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Comments by filmmaker Michael Moore irk Chavez supporters


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POSTED: Monday, October 26, 2009

CARACAS, VENEZUELA—Michael Moore, the filmmaker who is a bete noire of conservatives in the United States, now appears to have made some enemies among the leftist supporters of President Hugo Chavez.

During a recent appearance on ABC's late-night program “;Jimmy Kimmel Live,”; Moore gave an account—apparently tongue in cheek—of how he drank a bottle and a half of tequila with Chavez at the Venice Film Festival in September, and how he mistook Venezuela's burly foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, for a bodyguard.

Those comments have created an uproar here among some of Chavez's loyal supporters, known as Chavistas.

“;Michael Moore is a most unfortunate coward,”; Eva Golinger, an American lawyer who lives in Caracas and who is one of Chavez's most prominent defenders in international leftist circles, wrote in an essay widely disseminated here that lambasted the filmmaker.

Chavez, who had traveled to Venice for the screening of “;South of the Border,”; Oliver Stone's documentary about the Venezuelan president's guidance of Latin American leftist movements, has not publicly remarked on Moore's appearance on the show. Moore did not respond to requests for comment.

But the reaction of some Chavistas offered a view into their readiness to attack anyone criticizing their leader, without stopping to ponder whether the criticism was meant to be amusing or not.

Golinger and other Chavistas took particular umbrage at Moore's suggestion that he had imbibed with Chavez (the president is a noted teetotaler) while giving him some speechwriting advice. The advice, Moore said in the appearance, had been accepted.

Moore's comments “;about President Chavez asking him to 'help' write his United Nations speech demonstrate Moore's extreme ego,”; Golinger wrote.

“;President Chavez is one of the most brilliant speakers in the world, with an immense capacity to bring together a variety of ideas while being coherent,”; she added. “;We know that nobody writes his speeches, not even him! He speaks from his heart, and not from a teleprompter!”;

Yet the tirades against Moore, including requests broadcast on state-controlled media that he rectify what he said, were followed by a bit of soul-searching within Chavez's political movement as to whether a better-honed sense of humor was needed to absorb comments like those by Moore.

“;It's a tremendous joke,”; said Juan Carlos Monedero, a political scientist from Spain who supports Chavez, referring to Moore's characterization of his meeting with Chavez. “;What happened to irony?”;

Here, some critics of Chavez appeared to have about the same sense of irony as some anti-Moore Chavistas.

For instance, the 2D Movement, which opposes Chavez's policies, used a photograph of Moore in newspaper advertisements on Sunday attacking the president, contending that his luxurious hotel suite in Venice was a site of “;havoc”; illustrating wasteful spending abroad by Chavez while Venezuelans contend with electricity and water shortages.

Others tried to treat Moore's comments with at least some lightheartedness.

“;We all want to live in Venetian socialism,”; said Alberto Barrera Tyszka, a co-author of a biography of Chavez, in a column published Sunday in the daily newspaper El Nacional.

But Golinger, the author of books that delve into what she describes as Washington's efforts to destabilize Venezuela, was having none of it.

“;I think I was right to say that Moore was being quite, and unfortunately, cowardly,”; she said over the weekend, “;about meeting one of Latin America's greatest and most influential leaders.”;