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Mail from a US lefty!

Dear Francisco

When I began reading about the recent upheavals in Venezuela I was struck by the parallel between the US involvement in  Allende’s Chile and the possibility of the same in Venezuela, both economically and politically.  There are more world-wide examples of course, many of them of them in the Americas, but I’m interested in your knowledge of the US involved in the Venezuelan oppostion.  

As You know the US involvement in Chile was not just with the military, but also with  trade unions, the church, the press (El Mercurio),  and various multinationals with vested interests.

You must have felt the US has had a hand in the current opposition not only given the history of the US in the region, but it’s immediate endorsement of the recent coup.

I would be very interested in your response.



Oh Paul, Paul, Paul…you’ve inadvertently stumbled into one of my big pet peeves. I’ve heard this question many, many times from many, many US readers, and I find it deeply annoying and, well, borderline offensive. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I guess what annoys me is that it betrays this deep navel-gazing strand in American lefty thought, this unwillingness or inability to take Latin American societies in their own terms, to grapple with their complexities, to understand the dynamics that drive them internally. All of that is so boring, though, isn’t it, and so detached from the one and only subject American lefties seem to be able to get interested in – US power, US influence, the evil of US power, the evil of US influence, US this, US that, U – S – A ! U – S – A !

The only people I ever run into who seem to think that the US is an important player in Venezuelan politics today are US lefties. I suppose through some NED and USAID grants and a bit of behind the scenes haggling the embassy hacks are doing their bit to bolster organizations they see as belonging to the moderate end of the opposition. Their influence is marginal. The ambassador and the undersecretary of state for hemispheric affairs can’t seem to agree on what their venezuela policy is, and nobody, here or there, seems to care that much. Almost everyone in Venezuela, whether chavista or anti, recognizes that both in direct logistical terms and indirect ideological terms, Cuba has a far stronger impact on Venezuelan politics than the US does. Can you deal with that?

My point being…get over yourselves already! Not everything that happens in Latin America is the result of some plot hatched in a smoky room at the State Dept., y’know? Learn to deal: there was going to be a coup in Chile anyway – because whatever the CIA might have been up to, a huge swathe of Chilean society and almost all of the military supported it. CIA connnivance sure didn’t hurt, but for the love of christ, what kind of catatonically self-involved view of the world puts a little CIA logistical and financial help at the center of the analysis, while showing no interest at all in the psychology of rampant fear that took over the Chilean middle class, its order and progress ideology, its deep catholic roots, and its cultural ascendancy over the military? Is it really that difficult, or boring, for you to stop thinking about your own damn country for five minutes and consider the internal dynamics of the societies you’re purportedly interested in? Because, you see, these kinds of questions strongly suggest that you’re not actually interested in Latin America at all! You’re just using Latin America as a screen on which to project your little ideological anti-US-imperialism circle jerk. Enough!

Sorry about that,