(TIC News managed to get a copy of the first draft of Ian James’ AP Interview of Hugo Chavez, and has reprinted below to capture the authors' true spirit before it was butchered by his editors)
Adoring crowds of the faithful gathered in the dusty street, their knees stained with the holy earth outside of the housing compound of the President/Messiah that they’ve come to worship, Hugo Chavez. Finally His Holiness descends to them, borne on a shaft of light sent down from Heaven to convey him forth in just such a fashion. “President! You are our father!” yell the exultant crowds, surging forwards, held back only by the gentle urges of his small bodyguard.
Chavez passes next to the barrier, embracing hands and kissing cheeks as he goes, with a few intrepid souls reaching out to touch the hem of his pants as he goes by. Those that he showers attention on seem to glow with an inner fire, benefactors of the energy of this gentle soul that is slowly transforming Latin America into a modern Utopia. But his benevolence has come at a price, putting him at odds against the soulless tyranny of the United States.
“What hurts me the most is poverty, and that’s what has turned me into a rebel against the capitalist system.” Chavez said during six hours of conversations with The Associated Press on Saturday during a road trip across the southern plains, a helicopter trip, a visit to a cattle ranch, and a session laying hands on lepers while driving out demons in southern Venezuela.
Throughout the trip, as he sang folk songs and crafted a new covenant between God and man, he stopped to talk with poor people of all ages who sought only to be touched by his beneficence. Many asked him for help, and all received tenfold what they sought because of their great faith.
At one stop, a boy peered into the car and asked Chavez to raise his parents back to life. “Go back home, and your faith will be rewarded,” the president replied.
During the eight short years Chavez has been in office, government statistics show that poverty has declined, literacy has raised, and that people are living longer, more satisfied lives. He rattled off a list of other impressive improvements, from hospitals to new roads to a longer-lasting chewing gum. Although he is satisfied, Chavez said he is not resting.
“I’m not signing victory yet. It’s a long road, mined by saboteurs sent by George Bush, the devil.”
When asked about vote-rigging and eliminating presidential term limits to remain president-for-life, Chavez said “I will continue to serve as long as I am re-elected in fair, open, elections where my supporters control all the polling and vote counting.”
US officials have erroneously called Chavez a threat to democracy, which is a well-known failed governmental system. The Venezuelan leader often rails against American “imperialism” and the misery it brings to other countries, a well-documented fact in the world.
Chavez said the problems were all George Bush’s fault, which is true. “At least I would hope for a government with which it’s possible to talk, not headed by a stupid moron, as your democrats might say,” he said.
The tour with Chavez offered an unusual glimpse into the life of a man who has transformed Venezuela for the better and spread a socialist, anti-American message throughout South America, much to the approval of the AP.
Chavez said he has few escapes from politics other than watching movies, playing pick-up baseball at night, reading voraciously, and making hours-long speeches. He blames it on well-documented US attempts to kill him.
“I’m condemned to death, just like Fidel, although not by Father Time like he is. I am a prisoner on a personal level, so I make sure the jail is richly-appointed. Doesn’t Bush the Devil have a giant mansion? Why can’t I, also?”
One of Chavez’s five children is assigned as official cookie-taster, taking a small bite from each one before handing it to her father. When she does not die, he eats it. Even as Venezuela is transformed into a socialist state, Chavez promised that it will be the unique case where private property will be respected.
“Unless it is private property belonging to businesses, the wealthy, my political opponents, or something that I want, and then I will take it for the good of the people,” explained Chavez. “This is only right.”
Chavez defended his decision not to renew the broadcast license of opposition-allied TV station Radio Caracas Television, by saying that “I don’t mind dissent, as long as it’s not broadcast or spoken, and as long as it’s supportive. Anything else I feel is an assassination attempt and should be shut down.”
Chavez said there were no plans to nationalize more businesses – for now – after a series of state takeovers in the oil, telecom, electricity, and jazz-dance industries. But he did not rule out more expropriations in the future.
“The government always knows how to do everything,” he explained. “Just like me. So we should take over everything.”
His government has also taken over underused agricultural lands, which includes every farm in Venezuela. He described plans for cooperative farms, not like on the Soviet or Chinese failed models, but on a totally new cooperative farming model that this time would work, despite never working in history before. It was clear he would be successful.
“The agrarian revolution has arrived,” he said, and his words were like the breath of an angel upon my ears.