Cancelled last fall, Ali to receive award on April 2
MacIver News Service | March 29, 2018
By Abby Streu
MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin-Madison plans to honor and award a man who has made a career of praising socialist dictators and regimes. Tariq Ali is well-known for repeatedly providing support and encouragement to the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolás Maduro, while ignoring the poverty and starvation plaguing their nation.
Ali had originally been invited to receive a lifetime achievement award from the UW-Madison Havens Center for Social Justice on October 19, 2017. The lecture was postponed following an unexplained accident. An open records request by the MacIver News Service found staff working diligently behind the scenes to reschedule the event, and Tariq Ali’s day in Madison is almost here. Ali will receive his award in Phillips Auditorium in the Elvehjem building (Chazen Art Museum) on April 2 at 7 p.m.
As a part of the UW system, the Havens Center, which has long promoted anti-Capitalist causes, is funded by taxpayers. One can’t help but wonder the obvious–how can the University of Wisconsin give an award to Ali when the people of Venezuela are literally dying from socialism?
Ali is a member of Socialist Action, formerly known as the International Marxist Group. He’s a long-standing columnist for the Guardian, and has used the forum to eulogize Chavez.
“[Chavez’s] supporters, the poor throughout the continent and elsewhere, will see him as a political leader who promised and delivered social rights against heavy odds,” Ali wrote in a column honoring the dictator after his passing.
In reality, Venezuela continues to spiral downward into complete desperation and the people are dying. In 2017, over one hundred protesters were killed by government authorities, and there were more than 10,000 homicides in the country as the people become more and more desperate for basic necessities like food and water. Inflation jumped 2,400% in 2017 and experts believe it will increase by tens of thousands in 2018. According to a survey conducted by the local university, three-quarters of Venezuelans have lost weight and 9 of 10 homes cannot afford the basic food they need to survive. More than 600,000 Venezuelans have fled the country to find refuge in Colombia.
The UW thinks it is a good idea to give an award to a man who has spent his career extolling the virtues of socialism and defending brutal dictators like Maduro?
The New York Times published an article on March 20 explaining that tuberculosis is making “an aggressive comeback” in Venezuela. Over the past year, tuberculosis cases have increased over 40 percent and the death rate has increased as well.
Dictator Maduro, however, tells the world that everything in Venezuela is great. Maduro doubts “that anywhere in the world, except Cuba, there exists a better health system.”
Venezuelan doctors disagree. In May 2016, Dr. Yamila Battaglini of J. M. de los Ríos Children’s Hospital told The New York Times that “there are people dying for lack of medicine, children dying of malnutrition and others dying because there are no medical personnel.” On March 28, CNN reported from actually inside a Venezuelan hospital, “the infrastructure absolutely crumbling, there are leaks everywhere, the water doesn’t work.”
The professional class in Venezuela has fallen victim to Maduro’s brutal regime and the realities of socialism as well. In September 2017, the Miami Herald reported that former doctors, teachers, engineers and other professionals are having to resort to prostitution in order to feed themselves and their families.
Criticism over the award was voiced the loudest by Venezuelan student and activist, Jorge Jraisatti. Last summer, Jraisatti explained the realities of life in Venezuela to MacIver:
“Venezuela is a country sunk in misery, a country in which our people don’t have access to food, medicines, and jobs… Chavez betrayed those who believed in him the most; those eager for hope. The people Chavez promised to help are the most exposed to the violence and hunger my country is living at the moment.”
Jraisatti makes it clear what he thinks of anyone who supports or defends Maduro.
“The Maduro and Chavez regime is a regime that shoots people to silence them. It’s a regime that broke families. It’s a regime that has blood on their hands. And it is a shame [for] everyone who approves and who supports a regime like that one.”
The Havens Center has a long history of promoting anti-Capitalist causes. Other recipients of the same award from the Havens Center have been Noam Chomsky and Eduardo Galeano.
Chomsky is a British linguistics professor who has noted the West’s response to the Paris terror attacks as hypocritical and stated that every U.S. President since World War II would have been hanged if they had been “judged by the standards of the Nuremberg Tribunals.” Eduardo Galeano wrote a book in 1971 called “Open Veins,” a book that blames the struggles of South America on Capitalism. The book was a favorite of Hugo Chavez.
Alongside the Havens Center, the Robert F. and Jean E. Holtz Center at UW-Madison was also involved in planning Ali’s cancelled lecture, according to emails obtained in the open records request. According to their website, the Holtz Center “promotes innovative work and fosters interdisciplinary research, education and public outreach in humanistic and social studies of science, technology, biomedicine, engineering and the environment.” They are not co-sponsors of the rescheduled event.
The Center for Humanities and the UW History Department are co-sponsors with the Havens Center of this lecture , entitled “Street Fighting Year: The Importance of 1968, Fifty Years On.”
Check back with MacIverInstitute.com as we update this story and bring you reaction to the UW giving Ali this award.