Hugo Chavez Fantasizes About Dying in Poverty

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Danny Glover's biopic of Toussaint Louverture, which certainly sounds promising, is being brought to the big screen with funding from Hugo Chavez.

The Venezuelan congress said it would use the proceeds from a recent bond sale with Argentina to finance Glover's biopic of Toussaint Louverture, an iconic figure in the Caribbean who led an 18th-century revolt in Haiti.

A more interesting tidbit from the Guardian:

It will also give seed money for a film version of The General in His Labyrinth, Gabriel García Márquez's novel about the last days of Simón Bolívar, who liberated much of South America from Spanish colonialism.

Chavez has got to be familiar with the plot of the novel, right? Is there any particular message we should take from a self-styled liberator of the people funding a story about the original liberator being beset by humiliations before kicking the bucket in obscurity? Or did someone just come to him, say "I want to make a Bolívar movie," and get a bucket of money and a high five?

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  1. David,

    Excellent job spelling Louverture’s name correctly.

    It is a bit dated at this point, but CLR James’ The Black Jacobins remains a good read on the subject of the Haitian Revolution for the general reader.

  2. Oh and James himself is a very interesting figure.

  3. Democratic Republicans in the United States, the intellectual heirs of Jefferson and William Lloyd Garrison, have as much if not more right to claim the mantle of the Haitian and Latin American revolutions as Marxists like Chavez, but because of the economic interests our political leaders and their buddies had in the region during the Cold War, we completely handed that legacy over to the reds.

  4. Chavez has got to be familiar with the plot of the novel, right?

    Well, from his performance at the UN General Assembly, there is no telling.

  5. joe,

    Jefferson did his level best to isolate and punish Haiti. Also, let’s not get started on the various American interventions into Haiti.

    ____________________________________

    David,

    Alao, it should be noted that Haiti was one of the primary sources of arms and other material support used by Bolivar. Indeed, Haiti proved a place of refuge at one point for Bolivar.

  6. Grotius,

    Yes, and he also owned slaves.

    Nonetheless, the Englightenment-era concepts of liberty, equality, and republicanism that Jefferson and his ilk expressed, and made the heart of our revolution and form of government, were the same as those that inspired Bolivar and Louvertoure.

  7. David,

    Indeed, Haiti was a central axis on which a lot of Latin American revolutions turned. They drew inspiration from the independence war there as well as material support. It is generally not acknowledged just how crucial Haiti was in the revolt against Spain. Indeed, with Haiti’s policy of supporting abolitionism throughout the Americas it is fair to say that Haiti was a beacon of liberty.

  8. That’s funny. I have fantasies about Chavez dying. Doesn’t have to be in poverty. Just throw him in the same ditch where Arafat and Falwell are – also reserved for Castro!

    evil laughter.

  9. joe,

    Yet those principles didn’t apply to the Haitians. Both the U.S. and Europe (and this includes the Vatican BTW) did their level best to punish Haiti for the temerity of ending slavery on its own terms.

    Now that doesn’t completely explain Haiti’s current perdicament, but it does help to explain why making Haiti a prosperous, stable nation has been a difficult endeavour.

  10. What Jefferson did re: Haiti demonstrates more than any of his actions Jefferson’s willingness to openly and robustly defend slavery in the U.S. as well as his attitude towards free blacks.

  11. Grotius,

    I recall we once had a similar argument about Woodrow Wilson and Wilsonian foreign policy.

    I pointed out that he was the intellectual progenitor of that school of thought, and you pointed out that he often violated the very principles he expressed.

    You are right, in both examples – as presidents, they did violate the principles they expressed through their foreign policy. And yet, they did both give birth to political philosophies which were real and important in world history.

    So good for you, you can point at both of them and say, “J’accuse,” but that has nothing to do with my point – Bolivar’s and Louverature’s revolutions trace back to the equality- and self-determination-centered republicanism of our own revolution.

    We should have spent the 20th century backing anti-feudal Latin American political movements on that basis, and we blew it. Popular struggle against foreign colonizers and feudal oligarchs is inevitable, and it was a foolish mistake for us to spend the century working to squash them, rather than claiming them as our own.

  12. David,

    Oh and I am more of a fan of One Hundred Years of Solitude myself. The ants on Aureliano always gets me.

  13. Is there any particular message we should take from a self-styled liberator of the people funding a story about the original liberator being beset by humiliations before kicking the bucket in obscurity?

    Dying in obscurity is not that big of a deal if one thinks that one will have a legacy as famous as Bolivar’s. It will be an easy trick in a movie to juxtapose the ending with his fame and long lasting influence. *That’s* what Chavez is fantasizing about.

  14. joe,

    Jefferson did not give birth to any political philosophy. He tapped into one.

    Bolivar’s and Louverature’s revolutions trace back to the equality- and self-determination-centered republicanism of our own revolution.

    At best they trace back to the results of the intellectual fermentation that may have inspired some of the stuff in the American Revolution (though it is fair to say that much of what happened in Haiti and the U.S. were home grown and were not from the influence of outside forces).

    As for Wilson, the fact that he never practiced his professed notions (even when it came to white people) ought to give one pause. Furthermore the fact that his notions did not create the post-WWI settlement in Eastern Europe or the Middle-East, but local actors on the ground did, also ought to give one pause.

  15. joe,

    Furthermore, the notion of ethnic nationhood and self-determination, which was part of the heart of Wilson’s rhetoric, was not something that Wilson invented either. It was pretty standard stuff by the start of WWI. The same can be said for most of the other provisions of the Fourteen Points.

  16. Grotius,

    I would say that Jefferson did bring some original breakthroughs to the talbe, but I’m certainly not disagreeing that he was working within the context of a larger Enlightenment. BTW, you also raised that point about Wilson – that his ideas had progenitors.

    What’s important about both is that they took those ideas and applied them as the foundation for deciding how a national government should operate, in practice.

    “At best they trace back to the results of the intellectual fermentation that may have inspired some of the stuff in the American Revolution”

    I agree this is better phrased than my comment. Our revolutions were brothers, or maybe cousins. Theirs was not the child of ours, as my comment can be read to suggest.

    “As for Wilson, the fact that he never practiced his professed notions (even when it came to white people) ought to give one pause.” Never is a bit strong – he did produce the League of Nations, and did send the American military to drive the armies of a dictators out of democratic countries.

    “Furthermore, the fact that his notions did not create the post-WWI settlement in Eastern Europe or the Middle-East, but local actors on the ground did, also ought to give one pause.”

    It should certainly give pause to those who hold up Wilson himself, or the actual foreign policy he practiced, as ideals. Just as Jefferson’s slaveowning and unwillingness to support the Haitians should give one pause about his character and presidency. But of course, none of these shortcomings change the meaning and importance of the ideas they advanced.

  17. joe, your basic point seems to be that a very significant and successful application/demonstration of an idea will inspire others. Even if the people behind that application/demonstration/whatever are less than consistent, or even if they aren’t the progenitors of the idea.

    I can buy that.

  18. Another fun, dictator-financed film is “Lion of the Destert.” Qaddafi lost a shitload making that one, but it’s not that be of movie. Watched it a few months ago. It’s shown on tv in muslim countries every Ramadan.

  19. joe/thoreau,

    The Shining Light on the Hill theory of influence. It’s not such a bad idea, though it means that you have to behave very well all of the time (collectively, that is).

  20. joe,

    I would say that Jefferson did bring some original breakthroughs to the talbe…

    Like what. Be specific.

    What’s important about both is that they took those ideas and applied them as the foundation for deciding how a national government should operate, in practice.

    In what specific ways did they do this?

    “As for Wilson, the fact that he never practiced his professed notions (even when it came to white people) ought to give one pause.”

    Never is a bit strong…

    Actually it is exactly on point. One of the images I always love of Wilson is him and his French and British counterparts pouring over maps “deciding”* the borders of nations thousands of miles away. Wilson wasn’t even willing to practice the ethnic based national sovereignty notions found in the Fourteen Points (notions which I found highly problematic at best).

    …and did send the American military to drive the armies of a dictators out of democratic countries.

    Absolute hogwash. Give me some examples of dictators that he drove out of democratic countries – and no, the Kaiser wasn’t a dictator. Now the Wilson regime did set up dictators in Latin America, but as far as taking them down, I can’t think of a single one. Honestly the Bush administration’s interventions are in some ways child’s play as compared to Wilson’s.

    But of course, none of these shortcomings change the meaning and importance of the ideas they advanced.

    Yes, Wilson adopted and advanced the notion of ethnic self-determinitation. A notion which has caused tremendous mischief in the 19th and 20th centuries (that is before and after his death).

    *Those nations of course ignored their various “decisions.”

  21. thoreau,

    joe, your basic point seems to be that a very significant and successful application/demonstration of an idea will inspire others.

    While that “basic point” may or may not be true, in these specific instances (Jefferson and Wilson) they have not been demonstrated and in the case of Wilson at least, the influence overall may indeed be a negative one.

  22. Actually, as much as I like the Shining City on a Hill school of foreign policy, that wasn’t my point here.

    I think we should have gone a lot farther than letting Nicaraguan peasants to admire us from afar.

    I think we should have done what the Soviets did, and back their revolution against the caudillos, while using the influence this would have given us among them to steer them towards our preferred political model.

    And, for those of you who think the above statement bears some semblance to what we did in Iraq, please note the terms “back,” “their revolution,” “influence,” and “steer,” and the complete absense of the terms “invade,” “occupy,” “install,” and “govern.”

  23. joe,

    Here’s a suggestion; go to the Marine memorial in D.C. At the memorial look for Marine involvement in Latin America during Wilson’s administration*.

    *If I recall correctly the engagement of Marines listed there goes by dates.

  24. Pro Libertate,

    If any nation was the “Shining Light On The Hill” vis a vis the Latin American revolutions, it was Haiti. Partly this was because Haiti was wedded to abolutionism, something altogether foreign to the American Revolution. Given the importance of revolting slaves in throwing off the Spanish yoke this influence isn’t particularly surprising.

  25. Er, complete abolutionism.

  26. Grotius,

    I don’t want to get too off-track by going deep into this tangential topic. Regardless of how you’d care to characterize Jefferson’s relationship to our republican revolution in the late 18th century, I think we can all agree that we had such a revolution; that it grew out of the republican political ideals of the Enlightenment; that the revolutions of Bolivar and Louverture drew on those same ideals; and that this common intellectual/political heritage could have served as a model for a more republican, and less Marxist, liberation in Latin America.

    ” and no, the Kaiser wasn’t a dictator”

    Oh, OK. I guess he was Bob LaFollette in a pointy hat. Thanks for letting me know you’re not making a serious effort; I’ll pass on a semantic pissing contest, thanks.

  27. Grotius,

    Here’s a suggestion; when you find yourself disagreeing with me, don’t flatter yourself into thinking that the disagreement is based on my my not being aware of widely-known historical episodes.

    Wilson sent American troops into Latin American countries? Really?

    Golly, next you’ll tell me that he sent them to Europe, too!

  28. joe,

    The Kaiser’s government was one of the most liberal regimes in Europe at the time. As such it is hard for me to describe it as a dictatorship. In other words, I have very good reasons for not characterizing it as a dictatorship; indeed, if it were one I’d most likely have to define nearly every European state as one at the time. Maybe you ought to understand my POV before you dismiss it.

    …I think we can all agree that we had such a revolution;

    A point which I never argued against.

    …that it grew out of the republican political ideals of the Enlightenment…

    A point which I made above before you did.

    …that the revolutions of Bolivar and Louverture drew on those same ideals…

    A point which I mentioned above before you did.

    …and that this common intellectual/political heritage could have served as a model for a more republican, and less Marxist, liberation in Latin America.

    Maybe or maybe not. IMHO it was probably unlikely or perhaps impossible (given U.S. interests) for the U.S. to be on very friendly terms with strong, independent and relatively free republics in Latin America (if Latin America could have produced such entities – it has had a lot of problems not related to the U.S. in doing so).

  29. joe,

    Here’s a suggestion; when you find yourself disagreeing with me, don’t flatter yourself into thinking that the disagreement is based on my my not being aware of widely-known historical episodes.

    I asked you to name one dictator which Wilson ousted – since you used the term “dictators” my unwillingness to define the Kaiser as one shouldn’t be much of an impediment. And no, my experience is that you generally aren’t very aware of the historical record.

  30. …to have been on friendly…

  31. You made one relevant point, so I’ll limit myself to that.

    “IMHO it was probably unlikely or perhaps impossible (given U.S. interests)…”

    US interests, or the interests of the American political/economic elite?

    I can see how having popular democracy and a more Jeffersonian distribution of land resources replace dictatorships and the plantation system would have been contrary to the interests of United Fruit, but contrary to the interests of the United States?

    Throughout the Cold War, the primary interest we had in Latin America was keeping the Soviet Empire from establishing footholds there. Whole lotta good our efforts to back Batista and Samoza did in that sphere, eh?

  32. joe,

    They were all relevant.

    Have a better one.

  33. Anyway, when it comes to historical figures it matters what they did, how they acted, etc. (then again, with the constant myth making humans do, maybe it doesn’t). Understanding that takes a discussion of their actual, well, actions.

  34. This isn’t a discussion of historical figures. It’s a discussion of ideas, such as those that underlay the revolutions in America, Haiti, and South America.

    The degree to which President Jefferson allowed republican, Enlightenment principles to influence his foreign policy really has nothing to do with whether republican, Enlightenment principles influenced Bolivar and Louverture’s revolutions.

  35. “They were all relevant.”

    They were all relevant to the discussion you want to have, about how X and Y historical figures were bad people.

    They aren’t relevant at all to the subject of this thread.

  36. joe,

    They were relevant to the discussion that we were freely engaging in.

    Anyway, pray reveal how was your first statement on this thread relevant to the write-up?

    This isn’t a discussion of historical figures.

    Then why do you keep on mentioning historical figures then and arguing about their influence?

    The degree to which President Jefferson allowed republican, Enlightenment principles to influence his foreign policy really has nothing to do with whether republican, Enlightenment principles influenced Bolivar and Louverture’s revolutions.

    Dude, you started off with this language:

    …the intellectual heirs of Jefferson and William Lloyd Garrison…

  37. Anyway, I can see that we’re now engaged in “thread history,” a sure sign that this will go nowhere. Cheers.

  38. I wonder what the residents of all those hillside hovels in Caracas think about Chavez’s desire to become a film impressario? I didn’t get the impression that’s why he was elected. This dumbshit’s blowing money left and right, and I believe it will come back to haunt him in a few years, just like every other Latin American “populist” I can think of.

  39. Hugo Chavez is a horse’s ass.

    Sorry, just felt that someone else should comment in this thread.

  40. This dumbshit’s blowing money left and right, and I believe it will come back to haunt him in a few years, just like every other Latin American “populist” I can think of.

    Agreed, but I see him forcing a plebescite to annex any/all of Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao within the next few years. That and the increased price for oil should allow him to buy propaganda baubles for a little while yet.

  41. I wonder what Marquez thinks of Chavez.

  42. Grotius,

    “republican, Enlightenment principles”

    “the intellectual heirs of Jefferson and William Lloyd Garrison”

    Quick, do these noun clauses refer to individuals, or to sets of ideas?

  43. joe,

    You mentioned the term the “Enlightenment” for the first time at 12:04 PM; your first comment was at 11:26 AM (the one I partially quoted).

    Furthermore, you’re the one who brought Wilson up in this conversation, not I.

    What’s particularly funny is that I basically agree with your first statement (or at least its closing clause).

  44. I brought up their ideas, Grotius. I brought up Wilson, to make the following point:

    “I pointed out that he was the intellectual progenitor of that school of thought, and you pointed out that he often violated the very principles he expressed.

    You are right, in both examples – as presidents, they did violate the principles they expressed through their foreign policy. And yet, they did both give birth to political philosophies which were real and important in world history.”

    My god, you don’t even know the difference between talking about ideas and talking about people, do you?

  45. Grotius,

    Truce?

    Let’s keep this on the level of ideas – what do you think of my comment at 1:11?

    “US interests, or the interests of the American political/economic elite?

    I can see how having popular democracy and a more Jeffersonian distribution of land resources replace dictatorships and the plantation system would have been contrary to the interests of United Fruit, but contrary to the interests of the United States?

    Throughout the Cold War, the primary interest we had in Latin America was keeping the Soviet Empire from establishing footholds there. Whole lotta good our efforts to back Batista and Samoza did in that sphere, eh?”

    Do you think that maintaining semi-feudal plantation systems in Latin America was in the broad national interest, or an artifact of powerful special interests?

  46. “I wonder what Marquez thinks of Chavez.”

    Considering he’s good friends with Castro, the three of them probably get together for poker and cigars on Thursday nights.

  47. Why should Chavez celebrate L’Ouverture? True, Haiti was the prototype for the Western Hemisphere banana republic. (Not that the regime it replaced was a bastion of peace and liberty.) But his revolution cost France dearly, in both cash and Western Hemisphere influence. Napoleon was forced to sell a big chunk of real estate to the United States that vastly increased the nation’s size and wealth.

    The decimation of France’s sugar industry – for which Haiti (then called St. Dominigue) was its chief supplier – took the wind out of the sails out of the excuse that ending slavery would hand the sugar industry to England’s perennial enemy.

  48. Simon Bolivar died in obscurity … hm, I guess that’s right, never heard of him. Well, aside from the statue in my local park … and the country named after him … and, uh, a buncha other stuff or somethin.

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