Sunday, March 9, 2008

THE PEACEMAKER




PERHAPS the most misrepresented and demonized figure in the media today, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, recently became a symbol of peace and diplomacy at the Rio Group Summit in Santo Domingo this past March 7. Chávez’s diplomatic, affectionate tone and his call to peace between sister nations calmed tensions between Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, which just hours before had been on the brink of war after Colombia unilaterally violated Ecuador’s territory without permission or notification in order to bomb and assassinate a leader of the Fuerzas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) who was camped with a group of visiting Mexicans on the Ecuatorian side of the border. All those stationed at the FARC camp were killed, with the exception of three women, including one Mexican, who were injured and left by Colombian soldiers to die but were later rescued by Ecuatorian armed forces. Chávez, who had ordered his troops to the Colombian border and warned President Uribe of Colombia that a similar attempt to violate Venezuela’s sovereignty would be met with force, was quickly labeld by the international media as a “warmonger” and “responsable” for the conflict in the region. Colombia’s government, publicly backed by President Bush himself, accused Chávez and President Correa of Ecuador of aiding and funding the FARC, a group labeled “terrorist” by the United States, Colombia and the European Union, and even went so far as to implicate Chávez in the proposed sale of uranium to the FARC in order to build dirty bombs. These unsubstantiated – and extremely dangerous – allegations fall right in line with the increased efforts of the Bush Administration to label Chávez’s Venezuela as a nation that supports “drug trafficking”, “terrorism” and “money laundering”, and to classify Chávez as a “dictator”, “authoritarian” and “threat to U.S. interests.”

Debunking the Chávez myth is not as easy as it should be. Coverage of President Chávez and Venezuela is negative and distorted in 90% of major media outlets in Europe, Latin America and the United States. An analysis of the Washington Post editorial page during the past year shows that of the twenty-three editorials or OpEds specifically written about Venezuela, only one – written by Venezuela’s Ambassador to the US – presented a balanced vision of the South American nation’s political and economic situation. President Chávez was labeled as a “dictator”, “autocrat”, “strongman” or “despot” on ten occasions and references to his government as “dictatorial”, “authoritarian” or “repressive” were made in almost every article. Even worse, the Washington Post perpetuated the falsehood of Venezuela’s relationship with terrorism in almost a dozen editorials during the last year.

None of these claims about Venezuela and President Chávez’s slippery slope towards a terrorist dictatorship have ever been seriously substantiated with real evidence. In fact, a frightening parallel can be drawn between the Bush-Cheney lies about weapons of mass destruction in Sadaam Hussein’s Iraq and the false allegations about Chávez’s Venezuela funding and arming Colombian terrorists and facilitating drug trafficking and money laundering. The mere reference made by President Uribe regarding a possible sale of uranium to the FARC to build bombs is eerily reminiscent of Pat Robertson’s outrageous claims in 2005 that President Chávez was building a nuclear bomb with Iran to blow up the United States. While ridiculous, such allegations justified the U.S. invasion of Iraq after government officials hammered the false claims into public opinion and the media recycled lies. Those cynical or too naive to believe that a similar aggression could occur against Venezuela need only remember the U.S. invasion of socialist Grenada in 1983 or the bombing and invasion of Panamá in 1989. In both instances, neither government represented a real threat to the U.S., and in both cases, myths about “dangerous dictatorships” were perpetuated in the media in order to justify the unilateral attacks. When the truth comes out years later, as is the case with Iraq, U.S. officials offer insincere apologies and shrug it all off as “in the past” and anyway, they were all bad guys.

Over the past year, the U.S. State Department has classified Venezuela as a nation “not collaborating” with either the “war on drugs” or the “war against terrorism”. The Pentagon and the intelligence communities released reports earlier this year citing Venezuela as a “major threat to U.S. national security” and have proposed beefing up military presence in the region. The White House and Congress have increased USAID and National Endowment Funding to opposition groups in Venezuela in an effort to rebuild ailing conservatives that favor a U.S. agenda. International media portray Chávez as “public enemy #1” and the leader of a Latin American “axis of evil” that is threatening regional stability. Meanwhile, poverty in Venezuela has been reduced by more than 50% under the thrice-elected President Chávez, 100% of Venezuelans have access to free, quality health care and education beyond the doctoral level, voter participation has skyrocketed to unprecedented, historical levels and more new hospitals, schools, highways, bridges, railways and industries have been built since during the entire 40-year period of “representative democracy”. And to top it all off, Chávez has negotiated the release of six hostages held by the FARC for more than five years, helped pay off Venezuela’s, Argentina’s and Nicaragua’s foreign debt and established regional initiatives such as Telesur, the Bank of the South, PetroCaribe, UnaSur (Union of South American Nations) and ALBA, a cooperative trade agreement between Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia.

Hugo Chávez is a man of peace. The question to ask is why the Bush Administration and mass media continue to portray him as an evil dictator. But we all know the answer to that: Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves. So what we really need to be asking is why public opinion – you - allow the perpetuation of this dangerous myth?

20 comments:

Thomas said...

Eva,

first, Chavez helped the FARC with money, probably arms and a secure haven. Several requests by Colombia to evict the FARC, including precise locations of camps have been denied. As a lawyer you should know how neutrals have to behave in a conflict. They have following options should one belligerent violate the territory: Order to leave or internment. Chavez provided safe haven and helped.

As for the summit. Did you watch it ? Apparently not, otherwise you would know that it was Uribe who made his point clear and offered peace. Chavez and Correa had to accept (look at their faces, they tell all !) probably because Uribe leaked some very embarassing information from the laptops the Colombians seized.

As for your socioeconomic data: I recommend you to read a few analyses by renown economists. They tell a completely different picture.

To call a duck a duck: Either you do not know what you talk about or you lie.

Thomas said...

Eva, take for instance this analysis:

http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20080301faessay87205/francisco-rodriguez/an-empty-revolution.html

For instance concerning poverty:

This calculation shows an average reduction of one percentage point in poverty for every percentage point in per capita GDP growth during this recovery, a ratio that compares unfavorably with those of many other developing countries, for which studies tend to put the figure at around two percentage points.

or:

The percentage of underweight babies, for example, increased from 8.4 percent to 9.1 percent between 1999 and 2006. During the same period, the percentage of households without access to running water rose from 7.2 percent to 9.4 percent, and the percentage of families living in dwellings with earthen floors multiplied almost threefold, from 2.5 percent to 6.8 percent.

Or:

Our findings confirm that Chávez has in fact done little for the poor. For example, his government often claims that the influx of Cuban doctors under the Barrio Adentro health program is responsible for a decline in infant mortality in Venezuela. In fact, a careful analysis of trends in infant and neonatal mortality shows that the rate of decline is not significantly different from that of the pre-Chávez period, nor from the rate of decline in other Latin American countries. Since 1999, the infant mortality rate in Venezuela has declined at an annual rate of 3.4 percent, essentially identical to the 3.3 percent rate at which it had declined during the previous nine-year period and lower than the rates of decline for the same period in Argentina (5.5 percent), Chile (5.3 percent), and Mexico (5.2 percent).

How do you explain that the statistics tell a completely different story than you do ?

Jo McIntire said...

You go girl. Don't let these psychos like Thomas get to you . . .

For my part, I'm trying to help people put a human face on the FARC.

Enough demonizing. It's time to negotiate.

Mary said...

Foreign Affairs magazine is a publication of the Council on Foreign Relations, which shills for the biggest, baddest global corporate predators on earth.

"Thomas" asks the blogger (Eva), "How do you explain that the statistics tell a completely different story than you do?"

My answer would be simple. I don't trust the source. These are the same billionaires who brought us the slaughter of 1.2 million innocent people in Iraq to get their oil, and will go to any lengths to get Venezuela's oil. They lie!

They tell us war is peace. They tell us we should be afraid of "terrorists" and "drug traffickers," when they are the biggest terrorists, drugs traffickers, weapons traffickers and mobland thieves of all time.

I've read the personal account of a dirt poor mother in Caracas who always longed to go to school. She couldn't educate herself because she couldn't afford to buy books. She couldn't send her children to school cuz she couldn't afford shoes for them. Now they are all in school. They all have decent clothes, and decent meals. She wants to be a nurse and is training for that.

This bootstrapping of an ambitious but very poor family is entirely due to the policies of the Chavez administration. The fatcats and mass murderers who write in Foreign Affairs and sit on the Council on Foreign Relations, are cold, callous SOBs, who would literally take the food out of the mouths and the clothes off the backs, of this woman and her children, and millions like them, to make themselves richer. They go to Harvard and Yale, and they would deny her a literacy class, books, and training as a nurse--to regain corporate predator control of Venezuelan oil.

Her story is enough for me. They can shove their economic studies up their asses.

Thomas said...

Mary, did you read and understood the analysis ? Apparently not.


The source is NOT Foreign affairs. The sources are (among others)

- the Venezuelan Central Bank.

- official health statistics.

- The Venezuelan National Institute of Statistics

etc. etc.

The only thing Rodriguez does is a comparison with the statistics of other countries.

The most striking thing is the rise in neonatal mortality and the Ginni Index. I.o.W. more babies die and the richer got richer.

I.o.W. your own statistics disprove the claims of Eva Golinger.

Thomas said...

Mary,

concerning your comment about the rich getting richer. That is exactly what the rising Ginni Index for Venezuela indicates. The rich and the noveau Chavista rich are getting richer and the wealth more inequal distributed.

"I've read the personal account of a dirt poor mother in Caracas who always longed to go to school"

Good for the family. At the same time Chavez' own statistics show that not only *one* but THOUSANDS of households are worse off.

"Her story is enough for me"

Mary, this is not about *one* family, but about an entire country.

"They can shove their economic studies up their asses."

So you do your evaluation of a government based on anecdotal evidence, and wors, on favourable anecdotal evidence. Normally it does NOT work like that.

TWR said...

Thomas,

No use trying to de-brainwash these people. They don't understand that statistics usually tell a story better than anti-imperial rhetoric, and when faced with clear facts, they always revert to the old "I don't trust the source" adage. It gets old. Isn't it time the Chavistas faced up to the fact that their leader has failed them? The country is in dire straits, yet they cling to the old "blame the U.S." mantra over and over. Well guess what people, all of Venezuelas ills are the result of one man and one man only. And he doesn't live in Miami or Washington.
Anyways, educated people understand that the Gini coefficient is the only real way to assess income inequality in a country. The fact that Venezuela's is growing shows how Chavez has utterly betrayed the poor, not helped them.

TWR said...

Oh, yeah, Eva sweetheart? All that stuff about purchasing uranium came STRAIGHT OFF A FARC computer, not a Washington Post Op-Ed piece...

mikh said...

Well, it seems to me that Thomas & Co., don't care much about history. A question to you folks: if Chavez did not help the poor, if Chavez is the 'dictator' you all make him to be, why did the *people* bring him back after the short coup d'etat in '02? Could it be that they wanted a 'dictator' back in power? Or, could it be they wanted the poverty rates in VEN to increase even more?

mikh said...

Oh, and "twr", you need to question where you get information from, my friend. Is it because Uribe and his government declared they found "evidence" that you accept it without question? "Straight of a FARC computer..." oh, please.

Thomas said...

mikh, you should learn a bit about history. Chavez was brought back by Baduel. When the people came, everything was already decided. Finally, in 2002 nobody really knew what came.

Aside that mikh, did you notice that not one of you was able to disprove the statistics we presented ? As TWR said, the Ginni Index rose significantly.

If the poor get really help, the Ginni Index gets smaller.In Venezuela it rose. If the medical situation gets better, the number of underweigt babies decreases. In Venezuela it rises.

Your own statistics tell you are wrong.

mikh said...

I don't know anything about the 'Ginni Index'. I do know one thing, though: the people (the majority; the poor) are behind him.

Let Socialism in L.A. work in peace.

Peter said...

The Gini index, as i know after 5 minutes of study on wikipedia, only measures income inequality. it doesn't measure consumption power or relative equality caused by things other than income inequality.

As most of the measures used by the Bolivarian revolution to improve living conditions in Venezuela are not based on increasing wages, but based upon things like price controls and subsidies which will increase consumption of basic items like food etc. without decreasing income inequality but actually decreasing inequality.

research harder thomas.

peter

Thomas said...

"based upon things like price controls and subsidies which will increase consumption of basic items like food etc."

Peter, you can only consume something you can buy. Ever heard of the dramatic food shortages ? Ever heard of the parallel exchange rate and the astronomic prices you pay for items that are not regulated ?

I guess you should research harder.

Thomas said...

@ Mikh:

If you don't know about the Gini Index or probably other statistics, then why do you talk about it ?

Concerning people being behind him: Remember the last referendum where Chavez said that a vote against the proposal is a vote against him ? He lost. A real democrat would have stepped down after that, but Chavez never was a real democrat.

mikh said...

My friend, I don't recall him ever saying that. Do not make it seem as if he's in power for the sake of power. Also, please do the research as to why the referendum failed to pass (hint: oh, and don't forget to look at the numbers who failed to turn out at the voting booth).

Aside from the fact that he did accept 'defeat', how could one be totally oblivious to the fact that by accepting defeat, was in reality, a true sign of a democratic state? Oh, and, voter turn outs have dramatically increased ever since Chavez became president.

I don't have time to flip through statistics at the moment. However, if statistics is what you want, then statistics you will receive.

Use those critical thinking skills, my friend.

Thomas said...

Mikh, you should probably do some research:

http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSN2333983120071124?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&rpc=22&sp=true

"It's black and white -- a vote against the reform is a vote against Chavez," he said in a state television interview"

Second, concerning your don#t forget the voter abstention. It is funny how you nalways come up with that when a result is against you, but never when a result is for you. According to your argumentation, the Venezuelan AN is in fact opposition.

As for Chavez accepted the referendum. Listen to what he said and how long it took for him to realize he lost. He accepted because he had to, but not because he is a democrat.

I am looking forward to your statistics. It will be interesting how you will explain the fact that despite a claimed poverty reduction, households without water or with earth floor soared. It will also be interesting how you explain the Norwegian documentary about Venezuelan hospitals in the light of the claim that 100% of Venezuelans have access to good health care. It will also be interesting how you explain f.i. the costs of mision milagros which can be done for 1/8th of what it actually costs.

Thomas said...

"Oh, and, voter turn outs have dramatically increased ever since Chavez became president. "

As far as I know, the last election to the AN was one of the worst in Venezuelan history concerning voter turn out.

Aside that, according to your argumentation Chavez has no democratic legitimation anymore. A good voter turn out plus a vote against him..... As I said, after the black and white statement made in state TV, the *only* option a true democrat had after Dec 2 was to step down. Needing hours (and reportedly the threat of the military) and saying that this is a victory for the mierda - FOR NOW (caps added) is NOT the behaviour of a democrat.

BTW, he tries to implement some of the reforms anyway, doing that after a clear no of the people is autoritarian - you can argue that as much as you want, it is.

Sailor said...

Sorry Eva, I'm not buying it. After conducting the raid on the FARC encampment, President Uribe called President Correa to inform him of the action and to apologize for it. Correa, although unhappy, initially accepted Uribe's explanation and would have been satisfied with a formal apology tendered by Columbia in response to Ecuador's diplomatic protest. But that wasn't good enough for an opportunist like Chavez -- an uninvolved third party in the first place. The "crisis" was his own creation and it was his saber rattling that fueled it. So it's pretty hypocritical to call him a peacemaker when in the end no one had any intention of starting a war and his "solution" offered nothing more than President Uribe had already ageed to anyway. Chavez continues to come off as a buffoon and you, unfortunately, come off as his apologist.

G said...

TRW

Your profile says that you are an analyst in the consulting business living in the United States. What exactly is the kind of consulting you do and for which clients?