The Death of Hugo Chavez; Reactions from Immortal Technique, Cynthia Mckinney & More

Hugo Chavez

Hugo Chavez

There’s a lot to be said about Hugo Chavez,  the President of Venezuela who passed away yesterday from complications due to cancer.. For many he was considered a friend and a champion of the poor. He was seen as a hero who was willing to stand up to the United States and other western  powers who have an egregious record in South America of undermining democratically elected leaders..

Two movies.. Harvest of Empire and South of the Border bring US policies out in painful detail.. They show how private companies and media outlets including our own CNN worked overtime to try and overthrow governments throughout Latin America. You can see in the clip that starts off South of the Border  the round the clock demonization of South American leaders by our so-called esteemed media..

It’s important to understand our policies and what doesn’t get reported here in the states when viewing Hugo Chavez. A lot of what he did and didn’t do centers around the desire to see him removed from office by our own government..

It’s also important to understand that while Chavez was a charismatic singular face attached to Venezuela in terms of how he’s depicted here, in Latin America, he was part of a large movement. In short , he didn’t obtain his position in a vacuum. Nor can you explain Chavez or Venezuela in a 30 second sound bite..

Shortly after getting the news that he passed we broke into regular programming on KPFA and gathered up some folks to speak to Chavez and his legacy.. Our roundtable of guest are movers and shakers in a variety of circles and knew Chavez  or did lots of ground work in the country over the years..

CynthiaMckinneyred-225Our first guest was former Green Party Presidential candidate and congresswoman Cynthia McKinney..She set the tone by breaking down US foreign policy in Latin America and the great lengths our government has gone to try and undermine leaders they didn’t like. McKinney talked at length about Cointel-pro and what has happened to leaders domestically, hence we should not be shocked at the type of hostilities shown internationally..She also talked about Chavez and what he meant to his people as well as sharing her own stories about him…Here’s our interview..

Who Can Stop the DrumsWe spoke with author and Professor Sujatha Fernandes who wrote the ground breaking book ‘Who Can Stop the Drums? Urban Social Movements in Chávez’s Venezuela‘ .. Here Professor Fernandes reveals a significant dimension of political life in Venezuela since President Hugo Chávez was elected. Fernandes traces the histories of the barrios, from the guerrilla insurgency, movements against displacement, and cultural resistance of the 1960s and 1970s, through the debt crisis of the early 1980s and the neoliberal reforms that followed, to the Chávez period.

During our interview with myself and fellow KPFA host Mitch Jeserich, Fernandes provides additional keen insights around what life on the ground was like for the average Venezuelan and the impact Chavez’s policies had on folks..She also speaks to why Chavez had been and will continue to be demonized here in the US..

Venezuela SpeaksAlso on the line with us and Fernandes was Carlos Martinez who lived in Venezuela and is the co-editor of the book Venezuela Speaks; Voices from the Grassroots. Here Martinez and his co-editors  gathered a collection of interviews with activists and participants from across Venezuela’s social movements. From community media to land reform; cooperatives to communal councils, from the labor movement to the Afro-Venezuelan network, Venezuela Speaks! sheds light on the complex realities within the Bolivarian Revolution. These interviews offer a compelling oral history of Venezuela’s democratic revolution, from the bottom up.

During our interview, Martinez put the work he’s done into context and further expounded upon why Hugo Chavez was important and his overall impact on the region..

You can peep their interview here…

Click HERE to listen to our Breakdown FM interview w/ Immortal Technique at Rock the Bells 2010

Immortal Technique

We spoke with activist and popular Hip Hop artist Immortal Technique who talked about his trips to Venezuela and what he learned from traveling extensively around the country. He said he learned a lot and it was clear that Chavez meant a lot to the poor folks and poor communities. He noted that Chavez was not very well liked within the circles of the elite and they were constantly working to get at him.. Immortal talked at lengths some of the key strengths of Chavez as well as some of his actions and policies that were problematic.. Tech also noted that one can not sum up Chavez in a quick sentence, his presidency was much more complex..

Obama’s Re-Elected: What is the Fate of the Latino Vote? Dems, GOP or Independent?

Pablo Paredes, Favianna Rodriguez and Javier Gonzalez spoke powerfully on our HKR Roundtable

We continue our Hard Knock Radio roundtable series; Asking the question ‘What next in the Aftermath of Barack Obama being Re-elected?

Our guest include Pablo Paredes of 67 Suenos , Favianna Rodriguez of Solespace and Javier Gonzalez of the Soundstrike.. Click the link below to listen to our HKR Interview

One of the most compelling stories focuses on the rush from both the GOP and Dems to lock down Latinos and make them a cornerstone and key voting block in their respective parties. To listen to Fox News pundits and GOP leaders, one would not know this was the same political party that championed harsh anti-immigration laws like SB 1070 in Arizona and HB 56 in Alabama.

One would not know this was the party that gave Arizona governor Jan Brewer a louder and longer standing ovation than the Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan during the RNC in Tampa Bay.. One would not know this is the same GOP that has highlighted Sheriff Joe Arpaio who has long crusaded against Latino people.

During our HKR round table we spoke about a variety of topics including;

1-Why there is a sudden change of heart within the GOP to be more inclusive and friendly with Latinos? We talked about the need to have cheap labor and use Latinos as a voting bloc.

2-Whether or not political parties want Latinos only for their votes or are they willing to make room at the table to share and implement their ideas, policy positions and strategies? We talked about the importance of making sure importance issues aren’t put on the back burner..

3-How recent grassroots movements and fights have been hijacked by some mainstream Civil Rights orgs and opportunistic media pundits who have attempted to redefine a fight for social justice and make it about electing or re-electing a candidate.We talked about how during the historic immigration marches of 2006, many who never worked within the community were suddenly showing up with 100k grants talking about they were experts and representative from Latinos

4-We discussed the deeper meanings behind migration. Our guest gave a historic and cultural breakdown of migration, noting that it’s a behavior all human beings and most creatures do. You move from one place to another for survival, food, etc..

We talked about how flawed foreign policy including NAFTA and American backed regime change in Latin America as well as Climate Change/Global Warming. We also talked about how other issues outside of immigrations have impacted the Latino community, most notably foreclosures, where many have lost homes and land..

5-We talked about the harsh impact agribusinesses and companies like Monsanto have had on Latin American countries and Latino farmers who are here in the states.

6-We talked about important next steps to take and the important role art, culture and continued grassroots organizing will have in shaping and informing people’s political outlook in the years to come. We talked about how its important to be more than just a voting demographic..

All of our guests agreed that its all about people power! As Favianna noted; “We can’t just sit back and trust our elected officials right now, not when most are moving towards the center and away from the left”.