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Published at UK Watch.

There’s an extraordinary spectacle currently playing out in the broadsheets both here and in the United States with regards to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’ decision not to renew the license of a major Venezuelan TV channel, Radio Caracas Television (RCTV). The move is being portrayed as an attack on freedom of speech and a threat to Venezuelan democracy, and is being cited as proof of Chavez’ authoritarianism by those who have been accusing him of being a would-be dictator from the second he was elected to power.

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I say ‘extraordinary’ because this is a TV station that openly supported and facilitated the illegal military coup against Chavez in April 2002. As Salim Lamrani writes,

“The accusation that the Bolivarian government tramples freedom of the press would bring a smile to the face of anyone who knows the Venezuelan reality and the pernicious role of the country’s private media. Ever since Chávez came to power, only one channel has been shut down temporarily for political reasons. It was Channel 8 and it was shut down by the fascist junta responsible for the famous 47-hour coup d’état April 11-13, 2002, a shutdown that was warmly applauded at the time — by RCTV.”
RCTV, together with three other private media corporations (Globovision, Venevision and Televen), which together control some 90% of the TV market, played a leading role in instigating and supporting the 47-hour coup. These private stations, owned by anti-Chavez billionaires and businessmen, have led an unceasing anti-Chavez campaign since the day he was elected. During the coup, they cooperated in suppressing any news that might portray the putsch in a bad light. So, for example, when hundreds of thousands of Chavez supporters took to the streets on April 13 demanding that Chavez be restored, the corporate media stations chose to ignore them and instead broadcast old movies and cartoons. As Stephen Lendman writes,
“On April 10, one day before the coup, General Nestor Gonzales got air time on the major corporate broadcast media announcing the high military command demanded Hugo Chavez step down from office or be forcibly removed. The day following the coup, the dominant commercial media revealed their involvement in it, and on one April 12 Venevision morning program military and civilian coup leaders appeared on-air to thank the corporate media channels for their important role, including the images they aired while it was in progress, stating how important their participation was to the success of the plot. It failed two days later largely because of mass public opposition to it with huge crowds on the streets supporting their president in far greater numbers than those favoring the coup-plotters.

It was also later revealed the two-day only installed Venezuelan president Pedro Carmona had used the facilities of Gustavo Cisneros’ Venevision as a “bunker” or staging area base of operations and was seen leaving its building heading for the Miraflores to take office as president of Venezuela on April 11 in flagrant violation of the law...

Even when the coup was aborted and pro-Chavez cabinet members returned to the presidential palace, it got no coverage on corporate-run TV or in the dominant print media. In addition, state television was taken off the air suppressing any truth coming out that lasted until Chavez supporters took over the station and began broadcasting real information to the public for the first time after the coup and until things returned to normal following it.

Even after Hugo Chavez was freed and returned to the Miraflores, the only station broadcasting it was the state-owned channel. The dominant private media instead maintained strict censorship in a further collaborative act of defiance.”

Naomi Klein offers a similar account:
"...in the days leading up to the April coup, Venevision, RCTV, Globovision and Televen replaced regular programming with relentless anti-Chavez speeches, interrupted only for commercials calling on viewers to take to the streets: “Not one step backwards. Out! Leave Now!” The ads were sponsored by the oil industry, but the stations carried them free, as “public service announcements.”

They went further: On the night of the coup, Cisneros’ station played host to meetings among the plotters, including Carmona. The president of Venezuela’s broadcasting chamber co-signed the decree dissolving the elected National Assembly. And while the stations openly rejoiced at news of Chavez’s “resignation,” when pro-Chavez forces mobilized for his return a total news blackout was imposed...

When Chavez finally returned to the Miraflores Palace, the stations gave up on covering the news entirely. On one of the most important days in Venezuela’s history, they aired Pretty Woman and Tom and Jerry cartoons. “We had a reporter in Miraflores and knew that it had been retaken by the Chavistas,” [former News Production Manager for Venezuela’s highest rated newscast, El Observador on RCTV, Andres] Izarra says, “[but] the information blackout stood. That’s when it was enough for me and I decided to leave.”"

Andres Izarra quit RCTV the day after Carmona seized power, under what he describes as “extreme emotional stress”. He recalls receiving very clear instructions from above: “No information on Chavez, his followers, his ministers, and all others that could in any way be related to him” could be reported.

Another example of blatant falsification from the corporate media stations occurred during the protests in the run-up to the coup. The media channels showed footage of Chavistas shooting from a bridge at unseen targets off the screen, and repeatedly claimed that they were firing at “unarmed opposition demonstrators” (without showing any actual footage of these “unarmed demonstrators”, of course). In fact, those protestors on the bridge were themselves being shot at from nearby buildings and there were no “unarmed demonstrators” nearby for them to shoot at. In his exhaustive account of the coup, Gregory Wilpert recalls,

“I found a gap at the National Assembly and finally made it to the pro-Chavez demonstration, on Avenida Urdaneta. However, as I approached the overpass over the Avenida Baralt (Puente Llaguno), the crowd got extremely dense and I could not advance anymore. I asked someone what was going on and he exclaimed to me, “They are shooting at us!” I struggled to figure out where the shots where coming from, which I could hear and then noticed that people had completely cleared away from the overpass. Everyone seemed to be trying to hide behind the buildings that kept them protected them from shots coming from the street below. At the two ends of the bridge I saw several men returning fire towards the street below, just as was later shown on television.

At one point many in the crowd pointed at one of the buildings nearby. When I looked, I could see a soldier on the roof. At first I thought that perhaps this was one of the snipers that I heard people mention. But then I realized that he seemed to be searching the rooftop and people were shouting at him to go to one of the lower floors, where they seemed to have seen someone shooting.

Finally, at around 6 pm, the shooting stopped and I could cross the bridge. I joined up with my wife, just as the rally in front of the presidential palace was ending. We decided to go back home. Once home, we turned on the TV and I saw the scene that I had witnessed of the Chavistas shooting from the bridge. To my amazement, though, the announcer was claiming that the Chavistas were firing at the unarmed opposition demonstration. I could not believe my ears because I had seen—with my own eyes, from the bridge—that no opposition demonstrators were visible on the street below.”

The documentary film 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised' (which can be viewed online here) includes footage clearly showing that the street below the bridge was empty of opposition demonstrators. It was a total fabrication by the news channels, and it was later used by the military generals as a key justification for the revolt.

The central role played by the private media corporations, such as RCTV, in the 2002 putsch is not in doubt. The day after the coup, the private media was positively jubilant, carrying headlines like “It’s Over!” (El Universal), “Chavez Resigned” (El Universal), “The Assassin Has Fallen” (Asi es la Noticia) [and] “Good-bye Hugo” (Tal Cual). Napoleón Bravo’s morning talk show (24 Horas) opened...with, “Good morning, we have a new president,” and then Bravo proceeded to read the resignation letter Chavez supposedly signed, but actually did not sign. The state media, though, was still off the air”.

The idea that by refusing to renew the license of an openly treasonous organisation Chavez is suppressing dissent is ridiculous. As Lamrani puts it,

“The real question is not to wonder if the RCTV affair constitutes (or not) a case of censorship because, in view of the facts, that accusation lacks a foundation. The question that should have appeared on Page One of all the international media is the following: How is it possible that Globovisión, Televen, Venevisión and RCTV, all of which participated in the coup d’état against President Chávez, are still under the control of the putschists? What would happen to French channels TF1, Canal+ and M6, for example, if they openly supported the overthrow of President Jacques Chirac?”
In fact, as Lendman writes, if the news media in the United States had acted in the way RCTV, Venevision et al. acted in 2002, those responsible would likely face far harsher punishment than a mere refusal to renew the channel’s license. Section 2384 of the U.S. Code, entitled ‘Seditious Conspiracy’, states,
“If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States...they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years [later amended to six years], or both”.
Could you even imagine a situation whereby CNN or FOX News openly supported an armed putsch against the U.S. government and over four years later were still permitted to broadcast over the public airways, with basically the same people in charge? The very idea is laughable.

Incidentally, take a look at the following front cover of an opposition newspaper, Tal Cual, published in early February:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket (source)

Poor, suppressed Venezuelan media...

Needless to say, it strikes me as unlikely that the New York Times or the Washington Post could get away with publishing something like that.

It is therefore, as I say, extraordinary to see the mainstream media in the U.S. and Britain insinuating that this move by Chavez somehow represents an attack on democracy and freedom. In fact, the move - totally constitutional - may well result in a media that is more pluralistic, not less. Venezuela’s Telecommunications Minister, Jesse Chacón, pledged last month that “the frequency of Radio Caracas Television [RCTV] will go over to form part of a new television model that we have decided to call ‘Public Service Television”, which will “break the editorial line that exists in the TV business, where the owner of the medium is the owner of the message”. He continued,

“Hopefully the creation of this public service channel, starting on May 28, will mean the emergence of a television in Venezuela where Venezuelans recognize each other, where values are placed first, and where we truly feel that we can not only be consumers of the medium, but citizens who actively participate in the creation of the content.”
Chacón emphasised that the state controls less than 10% of the broadcast wavelength spectrum, and reminded people that during Chavez’ reign, ‘TV channels have increased from 30 to 78 since 1999 and the number of FM radio broadcasters has increased from 368 to 617′.

Let’s take a look at how this has been reported in the Western press. A BBC report published today finishes with the following assertion:

“The BBC’s James Ingham, in Caracas, says that this is shaping up to be a fight between a government that is increasing its control of the country and those who feel their freedom is being taken away.”
This is a common tactic: attributing statements to correspondents allows the BBC to include controversial opinions whilst, as far as it is concerned, remaining ‘neutral’ and impartial.

The editors of Media Lens, a British-based media watchdog, have detailed at length the ridicule and scorn poured on Chavez by the mainstream press. They point out that the media finds itself unable to mention Chavez without prefixing his name with either “strongman”, “controversial left-wing president”, “extreme left-winger”, “controversial leader”, “outspoken”, “aggressively populist”, “left-wing firebrand”, “international revolutionary firebrand”, “maverick”, “virulently anti-American”, etc. etc.

Can you imagine The Guardian or the BBC introducing Tony Blair as “controversial leader Tony Blair”, or George Bush as “virulently anti-Venezuelan George Bush”?

The Independent on Sunday described Chavez’ “aggressive socialism”, whilst a Daily Telegraph comment piece smeared Chavez as the “despot-of-the-month”. (Imagine the IoS writing of Tony Blair’s “aggressive capitalism”).

When not subjected to out-and-out smears, Chavez and his supporters have simply been ridiculed. Channel 4 patronised him as the “global poster boy for the left”, while The Independent has described him as “immune to nuance”, a “high priest of political theatre”, “the new mouthpiece of the anti-American fervour” and, quoting Chavez’ psychiatrist (yes, they sunk that low), “a dreamer of impossible dreams”.
Media Lens explains,

“This is a favourite media theme - pouring scorn on popular movements is an absolute must for mainstream journalism. Thus Richard Beeston reported in The Times this week:

“Hugo Chavez’s Latin American bandwagon descended on London yesterday, briefly enlivening a dull Sunday in Camden with the sound of drums, the cries of revolution and the waving of banners.

“At the start of his controversial two-day visit to London, the Venezuelan President succeeded in attracting an eclectic group of supporters ranging from elderly CND activists to young anti-globalisation campaigners, members of the Socialist Workers’ Party and even the odd Palestinian protester.” (Beeston, ‘Chavez fails to paint the town red in Camden,’ The Times, May 15, 2006)

The emphasis, again, was on the absurdity of a ragtag army of Citizen Smith-style oddballs who imagined they could somehow make a difference to a real world run by ‘serious’ people. The idea is that the public should roll their eyes and shake their heads in embarrassment at such delusions - and turn away.”

For more on the “cartoonisation”, ridicule and smearing of Chavez by the mainstream British press (including what John Pilger called “one of the worst, most distorted pieces of journalism I have ever seen”), see here, here, here and here.

It is interesting to note that the constituents of another pillar of the British establishment - the politicans - seem to hold similar views to the media about Chavez. This is to be expected, since to a significant extent they represent the same interests. Lord Strathclyde worries that Latin America is being “tormented” by a “divisive philosophy”, promoted by Chavez, which “aims to drive that continent disastrously to the authoritarian left, just to spite America”, whilst Lord Alderdice complains about Chavez’ “malign popularism”. Baroness Rawlings describes “a seamless web of leftism spreading throughout the southern and central American countries”, and warns that “[w]e forget at our peril that energy demands and economic development go hand in hand with political stability.” The inference is clear. There are some sensible voices, however. Colin Burgon, a Labour MP, noted (and it’s worth quoting from at length),

“Interestingly, Venezuela was the first country in Latin America to begin the process of rejecting the domination of what we call neo-liberal ideas and the Washington consensus and to experiment with ideas of anti-globalisation...

Whatever the international significance of those events in Caracas, there can be no doubt that they marked the beginning of a domestic political process that eventually led to the victory of Hugo Chavez in December 1998 and catapulted Venezuela into the limelight in Latin America. That was a novel place for Venezuela, because it had previously attracted little interest in terms of its history or politics, other than as the birthplace of Simon Bolivar, although that is fairly important. According to people to whom I spoke at the Foreign Office, Venezuela was never considered an attractive diplomatic posting. The usual take was that Venezuela was an oil-rich country run by a white, Americanised elite, with nearly 70 per cent. of its 24 million people living on the edge of hunger and poverty...

Given Opposition and US claims about Chavez’s democratic legitimacy, it is interesting to note that he had faced the electorate eight times in six years by the end of 2004—a record that has been matched nowhere else in Latin America and which none of us would like to match...

The domestic impact of Chavez’s politics is clear. After the dramatic rise in oil prices in 2002 following the failed coup, the Venezuelan Government invested more than $3 billion in social policy reforms in 2005. A series of social investment programmes called missions cover such matters as pre-school education, primary education and literacy, secondary education, vocational worker training, primary health care in the most deprived neighbourhoods and a food distribution programme that covers 60 per cent. of the population. It is estimated that just over 1 million people have acquired literacy skills as a result of those programmes. The poorest in that country have access to medical assistance for the first time ever, thanks partly to the 17,000 medics provided by Cuba.”

Jon Trickett, a fellow Labour MP, concurred,
“The Washington consensus implies a world in which the trade is so-called “free”, capital markets are entirely liberalised, property rights are secured, there is market deregulation, there is a major transfer of assets from the public to the private sectors, the state has a minimal role, and the international alliances that are created are grouped around a Washington hegemonic presence—a unipolar world. It has been explicitly stated that that is what America aspires to create. The Washington consensus also implies that America has the right to impose what it would describe as a pax Americana on the world—that it has the right to conduct unilateral and pre-emptive wars, should that be necessary. In respect of building a foreign policy on Venezuela, the question is whether our Government want to construct a set of bilateral relations that are built on the Washington consensus, or whether they will develop, with the European Union and others, a more nuanced approach.”
Unfortunately, such comments are islands in a sea of nonsense like this (”Latin America needs leaders who send out clear signals to the investment community that their countries are safe, secure and stable and a good place in which to do business”...British “interests cannot be put at risk by a president who is sending out entirely the wrong signals to the investment community”). In the same debate, a Conservative MP touched upon the UK’s real concerns in Venezuela when he expressed his hope that “all countries—particularly oil-rich countries such as Venezuela—will encourage a climate in which inward investment from foreign countries is welcome”.

Interestingly, Kim Howells, the Minister of State (Middle East) at the Foreign Office, noted that “there is a free press in Venezuela as well as vibrant news media that are not afraid to reflect the concerns of people from all parts of society”, but otherwise did not really say anything beyond meaningless cliches.

Back to the media: in a piece for the BBC yesterday, Justin Webb describes Caracas as “the heart - the very epicentre - of Latin anti-Americanism”. He continues,

“You’ve got to wonder if there is any end to the capacity of the rest of the world to blame the United States for its problems”,
and approvingly quotes a former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela to the effect that the U.S. is a mere “scapegoat”, an “easy excuse” for Latin American “failures”. “Scratch the surface of some of these anti-Americans and you find self-loathing.”

It’s hardly worth responding to this joke of an article; suffice to say there is no examination of the actual policies the U.S. has pursued over the years towards Latin America, which have been geared towards the systematic suppression of democracy and independence, often employing violence and terror on a massive scale. That the U.S. knew about the April 2002 coup weeks in advance and gave it the go-ahead is also deemed unworthy of mention. Instead, Webb simply hides behind barely disguised mockery. Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) notes that in fact, Chavez is explicitly not anti-American. Chavez has explained that “The country is one thing—we have lovely relations with the [American] people,” and furthermore that, “[w]e have many ties between Venezuela and the United States—economic and social”. Webb finishes the piece thus: “Enough Hitler stuff, perhaps?” He’s referring to Chavez’ comparison of Bush to Hitler, of course, and not to any of the many examples of similarly overblown Western rhetoric:

Rumsfeld likens Venezuela’s Chavez to Hitler
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/...

Robertson apologizes for assassination call
http://www.cnn.com/...

Germany likens Ahmadinejad to Hitler
http://archive.gulfnews.com/...

Newt Gingrich: Iran’s President is the New Hitler
http://www.newsmax.com/...

Israel should not shy away from threatening to kill Iran’s Ahmadinejad
http://www.ynetnews.com/...

Sen. Voinovich: Ahmadinejad ‘Hitler-like’
http://www.newsmax.com/...

Ahmadinejad – Another Hitler
http://www.theconservativevoice.com/...

Olmert compares Ahmadinejad to Hitler
http://www.ynetnews.com/...

In fact, the hostility of the establishment press in Britain extends beyond Chavez to the leftist movements in Latin America more generally. Media Lens offers some examples of the “semantics of subservience to power”:

“The pejorative use of the term “populist”, rather than “popular”.

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez “has made a sport of taunting the United States”, while Peru’s Humala Ollanta is a “leftist firebrand”.

A progressive Mexican presidential candidate is “famous for dispensing government funds”, thus raising a faint whiff of corruption; why not “investing government funds”?

Chavez and Morales “pander to supporters”, rather than to US-based investors, as has historically been the norm in the region. Imagine a government doing what it was elected to do!...

A new trade agreement between Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela is “specifically meant to undermine the efforts by Bush to extend free trade through the Americas”; where “free trade” is used in the Orwellian sense of trade that protects the rights of US corporations and wealthy investors at the expense of the poor.

Brazil’s president Lula da Silva “soon won back the confidence of foreign investors”, rather than “soon adopted policies which favoured foreign investors at the expense of the domestic population.”

“George Bush, distracted by terrorism and Iraq, has failed to pay sufficient attention to his neighbours to the south. Washington now finds itself largely powerless to halt the shift to the left in these countries.”

There was no hint of what success in halting a shift to “the left” has traditionally meant for victims in the region, or of just why it should be the superpower’s business to involve itself in the politics of sovereign nations.”

With this standard of reporting in Britain, it’s no wonder that the British National Union of Journalists (NUJ) recently voted to “build solidarity with the new progressive media in Venezuela, such as Vive, Telesur, Avila, Aporrea, VenezuelAnalysis and Diario Vea.” The conference “noted that most coverage of Venezuela in Britain is still badly affected by deliberate attempts at spreading disinformation, for example encouraging unjustified stereotypes of the Venezuelan president as a dictator who is repressing the local media”, and went on to “applaud the advances made in democratising the media in Venezuela, in spite of a virulent campaign of hostility.” The NUJ passed a similar motion in 2005, which “regret[ted] that medias in Venezuela played a major role in attempting to unseat Chávez. The five private channels and the ten national newspapers used their near monopoly of the media to blast Chavez for destroying the economy, antagonising the US government and expropriating private property” and “note[d] the use of British media in limiting the information on developments in Venezuela misrepresenting, for example, the land reforms.” (The Bolivarian revolution also, incidentally, enjoys the unanimous support of Britain’s Trade Union Congress, which represents over 6.5 million workers).

Of course, the corporate media in the U.S. have been just as bad, if not worse. Yesterday, for example, many outlets published an AP wire story about the RCTV protests, which includes a quote from someone opposing Chavez’ decision (”Democracy is being lost in Venezuela”), but neglects to include a balancing quote from a supporter of the move. A similar report by the AP, published recently in many places, contained 31 words of direct quotes by people opposed to the closure of RCTV (or, more accurately, the refusal to renew RCTV’s license, since it will still be able to operate on cable TV) and only 10 words of direct quotes in favour.

News agencies seem to be making a lot of the Catholic Church’s opposition to the move (”Chavez’s decision has been criticized by international press freedom groups, the Catholic Church and others”). They neglect to mention that the conservative Venezuelan Catholic Church supported the coup in 2002. As President Chavez recently remarked,

“How can we understand this Catholic hierarchy, which is incapable of criticizing the coup d’état in April 2002? They never criticized it or criticized what these channels did. They never criticized it. I never saw a single Venezuelan bishop criticize the coup d’état.”
The U.S. media has in the past even resorted to disseminating a fraudulent anti-Semitic slur, and attributing it to Chavez. After the coup, the mainstream press in the U.S. were quick to welcome and accept the new military government. The New York Times declared that Chavez’ “resignation” (there was no resignation) meant that “Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator”. The NYT avoided the word “coup”, euphemising instead that Chavez “stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader”. Branding Chavez a “ruinous demagogue”, the Times called for new elections and “a leader with a strong democratic mandate” - briefly noting that Chavez already had such a mandate, elected as he was in 1998. Three days later, after the Venezuelan people restored Chavez to power, the New York Times half-apologised for its undisguised joy at the destruction of Venezuelan democracy, writing,
“In his three years in office, Mr. Chavez has been such a divisive and demagogic leader that his forced departure last week drew applause at home and in Washington. That reaction, which we shared, overlooked the undemocratic manner in which he was removed. Forcibly unseating a democratically elected leader, no matter how badly he has performed, is never something to cheer”.
The Chicago Tribune was equally delighted with the coup, describing Chavez as “an elected strongman” and declaring,
“It’s not every day that a democracy benefits from the military’s intervention to force out an elected president”.
Yes, you read that right. The Tribune expressed its hope that Venezuela might now “move on to better things”, and voiced relief that Chavez was “safely out of power and under arrest”, no longer able to commit such crimes as “toasting Fidel Castro, flying to Baghdad to visit Saddam Hussein, or praising Osama Bin Laden.” When asked to provide the source for this last claim, the author discovered that he had “misread” the material and the paper published a correction in a later edition. In a similar vein, Newsday responded to the putsch with an editorial entitled “Chavez’s Ouster Is No Great Loss”. No great loss because, as the paper explained, of Chavez’ “left-wing populist rhetoric” and the fact that he “openly flaunted his ideological differences with Washington.” How dare he! Primarily, though, it was no great loss because Chavez had proved “incompetent” and was “mismanaging the nation’s vast oil wealth.” By which Newsday presumably meant that Chavez was spending the oil wealth on improving life for Venezuela’s poor, as opposed to using it to make a few mega-rich American executives even richer and to secure the privileged position of an elite few within Venezuela (the owners of the private media among them).

For this is the true explanation for the hysterical anti-Chavez propaganda. It has nothing to do with concern for human rights in Venezuela, or a fear that Venezuelan freedom of speech is under threat. That is totally irrelevant to the corporate media, as evidenced on countless other occasions. The problem for the U.S. establishment (and hence the establishment media) is that Chavez represents an alternative to U.S.-imposed neo-liberalism and a direct challenge to U.S. domination. He, like Castro’s Cuba, represents the “threat of a good example”. The deepest fear of U.S. planners is that if states like Cuba are permitted to follow a path of independence unchallenged, other states might start getting similar ideas. Hence the decades long American campaign of economic warfare and terrorism against Cuba. Hence the campaign of terror directed against Nicaragua in the 1980s, which ended up destroying democracy and totally reversing all the positive social changes that had occurred under the Sandinistas, killing some 30,000 people in the process. Hence the U.S.-backed overthrows of Arbenz in 1954, Allende in 1973 and Aristide in 2004. To give just one example of the brutality inflicted upon the people of Nicaragua by the U.S.-backed Contra death squads, an American priest living in Nicaragua described ‘the Contras going into a town, shooting it up, killing people, taking a fourteen-year-old girl, raping her, slitting her throat, cutting her head off and putting it on a pole to intimidate the rest of the population.’ A 1986 Council on Hemispheric Affairs report named Guatemala and El Salvador as the two worst governments in Latin America in 1985, as they were the only two governments “that abducted, killed, and tortured political opponents on a systematic and widespread basis.” That was the sixth year in a row they had recieved the honour. Both governments were backed by the United States to the hilt. How do U.S. officials justify this mass murder, torture and destruction to themselves? Well, here’s what Jean Kirkpatrick had to say about it in 1979:

“Because the miseries of traditional life are familiar, they are bearable to ordinary people who, growing up in the society, learn to cope and therefore accept the fact that wealth, power, status and other resources favor an affluent few while traditional autocrats maintain the masses in misery. So therefore our lack of concern is quite proper; indeed, quite decent and moral because the lower orders feel no pain.” [my emphasis]
The reality was expressed by Thomas Carothers, a former State Department official under Reagan, who explained that the U.S. sought to maintain the “basic order of...quite undemocratic societies” and to avoid “populist-based change” that might upset the “established economic and political orders” and open “a leftist direction”.

Thus, when Chavez voices his fear that the U.S. is trying to kill him, it’s actually quite plausible. The U.S. government certainly wants him out of power. If Chavez and Venezuelan democracy survive in the long term, it will be not thanks to but in spite of the Western media, which has worked so tirelessly to facilitate its destruction.

Cross-posted at The Heathlander and UK Watch.

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Originally posted to Heathlander on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 05:53 PM PDT.

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