“In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
What else did Machetera miss while she was away? Not much, apparently. A Frontline documentary, produced by Ofra Bikel, called “The Hugo Chávez Show,” aired in November, with all the usual suspects…meaning people who used to support Chávez but don’t any more, like Teodoro Petkoff. The Guardian’s Rory Carroll is given a chance to recount (again!) his tale of on-camera humiliation at Aló Presidente, for which he is still seething and, judging by his latest dispatches, seeking vengeance. But pride of place goes to Jon Lee Anderson, best known in the English speaking world for his Hollywood Babylon biography of el Che, cocktail chatter from fascist warzones, and more recently, detailed descriptions of the seatback tray table hinges on Chávez’s presidential jet. In “The Hugo Chávez Show,” he adds clairvoyance to his resume, telling us what Fidel was “probably” thinking when Chávez spoke at the University of Havana’s Aula Magna in 2000:
… And Fidel was probably thinking to himself, where was this kid 30 years ago when I needed him? — oil rich, willing to build a revolution, willing to turn Venezuela into an ally of isolated Cuba. And here we are today, you know, nearly eight, nine years later. It’s interesting.
… But Chávez has essentially saved Fidel Castro’s revolution on the very eve of his death. I mean, Fidel can go more or less peacefully into the night, knowing that at least for some years more, as long as Chávez is alive, Cuba will be all right.
Well. Who knew? Cubans have fought for more than a hundred years for their independence, and it all comes down to Chávez in the end? Because the revolution wasn’t theirs, but Fidel Castro’s? It’s deep analysis like this that makes one wonder how Anderson keeps scoring interviews in Cuba and Venezuela.
Economics? Oh please, don’t bother Anderson with details:
It’s shocking to come into Caracas and nearly a decade on see that most of what Hugo Chávez was railing in anger about being left with — a failed society, misery, insecurity, unequal distribution of wealth — is still here.
Despite these surely thousands of hours of speeches, and many billions of dollars of oil wealth pumped into the economy, we don’t see huge changes. We see, in fact, that most of Hugo Chávez’s revolutionary programs, his inventions to ameliorate and alleviate the social ills at home, simply have not worked.
The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean disagrees, but, whatever.
But Anderson isn’t really blaming Chávez, totally. It’s all the bad people around him…
There’s a kind of a crisis of administration and implementation in this country. And I’ve often felt that he seems to be surrounded by very mediocre people and that the middle ranks, the management, just isn’t there. There is not the expertise, and there is not the ethical commitment to the reforms he talks about.
Bikel has a way to spin this too. After the criticism about the mediocrity surrounding Chávez, she cuts to Aló Presidente again, where Chávez can be seen cruelly demanding answers from bureaucrats who come up short. Chávez can’t win with Bikel, but he probably knew that from the start, which is why she never scored an interview with him and had to rely on Anderson as her interpreter. Still, Bikel insists that she’s not so down on Chávez; it’s Castro she really can’t stand:
But, whatever you say about Chávez — he’s autocratic, he’s a centralist — he’s not a dictator. He is not killing people or arresting them en masse the way Castro did.
Seriously. And Bikel’s not even from Miami. She’s Israeli. But of course. How many Palestinian documentary filmmakers has PBS/Frontline got on the payroll again? Not that they have an agenda or anything.