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Stone Goes ‘South of the Border’

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Posted on Sep 3, 2009
Jose Ibanez

A new documentary by Oliver Stone called “South of the Border” follows his earlier trajectory of “Salvador” (1984), “Comandante” (2003), and “Looking for Fidel” (2004) as he talks to several Latin American leaders to understand what is happening on the continent and how U.S. perceptions of our own backyard are skewed.

A four-minute video clip is available on the Guardian Web site.

The Guardian:

South of the Border is Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone’s record of a trip to Venezuela to meet the president, Hugo Chávez. Ahead of the film’s premiere at the Venice film festival on Monday, Stone writes about his hopes for the film, and the future of US foreign policy in the region

The low-budget, independently-shot Salvador, about the US involvement with the death squads of El Salvador, and starring James Woods in an Oscar-nominated performance, was released in 1986; this was followed by Comandante in 2003, and Looking for Fidel in 2004, with both of these documentaries exploring Fidel Castro in one-on-one interviews.


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Each of these films has struggled to be distributed in North America. I was invited to Venezuela to meet President Hugo Chávez for the first time during his aborted rescue mission of Colombian hostages, held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), during Christmas of 2007.

As is often the case, the man I met was not the man I’d read and heard about in the US media. I was able to return in January 2009 to interview President Chávez in more depth. Was Hugo Chávez really the anti-American force we’ve been told he is? Once we began our journey, we found ourselves going beyond Venezuela to several other countries, and interviewing seven presidents in the region, telling a larger and even more compelling story, which has now become South of the Border. Leader after leader seemed to be saying the same thing. They wanted to control their own resources, strengthen regional ties, be treated as equals with the US, and become financially independent of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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By bogi666, September 5, 2009 at 10:40 am Link to this comment

StuartH, remember it was Reagan who convinced Americans that the Nicaraguan Sandinista army was going to march through Mexico, invade Texas and then burn down Wash., DC[a good idea], and the American public believed him. Reagan also convinced Americans that debt is prosperity and it was him who ushered in the huge Federal budget deficits of $300,000,000,000+. Now let’s analyze the dynamics of the budget deficit proceeds which are doled out to the CORPORATE WELFARE KINGS with the principle and interest paid by the American individual taxpayers. Simultaneous with the CORPORATE WELFARE KINGS scheme, the corporate taxes were reduced and/or omitted. Individual tax rates were reduced while individual’s tax deductions were mostly eliminated except for home interest expense., Net result was a hidden tax increase while Reagan trumpeted his reducing tax rates. Americans being gullible and ignorant believed Reagan, the greatest con man in world history. He was even able to con Americans during his 2nd term while having Alzheimer’s disease.

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By bogi666, September 5, 2009 at 9:53 am Link to this comment

StuartH, I checked out the photo’s. Being from Calif., originally and having lived in Mexico, the interior, for 5 years I have great appreciation for the Mexicans As if Mexicans didn’t have enough to put up with from their own government they also have to contend with the U.S. government’s discriminatory policies toward them, NAFTA labor’s enemy. NAFTA was created to facilitate the flow of capital sand to open Mexican markets to U.S. subsidized agriculture, especially corn, which resulted in the influx of latin Americans into the U.S. The other trade pacts were for the same purpose as well as the results. Now let’s look at the drug trade and money laundering. I lived in Cancun mostly and the business facades which exist solely for the purpose of money laundering are so obvious it makes the drug “war” absurd. NAFTA as well as the Colombian trade pact facilitate money laundering and I almost wonder if that’s not taken into the equation when these trade pacts are created. Thanks for the referral to the photo’s.

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By StuartH, September 5, 2009 at 8:49 am Link to this comment


That is an excellent point.  I bet Oliver Stone totally misses it.  Everyone else

All of the argumentation over immigration assumes, for instance, that people
crossing north over the US/Mexico border pop into existence on the line and
never had a prior existence with calamitous circumstances causing them to
uproot.  There have been tens of thousands of people crossing into Arizona in
a month or several months.  That is an exodus.

The process that we saw in the North American continent that uprooted
indigenous communities is now at work in Central and South America.  Largely
this is an ignored element of all that is going on.  Reagan pumped up the
“Communist Threat” way beyond what it really might have been in order to side
with corporations bent on exploitation of land resources, taking indigenous
land for large scale cattle and other operations.  Ancient communities that had
been happy to continue as they had for millenia doing subsistence farming
were seen as not utilizing the land to its potential. 

By the way, indigenous societies tend to be organized around a communal resource sharing ethic.  This can be distorted into an accusation that it is “communist” even though it predates modern political philosophy by thousands of years.

When people are dispossessed they begin to organize in opposition.  Then,
there is a need for military efforts to put down this opposition.  That is the real
reason Reagan and then Bush were so interested in covert support for

Most people in the US have no idea what has been going on, to some extent
because the US media never got what the story really was.  If there have been
stories, they largely are wrong.  It may be that the only way the real truth can
be learned is by finding people to talk to who have actually been there to see it

I happen to have a friend who is an activist with a group of indigenous people
from Arizona and Texas, trying to raise consciousness about this aspect, and
another who is a photographer.

You can see some photos showing Texas Migrant Farmworkers and, following
the trail further south, a group of displaced farmers in Mexico.  Look for the
link on the front page to Portfolios, then look for Palito Blanco as well as the
Farmworkers group of photos.

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By bogi666, September 5, 2009 at 6:48 am Link to this comment

Considering the record of the United States and Canadian governments with the North American indigenous peoples the indigenous leaders of South America have a lot to be worried about. Things like assassination, trumped up charges[Noriega] pertaining to the drug “war” , military coups engineered by the Pentagon[Honduras] with their contacts fostered through the School of Assassins [Honduras] and this is just to mention a few obvious dangers that the indigenous leaders of South America have to worry about.

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By StuartH, September 4, 2009 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment

I used to know a whole lot of people who came up from South and Latin
America and Mexico through Austin, Texas where I lived.  It wasn’t hard to find
out what was really going on, because so many people had experiences that it
had to come together as a mosaic of truth about reality. 

Then, you get what is being put across through the media and it is like a
different planet is being described. 

Why people don’t do their own investigating and thinking about this when so
many with such experiences have now written books and it isn’t that hard to
find out, is amazing to me.  But I guess we Americans are lazy and want to
believe that people with big salaries who are in the media to tell us what is
going on must have at least some of it right and that it isn’t mostly a
prefabricated lie.  We want to believe that.  Our comfort rests on other people’s backs but we really don’t want that to be true.

I hope Oliver Stone comes up with a great documentary.  We need someone to
tell at least a little bit of the truth.

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By KDelphi, September 4, 2009 at 1:31 pm Link to this comment

Good comments, folks!

Kevin-back at ya!

Viva Hugo, Viva Evo, Viva the Bolivarean and peaceful revolution that may actually salvage our planet!

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By bogi666, September 4, 2009 at 12:00 pm Link to this comment

Nixon created the “war on drugs” and it is just stalking horse/red herring for continuing war by the USA on developing nations. Immediately the “war” started to prevent the exercise of constitutional rights, the no knock laws. It also ushered in the prison industrial complex, PIC, which has lead to a quadrupling of the prison population for the sake of private profits, the purpose of which is to obscure corruption political and private. Corruption channeled through private corporations is much easier and hard to prove because their doesn’t have to be transparency and accountability. Private prisons pay off judges to sentence offenders of even minor legal infractions to the private prisons. Two judges in Pennsylvania reaped $2.6 million each for doing so there. This is not to mention the CIA’S involvement with drug to finance its clandestine operations of murder and corruption.

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By Kevin Ward, September 4, 2009 at 7:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I sincerely hope that Stone’s film exposes the success and progress of Venezuela’s Bolivarean Revolution under and through Hugo Chavez…we may once get the situation straight not only in time for our own benefit but to avoid the Allende like intervention our policies seem so set on duplicating.
Viva Hugo, Viva Evo, Viva the Bolivarean and peaceful revolution that may actually salvage our planet!

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By Commune115, September 3, 2009 at 11:06 pm Link to this comment

Good to see directors like Stone still making documentaries and films on important subjects we rarely get to really know anything about in the United States. It’s pretty shameful how misinformed we are about what’s happening NEXT DOOR in our own neighbor’s countries, and when the corporate media does cover Venezuela it’s through some ridiculous, almost infantile, biased filter.

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By KDelphi, September 3, 2009 at 2:29 pm Link to this comment

BTW—The films “Salvador” is regularly shown on Sundance and Independent Film Channels. “Looking for Fidel” was shown once last year.

brewerstroupe-thanks for the post.

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By brewerstroupe, September 3, 2009 at 12:45 pm Link to this comment

Chavez’ accomplishments:

The current economic expansion began when the government got control over the national oil company in the first quarter of 2003.

  Since then, real (inflation-adjusted) GDP has nearly
  doubled, growing by 94.7 percent in 5.25 years, or 13.5 percent annually.

  Most of this growth has been in the non-oil sector of the economy, and the private sector has grown faster than the public sector.
  During the current economic expansion, the poverty rate has been cut by more than half, from 54 percent of households in the first half of 2003 to 26 percent at the end of 2008.

  Extreme poverty has fallen even more, by 72 percent. These poverty rates measure only cash income, and do not take into account increased access to health care or education.

  Over the entire decade, the percentage of households in poverty has been reduced by 39 percent, and extreme poverty by more than half.

  Inequality, as measured by the Gini index, has also fallen substantially. The index has fallen to 41 in 2008, from 48.1 in 2003 and 47 in 1999. This represents a large reduction in

  Real (inflation-adjusted) social spending per person more than tripled from 1998-2006.

  From 1998-2006, infant mortality has fallen by more than one-third. The number of primary care physicians in the public sector increased 12-fold from 1999-2007, providing health care to millions of Venezuelans who previously did not have access.

  There have been substantial gains in education, especially higher education, where gross enrollment rates more than doubled from 1999-2000 to 2007-2008.

  The labor market also improved substantially over the last decade, with unemployment dropping from 11.3 percent to 7.8 percent. During the current expansion it has fallen by
  more than half. Other labor market indicators also show substantial gains.

  Over the past decade, the number of social security beneficiaries has more than doubled.

  Over the decade, the government’s total public debt has fallen from 30.7 to 14.3 percent of GDP. The foreign public debt has fallen even more, from 25.6 to 9.8 percent of GDP.

  Inflation is about where it was 10 years ago, ending the year at 31.4 percent. However it has been falling over the last half year (as measured by three-month averages) and is likely to
  continue declining this year in the face of strong deflationary pressures worldwide.

  Center for Economic and Policy Research
  1611 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 400
  Washington, D.C. 20009
  (The CEPR advisory board includes Nobel Laureate economists Robert Solow and Joseph Stiglitz; plus Janet Gornick, Professor at the CUNY Graduate School and Director of the Luxembourg Income Study; Richard Freeman, Professor of Economics at Harvard University; and Eileen Appelbaum, Professor and Director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.
  Additional commentary on the above.

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By mcthorogood, September 3, 2009 at 10:17 am Link to this comment

After reading Nikolas Kozloff’s, “Hugo Chavez” and watching “Plan Columbia” on Google videos, one can only conclude that the U.S. is surreptitiously seeking to control South American petroleum under the guise of “The War on Drugs”.

As one South American succinctly stated, “the best place to eradicate cocoa is in the noses of the American Gringoes”.

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