Harlem Backs Hugo Chavez

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“Billions of dollars are being spent in Iraq and the longer the United States stays in Iraq the more money is spent. This money should be going towards education, the health care system and improving the infrastructure of New Orleans after the Katrina hurricane.�

(Darneice Foster doesn’t believe Bush is doing God’s work).

President Hugo Chavez’s recent remarks that President Bush was “the devil,� still reverberate on the streets of Harlem where many agreed with the Venezuelan as conversations with several people in the Black Mecca reveals.

Chavez made his indictment while addressing the United Nations where he also noted that Bush “left behind a scent of sulfur� on the podium; he repeated the criticism while at Harlem’s Mt. Olivet Church to announce the expansion of Venezuela’s subsidized heating energy program for America’s poor.

Many Harlem residents agree with President Chavez’s assessment of Bush, notwithstanding the fact that Rep. Charles Rangel came to the President’s defense. Dr. Jack Felder, a retired professor, not only endorses Chavez’s remarks, but also sharply attacks those who disagree. He recalled that after the Katrina disaster, Chavez offered money for the displaced residents of New Orleans and the Bush Administration rejected the assistance. “Any Black person who has not learned the lesson from the Black death in New Orleans deserves to die,� he says. He says Chavez spoke “the truth� by referring to Bush as the devil and adds, “If anyone cannot see that Bush is the enemy of Black people then something is wrong with them.�

“I believe that God works through man and so does the devil and if Bush is working through anyone, it would not be God,� says Darneice Foster, a young woman who resides and works in Harlem and was more diplomatic. Although Chavez announced the continuation of Venezuela’s subsidized fuel program, Foster notes that Harlem, which has undergone gentrification process over the past decade faces new challenges. The cost of housing is skyrocketing and Foster feels that Caucasians are pushing African Americans out of their neighborhoods, she says.

“I agree with Chavez that Bush’s agenda does not include the lower income classes,� she adds, “It is not necessarily a race thing but a class thing which is making it harder and harder for people to achieve the American dream—If I am not mistaken small businesses employ about eighty percent of working class America. We need more entrepreneurship in neighborhoods like Harlem as in the rest of America.�

A street vendor, Muhammad from Niger, who would only provide his first name, also doesn’t believe Bush is doing God’s work. “So far there has been no justification on the war on terror,� he says. “Bush has claimed that he was going after weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein. They did not find any weapons of mass destruction and they still insisted on killing innocent women and children.� Muhammad felt that Bush’s entire agenda is to impose his own ideologies on both the American people and other nations throughout the world.

He also pointed to U.S. hypocrisy, saying that when Hamas won elections in Palestine, the U.S. government opposed the leadership and pulled aid. He also noted U.S. support for Israel’s attack on Lebanon after two Israeli soldiers were captured. He says it didn’t justify “the innocent killing of women and children in Lebanon.�
Muhammad adds: “Billions of dollars are being spent in Iraq and the longer the United States stays in Iraq the more money is spent. This money should be going towards education, the health care system and improving the infrastructure of New Orleans after the Katrina hurricane.�

Shariff Ibn Shaitan, also a Harlem street vendor, believes Chavez has a right to exercise his freedom of speech in the U.S. “I agree with our American Constitution and those rights were extended to Chavez when he stepped onto our soil,� he says. Yet, Shaitain also thinks the Venezuelan has his own agenda. “I think that Chavez like any other politician is trying to market his ideas and in a free country has every right to do that,� he says. “ I think that Chavez when he made his comment about the U.S. spending billions of dollars on war and not investing in neighborhoods like Harlem is just trying to create a rift between the lower and upper economic classes.�

Sage Valore, says he longs for the peaceful days during Bill Clinton’s Administration. “When Clinton was in office we were not at war with anyone, now that since Bush has been in office we have been fighting at least three countries,� he says. He adds that while the U.S. is depleting its resources of wars, the Europeans and building their economies and their common currency, the Euro. “There will come a time where the Euro, the pound and the yen will increase in its value and the American dollar would not mean anything.�

A frequent visitor to Harlem,  Sophia, who also only provided her first name, was the sole supporter of Bush during this informal street survey. “I think that Chavez needs to look into the situation a little more before he made his remarks on Bush,� she says, adding that Chavez  “does not treat his people fairly in Venezuela.�

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