Noam Chomsky has just glommed onto the fact that his former friend Hugo Chavez is not a friend to democracy.
Speaking to the Observer last week, Chomsky has accused the socialist leader of amassing too much power and of making an "assault" on Venezuela's democracy.Chavez has been very public in his respect for Chomsky, but now Chomsky is putting behind him his former praise for what Chavez had done for Venezuela.
"Concentration of executive power, unless it's very temporary and for specific circumstances, such as fighting world war two, is an assault on democracy. You can debate whether [Venezuela's] circumstances require it: internal circumstances and the external threat of attack, that's a legitimate debate. But my own judgment in that debate is that it does not."
Chomsky is well known in Venezuela for his critiques of U.S. imperialism and support for the progressive political changes underway in Venezuela and other Latin American countries in recent years. President Chavez regularly references Chomsky in speeches and makes widely publicized recommendations of Chomsky's 2003 book, Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance.But Chomsky has finally seen the light.
"Hegemony or survival; we opt for survival," said Chavez in a press conference to welcome Chomsky. He compared Chomsky's thesis to that of German socialist Rosa Luxemburg in the early 1900s, "Socialism or Barbarism," and referred to Chomsky as "one of the greatest defenders of peace, one of the greatest pioneers of a better world."
Through an interpreter, Chomsky responded, "I write about peace and criticize the barriers to peace; that's easy. What's harder is to create a better world... and what's so exciting about at last visiting Venezuela is that I can see how a better world is being created."
...."The transformations that Venezuela is making toward the creation of another socio-economic model could have a global impact if these projects are successfully carried out," said the renowned author.
Chomsky reveals he has lobbied Venezuela's government behind the scenes since late last year after being approached by the Carr centre for human rights policy at Harvard University. Afiuni earned Chávez's ire in December 2009 by freeing Eligio Cedeño, a prominent banker facing corruption charges. Cedeño promptly fled the country.Think of how long it has taken Chomsky to figure out that Chavez is not good for freedom in Venezuela. That earlier quote admiring Chavez is from 2009. Everyone else who had a concern for freedom knew what Chavez was doing to his country and how he was shutting down their liberties, but it has taken until now for Chomsky to figure it out.
In a televised broadcast the president, who had taken a close interest in the case, called the judge a criminal and demanded she be jailed for 30 years. "That judge has to pay for what she has done."
Afiuni, 47, a single mother with cancer, spent just over a year in jail, where she was assaulted by other prisoners. In January, authorities softened her confinement to house arrest pending trial for corruption, which she denies.
"Judge Afiuni has suffered enough," states Chomsky's letter. "She has been subject to acts of violence and humiliations to undermine her human dignity. I am convinced that she must be set free."
Amnesty International and the European parliament, among others, have condemned the judge's treatment but the intervention of a scholar considered a friend of the Bolivarian revolution, which is named after the hero of Venezuelan independence, Simón Bolívar, is likely to sting even more.
Speaking from his home in Boston, Chomsky said Chávez, who has been in power for 12 years, appeared to have intimidated the judicial system. "I'm sceptical that [Afiuni] could receive a fair trial. It's striking that, as far as I understand, other judges have not come out in support of her … that suggests an atmosphere of intimidation."
He also faulted Chávez for adopting enabling powers to circumvent the national assembly. "Anywhere in Latin America there is a potential threat of the pathology of caudillismo [authoritarianism] and it has to be guarded against. Whether it's over too far in that direction in Venezuela I'm not sure, but I think perhaps it is. A trend has developed towards the centralisation of power in the executive which I don't think is a healthy development."
Better late than never.