The late Hugo Chavez was an early and ardent supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, an affinity that will surprise few who have even a passing familiarity with either Chavez or leftist movements in the United States. Chavez publicly praised the movement, spoke out against what he referred to as repression, and even sent a public relations emissary to Zuccotti Park.
The Occupy Wall Street movement was only a few weeks old when the cancer stricken Chavez spoke about it at a Caracas meeting in early October 2011:
This movement of popular outrage is expanding to 10 cities and the repression is horrible, I don't know how many are in prison now.
That statement came about a week after the Occupy Wall Street publicity bonanza that resulted in hundreds of arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge but no prison sentences. As shown in the Stephen K. Bannon film Occupy Unmasked, the protesters defied police orders to stop blocking the busy public roadway. Most were released within a few hours.
Chavez’s support went beyond rhetoric. The totalitarian leader dispatched Eva Golinger, a Venezuelan-American media personality and a dependable Chavez apologist who appears frequently on RT, the pro-Occupy Russian-owned network that plays on some American cable systems and has a large YouTube presence. As Heritage’s Ray Waiser pointed out at the time:
...the safety and security of the U.S. does not depend on whether or not Golinger is free to move about and report from within the U.S. Her presence here, however, is a reminder of the consistent, well-financed efforts on the part of Chavez and company to stir the “anti-capitalist” pot abroad while isolating the domestic, democratic opposition in Venezuela behind walls of censorship, legal sanction, untruths, and vilification.
By 2011, Chavez had largely fallen from the good graces of progressives; even the American left knew by then that praise from Chavez could be detrimental to one's credibility. Mother Jones warned:
Given the fiercely anti-Wall Street nature of the protests, levelheaded progressive supporters would be foolish not to expect more unwanted endorsement from less-than-savory fellow travellers on the left...
Are there some crackpots at the Occupy Wall Street protests who will be gleefully quoted by Fox News? Sure. Are some of the organizers anarchists or socialists or whatnot? Sure... But so what. Ignore it. Dismiss it. Explain it away... But don't let any of this scare you off.
So when the Occupy Wall Street movement was supported by Hugo Chavez—a brutal thug or socialist crackpot or whatnot—the message went out to the level-headed and very savory leftists driving along in their hermetically sealed Volvos that keep out the parts of the world that NPR doesn’t tell them about: hey man, it’s cool, nothing to worry about with Occupy, because so what?
This is the willful and well-coached ignorance that stacks up and allows a far-left, anti-American, anti-freedom movement to get played off as just another soggy gathering of freewheeling youth. It’s all fun until the rapes start. And until the violent street protests start. And until the inevitable trickle down to public policy starts.