Hugo Chavez Should Adopt San Francisco
by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca‚ Oct. 25‚ 2007
How I wish Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would adopt San Francisco, as he has the South Bronx.
According to the New York Times, the poorest area of New York has benefited greatly from the South American Socialist leader’s love affair with its working-class neighborhoods. Since 2005, residents have received great discounts in the price of oil from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company (Citgo) to heat their homes during the area’s cold winters. Cooperatives have been started to provide jobs and improve the environment.
Of course, it’s ruffled feathers both here and in Venezuela. American oil companies are worried that it makes them look like the bad guys. Which they are. The greed of the American oil companies is unparalleled. Oil prices continue to soar, with word that this winter, people will pay even more to heat their homes. How much profit do they have to make before it’s enough?
In Venezuela, some wonder why the outspoken leader of their country would spend money in the world’s richest land when there is no scarcity of poor people in his own backyard.
It’s obvious why. Chavez wants to ruffle the feathers of this nation’s leaders, especially President George Bush, whom he has referred to as “the devil.” There’s good reason to equate Bush with the mythological symbol of all evil. Not only did Bush lie to get us into unprovoked wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he continues to spy on American citizens and crush our civil rights via the Patriot Act.
Hugo Chavez should go on ruffling those feathers. Just do a little of it here in San Francisco. We’re a city that should be dear to his heart. After all, we’re staunchly anti-war, and we hate George Bush and everything he stands for. We have much more Socialist leanings than any other city in the U.S. Just ask conservative Fox commentator Bill O’Reilly.
San Francisco could use an infusion of money into its community land trust program. That way, the land trust could buy more property and provide permanently affordable housing for the city’s neediest. Perhaps every building that goes up for sale could be purchased through a grant from Citgo and turned into a land trust. Nothing keeps housing affordable like land trusts. Or coops. With real estate out of the hands of those who profit from it, the massive displacement that is happening now could be lessened.
Then there’s MUNI. Imagine Citgo financing public transportation so that it’s free and runs more frequently. The Board of Supervisors could close off Market Street to traffic and restaurants could put out tables and chairs where cars now spread congestion and pollution. Talk about improving the environment.
With extra dough, San Francisco could also have the best universal healthcare system in the world. The Board has already approved a plan that provides for all needy San Franciscans, but it could use a little green to make it better. It’s a project that a Socialist such as Chavez could support with a good conscience.
Chavez could think of it this way: Nothing would infuriate Bush and the right-wing more than his lending San Francisco a helping hand.
Tommi Avicolli Mecca is an Italian radical queer writer and performer whose work can be seen at www.avicollimecca.com.