Monday, June 12, 2006
How Can You Support Venezuela While Demonizing Zimbabwe?
By Obi Egbuna, Pan-African Liberation Organization
When progressive and revolutionary forces worldwide see the courage and vision of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, they feel optimistic about the country's immediate future. President Chavez poses a threat to the US government for many reasons. Chief among them is Venezuela's huge oil reserves that the U.S. wishes to control. Second, Chavez has a strong relationship with Cuban President Fidel Castro.
The Cuban influence on President Chavez reminds many of John F. Kennedy's darkest fears because of Cuba's ability to not only consolidate a political base, but also how the Cuban Revolution would inspire others to follow an identical path. This concern of Kennedy must have echoed through the halls of the White House, Pentagon and CIA today.
In the 70's and 80's the cowardly yet successful assassinations of Chilean President Salvador Allende, Grenedian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and Salvadorian Arch Bishop Oscar Romero illustrate this point loud and clear. One can also look at the political sabotage that undermined Michael Manley in Jamaica, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Jean Bertrand Aristide in Haiti for their solidarity with Cuba.
The foreign policy of President Chavez has to make President Bush extremely nervous. Especially since Chavez openly and unapologetically aligns himself with countries the US Government has declared politically undesirable. We can look at his links to Libya and Iran, the program to provide Caribbean and Latin American countries assistance with fuel and Chavez's consistent demand for the extradition of the notorious Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carrilies back to Venezuela.
If this track record of defiance isn't enough, how about Chavez's boldest step of all, i.e., his open calls for solidarity with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe. Following the lead of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Bush administration considers Zimbabwe their biggest enemy in Africa.
In 2003 President Chavez presented President Mugabe with Venezuela's highest political honor - the Simon Bolivar award and arranged for Mugabe to address the whole country by television. Chavez defended his decision to present Mugabe with this honor by saying that the Zimbabwean President was a warrior just like Bolivar, who did not hesitate to shed his blood to liberate his people.
This courageous act of brotherhood by President Chavez once again demonstrated the strong Cuban influence on him. In 1985 Commandante Fidel Castro presented President Mugabe with the Jose Marti award, which is Cuba's highest honor.
This was one of Fidel's most significant political moves concerning African Affairs. It demonstrated that Cuba didn't follow every move made by the Soviet Union, which supported Joshua Nkomo and the Zimbabwe Africa Peoples Union (ZAPU/O) instead of President Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU/PF) during Zimbabwe's liberation war. These examples of unity by Cuba and Venezuela towards Zimbabwe should serve as a lesson to the liberal and racist elements within US solidarity circles who romantically embrace Castro and Chavez but ignore and disrespect Mugabe.
The beauty of genuine solidarity is that allies external to your struggle can help you gain insight about your own people. I think of Kwame Ture describing how shocked he was when the Vietnamese revolutionary Ho Chi Minh told SNCC delegates that Marcus Garvey's love for Africa influenced his patriotism towards Vietnam.
Also, how the American Indian Movement leader Wabu-Nunini (also known as Vernon Bellecourt) went to jail in 1987 defying the Reagan administration's travel ban on Libya, one year after Reagan bombed Libya in an attempt to murder President Muammar Qaddaffi. The government and people of Venezuela, standing firm on defending Zimbabwe, is crucial to the bond between the peoples of Africa and Latin America.
In 2005 when Venezuela hosted the International Youth Festival, the youth contingent of Chavez's party was instrumental in pushing a resolution calling for the end of sanctions on Zimbabwe imposed by Bush and Blair and supportive of ZANU-PF's land reclamation program.
Among the African community within US borders, Washington, DC based TransAfrica Forum (TAF) has the distinction of being Venezuela's main contact and Zimbabwe's biggest critic. This came to light in 2002 when then TAF President Bill Fletcher Jr. published a statement entitled "Why We Spoke Out On Zimbabwe." To lend validity to the statement, Fletcher and TAF received endorsements in the form of co-signatures from a "Who's Who" in the public policy sector of our community. These included Salih Booker, Executive Director of Africa Action; Dr. Julliane Malveaux; and Director of Howard University's Ralph Bunche Center Ambassador Horace Dawson to name a few. Fletcher and TAF's statement is riddled with hypocrisy and contradictions from start to finish.
While President Chavez has said on numerous occasions that the land reclamation program in Zimbabwe is the model he will follow to develop Venezuela's agrarian land reform, Mr. Fletcher and TAF choose to parrot the propaganda of BBC's Studio 7, implying that only high level members in ZANU-PF are benefiting from the land program.
The truth is over 250,000 families in a country where the average family consists of six people all have been awarded land in the name of their ancestors who were victims of the bandit Cecil John Rhodes. Mr. Fletcher and TAF have said their attack on President Mugabe doesn't mean they support the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). This smoke screen has been allowed to pollute the air for four years and must be addressed.
Mr. Fletcher came to TAF straight from the AFL-CIO, looking at political development from a trade unionist' perspective. This blind sentiment to trade unions caused him to openly support the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). It is a proven fact that the three main parties in Britain -the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labor Parties - financed the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which gave money to ZCTU to create the MDC.
The reality is that TAF cannot afford to openly support a mercenary movement like MDC because of their public policy makeup and anti-apartheid credentials, which include their African National Congress (ANC) support work in the 1980's. To do so would be the equivalent of supporting anti-liberation forces such as Renamo in Mozambique as opposed to FRELIMO (independent movement), and UNITA in Angola instead of MPLA. The African community in the US must know that endorsing ZCTU is the same as supporting MDC, thus supporting US Imperialism in Zimbabwe.
Recently, a trade unionist out of the US, Jos Williams came to Zimbabwe for ZCTU's congress and reportedly boasted about not being on the government's radar screen, which made it possible for him to come in and support the opposition. I don't doubt Mr. William's commitment to exploited workers worldwide.
However, he should know that support for ZCTU is support for MDC's neo-colonialist pool. Before the opposition movement started, MDC President Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai was the Secretary General of ZCTU, where he proved his loyalty to Washington and Britain.
In an attempt to present ZCTU as a legitimate force standing opposed to President Mugabe and ZANU-PF, TransAfrica began sneaking their membership and supporters into Zimbabwe for the purpose of making their contribution to the Mugabe/ZANU-PF misinformation campaign.
While I do not know the amount of clandestine visits TAF successfully made to Zimbabwe, I was told by Dr. Simbi Mubako, then the Zimbabwe Ambassador to the United States, that in 2005 TAF members were stopped in Harare International Airport where they were following the example of COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) in trying to storm Zimbabwe to support ZCTU under the banner of revolutionary workers solidarity.
Mr. Fletcher responded by sending Ambassador Mubako a letter demanding an explanation of why they were stopped. Dr. Mubako responded by explaining that protocol for entering Zimbabwe in this case would have been to go through the workers wing of the government. Particularly since this was supposed to be a fact finding mission as Mr. Fletcher had stated when trying to sugarcoat TAF's purpose for the visit. Mr. Fletcher also revealed in his letter that TAF membership had entered the country on previous occasions, even though they never came to the embassy in Washington to notify the embassy of their plans.
Mr. Fletcher and TAF then began to organize anti-Mugabe/ZANU-PF seminars at their headquarters in Washington DC. Syracuse Professor Horace Campbell was invited to one to discuss a book he had written dedicated to condemning President Mugabe and ZANU-PF's land reclamation program. At one time Professor Campbell organized student delegations from Syracuse to Zimbabwe and was an ardent supporter of President Mugabe and the ZANU-PF government. Then out of nowhere has made anti-Mugabe propaganda his personal crusade.
The one thing all President Mugabe' detractors have in common is they won't claim support for MDC or Bush and Blair, giving the false impression that it is their integrity causing them to speak the truth. In Campbell's case it appears to be a business decision, since opposing President Mugabe, even though opportunist, is politically fashionable and ultimately, financially rewarding. It is no different than the former Special Scout of the Rhodesian Army who just published a book chronicling the 11 assassination attempts on President Mugabe's life between 1979 and 1980. To add to the soap opera effect, he mentions a plan to kill Prince Charles and the President during the independence celebration in 1980.
Mr. Fletcher and TAF also began to work with Pacifica radio host Amy Goodman to spread anti-Mugabe/ZANU-PF propaganda. Ms. Goodman was already doing this in 2002 before the Zimbabwean Presidential elections, when she had Ambassador Mubako on to discuss the persecution of MDC. Then in 2003 she had the Ambassador on again with a white South African talking about the "human rights abuses" of white commercial farmers in Zimbabwe. In 2005 Mr. Fletcher and Ms. Goodman, along with a member of ZCTU tried to gang up on Ambassador Mubako concerning Operation Murambatrina and how Zimbabwe's government handled the situation.
This blatant disrespect for ZANU-PF by Mr. Fletcher motivated me to call and challenge him to a debate on Zimbabwe. When we spoke about Zimbabwe, he agreed to the debate and my conditions that it should be on an African talk show. I recommended Mark Thompson's Radio One XM satellite show, "Make It Plain,". The debate was canceled on three different occasions, with Mr. Fletcher finally informing me that he decided not to participate in the debate because all solidarity efforts, whether in favor of or in opposition to President Mugabe, should let ZANU/PF and the opposition work out their differences.
I let Mr. Fletcher know this did not sit well with me and if he felt that way from the beginning, he should have never wrote the counter revolutionary statement denouncing President Mugabe in the first place. I reminded him that all we wanted from the outset was for TAF to write a retraction when they saw the damage they had done, mainly because younger people who were not even born during the Zimbabwean revolution may not know President Mugabe's value to the southern region of Africa and to our mother continent as a whole.
In April of this year, Mr. Fletcher resigned from TAF, however, there has been no indication that the organization's position on Zimbabwe has changed.
In conclusion, I feel that TransAfrica Forum's most visible faces, Mr. Harry Belafonte and Mr. Danny Glover should accept the responsibility of correcting the error of demonizing President Mugabe and ZANU-PF. Mr. Belafonte and Mr. Glover are often compared to the political and cultural icon Paul Robeson. It is hard to imagine Mr. Robeson condemning Kwame Nkrumah and the Convention Peoples Party while the CIA and White House was orchestrating his demise, no matter what problems or challenges he was facing.
Because of Mr. Belafonte's role in the Civil rights movement and his close relations with President Chavez, we pose the question to him: "How do we give Venezuela our unconditional support and help create a climate for Bush and Blair to be successful in what they call a regime change in Zimbabwe"? I chose this question because Mr. Belafonte remembers when SNCC posed a similar question to Dr. King about how he could be non-violent in Alabama and Mississippi and not non-violent on Vietnam.
My question for Mister Glover is: "How does playing a Buffalo Soldier in Hollywood translate into helping Bush and Blair in their quest to recolonize Zimbabwe"? I appeal to Mr. Belafonte and Mr. Glover to honor African tradition and clean up the mess their little brother Bill Fletcher Jr. left behind. While you both call Colin Powell and Condeleeza Rice house slaves, if you don't correct your position on Zimbabwe you might as well ask them to make room for you under the roof of the master's house.
They should take a page from Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan when he finally came out and acknowledged how his condemnation of Malcolm X contributed to the climate that made Malcolm vulnerable to plans of the FBI and CIA to kill him.
Belafonte just received an award named after the great Pan-Africanist Revolutionary Amilcar Cabral. If he understands Cabral, he knows Comrade Mugabe walks the same trail of anti-imperialist resistance step for step. Mr. Belafonte stood next to President Chavez in Venezuela and called Bush the world's greatest terrorist. On that note, help us defend President Chavez's strongest ally in Africa, President Robert Mugabe and the Peoples' Democratic Republic of Zimbabwe.
Long Live Chavez
Long Live Fidel
Long Live Mugabe
Long Live Cuba, Venezuela and Zimbabwe
Organizer Pan African Liberation Organization
Zimbabwe Support and Solidarity Efforts, USA
May 28 2006