers, outlaw movements, military intervention, and espionage. But here the empire is finished, and I believe that before the end of this century, it will be finished in the rest of the world. We will see the burial of the empire of the eagle.
Q: You dont interfere in the elections of other nations in Latin America?
Chávez: Absolutely not. I concern myself with Venezuela. However, whats going on now is that some rightwing movements are transforming me into a pawn in the domestic politics of their countries, by making statements that are groundless. About candidates like Morales [of Bolivia], for example. They said I financed the candidacy of President Lula [of Brazil], which is totally false. They said I financed the candidacy of Kirchner [of Argentina], which is totally false. In Mexico, recently, the rightwing party has used my image for its own profit. Whats happened is that in Latin America there is a turn to the left. Latin Americans have gotten tired of the Washington consensusa neoliberalism that has aggravated misery and poverty.
Q: You have spent millions of dollars of your nations oil wealth throughout Latin America. Are you really helping these other nations or are you simply buying political support for your regime?
Chávez: We are brothers and sisters. Thats one of the reasons for the wrath of the empire. You know that Venezuela has the biggest oil reserves in the world. And the biggest gas reserves in this hemisphere, the eighth in the world. Up until seven years ago, Venezuela was a U.S. oil colony. All of our oil was going up to the north, and the gas was being used by the U.S. and not by us. Now we are diversifying. Our oil is helping the poor. We are selling to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, some Central American countries, Uruguay, Argentina.
Q: And the Bronx?
Chávez: In the Bronx it is a donation. In all the cases I just mentioned before, it is trade. However, its not free trade, just fair commerce. We also have an international humanitarian fund as a result of oil revenues.
Q: Why did George Bush turn down your help for New Orleans after the hurricane?
Chávez: You should ask him, but from the very beginning of the terrible disaster of Katrina, our people in the U.S., like the president of CITGO, went to New Orleans to rescue people. We were in close contact by phone with Jesse Jackson. We hired buses. We got food and water. We tried to protect them; they are our brothers and sisters. Doesnt matter if they are African, Asian, Cuban, whatever.
Q: Are you replacing the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as Daddy Big Bucks?
Chávez: I do wish that the IMF and the World Bank would disappear soon.
Q: And it would be the Bank of Hugo?
Chávez: No. The International Humanitarian Bank. We are just creating an alternative way to conduct financial exchange. It is based on cooperation. For example, we send oil to Uruguay for their refinery and they are paying us with cows.
Q: Milk for oil.
Chávez: Thats right. Milk for oil. The Argentineans also pay us with cows. And they give us medical equipment to combat cancer. Its a transfer of technology. We also exchange oil for software technology. Uruguay is one of the biggest producers of software. We are breaking with the neoliberal model. We do not believe in free trade. We believe in fair trade and exchange, not competition but cooperation. Im not giving away oil for free. Just using oil, first to benefit our people, to relieve poverty. For a hundred years we have been one of the largest oil-producing countries in the world but with a 60 percent poverty rate and now we are canceling the historical debt.
Q: Speaking of the free market, youve demanded back taxes from U.S. oil companies. You have eliminated contracts for North American, British, and European oil companies. Are you trying to slice out the British and American oil companies from Venezuela?
Chávez: No, we dont want them to go, and I dont think they want to leave the country, either. We need each other. Its simply that we have recovered our oil sovereignty. They didnt pay taxes. They didnt pay royalties. They didnt give an account of their actions to the government. They had more land than had previously been established in the contracts. They didnt comply with the agreed technology exchange. They polluted the environment and didnt pay anything towards the cleanup. They now have to comply with the law.
Q: Youve said that you imagine the price of oil rising to $100 dollars per barrel. Are you going to use your new oil wealth to squeeze the planet?
Chávez: No, no. We have no intention of squeezing anyone. Now, we have been squeezed and very hard. Five hundred years of squeezing us and stifling us, the people of the South. I do believe that demand is increasing and supply is dropping and the large reservoirs are running out. But its not our fault. In the future, there must be an agreement between the large consumers and the large producers.
Q: What happens when the oil money runs out, what happens when the price of oil falls as it always does? Will the Bolivarian revolution of Hugo Chávez simply collapse because theres no money to pay for the big free ride?
Chávez: I dont think it will collapse, in the unlikely case of oil running out today. The revolution will survive. It does not rely solely on oil for its survival. There is a national will, there is a national idea, a national project. However, we are today implementing a strategic program called the Oil Sowing Plan: using oil wealth so Venezuela can become an agricultural country, a tourist destination, an industrialized country with a diversified economy. We are investing billions of dollars in the infrastructure: power generators using thermal energy, a large railway, roads, highways, new towns, new universities, new schools, recuperating land, building tractors, and giving loans to farmers. One day we wont have any more oil, but that will be in the twenty-second century. Venezuela has oil for another 200 years.
Q: But the revolution can come to an end if theres another coup and it succeeds. Do you believe Bush is still trying to overthrow your government?
Chávez: He would like to, but what you want is one thing, and what you cannot really obtain is another.
Investigative reporter Greg Palast, who interviewed President Hugo Chávez for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), is the author of Armed Madhouse: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War, from which this is adapted.
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For July 1st through August 31st 2011
#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Charles C. Mann
Im a big fan of Charles Manns previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Its exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that its anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, Im proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, globalized entity.
Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple. We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.
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By Pauline Maier
A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her books footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a conventions decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maiers accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly). Ripostes from proponents, the Federalists, animate the great detail Maier provides, as does her recounting how one state conventions verdict affected anothers. Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a neglected but critical passage in American history.Booklist
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 23 September 2006