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A vision thing

At the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in January he announced plans to introduce a tax on speculative finance similar to the Tobin Tax. He has proposed the establishment of a Latin American Humanitarian Fund, financed through a reduction in army budgets. His regional-integration plan dovetails with Brazilian President Lula's proposed 'green dollar', which would create an alternative currency valid only for agricultural production to supply the 'Zero Hunger' campaign in Brazil.

Chávez has also proposed a regional oil cartel, Petroamérica, linking output and prices in Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela to prioritize national needs. He has called for the end of repayments on the external debt. 'If any one nation tries to fight it alone,' he has said, 'they will be destroyed.'

An enthusiastic globetrotter, Chávez has embraced Saddam Hussein, revitalized the OPEC oil cartel and abandoned the country's traditional subservience to US foreign policy. Last year he secured the presidency of the Group of 77 developing countries at the UN, providing a global platform for his political vision.

When the coup occurred last year Chávez found few of his international allies willing to stand behind him, while Colombia, Chile and Mexico barely concealed their delight. The US is anxious to remove him, but open support for the coup which turned into a fiasco forced the Bush administration to be more cautious.

The Bolivarian Revolution envisions a powerful Andean Bloc including Panama, Colombia, Guyana, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, emulating the dream of Simon Bolivar. The unity plan has been greeted with deafening silence as fragile governments in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia eagerly host US troops and smart at the threat from radical social movements.

However, anti-US Government feeling is growing rapidly in the region, unifying around resistance to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Chávez suggests that the FTAA is an 'invitation to hell'.

New Internationalist issue 356 magazine cover This article is from the May 2003 issue of New Internationalist.
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