Care to explain, Mr. Gott?

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Katy says: – Talk about old news: turns out the recent hubbub over Chávez’s support of FARC was a given for Chavistas in-the-know even eight years ago. Hell, one-time KGB-junketeer Richard Gott even put it in print!

Well-known in PSF circles for his many laudatory books and articles on Hugo Chávez, Gott (“affectionately” known as Pol Gott for his longstanding support of loony left causes) published his first Chágiography all the way back in 2000. As he researched it, Gott had tremendous access to the President and his leading ideologues as early as 1999.

The book is called In the Shadow of the Liberator, but one has to wonder what the Liberator would think of Gott’s startling admissions regarding Chávez and the FARC and his apparently dishonest backtracking.

On page 201 of the 2000 edition of his book, Gott writes:

“More significantly, the new emerging forces in Colombia, associated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the Farc) and the National Liberation Army (the ELN) express similar Bolivarian views to those of Hugo Chavez. There is today an identity of attitude between the Venezuelan government and the ‘Farc government’ that controls perhaps a third of Colombia. Officially, this interest is disguised behind Venezuela’s public desire, expressed to the ‘official’ government of President Andres Pastrana in Bogota, to assist in peace negotiations between the warring factions in Colombia. In reality, Hugo Chavez and his government are on the side of the Farc.

Chavez wants the Farc to win, or at any rate to be so successful in the peace negotiations that its incorporation into the government will entirely change the political complexion of Colombia. Were that to happen, Chavez’s dream of recreating Gran Colombia – the old nineteenth-century alliance of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, devised by Bolivar – would come true. The Bolivarian project that lies at the heart of his hopes for the continent would be well on its way.”

(the emphasis is mine)

So here we have a guy with unparalleled access to Chávez writing back at a time when even Alfredo Peña was a chavista and finding it clear that Chávez was on FARC’s side. The episode fits the classic definition of a gaffe: the accidental uttering of an unacceptable truth.

Sources tell me that, during 2000-2001, people close to Chávez’s inner circle expressed concern with the above passage, and spoke to Gott about it. The paragraph was modified, apparently to appease those who thought the previous admission was, how to put it, politically incorrect. The fact that the Venezuelan government directly financed publication of the Spanish edition may have had something to do with Miraflores – ahem – editorial leverage here.

So in the 2005 edition of the same book, now called Hugo Chávez: The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela (obviously Gott didn’t deem Chávez worthy of anyone’s shadow at this point), the corresponding bit, on pages 192-93, reads:

“More significant, the new emerging forces in Colombia, associated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the FARC) and the National Liberation Army (the ELN), express similar Bolivarian views to those of Hugo Chavez. Venezuela’s public desire is to assist in peace negotiations between the warring factions. In private, Chavez leans towards the FARC. Chavez hopes that it will be so successful in the peace negotiations that its incorporation into the government will entirely change the political complexion of Colombia. Were that to happen, Chavez’s dream of reuniting Gran Colombia – the old nineteenth-century alliance of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, devised by Bolivar – would come true. The Bolivarian project that lies at the heart of his hopes for the continent would be well on its way.”

See, before Chávez wanted the FARC to win, but now, oh no, he’s simply leaning toward the FARC.

Perhaps Gott simply had a mistaken impression in the first version regarding Chávez wanting the FARC to win. Perhaps he then chose to correct himself in the second edition.

But it’s unlikely, for two reasons. First, the paragraphs were cut instead of expanded – not the usual thing to do when you want to clarify a point or make it more nuanced. And second, Gott clearly admits that Chávez himself provided some of the opinions in his book when he writes in the acknowledgements to the first version:

“President Chavez took considerable interest in this book, and I was privileged to have a long interview with him in Caracas, as well as the opportunity to travel in his company into the Venezuelan countryside.”

Seems to me Mr. Gott owes his readers an explanation.

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