can’t see the forest

Chavez to UN: “I Smell Sulfur,” “What a Strange Democracy”

Chavez addresses the UN

All emphases are editorial.

New York, New York, USA.
September 20, 2006
Hugo Chavez, President of the Republic of Venezuela

Madam President, Excellencies, Heads of State, Heads of government, and other government representatives: good morning.

First, and with all respect, I highly recommend this book by Noam Chomsky, one of the most prestigious intellectuals in America and the world, Chomsky. One of his most recent works, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. It’s an excellent work to understand what has happened in the world in the 20th Century, what’s currently happening, and the greatest threat on this planet: the hegemonic pretention of the North American imperialism endangers the human race’s survival.

We continue warning about this danger and calling on the very same U.S. people and the world to stop this threat, which resembles the Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads. I had considered reading from this book [flips through pages] but for the sake of time I shall leave it as a recommendation. It reads easily. It’s a very good book. I’m sure, Madam, you are familiar with it.


The book is in English, in Russian, in Arabic and German. I think that the first people who should read this book are our brothers and sisters in the United States, because their threat is in their own house. The devil is right at home. The devil, the devil himself, is right in the house. And the devil came here yesterday.


Yesterday, the devil came here, right here. And it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of. Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the President of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as ‘the devil,’ came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly, as the owner of the world. I think we could call a psychiatrist to analyze yesterday’s statement made by the President of the United States. As the spokesman of imperialism, he came to share his nostrums, to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation, and pillage of the peoples of the world. An Alfred Hitchcock movie could use it as a scenario. I would even propose a title: “The Devil’s Recipe.”

As Chomsky says here, clearly and in depth, the American empire is doing all it can to consolidate its system of domination. And we cannot allow them to do that. We cannot allow world dictatorship to be consolidated. The ‘world parent’s’ statement—cynical, hypocritical, full of this imperial hypocrisy from the need they have to control everything.

They say they want to impose a democratic model. But that’s their democractic model. It’s the false democracy of elites, and, I would say,  very original democracy that’s imposed by bombs and weapons. What a strange democracy. Aristotle might not recognize it, or others who are at the root of democracy.

What type of democracy do you impose with marines and bombs?

The President of the United States said to us right here in this room, and I’m quoting, “Anywhere you look, you hear extremists telling you you can escape from poverty and recover your dignity through violence, terror, and martyrdom.” Wherever he looks, he sees extremists.

And, you, my brother—he looks at your color and he says, “Oh, there’s an extremist.” Evo Morales, the worthy President of Bolivia, looks like an extremist to him.

The imperialists see extremists everywhere. It’s not that we are extremists. It’s that the world is waking up. It’s waking up all over, and people are standing up.

I have the feeling, dear ‘World Dictator,’ that you are going to live the rest of your days as a nightmare. Because the rest of us are standing up, all those who are rising up against American imperialism, who are shouting for equality, for respect, and for the sovereignty of nations. Yes, you can call us extremists, but we are rising up against the model of empire, against the model of domination.

The President, then—and this he said himself, he said “I have come to speak directly to the populations in the Middle East, to tell them that my country wants peace.” That’s true. If we walk in the streets of the Bronx, if we walk around New York, Washington, San Antonio, San Francisco, and if we ask individuals, the citizens of the United States, what does this country want? Does it want peace?

They will say “yes.” But the government does not want peace. The government of the United States does not want peace. It wants to exploit its system of exploitation, of pillage, of hegemony through war.

It wants peace—but what’s happening in Iraq? What happened in Lebanon? In Palestine? What’s happening? What happened over the last hundred years in Latin America, and in the world? And now threatening Venezuela—new threats against Venezuela, against Iran.

He spoke to the people of Lebanon. Many of you, he said, have seen how your homes and communities were caught in the crossfire. How cynical can you get? What a capacity for shamefaced lies.  The bombs in Beirut with millimetric precision. Is this crossfire?

He’s thinking of a Western, when people would shoot from the hip and someone would get caught in the crossfire.

This is the imperialist, fascist, assassin genocide the empire and Israel fling on the people of Palestine and Lebanon. This is what happened. And now we hear “we’re suffering because we see homes were destroyed.”

The President of the United States came to talk to the peoples of the world. He came to say—I brought documents with me, because this morning I was reading some statements, and I see that he talked to the people of Afghanistan, the people of Lebanon, the people of Iran; and I see he addressed all these peoples directly. And you can wonder, just as the President of the United States addresses these peoples of the world, ‘What would those peoples of the world tell him if they were given the floor? What would they have to say?’

And I think I have some inkling of what the peoples of the South, the oppressed people, think. They would say, “Yankee imperialist, go home. “

I think that is what those people would say if they were given the microphone and if they could speak with one voice to the American imperialists.

And that is why, Madam President, my colleagues, my friends, we came here last year to this same hall, as we have been doing for the past eight years, and we said something that has now been confirmed—fully, fully confirmed.

I don’t think anybody in this room could defend the system. Let’s accept—let’s be honest. The U.N. system, born after the Second World War, collapsed. It’s worthless. Oh, yes, it’s good to bring us together once a year, see each other, make statements and prepare all kinds of long documents, and listen to good speeches, like Evo’s yesterday, or President Lula’s. Yes, it’s good for that. And there are a lot of speeches, and we’ve heard lots from the president of Sri Lanka, for instance, and the president of Chile.

But we, the assembly, have been turned into a merely deliberative organ. We have no power, no power to make any impact on the terrible situation in the world. And that is why Venezuela once again proposes, here, today, September 20th, that we re-establish the United Nations.

Last year, Madam, we made four modest proposals that we felt to be crucially important. We have to assume the responsibility, our heads of state, our ambassadors, our representatives, and we have to discuss it.

The first is expansion, and Lula talked about this yesterday right here: The Security Council’s expansion, both regarding its permanent and non-permanent categories. New developed and developing countries, the Third World, must be given access as new permanent members. That’s step one.

Second, effective methods to address and resolve world conflicts, transparent decisions.

Point three, the immediate suppression — and that is something everyone’s calling for — of the anti-democratic mechanism known as the veto, the veto on decisions of the Security Council.

Let me give you a recent example. The immoral veto of the United States allowed the Israelis, with impunity, to destroy Lebanon. Right in front of all of us as we stood there watching, a resolution in the council was prevented.

Fourthly, we have to strengthen, as we’ve always said, the role and the powers of the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Yesterday, the Secretary General practically gave us his speech of farewell. And he recognized that over the last 10 years, things have just gotten more complicated; hunger, poverty, violence, human rights violations have just worsened. That is the tremendous consequence of the collapse of the United Nations system and American hegemonistic pretensions.

Madam , Venezuela a few years ago decided to wage this battle within the United Nations by recognizing the United Nations, as members of it that we are, and lending it our voice, our thinking.

Our voice is an independent voice to represent the dignity and the search for peace and the reformulation of the international system; to denounce persecution and aggression of hegemonistic forces on the planet. This is how Venezuela has presented itself. Bolivar’s home has sought a nonpermanent seat on the Security Council.

Let’s see. Well, there has been an open attack by the U.S. government, an immoral attack, to try and prevent Venezuela from being freely elected to a post in the Security Council. The imperium is afraid of truth, is afraid of independent voices. It calls us extremists, but they are the extremists.

And I would like to thank all the countries that have kindly announced their support for Venezuela, even though the ballot is a secret one and there’s no need to announce things. But since the imperium has attacked, openly, they strengthened the convictions of many countries. And their support strengthens us.

Mercosur, as a bloc, has expressed its support, our brothers in Mercosur. Venezuela, with Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, is a full member of Mercosur. And many other Latin American countries, CARICOM, Bolivia have expressed their support for Venezuela. The Arab League, the full Arab League has voiced its support. And I am immensely grateful to the Arab world, to our Arab brothers, our Caribbean brothers, the African Union. Almost all of Africa has expressed its support for Venezuela and countries such as Russia or China and many others.

I thank you all warmly on behalf of Venezuela, on behalf of our people, and on behalf of the truth, because Venezuela, with a seat on the Security Council, will be expressing not only Venezuela’s thoughts, but it will also be the voice of all the peoples of the world, and we will defend dignity and truth.

Over and above all of this, Madam President, I think there are reasons to be optimistic. A poet would have said “helplessly optimistic,” because over and above the wars and the bombs and the aggressive and the preventive war and the destruction of entire peoples, one can see that a new era is dawning.

As Silvio Rodriguez says, the era is giving birth to a heart. There are alternative ways of thinking. There are young people who think differently. And this has already been seen within the space of a mere decade. It was shown that the end of history was a totally false assumption, and the same was shown about Pax Americana and the establishment of the capitalist neo-liberal world. It has been shown, this system, to generate mere poverty. Who believes in it now?

What we now have to do is define the future of the world. Dawn is breaking out all over. You can see it in Africa and Europe and Latin America and Oceania. I want to emphasize that optimistic vision. We have to strengthen ourselves, our will to do battle, our awareness. We have to build a new and better world.

Venezuela joins that struggle, and that is why we are threatened. The U.S. has already planned, financed and set in motion a coup in Venezuela, and it continues to support coup attempts in Venezuela and elsewhere.

President Michelle Bachelet reminded us just a moment ago of the horrendous assassination of the former foreign minister, Orlando Letelier. And I would just add one thing: Those who perpetrated this crime are free. And that other event where an American citizen also died were American themselves. They were CIA killers, terrorists.

And we must recall in this room that in just a few days there will be another anniversary. Thirty years will have passed from this other horrendous terrorist attack on the Cuban plane, where 73 innocents, in a Cubana de Aviacion airliner, died.

And where is the biggest terrorist of this continent who took the responsibility for blowing up the plane? He spent a few years in jail in Venezuela. Thanks to CIA and then government officials, he was allowed to escape, and he lives here in this country, protected by the government. And he was convicted. He has confessed to his crime. But the U.S. government has double standards. It protects terrorism when it wants to.

And this is to say that Venezuela is fully committed to combating terrorism and violence. And we are one of the people who are fighting for peace.

Luis Posada Carriles is the name of that terrorist who is protected here. And other tremendously corrupt people who escaped from Venezuela are also living here under protection: a group that bombed various embassies, that assassinated people during the coup. They kidnapped me and they were going to kill me, but I think God reached down and our people came out into the streets and the army was too, and so I’m here today.

But these people who led that coup are here today in this country protected by the American government. And I accuse the American government of protecting terrorists and of having a completely cynical discourse.

We mentioned Cuba. Yes, we were just there a few days ago. We just came from there happily.

And there you see another era born. The Summit of the 15, the Summit of the Nonaligned, adopted a historic resolution. This is the outcome document. Don’t worry, I’m not going to read it.

But you have a whole set of resolutions here that were adopted after open debate in a transparent matter — more than 50 heads of state. Havana was the capital of the south for a few weeks, and we have now launched, once again, the group of the nonaligned with new momentum. And if there is anything I could ask all of you here, my companions, my brothers and sisters, it is to please lend your good will to lend momentum to the Nonaligned Movement for the birth of the new era, to prevent hegemony and prevent further advances of imperialism.

And as you know, Fidel Castro is the president of the nonaligned for the next three years, and we can trust him to lead the charge very efficiently. Unfortunately they thought, “Oh, Fidel was going to die.” But they’re going to be disappointed because he didn’t. And he’s not only alive, he’s back in his green fatigues, and he’s now presiding the nonaligned.

So, my dear colleagues, Madam President, a new, strong movement has been born, a movement of the south. We are men and women of the south.

With this document, with these ideas, with these criticisms, I’m now closing my file. I’m taking the book with me. And, don’t forget, I’m recommending it very warmly and very humbly to all of you.

We want ideas to save our planet, to save the planet from the imperialist threat. And hopefully in this very century, in not too long a time, we will see this, we will see this new era, and for our children and our grandchildren a world of peace based on the fundamental principles of the United Nations, but a renewed United Nations. And maybe we have to change location. Maybe we have to put the United Nations somewhere else; maybe a city of the south. We’ve proposed Venezuela.

You know that my personal doctor had to stay in the plane. The chief of security had to be left in a locked plane. Neither of these gentlemen was allowed to arrive and attend the U.N. meeting. This is another abuse and another abuse of power on the part of the Devil. It smells of sulfur here, but God is with us and I embrace you all.

May God bless us all. Good day to you.



2 Responses

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  1. tellitlikeitis said, on 9/23/06 at 11:39 pm

    I’d like to nominate this for the most compelling UN address in the organization’s history. It’s along the same lines as Chavez’ address from last year, but he’s increased the pressure and temperature and has brought home his argument in a new way.
    The speech is not without its contestable inaccuracies and other imperfections. And, if his intent was to reach any part of the American population not already a part of his choir, then I think he made at least one grave mistake in identifying Bush with Lucifer, since much of Bush’s popular and business support base hinges on the Religious Right, and since most Americans identify at least on some level with Christian values, if not Christian doctrine and historical interpretations. His controversial analogy and his sulfur comments will likely straightaway plug the ears of some of those he claimed most in need of his message, and of Chomsky’s. Chavez only further deepened this ugly contrast with his closing comment, “God is with us.” This is unnecessary, wholly symbolic and meaningless divisiveness.
    In listening or reading to this address, many Americans will feel as if it is they who are being personally attacked. Sadly, and as Orwell would have predicted, many are those in the US and abroad who have lost the ability to understand that the State and the People are not the same thing, not even in the purest democracy in the world.
    Chavez knows that the problems imposed by the American/European political and economic systems upon much the rest of the world run much deeper and trace back much further than the workings of any particular US administration. Bush’s crowd is pushing the envelope in new, interesting, and creative ways, to be sure. They’re heinous criminals. But they didn’t start the fire. I’m often appalled at the way in which many Americans want to turn the issue of the defunct balance of global power into a Republican vs. Democrat issue, or even a Clinton vs. Bush type of fight. It’s just not that simple. The principal sociological effect of the bipartisan system in the US, as far as I can see, is to make large, particularly global issues much simpler than they really are. Chavez realizes this; most of the rest of the world realizes this.
    This ad hominem attack against Bush is a political device. The ranks of those who act out violence against the US abroad are really rather thin, but the angry and disenfranchised are quite numerous. Being human beings, they want to hear this kind of symbolic, personalized rhetoric. Chavez succumbed to this for political gain in his own sphere, and I think this greatly lessened the authority and the weight of an otherwise urgently needed commentary.
    But there are two major points of his address that I hope will not be lost. Firstly, that America is on many levels a dysfunctional democracy. The people do not want war. The government and large businesses generally favor it as a profitable enterprise. This is not a new conspiracy theory, it’s a theme that trails back to ancient history. World affairs are explained to the American public in a such a way as to make it appear that war is necessary for defensive purposes. It’s not the case, not generally and not in any particular contemporary instance I can come up with. Chavez is right to point that out.
    Secondly, that the United Nations has been turned into an almost wholly deliberative organization. Through the Security Council veto, the United States has consistently undermined the ability of the UN to fight inequality and injustice where “American” interests might be jeopardized by resultant social change. It has happened in Israel and in Palestine, in Central America, and in apartheid South Africa. The call to reorganize and reestablish the United Nations is crucial for a balanced planetary economy and society. In my view, that’s the most important thing Chavez pointed out.
    I am glad to see that Hugo Chavez has stood firm in Manhattan and has spoken his mind. I think what he has to say deserves a lot of attention that it will not get. But I’m disheartened to see that, as it will inevitably be digested by the greater part of the American public in the morally simplistic way so characteristic of the USA, Chavez’ enmity and fiery rhetoric will be used to undermine the essentially philanthropic message of his address, in much the same way that violent outbursts in the Muslim word punctuated the Pope’s own slanted commentary.

  2. peoplesgeography said, on 9/25/06 at 2:31 am

    Well said, and deserves to be a post in its own right (treasure tucked away as a comment as so many footnotes are) …

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