Book Review: On Venezuela

by Barbara Zepeda

for Pacific Vision

Pirates of the Caribean – Axis of Hope (Verso, 2006). This it the title of Tariq Ali’s book.  It’s a good start to understand the Bolivarian revolution and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela that challenges U.S. neoliberal foreign policy. Along with Chavez, also Evo Morales (Bolivia), Castro (Cuba) and Lula (Brasil) came to power campaigning against the IMF/CIA corporate war against the poor. Lula, sadly, is the least Bolivarian in his actions if not his words. Simón Bolivar, born rich in 1783, in Caracas, Venezuela, died poor in Colombia in 1830 in the company of few friends, after having led the liberation of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. His life had been a constant battle with that epoch’s elite. He said:

“The United States appears to be destined by Providence to plague Latin America with misery in the name of Liberty.”

The quote appears on page 85 of Charles Hardy’s Cowboy in Caracas – a North American’s memoir of the Venezuelan Democratic Revolution (Curbstone Press, 2007). Hardy’s book is not about Chávez as much as it is about the process by which the Venezuelan people preserved their democracy and the missions that Chávez began in 2003. Unlike Saint Serra, beatified in 1988 by Pope John Paul II, who founded missions from Mexico to San Francisco that solidified the Spanish hold over the native peoples, Chávez missions were:

Misíon Robinson: An educational program to abolish illiteracy.

Misíon Ribas: Offering youth and adults a chance to complete their highschool education.

Misíon Sucre: Making college available and accessible to thousands who were previously excluded.

Misíon Barrio Adentro: Sent medical doctors to live and work in the poor neighborhoods.

Misíon Guacaipuro: Support for indigenous peoples.

The biggest criticism by the (U.S. supported) opposition was that these “misionarios” were “Cubanizing” Venezuela. The literacy program had been developed in Cuba, and Chávez paid for a “Family Library of classics” using oil money. The box of paperbacks, measuring 10”x10”x20”, included such “commie” classics as Romeo and Juliet by W. Shakespeare, Call of the Wild by Jack London, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty.

Venezuela’s participatory democracy is different from simple representation. It is an endogenous process of using economic, cultural and social models developed from native Venezuelan experience, rather than external pressure.

Tariq Ali’s Pirates puts contemporary Bolivarian politics in the context of the 19th century struggle against Spanish imperialism. He suggests that the best Bolivar biography is Gabriel García Márquez’s The General in his Labyrinth (Alfred A. Knopf, 1990). “...Bolivar... carried the black banner of a privateer hoisted on a plainsman’s lance, the skull and crossbones superimposed on a motto in letters of blood: Liberty or Death.”

The Chávez Code – Cracking the U.S. intervention in Venezuela by Eva Golinger (Oliver Branch Press, 2006) documents in vivid detail how NGOs, Labor, and both the Republican and Democratic Institutes for Democracy assisted the anti-Chávez coups. Chapter Seven alone is worth the price of the paperback. The Office for a Transitional Government (OTI) was established by USAID in 1994. Only former President Carter used USAID funds to actually promote democracy.

To learn more about the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela visit: or

Postscript: For why the United States needs Venezuela more than Venezuela needs the United States read Internal Combustion by Edwin Black (Jossey Bass, 2006) – the documented history of how efficient electric transportation (not only the car) was sabotaged by corporate/political corruption in the United States for 200 years.

Barbara Zepeda is a long-time Seattle activist and an avid reader. She was an interested recent visitor to Venezuela.

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