Report from Buenos Aires

At Cancha de Ferro stadium: Chavez 2, Bush 0
By John Catalinotto
Mar 14, 2007, 13:48

George Bush has been touring Latin American countries this March with two goals in mind: keep the continent divided and keep it subservient to U.S. imperialist interests.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has also been visiting his neighbors. His goals are the opposite: to unite the countries of Latin America and to encourage and support the continent’s independence from U.S. imperialism.

This March 9 the two presidents were faced off on opposite sides of the river separating Argentina and Uruguay. Bush had just arrived in Uruguay, where he was driven in a well-armored limousine caravan, protected from a strong demonstration protesting the visit. Chávez, after signing a treaty with Argentine President Néstor Kirchner for the cooperation of the two countries’ energy companies, spoke to a public meeting of 40,000 people in the Cancha de Ferro soccer field in Buenos Aires.

As the work day in the Argentine capital ended, residents from Buenos Aires and its working-class suburbs began to pour into the stadium. Coming in chartered buses, by public transport and on foot, they represented the dozens of political and nationalist left parties, from the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo to the unions and community organizations that make up the anti-imperialist majority of Argentines, along with visitors and immigrants from Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay—there were many Uruguayan flags—plus at least two anti-imperialists from the United States.

Even from the middle-class apartment house behind the stadium, people had hung a Brazilian and other national flags to show their solidarity with the pro-Chávez, anti-Bush demonstration.

When Chávez began to speak sometime after 8 p.m., it was obvious the people were with him, and he with them. Every upbeat phrase was cheered, from any reference to Fidel Castro, Cuba or the Argentine-born Che Guevara to the heroes of the Latin American independence struggle, from Simón Bolívar to Don Jose de San Martín of Argentina.

But nothing aroused more noise—both cheers and whistles depending on the statement—than Chávez’ ironic comments about the U.S. president. “He doesn’t even smell of sulfur anymore,” said Chávez, alluding to his own comments last fall at the United Nations, “but he has the smell of a political corpse, who will soon disappear into cosmic dust.”

The Venezuelan president and most others in the stadium were quite aware of Bush’s weakened position and waning popularity back in the U.S., where political polls put his approval rating at under 30 percent. Chávez spelled out how Bush had failed to provide for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and left tens of millions without health care.

“If he really wanted social justice in the world, he should do something, instead of just talking,” said the Venezuelan. “He should order the U.S. troops out of Iraq and use the vast sums of money from the war to end hunger and death throughout the world.

“Outside the United States,” Chávez added, “Bush’s popularity rating is probably negative,” to more laughs and cheers from the crowd.

Read it here.

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