Sean Penn with Chavez & Raul Castro

From Sean Penn at The Nation:

Soon to be Vice President-elect Joe Biden was rallying the troops: “We can no longer be energy dependent on Saudi Arabia or a Venezuelan dictator.” Well, I know what Saudi Arabia is. But having been to Venezuela in 2006, touring slums, mixing with the wealthy opposition and spending days and hours at its president’s side, I wondered, without wondering, to whom Senator Biden was referring. Hugo Chávez Frías is the democratically elected president of Venezuela (and by democratically elected I mean that he has repeatedly stood before the voters in internationally sanctioned elections and won large majorities, in a system that, despite flaws and irregularities, has allowed his opponents to defeat him and win office, both in a countrywide referendum last year and in regional elections in November). And Biden’s words were the kind of rhetoric that had recently led us into a life-losing and monetarily costly war, which, while toppling a shmuck in Iraq, had also toppled the most dynamic principles upon which the United States was founded, enhanced recruitment for Al Qaeda and deconstructed the US military.


By now, October 2008, I had digested my earlier visits to Venezuela and Cuba and time spent with Chávez and Fidel Castro. I had grown increasingly intolerant of the propaganda. Though Chávez himself has a penchant for rhetoric, never has it been a cause for war. In hopes of demythologizing this “dictator,” I decided to pay him another visit. By this time I had come to say to friends in private, “It’s true, Chávez may not be a good man. But he may well be a great one.”

Conversations with Chavez and Castro

Sean Penn: The Truth About Chavez and Castro

2 thoughts on “Sean Penn with Chavez & Raul Castro

  1. The thing that annoys about this and has for a long time is that is a deliberate destruction of the language. Joe Biden knows what a dictator is and knows that Chavez isn’t one. But then again Venezuela has oil so we can’t expect rationality from American politicians. Burma is ruled by a violent military dictatorship that has enslaved in its entire population but they don’t have any oil so I don’t expect we’ll hear anything about them from Mr Biden.

  2. I’m hearin’ ya Paul. I get just infuriated by ignorant criticism of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. I have a dear friend who works with Canada/Cuba Connection – we all know the damn place is far from perfect, but the Castros have managed to build a Latin American country with a stable government, universal education and health care, sustainable agriculture, etc., etc. Yup, apparently they’ve got a few hundred political dissidents in jail and I’m not sayin’ that’s ok – but the US detainees at Guantanamo ain’t ok either.

    The US has many lessons to learn from Cuba actually. But at the very least, trade ought to be opened up. The embargo is more responsible for the ongoing “dictatorship” there than anything else. How does the US justify that, compared to its relationship with, for instance, China, which has a far more repressive dictatorship.


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