Hugo Chavez, cannibalism apologist

Is Bruce Vilanch writing for Hugo Chavez now? 'Cause the Venezuelan leader's comedy material is pretty good lately: now he's a cannibalism apologist. In a recent speech, Chavez praised Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the late Ugandan dictator Idi "Butcher of Uganda" Amin. Said Chavez: "We thought he was a cannibal... I don't know, maybe he was a great nationalist, a patriot." (thanks Antinous)


    1. Easy– if you assume that other countries are basically threats to your country, then being a patriot and nationalist means that you’re promoting the interests of the people who mean you well against the interests of people who mean you ill.

      A brief view of history might show this assumption isn’t wrong, even if the reaction to it may be maladaptive.

  1. I’d much rather see Mr. Chavez’s words in context as opposed to cherry-picked damning statements in a BBC article. Context is often key to understand what someone is actually saying.

    Then again, Mr. Chavez could just be a total asshole. It’s kinda hard to tell at points.

    1. I’d much rather see Mr. Chavez’s words in context

      What context would explain praising Mugabe, Ahmadinejad and Amin? I’ll take “brutal repression under the guise of anti-imperialist populism” for $500, Alex.

      1. And… you completely miss the point.

        Was he truly praising them? Maybe, but without context we don’t really know – we know the BBC’s interpretation of what he said.

        That was my point. I certainly find Mugabe, Ahmadinejad and Amin to be abhorrent people not worthy of praise, but I don’t really know what Chavez said about them and neither do you (unless you have the original speech in entirety). Did he praise the person, and not potentially bring a point about some policy they instituted that miraculously wasn’t evil (broken clock is right twice a day)?

          1. I honestly don’t know what to think of Hugo Chavez. He certainly seems to have done some evil things in terms of concentrating power and attacking opponents (legally or otherwise).

            However, he also seems to be trying to create a socialist Venezuela that works for all its people and not its historical elite. I am very suspicious of any story about Hugo Chavez from Western sources and I prefer to seek the truth, whatever it may be.

            Maybe Chavez did praise those monsters, and thus Chavez’s judgement and character are in serious question (which I suppose they were before, honestly). I’m just concerned with finding the truth and trying to figure out the evil and good parts of Chavez, aside from the bias of Western media.

          2. And *you* seem to be more than willing to be strategically obtuse about what rorschachian is actually saying.

          3. I’m not sure that the argument that we can’t possible believe what we read in the media is a valid response. Is most of what we read in the media biased? Of course. Should we utterly discount the BBC’s article? No, that’s ridiculous. That kind of passive disbelief is what allows dictators to waltz into power.

            I googled up a storm, trying to find a copy of the speech, but no dice. Can someone who’s actually fluent in Spanish try to find the text of the speech or a video/audio of it?

          4. Antinous, I am not trying to say the media is always lying all the time and can not be trusted at all. I happen to believe the media the vast majority of the time. As you say, everything is biased and that is no reason to discount everything, it’s just a characteristic of media. The responsibility of picking fact from opinion is the duty of the reader and on domestic issues there are a lot of resources to use for this purpose.

            However, in the particular case of Chavez the Western media is almost universally biased against him. The article linked here is almost an opinion piece with the obvious implication of “Well, Chavez said he likes these universally acknowledged to be evil men so he must be evil too”.

            Maybe that truly is really what happened, and the only logical interpretation of his speech is the BBC version – if so, the facts of the situation then say that Chavez is at least a bit nuts, if not evil.

            But, due to the bias against Chavez noted above, I can not take the BBC’s word at face value. I have talked to people who have visited Venezuela and those people saw a lot of positive things happening there – and they talked to citizens there to try to get a better read on Chavez, and the opinion they got most of the time was that Chavez was doing good things for the country. My travel budget (non-existent) hasn’t let me go there myself, but I trust the above mentioned people (though they have an admittedly far-left bias which I had to pick through for truth).

            I’d like to see the original speech, and I appreciate your efforts to find it (mine were thwarted as well).

          5. My aunt lives in Caracas and she’s trying desperately to get out, not because of any political leanings but because she fears for her life (at this point, so do I). Supermarkets are regularly out of stock (or stock only food that has gone past its expiration date), blackouts are common (several times a day), and crime as at an all time high. If you were to ask me whether or not I think Chávez is a good ruler, I would say no.

          6. “I’m not sure that the argument that we can’t possible believe what we read in the media is a valid response.”

            And since no one has asserted that here, you can rest easy.

            “I googled up a storm, trying to find a copy of the speech, but no dice.”

            Which kind of makes rorschachian’s point for him. I looked at the NYTimes story on the speech and it doesn’t even explain the occasion for it — though it is careful to let us know that the “socialist” audience “applauded.” (*That* detail it made sure we got.) What’s interesting about the article is that while it doesn’t present anything other than fragments of the speech, it seems reasonable to infer from what is there that the *subject* of the speech is, precisely, media distortion of the speech of people who are anti-the-powers-that-be. (You can come to your own conclusion about that, but from the quotes we do get, that does to be the general thrust.) Pretty ironic.

            By the way, just to be clear: there’s no question Hugo is a firebrand and a rhetorical provocateur — just like Limbaugh and Beck on the right in the US. Chavez’s other left-leaning counterparts in South America — Lula, Morales, Bachelet — certainly don’t kick the hornet’s nest the way Lula does. But the New York Times and other media outlets — including this one — play right into his hands by simultaneously going ballistic and refusing to present the big picture. They seem to prove that he’s right about his enemies — and his power grows accordingly.

      2. “What context would explain praising Mugabe, Ahmadinejad and Amin? I’ll take “brutal repression under the guise of anti-imperialist populism” for $500, Alex.”

        That’s obviously the interpretation that the BBC was aiming for. Might even be entirely accurate – BBC News has a pretty good reputation overall.

        The problem is that out-of-context quoting has a very long history of being used either to intentionally spin things, or simply leading to misinterpretations due to lazy quoting.

        He could have been sarcastic. Or been making a general point about how men that are abhored by most people can have positive traits in specific areas. Maybe he thinks they were awesome people. Maybe he thinks they live under his bed.

        Out-of-context quotes/soundbites are essentially worthless as actual evidence of anything. If you want to draw your own conclusions rather than simply taking them pre-digested then the context is absolute and utterly required.

        Not necessarily saying that its necessarily boing boing’s job to provide it, mind you. BB is basicly an opinion blog, not a journalistic one.

  2. #2:

    He is an asshole. He is a dictator who criticizes the USA but will never stop to sell them his oil. He uses Venezuela’s people poverty to work his way to power. It’s a shame that there are still people like him and his “brothers” in control of millions of lives.

  3. I think these people were abhorrent, but, god damn they were much better at what they did than most people ever will be (at what they do, not at repression and all that…)

    Even the most successful and, hence, hated psychopaths are deserving of some praise even if you don’t want to give it to them. Credit where credit is due?

  4. I will join rorschachian with an example.

    In the sentence:
    “We thought he was a cannibal… I don’t know, maybe he was a great nationalist, a patriot.”
    What is the antecedent of ‘we’? Is Chavez talking about his administration, or his people? I have no idea who he is talking about, and I have no idea what he is really saying.

    Yes, we get the main facts, but seeing how Chavez puts them together himself is what reveals how he’s actually thinking.

    All that being said, there’s no reason why we should expect the BBC to have anything more than a ‘blurb’ for this sort of event. If you want real information or primary sources, gonna have to look elsewhere.

  5. Maybe the real question here is how come the U.S.A acted so badly in the recent decades that it succeeded to give horrible men so much traction?

    1. South America has a long history of strong man rule that came into being with little if any help from the US, as most of them predated any clandestine services existence in the US. Not that we haven’t had some *ahem* “questionable” *cough* influence since the OSS/CIA came to be. Hugo is, sadly, a man of tradition in his own inimitable fashion.

      1. >Not that we haven’t had some *ahem* “questionable” *cough* influence since the OSS/CIA came to be.

        the history of the el pulpo, united fruit company is quite a fun read.

    2. Just remind me one more time how America behaved badly over the past three decades. And if you can somehow tie that into excusing Hugo Chavez, you win the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Award.

  6. I am very suspicious of any story about Hugo Chavez from Western sources and I prefer to seek the truth, whatever it may be.

    Well said.

    He seems like a bad egg and a bit of an egomaniac, but at the same time he’s most definitely demonized by Western media.

    Exhibit A: Ask anybody what they think of Colombia’s president Uribe actually successfully extending his terms and enjoy the blank stare. Uribe gets billions in U.S. aid, participates in U.S. drug wars and is a neoliberal friend of multi-nationals. Thus he gets a pass.

    Even wikipedia gets in on the fun: The current president of the Republic of Colombia is Álvaro Uribe, one of the most pragmatic and intellectual presidents of Colombian contemporary history.

    lol, pretty objective stuff…..

    One thing I do know: Chavez’ military forces will be responsible for how may deaths around the world in recent years? Zero? vs. Bush and Obama’s hundreds of thousands.

    Western indignation…..good stuff..

    1. Chavez seems to have concluded an alliance with the FARC, which definitely puts blood on his hands. He also seems to be making a recent habit of sending his troops to Colombia’s border with him and threatening war.

  7. idi amin was a psychotic dictator, but there’s no indication he was a cannibal, the wikipedia seems to think it’s a western folktale inspired by a movie, perhaps using artistic license to conflate him with jean-badel bokassa , who was a psychotic dictator who happened to be a cannibal , for dramatic effect.

  8. It is amazimg that idiots like him who get rich off the pain of those he is supposed to represent claims they are being misrepresented BS

  9. Well he certainly seems to be defending them, the phrasing in the BBC article sounds weird, but there’s more here: and it sure sounds like he thinks the world of them, he calls the president of Zimbabwe brother and friend.

    “Bueno vean como tratan a nuestro hermano y amigo el presidente de Zimbabue, como lo tratan, igual, casi igual que Idi Amin. Casi que un caníbal pues. Además utilizando el arma bastarda y sucia del racismo. Aquí mismo, la burguesía se ríe y han hecho una pantomima tragicómica del presidente de Zimbabue, que es un luchador por los intereses de su pueblo”

    “Well you can see how they treat our brother and friend the president of Zimbabwe, how they treat him, almost the same as Idi Amin. Almost like a cannibal. Even using the dirty and bastard(?) weapon of racism. Right here, the bourgeoisie laughs and have made a tragicomedy of the president of Zimbabwe, who is a fighter on behalf of his people”.

    Sorry for the lame translation, that’s more or less what he says there.

    (And wtf is up with that wikipedia article about Uribe, I’m Colombian, and certainly that’s not the way a lot of people think of him here, at this point he’s turning into a right wing pseudo-dictator.)

    1. Wikipedia says it is a myth that Idi Amin Dada was a cannibal:
      “Amin became the subject of rumours and myths, including a widespread belief that he was a cannibal.[41][42] Some of the unsubstantiated rumours, such as the mutilation of one of his wives, were spread and popularised by the 1980 film Rise and Fall of Idi Amin and alluded to in the film The Last King of Scotland in 2006.[43]” So Xeni & Antinous, you owe this ethnic cleanser, mass murderer & ruthless dictator a posthumous apology.
      Speaking of Uganda, do you know there is a bill in the Ugandan parliament calling for the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality?’

  10. Interesting. I found a coverage of Chavez’s friday speech in Caracas by a Venezualan newpaper, and it mentions none of the things mentioned in the BBC article, but instead concentrates on the usual prepare yourself for a US invasion stuff he’s been saying for a while, and around tensions with Colombia and the recent decision to allow the US limited use of 7 military bases there. Unfortunately no transcript of the speech there either though.

  11. It’s not just Western media that’s anti-Chavez. Al Jazeera’s reporting on Chavez tends to be the same as the BBC’s or Wall Street Journal’s. Its coverage of the RCTV censorship was actually more negative than the BBC’s.

  12. Hear hear phisrow – nationalism and patriotism are often misapplied as concepts that are somehow something to be proud of when, like serving in the army, should be something that give others pause for thought when attempting to assess character. And yes, I accept that if you live in Buttock, Norfolk, joining the army is probably one way out of a hellish situation.

    @efegus3 – thanks for moving the debate along – Fox News would be proud.

    1. I wouldn’t know about Fox News, I’ve never watched it. I prefer making my own mind up. As I have about Chavez.

  13. I will try to remain calm.

    Not for the lot of ignorant (literally, not an insult, these people are utterly ignorant of the situation here) commenters and Chávez cheer leaders and the tiresome comparisons to Bush (Note: America is not an useful standard to measure other countries, neither it is the navel of the world), but for this jewel:

    “I am very suspicious of any story about Hugo Chavez from Western sources and I prefer to seek the truth, whatever it may be.”

    What does that exactly means? That you do not check ANTV, VTV, Globovisión, Caracas Chronicles or Venezuelanalysis as your sources of information, but that you check news in Farsi, Chinese and Arabic to check what’s going on here? Absurd, if you ask me. Or are you implying that we Venezuelans are not Westerners? Could you please elaborate? If you are saying that we are not Westerners, that sounds racist to my ears, you know, unless you can prove that is true. I have always considered myself a very Western person.

    Chávez praises Ahmadinejad and calls him “ideological brother”
    Ah, you do not believe?
    But sure, maybe I photoshopped that.

    Chavez gave Mugabe a replica of the sword of Bolivar, the Liberator, our local independence hero:

    But I am going to save links and give you the official attendants list of the ASA summit in Margarita Island:

    Oh, there he is, Teodoro Obiang, maybe he is a nationalist, a patriot, we do not know. But maybe you should dismiss this official list, as it comes from a Western source.

    For the record: I have been criticizing Obiang since a long time ago,
    For the record: The day Idi Amin died, I played “Ha Ha, you’re dead” by Green Day (As I did when Pinochet and Milosevic died) many times. And even if I care for these people and their land, I am not a patriot or nationalist in any way.

    So, please, I ask you kindly to shove your ignorance up some place, and at least learn how to use Google. And not, no matter how many people does the US kills abroad, it does not make anything that Chávez does better or worse.

  14. I had written a long comment, it seems it never came through.

    But, I will remember to the Chachees (Chavez cheerleaders)that Amin was a racist that expelled thousands of Asian-origin Ugandans from their country, even if he was not a Cannibal. Many of his atrocities are on the record.

    and here is the list of attendants for the ASA summit, including that evil bastard Teodoro Obiang:

  15. Ahmadinejad’s coming to town,, and he is, in Chávez’s words, his “idological brother”. Our govt. media reports all the time about death penalty in the US, but they never say anything about the sexist, homophobic, murderous govt in Teheran.

    And Chávez gave to Mugabe a copy of Bolívar’s sword:

    But since we Venezuelans ARE westerners, I guess I should let chachees speak and get their news from non westerner sources:

  16. Well we all know Hugo Chavez is a “people person”, a real man of the people, and, well …


  17. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Lord Acton

  18. rorschachian:”However, in the particular case of Chavez the Western media is almost universally biased against him.”

    Do you live on the planet earth? Seriously your ignorance of reality is impressive to say the least. The vast majority of the western media LOVES chavez. Outside of Fox and the internet I have never seen anyone go after chavez for creating a complete dictatorship and putting millions into the stone age…

    Chavez is a complete nut case… Their is no doubt that he will bring about a socialist utopia for all of Venezuela… the same way hitler, stalin, mao and other socialists created their own socialist utopias for they’re people.

  19. May I take this opportunity of emphasizing that there is no cannibalism in Uganda. Absolutely none, and when I say none, I mean there is a certain amount, more than we are prepared to admit, but all people are warned that if they wake up in the morning and find any toothmarks at all anywhere on their bodies, they’re to tell me immediately so that I can immediately take every measure to hush the whole thing up. And, finally, necrophilia is right out.

    1. jim dandy, you tool, there is no cannibalism in Uganda. They DO murder albinos for necromancy, but that’s different . . .

      1. Well… if you assume that they’ll ‘progress’ at the same rate as the ‘civilized’ world, they’re only really 75 – 150 years behind the US, and about 50 years behind Australia in terms of racial equality and such. Of course, it’s our duty to give them fish and accelerate them through the stages of social evolution, right? Heaven forbid that they achieve it themselves.

        I find it very interesting that the Western world has repressed large portions of the rest of the world for in excess of 200 years, but then is consistently shocked by the fact that these countries, stripped of their infrastructure at ’emancipation’ haven’t had the good sense to incorporate good western thought. Uganda gained independence in 1962, and if it is anything like the other ‘independence’ agreements that Great Britain partook in, the country would have been left in a state of engineered civil war and infrastructural collapse.

  20. However, he also seems to be trying to create a socialist Venezuela that works for all its people and not its historical elite.

    With the sky rocketing crime rate and long lines for food and essential sundries, he’s not doing a very good job of it. Then again, the latter most often is a feature of socialism.

    1. no… it’s most often a feature of an unready socialist state. Remember, Marx expected socialism to develop from a ‘healthy’ (read successful) capitalist state. There is yet to be an attempt at socialism from such a state.

      Oh wait… Canada is sort of doing it, and they have a pretty good track record. From the perspective of materialist dialectics, there is no need for the ‘socialist state’ to be communism. Just truly egalitarian :D.

  21. It’s funny that so many of the comments so far are questioning the reliability of the sources in the post, since Hugo’s quotes in the article read as though he himself is questioning the truthfulness of what has been said about Amin and others. Not that I’d go to bat for any of those guys–I certainly don’t know enough about anyone mentioned in the article to defend them, but I’d be much more open to believing the worst about them if the facts in this post were delivered by honest, thorough reporting instead of sensationalist soundbites. I mean, it doesn’t seem to me from the article that Hugo is defending cannibalism as the title of this post suggests, but rather that he doesn’t know if Amin was actually a cannibal as has been reported. Maybe the context would show that Hugo was talking about media distortions, and leaving that sort of thing out is still irresponsible journalism. Bad reporting isn’t just bad when Fox News does it, and people deserve to hear the whole story, even when it involves someone we’re not inclined to like.

  22. El viernes en la noche, Chávez defendió a una serie de líderes que dijo son injustamente etiquetados como “los chicos malos del mundo”, incluidos Robert Mugabe, de Zimbabue, y Mahmud Ahmadinejad, de Irán. Chávez calificó a ambos de hermanos y dijo que se pregunta si el dictador de Uganda, Idi Amin, fue realmente tan brutal como se dice fue, ya que incluso fue catalogado como “caníbal”.

    “A estas alturas yo digo, oye, no sé, a lo mejor era un gran nacionalista, un patriota”, dijo Chávez refiriéndose a Amin, cuyo régimen fue conocido por las torturas y asesinatos de oponentes sospechosos durante los años 70.

    “Bueno vean como tratan a nuestro hermano y amigo el presidente de Zimbabue, como lo tratan, igual, casi igual que Idi Amin. Casi que un caníbal pues. Además utilizando el arma bastarda y sucia del racismo. Aquí mismo, la burguesía se ríe y han hecho una pantomima tragicómica del presidente de Zimbabue, que es un luchador por los intereses de su pueblo”, dijo Chávez.

    1. Translation of #48

      On Friday night, Chavez defended a series of leaders who he said were unfairly labeled as “bad boys of world” including Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. Chávez called the two brothers and said he wonders if the Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, was really as brutal as they say was, because even was categorized as “cannibal”.

      “At this point I say, hey, I dunno, maybe it was a great nationalist, a patriot,” Chavez said referring to Amin, whose regime was known for torture and killings of suspected opponents during the 70s.

      “Well see how to treat our brother and friend President of Zimbabwe, as try, like, almost like Idi Amin. Almost as a cannibal. Besides using the weapon of racism and dirty bastard. Even here, the bourgeois laugh and have made a tragicomic pantomime of the president of Zimbabwe, he is a fighter for the interests of its people, “Chavez said.

  23. Maybe he was just trying to associate nationalism with cannibalism. He loved his countrymen so much he ate their brains.

  24. Forest Whitaker won the Academy Award playing Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. Perhaps Chavez wants to be immortalized upon the silver screen by some future Oscar-winner in The Last King of Hyde Park.

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