Oil, Iran, and the Long Arm of U.S. Imperialism • • •
On October 8, 2012, Hugo Chavez was re-elected for another six year term as President of Venezuela. A proponent of "democratic socialism" and anti-imperialism, the charismatic and outspoken former military officer has led this oil-rich South American nation since February 1999, when he rechristened it the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela after 19th century military leader Simón Bolivar.
It’s difficult for outsiders — particularly Americans — to get an accurate picture of life in Venezuela under Chavez. Vilified in the United States, Chavez is routinely condemned as a "dictator" by U.S. officials and the American corporate media. Meanwhile, bona-fide dictators with close ties to the USA, such as the Saudi royal family, or deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, are generously spared this ignominious label. Yet even the likes of former President Jimmy Carter and left-wing professor Noam Chomsky have raised questions about the level of freedom in Venezuela, criticizing its excessive concentration of power within the executive.
What is known is that Chavez maintains extremely friendly relations with the Castro regime in Cuba and the Islamic Republic of Iran. So neither Venezuela nor the U.S. are allergic to making nice with tyrants — they merely differ in their selection process. None of this excuses Chavez's shameful, continued support for the despicable Syrian regime, which he compares to another of his repugnant former allies, the late Moammar Gaddafi of Libya.
Years ago, comedian Jay Leno made a curious remark during his Tonight Show monologue, after playing a clip from a speech featuring one of Chavez's recent anti-Bush tirades. Why is it, quipped Leno, that wherever there is oil, their leaders seem to hate us? There's a non-sequitur for you...
The intersection of independent-minded nations rich in resources who pursue their own interests and Western hostility toward them is no coincidence. After nationalizing Iran's oil, former Iranian Premier Mohammad Mossadegh was also routinely accused of being a dictator, while his autocratic, pro-U.S. replacement, the Shah, was showered with tributes and praise. Latin American leaders took note when a repetition of this scenario occurred in Guatemala the following year.
Context matters as well. In 2002, the George W. Bush administration backed an illegal coup which ended Chavez's control — and very nearly his life. The United States has long denied this, yet at the time they immediately recognized the new coup regime, faulting Chavez for instigating his own downfall. (Mossadegh's overthrow, too was blamed on the victim). The coup was short-lived, however, as a massive pro-Chavez uprising returned Chavez to power less than two days later.
Clearly cognizant of the historical parallels, Chavez has spoken often about the threat from "The Empire". In his 2006 address before the UN General Assembly, he strongly recommended Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival: The Imperialist Strategy of the United States. No doubt, Chavez noticed Chomsky's emphasis on the New York Time's post-coup assessment of Iran: "Underdeveloped countries with rich resources now have an object lesson in the heavy cost that must be paid by one of their number which goes berserk with fanatical nationalism..."
On October 4th, election week, the incumbent Hugo Chavez gave a live television interview for a special program aired by teleSUR TV. Discussing the value of their coveted petroleum industry (Venezuela has one of the largest, if not the largest, known oil reserves in the world), Chavez reviewed some Venezuelan history, mentioning Mossadegh in an anecdote about a former Venezuelan President, Carlos Román Delgado Chalbaud Gómez. The reference is rather dubious however, because Delgado was assassinated in 1950, the year before Mossadegh became Premier (unless he is talking about when Mossadegh was a leading member in Iran's Parliament).
Watch the clip here (English translation follows):
Chavez had actually talked about this in detail on a November 14, 2010 broadcast of his television show Aló Presidente (Hello Mr. President). Here is an excerpt, translated to English:
Original words in Spanish:
Cuban dictator Fidel Castro on Iran, Israel, and the Overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: His Litany of Grievances with America
Louis Farrakhan's Political Diatribes about Libya, Iran
MOSSADEGH t-shirts - "If I sit silently, I have sinned"