Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez addressed the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 20 at UN headquarters in New York. He implored the world to resist the imperialist hegemony of the United States. Photo courtesy of United Nations

UNITED NATIONS ( – In his opening remarks before the United Nations General Assembly, President Hugo Chavez Frias of Venezuela decried the “hegemony” of the United States, describing President George Bush’s address the day before as a recipe for ruling the world. He said the democracy promoted by the American president was a false one of elites, for no democracy could be imposed with bombs.

While holding the Noam Chomsky book, “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance,” in his hand, the Venezuelan president commenced to refer to Pres. Bush as “el Diablo,” the devil, according to the UN interpreter.

“Yesterday, the devil came here, right here. And it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of,” he stressed. He added that Mr. Bush was intent on the “exploitation and pillage of all peoples of the world.”


Those remarks were immediately posted on the Internet, on television and the front page of every New York City daily newspaper. However, one high-level Chinese official, who was not in the General Assembly Great Hall at the time of the speech, told The New York Sun that he wondered if the Venezuelan leader’s remarks had been “mistranslated from the Spanish.”

Jeffrey Laurenti of the Century Foundation, speaking on National Public Radio, called Pres. Chavez’s “devil” remarks “a breach of every element of diplomatic protocol.”

Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American History at New York University, told Pacifica Radio’s Amy Goodman that the Venezuelan president was speaking on many levels. “He was trying to change the script that was being set up by the press as a confrontation between Iran and the United States. And what I think Chavez did was he diversified the struggle, and this speaks to what he is, I think, trying to do on a larger global scale,” Mr. Grandin opined.

The NYU professor said that the speech of Pres. Chavez would go down in history of the UN, along with the Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev banging his shoe on the podium in 1960, in response to a statement that had been made by the head of the Philippine delegation, according to his granddaughter Nina Khushcheva in an article that appeared in the New Statesman in 2000.

The pundits also resurrected the 1974 appearance of the former head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Yasser Arafat, when he stood before the world body with a gun holster around his waist and an olive branch in his hand. “Today, I have come, bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat, do not let the olive branch fall from my hand,” Mr. Arafat said, according to LeMonde Diplomatique.

An article in Middle East News Report Online, claimed that the speech “raised the world awareness of the Palestinian cause.”

Observers also said that Bolivian President Evo Morales had obviously taken note of Mr. Arafat’s use of props, when he appeared before the General Assembly on Sept. 20 with a green coca leaf in his hand, which is a major crop for Bolivian farmers. He said the U.S. was using the war on drugs in South America as a “pretext for neocolonialism.” The Bush administration reportedly wants the Bolivian farmers to stop growing the coca leaf.

“Bolivia cannot be pressured to change its policies. We don’t need blackmail and threats,” Pres. Morales said.

“The Non-Aligned Movement threw down the gauntlet to U.S. global power this week,” noted Nile Gardiner, a foreign policy analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation, in a Sept. 22 story in the Los Angeles Times. “This is a huge diplomacy challenge and also a strategic threat.”

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