Historian on Chavez’ rural outlook and leftist intellectuals

April 7, 2003


Interesting interview in today’s El Nacional (page A-16) with Venezuelan historian Caroline de Oteysa. Oteysa was born in France but has been living in Venezuela for the last 25 years.


On Chavez’ rural fundamentalism: I associate Chavez’ preference for things rural with the process that Iran went through with the overthrow of the Shah, because of what it has to do with reacting in the face of modernization.  Chavez’ project is conservative to the bone, reactionary, the revolution is an ornament. As an example, that country had sparks of modernization with respect to women and then it was revoked in the name of religion, of tradition. Here the same is happening when the Minister of Higher Education refers to the fact that we should go back to chalk and blackboards. This return to ruralization is very close to fundamentalism, because of what it has to do with the confrontation between oriental and occidental cultures and between modernization and traditions.


On the left wing intellectuals and Venezuela: When you hear the arguments of the admirers of the chavista process in Europe or in the American left, you discover a perception that in Latin America you can’t be white and have a decent standard of living. That is a monopoly reserved to the middle class of developed countries.  I ask myself: Who are they to come and give speeches as to whether the middle class are oligarchs or trying to stage a coup? How can they interpret this way a country that has its intellectuals and university students protesting, academics signing communiqués in the press? But it is all reduced to saying that reporters are coupsters and fascists. I ask myself which honest intellectual from those countries accepts that reporters in their countries are qualified as fascists.


On intellectual arrogance by foreign intellectuals: I would like to hear what Ignacio Ramonet would say if Chirac said the things about reporters that Chávez has said or if he decided not to receive local reporters but said CNN was wonderful. …….It is not respectful to Venezuela to arrive without speaking its language, and then they install themselves at the pool of a five star hotel, they contact the embassy and they talk about the Venezuelan oligarchy. It is a colonialist outlook “Here I come, I interpret, I explain” without having the shame of even trying to find out. They demonstrate a great intellectual arrogance

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