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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.

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:

" 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

Robertson apologizes for assassination call

Germany likens Ahmadinejad to Hitler

Newt Gingrich: Iran’s President is the New Hitler

Israel should not shy away from threatening to kill Iran’s Ahmadinejad

Sen. Voinovich: Ahmadinejad ‘Hitler-like’

Ahmadinejad – Another Hitler

Olmert compares Ahmadinejad to Hitler

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.

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

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (16+ / 0-)

    Thankee! :)

    (p.s. I actually wrote this article a few days ago, so the time references are a bit out. So when I write of "today" or "yesterday", it's actually a few days ago. Those wanting to know the exact dates can follow the links. Just so you know.)

    •  Great Diary, thanks for the info (4+ / 0-)

      I really like Hugo Chavez...

      He is a true populist and cares
      for the people of Venezuela.

      They are really trying hard to
      discredit him.

      statusquomustgo...and it did...whooooops, not done yet

      by Statusquomustgo on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 05:54:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Right (4+ / 0-)

        and you know, it is possible to legitimately disagree about Chavez. There are some problems, both in human rights terms and in terms of how to make the revolution succeed. But the point is that this is most definitely not why the U.S. establishment and corporate press are villifying him. There is ample evidence, both regarding Venezeula and elsewhere, that things like 'human rights' and 'democracy' are largely irrelevant to the mainstream press (as evidenced, in fact, by the disgraceful reaction to the April 2002 coup).

        I also admire Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution, though, and fervently hope it succeeds (in the sense of developing relative independence of the U.S. and institutions like the World Bank and IMF and achieving significant wealth redistribution in Venezuelan society).

    •  I've spent time there (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      smkngman, DBunn, heathlander

      In late 2005 / early 2006, I spent a couple of months in Venezuela.  Your portrayal of the media (broadcast and press) is pretty accurate, in terms of how they're allowed to freely operate.

      I've said before that if CNN or MS-NBC overtly called for the overthrow of the Bush regime, the CEO's would all be in Gitmo, and the stations would be off the air.

      Yet American media morons like Andres Oppenheimer continue to set the opinion tone (or, rather, catapult the propaganda) for the Bush regime, in terms of how Latin American governments operate.

      I just hope we have an extradition treaty with Uruguay.

      Great diary!  Rec'd.

      Support the troops. Bring them home. All Spin Zone

      by Richard Cranium on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:04:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Good diary (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      smkngman, heathlander, davidseth

      My wife is from Venezuela, so I get a lot of information from her, her family and Venezuelan blogs/news sites (,, and the US coverage has always pissed me off... the CW is that Chavez is a thug, despite the fact that it's simply not true.

      The opposition there is... imagine Karl Rove, but without any restraint about killing people... that's them.  Chavez has actually shown a lot of restaint... imagine that there were a coup here... Bush gets ousted... then comes back into power... what would happen?  Shudder That hasn't happened there...

      It's nice to see someone else who sees the same info I see!

  •  The US supporting an anti-Demoractic junta? (4+ / 0-)

    ..What Latin American history have YOU been following? /snark

    Great diary, very rich. Thanks.

    How we know Daffy Duck is Republican: "It's mine, understand? Mine, all mine! Get back down there! Down down down! Go go go! Mine mine mine! Mwahahaha!" --BIPM

    by rhetoricus on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 05:51:13 PM PDT

  •  Go Hugo! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And what is Hugo's great sin against us?  He uses his counttry's oil revenues to help the poor.  God love a person like that.  Plus, the Bolivaran initiative is looking for something other than the failed Washington/NeoLiberal Concensus, which has impoverished many South and Central American nations.

    It's a frightening thought, a government that uses the nation's wealth to help it's people rather than let the few get even richer than they are.

    Trust no organizaton bigger than two, and even those are suspect!

    by rjones2818 on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 05:59:03 PM PDT

    •  Right (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It sets a terrible example for the rest of the continent (and, indeed, the world) - showing that there is an alternative to U.S. domination. That can't be tolerated.

    •  Stop it... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jiacinto, Shane Hensinger

      Just because Chavez is anti-Bush doesn't make him a good guy.  He's a dictator-in-waiting.

      "I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him." - Booker T. Washington

      by ajbender on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:10:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree with you (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I am embarassed that Chavez has a group of supporters here. For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

        by jiacinto on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:15:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thugs like Chavez... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Shane Hensinger

          will always have supporters who only hear their rhetoric from afar without having to live under them.  Mao had them, Stalin had them, Hitler and Pinochet had them.

          "I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him." - Booker T. Washington

          by ajbender on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:18:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah (0+ / 0-)

            I know that there will always be some far left-wing, radical freaks who will defend someone like Chavez. However, my only real concern is the damage that they do to sites like this and to more mainsream left-wing folks.

   For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

            by jiacinto on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:21:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Mainstream left???? (0+ / 0-)

              Others on the board would point out (and have) that most Dems would end up in the center-right in Europe and on the world stage.  We're probably closer to center on the world stage than you and your mainstream left-wing folks are.

              Trust no organizaton bigger than two, and even those are suspect!

              by rjones2818 on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:24:52 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Then move to another country (0+ / 0-)

                or move to Venezuela if you don't like America. If you want to live in a socialist authoritarian country, why don't you move there?

       For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

                by jiacinto on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:26:43 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  And perhaps I see that a move left... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  In the US would be a positive thing (I do).  Perhaps I love our country enough to try to help in that movement.  But of course, you're the arbiter of who loves this country.

                  Oh must actually be a Republican then.

                  The love it or leave it crowd got drowned out during Vietnam.  Perhaps you don't realize that.

                  Trust no organizaton bigger than two, and even those are suspect!

                  by rjones2818 on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:30:15 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I'm not a Republican, but I have little (0+ / 0-)

                    sympathy for people who would defend a leader like Chavez.  

           For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

                    by jiacinto on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:32:38 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Maybe you should look at who he replaced? (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      GATXER, heathlander, davidseth

                      Hugo's not perfect.  He won the last election with 63% (off the top of my head) of the vote.  His legislative dominance is because the opposition decided not to run in legislative elections.  He seems to have a broad mandate for his changes.  If he didn't, the folks up in the hills that supported him during the coup would turn him out.

                      Can he end up a dictator?  Sure.  Look at Mubarek to see someone who seemed reasonable that became a dictator.  But, Chavez says at the latest he would be out by 2012 (off the top of my head).  He's done what he's said he's going to (not always successfully).  To be honest, that seems to be pretty good for Venezuela.

                      Trust no organizaton bigger than two, and even those are suspect!

                      by rjones2818 on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:38:35 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I don't like what I am seeing (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Shane Hensinger

                        I don't care if he is left-leaning. His other actions are of concern to me. And just because he opposes Bush doesn't make him good either.

               For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

                        by jiacinto on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:40:47 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  I agree about the Bush thing... (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          Although I don't mind.

                          I like most of what I'm seeing.  Is it perfect? No.  But, I see an attempt to bring the poor in Venezuela up.  That's a good thing.  As far as we know, Hugo seems not to be corrupt.  He seems to have the best in mind for the vast majority of people in Venezuela (and South America).

                          As always, we should give him time.

                          Trust no organizaton bigger than two, and even those are suspect!

                          by rjones2818 on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 07:29:42 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  What actions? what policies? (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          heathlander, rjones2818

                          be specific and quit dealing in generalities.

                          Your opinions are not justification for hijacking this thread without some facts and issues to discuss.

                          What about the diary are you refuting?

                          or are you trolling?

                          Tu es responsable de ta rose Le Petit Prince

                          by Brahman Colorado on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 07:34:12 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

          •  Haha (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            comparing Chavez to Hitler and Stalin. You're ridiculous.

  •  Why don't you move there if you like Chavez (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ajbender, Mia Dolan

    so much? Frankly the man is a wanna-be authoritarian thug. That even groups like Human Rights Watch, hardly right-wing organizations, are critical of Chavez says a lot. What is the difference between Chavez's decision to "rule by decree" and Bush's signing statements? What about his efforts to change the constitution of his country so that he can be in power indeifintely? What about his embarce of Iran and other countries that hate America? Do you support Iran?

    Chavez is no hero. He is just another wanna-be authortirian thug. If you like Venezuela you should move there. For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

    by jiacinto on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:04:14 PM PDT

    •  Silly argument (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      smkngman, callmecassandra

      And I disagree with Chavez' use of the "enabling law", but it's hardly the authoritarianism it's made out to be. It's been used several times before.

      Chavez has been elected democratically many times, and there doesn't seem to be a danger of authoritarianism yet. There are some troubling concerns - e.g. his attempts to fill the courts with Chavistas (a strategy perhaps copied from the Bush administration) - but there's no need for hysteria. The reason for the hysteria has nothing to do with concern over democracy and everything to do with the threat Chavez poses to the U.S.-dominated international order.

      •  I am just tired of the Chavez apologists (0+ / 0-)

        Frankly that Human Rights organizations are taking issue with him is enough for me. I don't care that Chavez doesn't like Bush. Just because he opposes Bush doesn't make him a good leader. I also don't support socialism. If you think Venezuela is such a great "paradise", then why don't you move there? For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

        by jiacinto on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:10:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I have heard such accusations... (4+ / 0-)

      I have heard many accusations against Chavez...but all in all I can't come to a conclusion. I hear so many contradictary things about him. I hear he is supposedly "anti-Semitic," and yet I have heard from someone who saw him speak very openly and respectfully to an Orthodox Jewish audience. I have seen him accused of ruining the economy in a year (last year?) when the Venezuelan economy was one of Latin America's strongest.

      I remember the '80's when our government vilified the Nicaraguan government as dictators. Yet I heard completely the opposite from people who travelled there and when the Sandinistas were defeated in an election, they gave up power peacefully. I learned not to trust claims of leftists dictatorships, though I also know that they do happen.

      You make accusations. What are they based on? Convince me. So far I have not seen it...though I am concerned about what is going on in Equador.

      •  It's based on what human rights organizations (0+ / 0-)

        said. Read the link above. It shows troubling patterns in Chavez's government. These aren't the values of a government that I would support. Sorry I don't see Chavez as some great leader. I see him as a wanna-be authoritiarian. For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

        by jiacinto on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:11:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah (0+ / 0-)

          read HRW on the U.S. There are some problems, yes, but it's hardly the authoritarian state you make it out to be. Chavez' Venezuela has probably the freest press on the continent, for example. And there's no doubt that he enjoys massive popular support, and has been improving life for the poor.

          The argument that "if you like it so much, why not move there" is totally facile. Not even worth responding to - I'm not advertising Venezeula here.

          Likewise, your assertion that you don't like socialism is neither here not there. The decision belongs to the Venezuelan people.

        •  Read it... (5+ / 0-)

          I agree there are worrisome things. Very few nations get perfect reports. And I never said he was a great leader. How does he compare to the bulk of Latin American leaders? He seems at least marginally better than most of the Latin American leaders I have seen in my lifetime...and at least marginally better than some of our Republican Presidents. And a couple of those HRW reports were positive, though from 2004. And it seems like conditions in Venezuela for the large majority of the population has improved.

          He strikes me as a bit of a buffoon at times, but also at times very smart. Things are getting better for most of the people he leads, elections as far as I have heard are free and fair, and he and his supporters have been re-elected overwhelmingly in those free and fair elections. I have not heard that he is looting the nation like so many dictators. Looking back to the '70's and 80's, that is pretty damned good. Great leader? Not sure I would go that far. He does tend to court the most out there of allies sometimes and he says outrageous things at times. But on the balance he seems like a reasonable leader in a nation where many leaders have not been so reasonable.

          And please. Stop with the "move there" arguement. There are many nations out there I like and say good things about, but I am not changing my citizenship anytime soon. AMerica lies about nations all the time. We HAVE lied about Venezuela under Chavez as well. I think it is well worth sorting out the truth. That truth DOES contain some worrisome things, but far fewer worrisome things than many nations. I appreciate your balancing what sometimes might be an overly rosy picture of Chavez. But are you arguing that the reports about Chavez we get from our government are accurate? Because from all I can tell they are full of blatant lies.

          •  Do you support Iran? (0+ / 0-)

            Do you support Chavez's embrace of Iran? I'm sorry, but I don't have rose-colored glasses when it comes to Chavez. There are much less authoritian Latin American leaders like Michele Bachalet in Chile and Lula in Brazil.

   For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

            by jiacinto on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:43:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Err... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I don't support Israeli policies, and I don't support the U.S.' support of them (ditto Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc. etc.), not to mention direct U.S. policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.. That doesn't mean that I go around declaring that the U.S. is an authoritarian state.

            •  And Kirchner (0+ / 0-)

              in Argentina and Vasquez in Uruguay.

              "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams" -Paul Wellstone

              by WellstoneDem on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:54:06 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Silly and ridiculous argument (3+ / 0-)

              You like Bachelet and da Silva?

              Then applying your equally stagnant rebuttal...

              Why don't you move there then? Why don't you move to Chile or Brazil if they're so great?


              See...when you repeat redundant right winged talking points like "Love it or leave it" or "why don't you move there then?" you open yourself up for a partisanship that doesn't allow for discussion of what the left is doing right or wrong in Latin America.

              Maybe RCTV has a public service slot for you Jiacinto where you could drone out:

              "right winged T.V...  Love it or Leave it."

              "right winged T.V...  Love it or Leave it."

              Tu es responsable de ta rose Le Petit Prince

              by Brahman Colorado on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 07:16:04 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Dude! (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              callmecassandra, heathlander

              I believe I presented a balanced view of Chavez, not rose-colored. Did you READ what I wrote? I made several points that you don't even attempt to address (regarding Chavez being democratically elected in what are widely accepted to be fair elections, regarding how things have improved for most Venezuelans) AND I gave full recognition to concerns raised by HRW and the allies Chavez picks. Instead of addressing what I wrote you make statements that suggests you did not read what I wrote but merely repeat your initial comments. Is this a dialogue or are you just going keep repeating the same thing regardless of what others say?

              You have given me little reason to listen to you. You gave a single link (informative) and throw out the same statements over and over regardless of what anyone says, and you use old, stupid sound bites like "why don't you move there." If you are trying to convince, your methods suck.

    •  Wow (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      davidseth, rjones2818

      Chanelling Archie Bunker, are we?

    •  So Chavez isn't perfect? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Nobody has said he is.

      But look at Venezuela as a whole and to blame its crime and violence strictly on Chavez is wrong.

      What many feel is that he's headed in what seems to be a populist/leftist direction toward helping the general population as opposed to only the rich.

      This to my mind is a good thing.

      The "Capitalism and NeoLiberal policies are the only way for developing countries to go" crowd might need to remember that capitalism developed after several other systems (mercantilism was its immediate predecessor).  We should all be looking at ways to improve our economic systems for our countries.  Chavez is doing that.  Bully for him.

      Let's see where he ends up.  I think he's put in a very good start.

      Trust no organizaton bigger than two, and even those are suspect!

      by rjones2818 on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:19:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hold on... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        There are plenty of people more deserving of kudos out there.

        The only reason Chavez has defenders in this country is because he's anti-Bush.  The few things he's done that are positive don't make up for the rest.

        Don't make me drag out the Mussolini and on-time trains thing.  :)

        "I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him." - Booker T. Washington

        by ajbender on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:22:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nonsense (0+ / 0-)

          it's because he represents a) social justice and b) independence from destructive U.S. domination. I say "he", but of course he;s just one man. More important is the movement behind him (and in fact that's one criticism that can be levelled at the current revolution - it seems to rely too much on one man, such that if he is assassinated it might have an overly huge impact).

      •  Do you feel the same way about (0+ / 0-)

        Bush and his signing statements and other efforts to crack down on dissent? Oh of course you do, because I guess that, as long as the leader of a country is far left-wing, it must be okay to be an authoritarian. If you like Venezuela, why don't you move there? For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

        by jiacinto on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:25:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  You write: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    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.

    If one substitutes 'Brooks Brothers suited' for 'armed' then it's not laughable, but reality.

    Thanks for a reality check on Venezuela and the neoliberal 'press'. After viewing Buying the War this should all be quite apparent.

  •  One of the +actual+reasons for US establishment (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    hostility to Chavez: 'Oil Companies Give Venezuela Control'.

    •  Right back at you... (0+ / 0-)

      I've said that just because Chavez does a few good things doesn't make him a good guy.

      On the flip side, just because some in the government oppose him for wrong, cynical reasons doesn't make opposition less deserved.

      "I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him." - Booker T. Washington

      by ajbender on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:24:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah.. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        callmecassandra, davidseth

        ..reduction in poverty, massive increase in literacy, increase in provision of health service, land reforms, increased social spending, etc. etc.

        You may describe this as "a few good things" - Venezuelans appear to disagree, as evidenced by Chavez' massive popular mandate.

        •  not at the expense of democracy... (0+ / 0-)

          Economically, (and I hate to bring out the Nazi analogies), Germany under Hitler was a much better place to live than the democratic Weimar Republic was.  

          South Africa under apartheid didn't have nearly the AIDS problem post-apartheid South Africa has.

          Pinochet modernized Chile's economy in many ways.

          The Soviet Union accomplished many reforms of the land system and helped to further abolish the serf system that was still in quasi-effect.

          Doing some good stuff doesn't outweigh the bad.

          "I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him." - Booker T. Washington

          by ajbender on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 08:00:06 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Sins of Chavez... (0+ / 0-)

    For every Chavez apologist, keep these in mind:

    1. He's changing the constitution to allow him to serve longer (hallmark of a future dictator)
    1. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented abuses, including detention and torture of anti-government protesters, killing of witnesses to police brutality and intimidation of human rights organizations.

    1. Laws affecting freedom of speech have been strengthened (and frankly, yes, I would be shocked if CNN's license were revoked even for supporting a coup)

    4)Chavez is also placing military leaders throughout gov't.

    Great guy, eh?

    "I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him." - Booker T. Washington

    by ajbender on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:16:55 PM PDT

    •  Well (0+ / 0-)

      Apparently it's okay if you are a left-wing thug. I wonder how these same people feel about Bush and his "signing statements". These posters are an embarassment to this site. For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

      by jiacinto on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:17:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Oh please (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      He still holds democratic elections. His mandate is totally legitimate. If there were any signs that he is postponing elections or getting rid of freedom of speech, that's something else - but there are no signs of this at all. Venezuela has the freest speech on the continent - rivalling if not exceeding the freedom of the U.S. press, for sure.

      There are some problems, as I said. But they are nowhere near on the scale necessary to jsutify labelling Venezuela has an authoritarian state or Chavez as a dictator-in-waiting. Perhaps he is - who knows? If so, I don't think the Venezeulan people would stand for it. But right now he ain't - he's a democrat - and all this hysteria over Venzuela is totally hypocritical and is quite telling about those doing the condemning, in terms of their motives and interests.

      •  Back that up... (0+ / 0-)

        Freest speech on the continent?  Prove it.

        "I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him." - Booker T. Washington

        by ajbender on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:25:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  And democratic elections... (0+ / 0-)

        don't make everything legit.

        Many of the worst offenders in history were swept into office by the will and vote of the people.  It's what they do afterwards that counts.

        Fuck, Nixon got elected.

        "I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him." - Booker T. Washington

        by ajbender on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:26:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good point (0+ / 0-)

          But see, for the Chavez apologists, it's okay to rule like a thug if you are left-wing.

 For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

          by jiacinto on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:28:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Yeh (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          but the fact that he has repeatedly held and won elections, and of course has said nothing about refusing to hold them in future, together with Venezuela's free press makes accusations of "dictatorship" ring very hollow.

          •  Ever notice that the US is for democracy (4+ / 0-)

            until somebody the US doesn't like gets democratically elected?  Then he's a leftwing authoritarian proto fascist thug. }snort{

            •  The US supports democracy (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              when it feels that democracy will result in leaders compliant to US interests. Likewise, it opposes democracy (often with extreme violence and terror) when it feels that a free election would result in a leadership not compliant with US interests. The correlation between the extent of US support for democracy and the extent to which democracy furthers US strategic interests in the region (and vice versa) is so well documented as to be almost undeniable.

              The same with the establishment press. Ed Herman and Frank Brodhead did an excellent study ('Demonstration Elections') of US media coverage of elections in official enemy states and those in client states. Even though those in enemy states were by all objective accounts far more transparent and fair, the media portrayed them as illegitimate and flawed. On the contrary, in client states, despite obvious and major flaws in the 'democratic' process, the media largely ignored, suppressed, minimised and glossed-over them, preferring instead to portray them as democracy in action.

          •  On one hand (0+ / 0-)

            you're right Heathlander - he was democratically elected. But don't you feel his attempts to rule by decree, give himself the right to rule endlessly and his full-scale embrace of despotic regimes like Iran and Cuba make him something less than the wholesale democrat you're proclaiming him to be?

            Plus he meddles in other countries affairs endlessly. The Brazilians aren't overly fond of him, the Columbians don't like him and his endorsement of the candidate of the Left in the Mexican elections cost the Left the Presidency.

            •  Well... (0+ / 0-)

              he hasn't tried to get rid of democratic elections. He hasn;t threatened to do so, and it is almost certain that he won't. Holding regular democratic elections and allowing a free press effectively rules out any accusations of dictatorship.

              As to "meddling" in other countries - all countries with money do that. THe U.S. does it probably more than any other state. Actually, much of what he;s doing is positive - the creation of a unified, indpendent South American body is critical to the goal of an eventual Latin America that is largely indpendent of its violent, corrupt neighbour to the north.

              •  Except that vision (0+ / 0-)

                is his vision and a lot of South and Central Americans don't care too much for it.

                •  Look, again: (0+ / 0-)

                  that's what countries do. All countries, to the extent that they are able. Certainly, chavez isn't forcing anyone to do anything. In reality, many do care for it, as evidenced by increasing regional integration and cooperation (and that includes Lula's Brazil, Bachelet's Chile, Morales' Bolivia, etc. etc.).

                  •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

                    but I'm pretty proficient in issues of IR and I understand that all state actors act in accord with their own interests.

                    No, Chavez isn't forcing anyone to do anything. In a lot of cases he's bribing them to do so with cheap loans or subsidized oil. Again - he's acting in his own interests but it always amuses me when I hear people bitch about US imperialism exercised through the IMF or the World Bank and then nod approvingly at Chavez's attempts to export his "Bolivarian Revolution" using the exact same tactics.

                    Not saying you said that of course, but I have heard it from others.

                    •  Imperialism does not describe (4+ / 0-)

                      what Chavez is doing. Chavez' aim is to increase regional integration and eventually form a Latin American bloc to counter the U.S. hegemony that has proved so destructive to the people of that continent. That is surely a noble aim.

                      So yes, Chavez is acting in what he percieves to be Venezuela's interests, in the same way that all states act to further their percieved self-interests. That's actually pretty irrelevent. What we as analysts should be talking about is whether the aims are good, and if so whether he and others are going the right way about achieving them.

                      (I didn't do that in this diary, though, which had a far narrower focus - the aim was simply to expose the hypocrisy and deceit of media coverage of the RCTV issue and Chavez more generally.)

                      •  I don't believe (0+ / 0-)

                        US hegemony is necessarily a bad thing. Under this administration - yes. But I'm a believer in the power of the US to accomplish great things through its influence. The Bush administration will be out of power in 1.5 years and as Americans it's important for us to start talking about how we're going to recover the prestige and influence that has been lost during these dark years. History is a continuum and must be looked at as such - to say the aim of regional South American solidarity under Chavez is "noble" isn't something I'd agree with.

                        As an IR student, a Grotian liberal and an American I am not a believer in attempts to undermine or destroy the power of the United States, especially when the alternative is so amorphous as to be inexplicable - power and order cannot exist in a vacuum.

                        •  Well, unless you're saying that (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          smkngman, callmecassandra

                          the U.S. is somehow superior to everyone else, then I don't see how you could argue that it has a right to control anyone. In any event, a brief look back at history will demonstrate that the problem of the U.S. quest for hegemony - and the terrorism, genocides, torture and other human rights abuses that have followed - utterly transcends partisan issues. It's not a question of one particular administration, even if its true that some have been less bad then others.

                          I think it's inaccurate to talk of a golden age before Bush, where American "prestige" was blooming. No - in fact, Clinton was responsible for genocide and war crimes too. In fact, and I don't really want to go into it in detail now, but every U.S. president since WWII has engaged in war crimes, or the illegal use of force abroad.

                          As to Latin America - again, history will more than suffice to explain the need for South America to gain independence of its northern neighbour. The number of people killed as a result of the numerous U.S. invasion, coups, terrorist campaigns, aggressions, forcibly imposed neoliberal policies and other interventions is just huge. The U.S.-backed terrorist campaign against Nicaragua alone resulted in some 30,000 deaths, and the total reversal of all the impressive social gains achieved under the Sandinistas.

                          The point is that the U.S. has no more right to control Venezuelan society and policies than Venezuela does the U.S.

                        •  Oh really? (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          heathlander, davidseth

                          to say the aim of regional South American solidarity under Chavez is "noble" isn't something I'd agree with.

                          As an IR student, a Grotian liberal and an American I am not a believer in attempts to undermine or destroy the power of the United States, especially when the alternative is so amorphous as to be inexplicable

                          Then as aa student of IR, the  alternative has been CIA inspired military coups by military strongman over the last 50 years of history. What is inexplicable about this alternative? Did you mean unspeakable?

                          The recent history of leftist populism as a reaction to American policy...oh let's with Bachelet in Chile is inexplicable as an alternative to American hegemony under Pinochet?

                          With wildly popular leftists in Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile...I'd venture to say that American Hegemony and it's over reach IS explicable.

                          Tu es responsable de ta rose Le Petit Prince

                          by Brahman Colorado on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 08:04:27 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                      •  and let me butt in and say... (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        heathlander, davidseth

                        you have done a great job addressing the issue of free speech in Venezuela. The vituperous connection of the rabid right winged interference and support out of Miami and South Florida is a story that needs to expose the propagandists and money trail that taints Latino programming and ownership.

                        From Murdoch to Berlusconi and back to Miami, right winged billionaires are pumping the air waves with corporate propaganda and public access T.V. of the grass roots is the solution to all the tripe pumped into Venezuela.

                        Kudos Heathlander.

                        Maybe we can all move there someday.

                        Tu es responsable de ta rose Le Petit Prince

                        by Brahman Colorado on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 07:47:34 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                  •  Not the same... (0+ / 0-)

                    Responsible, democratic, left-leaning governments in Brazil and Chile are not the same as the Chavez government.

                    Lula and Bachelet are two of my heroes for the very reason that they accomplish their goals without trodding heavily on democracy and freedom of speech.  Neither of them have sought or will seek to rule by decree or extend their terms of office or shut down publications.

                    "I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him." - Booker T. Washington

                    by ajbender on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 07:56:21 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  "responsible" (3+ / 0-)

                      You mean they don't pose quite as much of a threat to U.S. designs for the region as Chavez does. You're using "responsible" in the same way the U.S. uses the word "moderates" when talking about the Middle East.

                      Chavez is democratic. That there are some causes for concern doesn't change that.

                      •  No... (0+ / 0-)

                        Don't put words in my mouth.  I mean "responsible" in that they respect their people and the freedoms of their people.  Frankly I don't care much for our Latin American policy, or lack thereof, and could give a fuck if Chavez gives us the odd headache.

                        This isn't about U.S. interests - it's about democracy.

                        I want to hear what you think when, in 25 years, Chavez is still in power.

                        "I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him." - Booker T. Washington

                        by ajbender on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 08:09:04 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Well, evidently (3+ / 0-)

                          your opinions are quite different from the majority of Venezuelans, who obviously feel that Chavez does care about them, or rather that he does follow policies with the aim of improving their quality of life. WHich is unsurprising really, since that is exactly what he has done.

                          I guess that's why he has been repeatedly elected, despite the smears and slanders directed against him daily by the mainstream Venezuelan press and despite a U.S.-backed coup against him.

                          It's 4:20 AM in the morning here (in London), so I'm going to have to call it a night. I will endeavour to reply to unread comments in the morning, though.

                      •  Exactly... (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        heathlander, davidseth

                        Chavez calls Bush the devil. That is irresponsible?

                        Public housing, workers rights, healthcare, free trade, social justice, responsible media are the continued goals and achievements of the governements of Chile, Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela.

                        Stop watching Fox News! 50 years ago we funded right winged death squads to overthrow democratically elected governments in favor of CIA funded Dictators trained at the School of the Americas in Georgia.

                        Are you pissed because the people of Latin America are  free to elect progressives and socialists?

                        Tu es responsable de ta rose Le Petit Prince

                        by Brahman Colorado on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 08:16:28 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

  •  Superior democracies: Colombia, Guatemala (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    heathlander, davidseth

    at least, according to our foreign policy.

    I grant that Venezuela is an imperfect democracy, and that Chavez has some of the Putin's heavy touch.  However, journalists, unionists etc. are not routinely gunned down, which cannot be said about our favorite allies in the region.

    •  Precisely (4+ / 0-)

      which, if nothing else, says a lot about those who profess so much 'concern' over human rights in Venezuela while remaing almost silent about, or even actively supporting/facilitating,  U.S. complicity in human rights abuses in Latin America (and the world). This hysterical opposition to Chavez has nothing whatsover to do with human rights, about which most of the establihsment couldn't give a damn, and everything to do with his socialist, independent, popular policies.

      •  Hmm (0+ / 0-)

        but this isn't a socialist site and the Democratic party is not a socialist party. I get a little tired of this homage to candidates of socialism (France, Venezuela) when socialism has nothing to do with what we're trying to do here - which is elect more Democrats to congress.

        •  Disagree. It would be really (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          heathlander, Brahman Colorado

          nice if instead of trying to marginalize the far left of the Democratic party, we could try to to embrace it.

          •  Yeah (0+ / 0-)

            because the far-left of the Democratic party has done so much to make us, well, actually electable.

            •  And I don't mean (0+ / 0-)

              to marginalize them. But when you start talking about state ownership of the means of production you're heading towards electoral oblivion.

              •  And when you talk about ending wars in Vietnam (2+ / 0-)

                and Iraq, and supporting the Civil Rights movement, and in restoring habeas corpus, and in stopping Guantanamo, and in ending military commissions, and in ending torture, and promoting a woman's right to choose, where exactly do you think those ideas came from?  From the corporate wing of our party?

                •  No but you present a false (0+ / 0-)

                  dichotomy - the corporate wing or the Socialist wing. It's a false choice because most of us are in neither wing and the so-called Socialist wing is so tiny as to be non-existent.

                  •  You seem to be presenting a false (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    callmecassandra, rjones2818

                    dichotomy also. I'm not saying one has to support Chavez totally or not at all. One can recognise that even though there are some problems with CHavez, this nonsense about RCTV is, well, nonsense, and all the hysteria and faux concern for democracy in Venezuela is totally hypocritical and motivated by interests that are far from benign. One can and should recognise this, regardless of the extent to which one supports Chavez and his policies.

                  •  Sorry, I didn't say anything in the disjunctive. (0+ / 0-)

                    I didn't present any either-or.  I just said that these ideas come from the left, and I said before that we should be embracing that wing of the party.  And I said that because of the strawman you presented: that nationalizing industries was an unelectable position for the Democrat party.  I agree with that, but nobody was arguing that we should do so here.

                    But now that I thnk about it, I  might be sympathetic to nationalizing the oil companies, insurnace companies and healthcare providers. ;)

                    •  Not a strawman (0+ / 0-)

                      but one of the central tenets of Socialism. Maybe not the best one to use an example but the one most people think of when they hear "Socialism."

                      •  I'm not sure where you are getting your IR (0+ / 0-)

                        education from. But the last time I checked, China is the most populous socialist nation on the planet and they're rewriting capitalist theory and history!

                        Tu es responsable de ta rose Le Petit Prince

                        by Brahman Colorado on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 08:46:03 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Where did you learn your version of IR? (0+ / 0-)

                          In case you're unaware nation-states act in their own interests and the diplomats and ambassadors of the United States are tasked with protecting and advocating the interests of the United States, as are those of the regimes you so admire. I'm a bit confused as to why you would ask representatives of the United States under a Democratic administration to stand up before the world, denounce their country and advocate the destruction of its power in the international arena - by doing so they would be advocating against the Constitution and the government they've sworn to protect.

                          Where did you learn your version of IR from - Patrice Lumumba University? Because mine was learned at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, Johns Hopkins and New York University and in all my time in school I've never, ever heard anyone advocate the position you're advocating here.

                          You seriously misunderstand what a professional diplomatic corp is for and in any case you're asking them to act unprofessionally and in opposition to their role - exactly the same as this wretched administration did during the last 7 years. Your position is advocating the politicization of the diplomatic corp of the United States in the same way the Bush administration has done just from a leftist, rather than a rightist perspective. Both are incorrect.

      •  Some context might be to look at the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        number of times in the last century that the US has invaded or otherwise interfered in Caribbean, Central American, and South American countries, but only and exclusively when "US interests" were threatened.

        So if "our" thugs conduct a dirty war and disappear people, that's ok.  But if "our enemy" gains power, albeit by democratic vote, it's time to watch the shores and be vigilant for exploding cigars.

      •  Reasons for US hostility (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        heathlander, davidseth

        Heathlander, I do not know if you picked up on at least one of the reasons for US hysteria - the alternative to the World Bank and IMF that he is in the process of setting up. See my diary on the subject

        Kneejerk reactions do not come from knees.

        by londonbear on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 07:31:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for the link (0+ / 0-)

          yes, I've read about that. It's exactly things like this that are so troubling for U.S. planners - they represent a viable alternative to submission to the U.S., and that cannot be tolerated. Independence is anathema to U.S. planners, who's goal of "full spectrum dominance", globally, requires that the lesser states recognise their places in the global hierarchy. Chavez, like Castro, threatens that, hence the U.S. establishment hostility, to the point of conducting a long campaign of terror in the case of Cuba and supporting a coup in the case of Chavez.

  •  Chavez (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jiacinto, Shane Hensinger

    has some great social ideas and his government has done a lot of good for the poor.  It is great that the Venezuelan government is finally using their oil resources for a good cause.  I can only hope that Venezuela is able to make real investments in human capital and diversifying their economy before they run out or the prices fall.

    Nonetheless, there are many problems with Chavez.  I don't care if a tv station supported the opposition, it should be allowed to opperate.  Thats free speech.  Similarly, his government is punishing political opponents for not supporting him.  I was speaking to one man whose sister lives in Venezuela.  She is an accomplished environmental attorney and was named a judge.  The Chavez government found her name on the recall petition and went to her saying she had to sign a form saying she never signed the recall petition or the judgeship would be taken away.  She refused, and was removed from the bench.  According to the other Venezuelans I have spoken with, similar situations of patronage and punishment are pretty rampant.

    So lets look at his social policies for ideas of what other countries could do, but lets not overlook the serious problems of the Chavez administration.

    "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams" -Paul Wellstone

    by WellstoneDem on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 06:50:16 PM PDT

    •  It will likely be allowed to operate (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Grand Poobah, Brahman Colorado

      on cable. But its public license is not being renewed - and this is totally in line with the power accorded to the government by the Constitution, which was voted on in a referendum by the Venezuelan people.

      The point is that refusing to renew the public license (i.e. the right to broadcast over the public airwaves) because a station openly and actively facilitated and supported an illegal military coup against the government (and effectively did so again later in 2002 with the general strike) does not represent an attack on freedom of speech.

      I agree, there are problem with Chavez. But they are not as extensive as some would like us to believe, and the refusal to renew RCTV's license ain't one of them.

      •  Oh. thats interesting (0+ / 0-)

        about its ability to operate on cable.  Sorry if that point was in the diary, I kind of skimmed it.  As long as they aren't silenced.

        Nonetheless, the pattern of intimidation and punishment against political opposition, whether they supported the coup, the recall, the strike, or opposition in the elections, is very troubling.

        "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams" -Paul Wellstone

        by WellstoneDem on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 07:19:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well.. (3+ / 0-)

          yeah, there is some threat to the independence of the judiciary (this is hardly a Venezuela-only problem though, of course). And yeh, there are some other problems and they should not be overlooked.

          But this campaign of hysteria and of vehement opposition simply isn't justified if one's concern is truly for Venezuelan democracy and quality of life. Moreover, it's totally hypocritical. I agree that there are areas for concern and certainly we should keep a careful eye on how the situation unfolds ('we' as individual analysts, that, not the U.S. with a view to intervening at any point). But there's no need to panic yet. And furthermore, it is important not to forget the amazing good Chavez and the movement behind him has done for the people of Venezuela, and the enormous potential of the revolution in terms of freeing Latin America from the vice of U.S. domination.

          •  I totally agree (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Brahman Colorado

            the U.S. media focus on Chavez and the way they describe him is beyond what is justified, especially in comparison to other leaders around the world.  There are far worse leaders out there that get absolutley no mention while Chavez is a poster child for the "evil in the world".  

            It should be noted though that Chavez loves the U.S. reaction to him.  He attacks the U.S. and President Bush and visits Cuba and Iran because the more he is perceived as against U.S. interests, the stronger support he wins in his country.  If anything, the hysteria in the U.S. government and media actually help him at home.

            "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams" -Paul Wellstone

            by WellstoneDem on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 07:59:13 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  The government is on record saying (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        they wish they do succeed in cable, obviously it would make this PR disaster more palpateable.

        Don't know if you can read Spanish but this is more or less what the communication's minister is saying regarding the workers future:

        *Set up cooperatives and they will be allowed to broadcast under the new channel.

        *The rest should not be fired because the station is studying its cable only future.

        Obviously the likelihood of RCTV surviving on its own without government subsidies is slim, but nevertheless it is the only way to humanely remove the corporate domination of the media without real censorship.

        •  Thanks for the info (0+ / 0-)

          Apparently, RCTV has ruled out broadcasting on cable (although whether they stick to this is something else).

          Can't read Spanish yet (I'm learning), unfortunately, but thanks for the summary.

          If the government follows through on its stated plans for the replacement channel, then I think it will do a lot to improve the state of Venezuela's press, which is of course a very good thing.

    •  The irony is that the Chavez opponents (0+ / 0-)

      who have no problem with this type of behavior are also probably very vocally angry about how Bush has used signing statements, used the NSA spying program, and fired the US attorneys. I guess that it is okay to act like an authoritian thug if you are a left-wing leader. For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

      by jiacinto on Fri Apr 27, 2007 at 07:01:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  New poll (0+ / 0-)

    ‘President Chavez’s performance in office continues to be viewed positively by nearly two-thirds of the population, despite a 70% rejection of the non-renewal of the TV broadcast license of RCTV, according to the Venezuelan polling firm Datanalisis. Also, a new Latinobarometro poll finds that Latin Americans view Venezuela as the friendliest country in the Americas.

    64.7% of Venezuelans viewed Chavez’s performance in office positively in March and 29.6% viewed it negatively, explained Datanalisis Director Luis Vicente Leon to Venezuela’s foreign press association today. The survey was conducted between March 12 and 23, among 1,300 Venezuelans of all socio-economic levels, with a margin of error of 2.7%.

    A breakdown of the population’s perception of the country’s current situation shows that opinions about Venezuela are still sharply divided along class lines. In the country’s upper class—known as "A/B" among Venezuelan demographers—only 38.2% of this group views the country’s situation positively. The perception is progressively more positive, the lower people’s income, so that in the country’s largest and poorest class, known as "E," 68.9% view the country’s situation positively.

    However, when asked how Venezuelans view their personal situation, an overwhelming majority (over 60%) in all classes view it as positive.

    While Chavez continues to enjoy high levels of support, opposition parties are the least respected institutions in the country, with only 26.8% of the population viewing them positively. Among the most favorably viewed institutions are the church, at 80%, and private enterprise, between 75 and 88%, depending on the sector.

    With regard to the government’s performance in various areas, the most favorable areas were social programs, such as in education, food, and health, with approval ratings of 68.8%, 64.7%, and 64.2% respectively. The government received its lowest score in the area of providing personal security, with a mere 8.4% approval rating.

    Another area where the government received a low approval rating was its decision not to renew the broadcast license of the private TV channel RCTV, whose license expires on May 27th. Nearly 70% of Venezuelans disapprove of the decision, while only 16.4% support it. The RCTV survey was conducted separately between April 9 and 16.

    According to Leon, RCTV is the country’s most popular TV channel and those who watch the channel are much more concerned about losing its soap operas and game shows than its political programming. "Chavez will not come out of this unhurt with regard to his popularity," said Leon and added that this was perhaps the most unpopular decision Chavez has made during his entire presidency...

    Another poll that was released recently is a study by Latinobarometro, a Chilean NGO that conducts annual surveys of political opinion in all of Latin America. According to their latest survey of how friendly Latin Americans perceive each other, Venezuela and Brazil were viewed as the two friendliest countries.

    The country perceived as the least friendly is the U.S. When broken down by country, though, the perception of the U.S. is quite divided with some, such as Venezuela (53.0%), Argentina (38.0%), Mexico (33.0%), Bolivia (24.0%), and Brazil (20.0%) expressing the least confidence in the U.S. Others, though, express strong sympathy with the U.S., such as Panama (62%), Dominican Republic (52.0%), El Salvador (52.0%), Colombia (42.0%), and Costa Rica (38.0%).

    Of all countries in Latin America, Venezuela made the largest leap in the past eight years, from a relatively low friendliness perception of only 4% to the highest spot in the list, at 8%.

    According to Marta Lago, the director of Latinobarometro, this has something to do with Chavez’s foreign policy, which has focused much on reaching out to and integrating Latin American countries. "It calls to one’s attention how Chavez sets the agenda of Latin America because the friends [countries] that are perceived in Latin America are the friends of Chavez," said Lagos, referring to Brazil, Argentina, and Cuba, which top off the list together with Venezuela.’


  •  Inconceivable (0+ / 0-)

    I just don't see how we can rightly pillory Bush for his corruption of the Justice Department and then applaud Comrade Hugo while he eviscerates the Venezuelan constitution.  It's depressing to ask how many folks here only object to authoritarianism when it's a right-wing phenomenon.

    "There will always be two different views / Of the same thing, baby / Too many views with loaded pride." - The Fixx

    by fstlicho on Sun Apr 29, 2007 at 11:12:24 AM PDT

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