Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

South of the Border

Posted by Charles II on June 22, 2010

There are very few means for Americans to get a glimpse into the reality occurring in Latin America. Oliver Stone has produced a film called “South of the Border” that gives some insight not only into that reality, but into how the American media have completely misled our understanding of what’s going on. Now, what is going on in Latin America is too complex for a guy like Stone to capture. By necessity, given the time constraints of the medium, he sketches in black and white. There’s a lot of gray.

At any rate, here is an excerpt of a longer interview of him and co-worker Tariq Ali on his new movie:

AMY GOODMAN: That was Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Oliver Stone, talk about how the US media portrays Chávez.

OLIVER STONE: Well, all you have to do is go to YouTube, and you’ll see. I mean, we put in the movie, it’s hysterical and outrageous. And by the way, mainstream—Washington Post, New York Times—it’s awful. I mean, it’s almost as if the New York Times guy—Simon Romero is his name—he sits there for years, and he’s a sniper. He doesn’t say one positive thing. It’s like every week or two he has to file his story, make it negative. It seems like that’s a directive. And he goes out—I mean, you read this stuff. All of it—and he never goes to the other side. He never gets the other side of the story. And he gets very complex little incidents, and he builds it up into this madhouse. It seems like it’s Chile again, like Allende. It’s like the economy is crashing. And the contrary is true. I mean, it’s a very rich country. It’s a regional power. It’s got, apparently, $500 billion—5,000 billion barrels of oil in reserve. It’s a major player for the rest of our time on earth, as long as we go with oil. You know, they’re not going to go away. So, Brazil and Venezuela.

And that raises a whole interesting thing about what recently happened in Iran, you know, when Lula from Brazil went over there with Turkey, Erdogan. That was a very interesting moment for me and for Tariq, because I grew up in the ’50s, so did he, and we remember the neutral bloc, remember the—remember Nehru and Nasser and Sukarno and fellow in Cambodia.

TARIQ ALI: Sihanouk

OLIVER STONE: Sihanouk. I mean, there was a bloc of people who used to say, “Hey, this is what we want. This is not what the United States wants.” And they were a mediator, a third rail between the Soviets and us. That’s gone in the world, and people don’t seem to realize it who are growing up. So when Lula did that, I couldn’t believe the outrage by people like Tom Friedman attacking him. And it was disgusting, I thought, really disgusting, because he never presented the point of view of Brazil and Turkey, which are major countries, huge powers, regional powers.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And the New York Times, of course, before that trip, was blasting the possibility of Lula being able to negotiate any kind of arrangement and basically saying he was naive, he was out of his league. And Tariq, your response? The impact of that deal that was brokered by Turkey and—

TARIQ ALI: Look, I mean, everyone was surprised in the West, that how dare these countries have the nerve to go over our heads and negotiate an independent deal with Iran. But this is what the world once used to be like. No one accepted US hegemony unquestioningly, as many of the Security Council members do. The other point is that Brazil was very courageous to do this, Lula particularly, because Brazil has been trying to get a Security—permanent Security Council seat for a long time, and they’ve now jeopardized that process. They will never be allowed it. So they did it for good principled reasons, showing the world Iran is prepared to do a deal; it’s you who don’t want to do it, because you’re permanently under pressure from Israel.

This is what we’re seeing emerge from US weakness: a new, non-aligned bloc.

4 Responses to “South of the Border”

  1. NWege said

    Thanks for that intro to the transcript. I watched that video and all I could think was, too bad I can’t use it because no one who’s persuadable on this issue would find Oliver Stone to be credible. We need 60 Minutes to cover this story, but that ain’t never gonna happen.

    • Charles II said

      Oh, no one’s persuadable, Wege. We saw that with Honduras. The UN calls it a coup and the UN High Commissioner dispatches a Mission to document the atrocities. The OAS calls it a coup and pulls recognition. The New York Times and the Washington Post call it an “accelerated transition of power” or some such nonsense and, when they bother to cover it, characterize it as a legal and necesssary step, the rest of the world be d–ned.

      Most Americans simply do not want to believe that their media would lie to them so openly and blatantly.

      The Chavez story is pretty interesting. The facts are pretty clear: the guy has been elected and re-elected in elections that international observers call free and fair. The economy did badly while the oligarchy was doing their best to sabotage oil production, then did pretty well as the price of oil skyrocketed, and has done worse with the world recession. Education and health care have improved for the poor. There are complaints about inflation, corruption, the scarcity of consumer goods, the bullying of media figures from the oligarchy, and so on, but things have been substantially worse within living memory. Despite all the b—hing by the oligarchy, private enterprise exists and makes a buck.

      It’s not all sweetness and light. People I know and trust tell me that things are not going in the right direction, for which they blame Chavez. It’s pretty clear that leaders are not coming up from below, as is necessary for a movement to sustain itself.

      The conclusion one reaches is that Chavez is no good, but the alternatives are substantially worse– so people put up with it and hope that things will get better. The tale our media tells is a complete lie.

      Oliver Stone is not a journalist. He’s a story teller. One doesn’t watch his films to learn facts. One watches the films in order to know what facts to start looking for.

      • NWege said

        I’m glad you’re optimistic about Chavez. Given all the overreporting of his shortcomings, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised I’ve grown less excited about him. Are there any good English language South American newspapers?

      • Charles II said

        Hm. I’m not sure how “Chavez is no good” counts as optimism about him. “No good”, really, because he’s a general and is therefore neither very good at civilian administration nor very good at listening. What I think Stone captures is that Chavez is a caring, likable, funny person by Venezuelan standards, so people want to believe that somehow he will pull it off, which is why they keep voting for him.

        As for good English language newspapers (or broadcast media) on Latin America, there really aren’t any. However, there are a number of NGOs, academic sources, and blogs that are worth reading, even if their content tends to be limited to, e.g., human rights issues. Here are some:

        UpsideDown World:
        Foreign Policy in Focus:
        Center for Economic and Policy Research (Mark Weisbrot):
        Center for International Policy:
        Council on Hemispheric Affairs:
        The Quixote Center:

        They are all left or center-left. I have been unable to find any sources that are one millimeter to the right of center on Latin America that are not completely off-the-wall, corrupt, etc. One of the most recent dust-ups has been over WOLA, a non-profit that has been relied upon by Democrats to make policy. Unfortunately, it seems to have been co-opted in regards to Honduras, shutting out voices that contradict the State Department and collaborating with people who participated in the coup, as described by Professor Adrienne Pine.

        The sorry fact is that actual print reporting on Latin America in English is relegated to left mags like The Nation and In These Times. That’s one reason I devote such energy to doing what I can to make the issues accessible. If there’s anyone listening, it might make a difference.

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