I see that you have accepted an $18 million grant from the Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez to produce a film in Venezuela about Toussaint L’Overture, a Haitian hero. As Chairman of TransAfrica Forum, you are opening yourself to criticism, since Dictator Chavez is a close ally of Zimbabwean butcher Robert Mugabe, a despicable tyrant whom your organization now opposes — though you yourself supported him for some time.
Taking money from an ally of Mugabe is not consistent with the professed ethics of your organization. But, as an individual, you are in even more dubious ethical territory since you are taking money from a dictator who has violated the Venezuelan Constitution and the laws of his country on a continual basis. In only seven years, Chavez has destroyed the rule of law in our country.
In his most recent act of aggression against Venezuelan freedom, Chavez shut down Radio Caracas TV and — with the help of the armed forces — confiscated its assets. This act has produced righteous indignation and protest all over the free world. How can you claim to side with the poor and the oppressed of the earth while accepting money and favors from corrupt dictators like Chavez, and idolizing butchers like Fidel Castro?
Though this is your worst ethical transgression against the Venezuelan people, it is not the only one. You have traveled several times to Venezuela, on at least one occasion in an official Venezuelan airplane that should not have been used to transport you, a private individual. You and your friends Harry Belafonte and former TransAfrica Forum president Bill Fletcher have been invited by the dictator to Venezuela where some of you, in a shameless show of adulation, have compared Chavez with Martin Luther King, Jr. You have also appeared as guests of Chavez in TV programs in which your country, the U.S., has been insulted with your enthusiastic approval. You have used TransAfrica Forum to broadcast a message of racial strife and resentment — a message that is neither needed nor appreciated in our country.
Your position is a very sad one. In your obsession to antagonize the president of your country, you have chosen to embrace a dictator whose beliefs about the nature of government and human rights are anything but humanitarian. You support Chavez only because he speaks vitriolically against your president, and in accepting millions of dollars from him, you stand in total surrender to his despotic whims.
So that you know, Danny, millions of Venezuelans are engaged today in a civic battle of principles and values against Hugo Chavez. We have only words and civic protests against armed forces that are receiving $6 billion in arms and weapon systems, while 65% of Venezuelans get by on less than $3 a day. By your actions, you have taken sides with the soldiers of Chavez against the people of Venezuela.
If you truly care about the poor of Venezuela, I hope you keep in mind that the money Chavez has given you would have solved many of their problems. Please think about that when you are sitting on your director’s chair.