Wednesday, December 12, 2012

CHÁVEZ



The first time I met Hugo Chavez was at the United Nations in New York in January 2003. He asked me my name, as if we were chatting between friends just getting to know each other. When I told him “Eva”, he responded “Eva, really?”[i] “Yes, Eva”, I said. “My brother is named Adan”, he said, adding, “My mother wanted me to be a girl so that she could call me Eva, and look, I appeared!” He smiled and laughed with that laugh of his, so pure and sincere it’s contagious to all those near.

He appeared. Chavez, who even underestimated himself.

This man appeared, larger than life, with an immense heart full of his people, pueblo, beating with homeland, patria. A human being appeared, with a great capacity to persist and stand defiantly in the face of the most powerful obstacles.

Hugo Chavez dreamed the impossible and achieved it. He assumed responsibility for the grandiose and difficult tasks that remained undone from the time of independence, those that Simon Bolivar couldn’t attain due to the adverse forces against him. Chavez fulfilled those goals, turning them into reality. The Bolivarian Revolution, the recovery of Venezuelan dignity, social justice, the visibility and power of the people, Latin American integration, national and regional sovereignty, true independence, the realization of the dream of the Patria Grande, and much, much more. These are Chavez’s achievements, the man who appeared just like that.

There are millions of people around the world who are inspired by Hugo Chavez. Chavez raises his voice without trembling before the most powerful, he says the truth – what others are afraid of saying –, he kneels before no one, he walks with firm dignity, head held high, with the people, el pueblo, guiding him and a dream of a prosperous, just and fulfilled nation. Chavez has given us the collective strength to fight inequality, injustice, to build nations and to believe that a better world isn’t just a dream, it’s an achievable reality.

Chavez, a man who could spend time in the company of the world’s richest and most powerful, prefers to be with those most in need, feeling their pain, embracing them and finding ways to improve their lives.

Chavez once told us a story, or told it many times as he often does. He was driving in his motorcade, out in the Venezuelan plains, los llanos, on those long roads that seem to continue infinitely. A dog suddenly appeared at the side of the road, limping with a wounded leg. Chavez ordered the motorcade to stop and went out to get the dog. He hugged the wounded animal, saying it had to be taken to the vet. “How can we leave it here alone and wounded”, he asked. “It’s a being, it’s a life, it needs to be cared for”, he said, demonstrating his sensitivity. “How can we call ourselves socialists without the lives of others mattering? We need to love, we need to care for all, including animals, which are innocent beings. We can turn our backs on no one”, he recalled.

When he told that story I cried. I cried because of my love for animals and the widespread mistreatment they suffer, and how necessary it was for someone like him, Chavez, to say something like that to awaken consciousness about the need to care for those who share our planet. But I also cried because Chavez confirmed something in that moment that I already knew, something I felt in my heart, but was unsure of in my mind. Chavez confirmed his simplicity, his sensitivity and his capacity to love. He confirmed he is a man whose heart feels pain when he sees a wounded animal. A man who not only feels, but acts. That’s who he is.

When Chavez assumed the presidency of Venezuela, the country was limping. He had seen its wounds and knew that he had to do all he could to help. He took Venezuela into his arms, embracing it closely, soothing and seeking how to make it better. He gave everything he had in him - his sweat, soul, strength, energy, intelligence and love – to change Venezuela with dignity, growth, sovereignty, and nation-building. He looked after it day and night, never leaving it alone. He found its beauty, its strength, its potential and its greatness. He helped it to grow strong, beautiful, visible and happy. He led its rebirth and filled its pulse with force and passion, with people’s power and a dignified homeland.

Chavez has given everything of himself and asked for nothing in return. Today, Venezuela grows and flourishes, thanks to his commitment and vision, thanks to his dedication and determination, thanks to his love.

Thank goodness you appeared, Chavez.

- Eva Golinger



[i] “Adán y Eva” in Spanish is “Adam and Eve” in English. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Venezuela: A Threat to Washington?





From the first time Hugo Chavez was elected President of Venezuela in 1998, Washington and its allies have been trying to undermine his government. When Chavez was just a presidential candidate, the US State Department denied his visa to participate in television interviews in Miami. Later, when he won the presidential elections, Ambassador John Maisto called him personally to congratulate him and offer him a visa. The following months were filled with attempts to “buy” the newly elected President of Venezuela. Businessmen, politicians and heads of state from Washington and Spain pressured him to submit to their agendas. “Come with us”, urged Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, trying to seduce him with offers of wealth and luxury in turn for obeying orders.

When Chavez refused to be bought, he was ousted in a coup d’etat April 11, 2002, funded and planned by Washington. When the coup failed and Chavez’s supporters rescued their democracy and president in less than 48 hours, attempts to destabilize his government continued. “We must make it difficult for him to govern”, said former US State Department chief Lawrence Eagleberger.

Soon, Venezuela was overrun with economic sabotage, oil industry strikes, chaos in the streets and a brutal media war that distorted the reality of the country on a national and international level. A plan to assassinate Chavez with Colombian paramilitaries in May 2004 was impeded by state security forces. Months later, the US-backed opposition tried to revoke his mandate in a recall referendum, but again, the people saved him in a 60-40 landslide victory.

The more popular Chavez became, the more millions of dollars flowed from US agencies to anti-Chavez groups to destabilize, descredit, delegitimize, overthrow, assassinate or remove him from power by any means possible. In December 2006, Chavez was reelected president with 64% of the vote. His approval rating grew in Venezuela and throughout Latin America. New governments in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Uruguay and several Caribbean nations joined regional initiatives of integration, cooperation, sovereignty and unity, encouraged by Caracas. Washington began to lose its influence and control over its former “backyard”.  

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), PetroCaribe, PetroSur, TeleSUR, Bank of ALBA, Bank of the South and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) were created. Washington isn’t included in any of these organizations, nor is the elite that previously dominated the region.

In January 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Chavez was a “negative force” in the region. In March, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) placed Venezuela on their list of “Top 5 Hot Spots”. A few months later, Reverend Pat Robertson publicly called for the assassination of Chavez, claiming it would cost less than “a $2 billion war”. That same year, when Venezuela suspended cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) because it was found committing acts of espionage and sabotage, Washington classified Venezuela as a nation “not cooperating with counter-narcotics” efforts. No evidence was presented to show alleged Venezuelan government ties to drug trafficking.

In February 2006, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte referred to Venezuela as a “dangerous threat” to the US. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfled compared Chavez to Hitler. That same year, Washington created a special intelligence mission dedicated to Venezuela and Cuba, increasing resources for operations against them. In June 2006, the White House placed Venezuela on a list of countries “not cooperating sufficiently with the war on terror”. The classification included a sanction prohibiting the sale of military and defense equipment from the US and US companies or those using US technology to Venezuela. No evidence was ever shown to back such serious claims.

In 2008, the Pentagon reactivated its Fourth Fleet, the regional command in charge of Latin America and the Caribbean. It had been deactivated in 1950 and hadn’t functioned since then, until Washington decided it was necessary to increase its presence and “force” in the region. In 2010, the US established an agreement with Colombia to set up 7 military bases in its territory. An official US Air Force document justified the budget increase for these bases in order to counter the “threat from anti-American governments in the region”.

International media call Chavez a dictator, tyrant, authoritarian, narco, anti-American, terrorist, but they never present proof for such dangerous titles. They have converted the image of Venezuela into violence, insecurity, crime, corruption and chaos, failing to mention the incredible achievements and social advances during the last decade, or the causes of the social inequalities left behind from previous governments.

For years, a group of US congress members - democrats and republicans - have tried to place Venezuela on their list of “state sponors of terrorism”. They claim the relationships between Venezuela and Iran, Venezuela and Cuba, and even Venezuela and China evidence the “grave threat” represented by the South American nation to Washington.

They say again and again that Venezuela and Chavez are threats to the US. “He must be stopped”, they say, before he “launches Iranian bombs against us”.

In an interview a few days ago, President Barack Obama said Chavez was not a threat to US security. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he was. The ire of the Miami Cuban-Venezuelan community came down upon Obama. But they shouldn’t worry, because Obama increased funding to anti-Chavez groups this year. More than $20 million in US taxpayer dollars have been channelled from US agencies to help fund the opposition’s campaign in Venezuela.

Is Venezuela a threat to Washington? In Venezuela, the only “terrorists” are the groups trying to destabilize the country, the majority with political and financial support from the US. The drug traffickers are in Colombia, where the production and transit of drugs has increased during the US invasion disguised as Plan Colombia. Relations with Iran, Cuba, China, Russia and the rest of the world are normal bilateral – and multilateral – ties between countries. There are no bombs, no attack plans, no sinister secrets. 

No, Venezuela is not that kind of threat to Washington.

Poverty has been reduced by more than 50% since Chavez came to power in 1998. The inclusionary policies of his government have created a society with mass participation in economic, political and social decisions. His social programs – called missions – have guaranteed free medical care and education, from basic to advanced levels, and provided basic food items at affordable costs, along with tools to create and maintain cooperatives, small and medium businesses, community organizations and communes. Venezuelan culture has been rescued and treasured, recovering national pride and identity, and creating a sentiment of dignity instead of inferiority. Communication media have proliferated during the last decade, assuring spaces for the expression of all.

The oil industry, nationalized in 1976 but operating as a private company, has been recuperated for the benefit of the country, and not for multinationals and the elite. Over 60% of the annual budget is dedicated to social programs in the country, with the principal focus on eradicating poverty.

Caracas, the capital, has been beautified. Parks and plazas have turned into spaces for gatherings, enjoyment and safety for visitors. There’s music in the streets, art on the walls and a rich debate of ideas amongst inhabitants. The new communal police works with neighborhoods to battle crime and violence, addressing problems from the root cause.

The awakening in Venezuela has expanded throughout the continent and northward into the Caribbean. The sensation of sovereignty, independence and union in the region has buried the shadow of subdevelopment and subordination imposed by colonial powers during centuries past.

No, Venezuela is not a threat to US security. Venezuela is an example of how a rising people, facing the most difficult obstacles and the brutal force of empire, can build a model where social justice reigns, and human prosperity is cherished above economic wealth. Venezuela is a country where millions once invisible are today, visible. Today they have a voice and the power to decide the future of their country, without being strangled by foreign hands. Today, thanks to the revolution led by President Chavez, Venezuela is one of the happiest countries in the world.

That is the threat Chavez and Venezuela represent to Washington: The threat of a good example.

- Eva Golinger

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Qué vergüenza, Dan Rather




Difusión de información falsa de Dan Rather sobre Venezuela y el presidente Hugo Chávez

Por Eva Golinger

Desde que al presidente venezolano, Hugo Chávez, le diagnosticaron cáncer y le extirparan un tumor maligno de su región pélvica en junio pasado, ha circulado todo tipo de rumores, mentiras y especulaciones sobre su estado de salud. La mayor parte del despliegue exagerado ha venido de conocidos medios de comunicación antichavistas, tales como el Miami Herald y varios blogs en línea administrados por extremistas de derecha como el ex subsecretario de Estado de Bush, Roger Noriega, quien ha estado obsesionado con Chávez desde hace años. Todos citan fuentes anónimas que dicen que tienen "información privilegiada" sobre la salud del Mandatario venezolano.

No es de sorprender que esos medios de comunicación, conocidos por sus distorsiones de la realidad de Venezuela durante diez años, publiquen falsedades e historias morbosas sobre el presidente Chávez. Pero que un veterano periodista de investigación serio como Dan Rather, caiga en la narración de historias necrofílicas sobre el Presidente venezolano es verdaderamente decepcionante.

Rather, quien ahora dirige su propio show (Dan Rather Reports) en HDNet, publicó una información el miércoles 30 de mayo que afirmaba que la salud del presidente Chávez está "grave" y ha "entrado en la etapa terminal". Rather también afirma que su fuente anónima de "alto nivel", que según él es cercana al Presidente de Venezuela, le dijo que Chávez no va a vivir "más que un par de meses como máximo".

En la breve información que difundió, y a la que califica de “exclusiva”, Rather también participa con su lenguaje sesgado llamando "dictador" al presidente democráticamente electo de Venezuela.

¿Qué impulsó a Dan Rather a escribir esta diatriba? ¿Por qué iba a engrosar las filas de Roger Noriega, de la desgracia del The Miami Herald y de un montón de pseudo-periodistas que se babean con sus sueños húmedos morbosos sobre el “decadente” estado de salud del presidente Chávez?

Lo evidente es que Rather se apresuró en apretar el gatillo para "disparar" su historia "exclusiva". Justo el día antes, el presidente Chávez encabezó un Consejo de Ministros transmitido en directo por televisión y que duró más de cuatro horas. El Jefe de Estado venezolano apareció lleno de energía, optimismo y se centró en sus funciones, e incluso cantó un par de canciones como es la costumbre del ecléctico y carismático Chávez. Reafirmó su candidatura para las elecciones presidenciales del 7 octubre. (¡Sí, Venezuela es una democracia!) Eso dista mucho de estar en su "lecho de muerte", como Rather implica.

El presidente Chávez sí tiene cáncer. Fue el primero en informar sobre su estado de salud, y ha sido abierto sobre su tratamiento y recuperación desde su primera operación en junio pasado para extirpar el tumor inicial. Chávez luego se sometió a cinco sesiones de quimioterapia, cuatro de las cuales fueron realizadas en Cuba. Estaba recuperándose bien e incluso fue el anfitrión de una cumbre histórica importante en Caracas en diciembre pasado para inaugurar la recién creada Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (CELAC), en la que las 33 naciones de la región están representadas.

Pero a principios de febrero, Chávez anunció que un segundo tumor, más pequeño, se había detectado en la misma área en su región pélvica, y tuvo que ser extirpado. De nuevo volvió a Cuba para la cirugía, y posteriormente recibió varias sesiones de radioterapia. Según Chávez, no había metástasis, y ninguno de sus órganos resultó afectado. El 11 de mayo, regresó a Venezuela después de completar el tratamiento y expresó su optimismo por su recuperación: "Ya en el avión... Rumbo a la Patria venezolana. Con más optimismo que nunca! Viviremos y venceremos!", dijo Chávez ese día en un mensaje en Twitter.

Desde entonces, el Presidente venezolano ha participado en varias reuniones televisadas y llamado a varios programas de noticias para discutir sus políticas y proporcionar información actualizada sobre su estado de salud. Ha admitido que ya no puede ser el "caballo de trabajo" que era antes, y que ahora debe limitarse a una jornada de 8 horas, asegurándose de mantener su dieta y dormir bajo control. Pero antes de su problema de salud, Chávez era un súperpresidente, que aparecía en la televisión en actos públicos durante horas - a veces hasta ocho horas - y participaba en tres o cuatro actividades diarias, a menudo en diferentes partes del país. Apenas dormía y bebía cantidades excesivas de café negro con azúcar. Trabajaba hasta la madrugada escuchando todas las voces y atendiendo todas las solicitudes. Su nivel de energía era extremo, como era su ansiedad y compromiso de continuar la reconstrucción de Venezuela, y asegurar que sus políticas redujeran la pobreza y atendieran a los más necesitados.

Ahora, Chávez es candidato presidencial para un tercer periodo, y su ritmo ya no es extremo, pero sin duda está a la par o por encima de sus homólogos. Incluso durante su tratamiento de cáncer, el presidente Chávez estuvo a la altura de sus funciones, informando al público a través de la televisión y de Twitter acerca de las cuestiones presupuestarias y de los nuevos proyectos en marcha. Nunca dejó caer la pelota, a pesar de la gravedad de su situación.

Chávez tiene cáncer, y está combatiéndolo duro, con la misma fuerza que ha utilizado para impulsar su nación hacia adelante, y a menudo contra los obstáculos más difíciles. Pero el presidente Chávez no está "fuera del juego", como Dan Rather implica con morbosidad. Las encuestas lo muestran con ventaja de dos dígitos sobre el candidato presidencial de la oposición, Henrique Capriles Radonski, un neoconservador conocido por su papel violento en el golpe de estado contra Chávez en abril de 2002. La mayoría de los venezolanos conocemos - y amamos - al presidente Chávez por su inmensa humanidad y su apasionado compromiso con el mejoramiento de sus vidas. Y van a votar por él otra vez.

Dan Rather, siempre ha insistido en la necesidad de tener "valor" a la hora de reportar, sin embargo, demuestra cobardía y ambición descuidada apresurándose a publicar información no confirmada sobre la salud del presidente Chávez, y revendiendo epítetos difamatorios para describir al Jefe de Estado venezolano. También demuestra una completa falta de respeto a la humanidad del presidente Chávez perpetuando rumores terribles sobre su mortalidad. El señor Rather parece haber olvidado su ética y principios periodísticos, y ha elegido - por lo menos en este caso - ser un peón del periodismo amarillista.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shame on You, Dan Rather: Rather’s False Reporting on Venezuela & President Hugo Chavez

By Eva Golinger 

Since Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was diagnosed with cancer and a malignant tumor was removed from his pelvic region last June, all kinds of rumors, lies and speculations have circulated about his health. Most of the hype has come from known anti-Chavez media, such as the Miami Herald and several online blogs run by right-wing extremists like Bush’s former Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, who’s been obsessed with Chavez for years. All cite unnamed sources who claim they have “insider information” about the Venezuelan head of state’s health. It’s been unsurprising that those media outlets, known for their decade-long distortions of Venezuela’s reality, would publish such falsities and morbid tales about President Chavez. But that a serious, veteran, investigative journalist, such as Dan Rather, would indulge in the necrophiliac story-telling about the Venezuelan President is truly disappointing. 

 Rather, who now runs his own show on HDNet, Dan Rather Reports, posted a report on Wednesday, May 30, claiming President Chavez’s health is “dire” and has “entered the end stage”. Rather also claims his unnamed “high-level” source, who he alleges is close to the Venezuelan President, told him Chavez won’t live “more than a couple of months at most”. In his brief report, which he calls an “exclusive”, Rather also bids in with his own biased language, calling the democratically-elected Venezuelan President a “dictator”. 

What prompted Dan Rather to write such diatribe? Why would he join the ranks of Roger Noriega, the wretched Miami Herald and a slew of pseudo-journalists drooling over their morbid wet dreams of President Chavez’s failing health? 

What is apparent is that Rather was quick to the gun to “break” his “exclusive” story. Just the day before, President Chavez hosted a cabinet meeting broadcast live on television that lasted more than four hours. The Venezuelan head of state appeared energized, optimistic and focused on his duties, and even sang a few heartfelt songs, as is custom for the eclectic and charismatic Chavez. He reaffirmed his candidacy for the October 7th presidential elections. (Yes, Venezuela is a democracy!) That’s a far cry from being on his “death bed”, as Rather implies. 

President Chavez does have cancer. He’s been the first to inform on his health, and has been open about his treatment and recovery since his first operation last June to remove the initial tumor. Chavez then underwent five sessions of chemotherapy – four of which were done in Cuba. He was recuperating well and even played host to a major historical summit in Caracas last December to inaugurate the newly-formed Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), in which all 33 nations in the region are represented. 

But in early February, Chavez announced that a second, smaller tumor had been detected in the same area in his pelvic region, and had to be removed. He again returned to Cuba for surgery, and subsequently received several rounds of radiation therapy. According to Chavez, there was no metastasis, nor were any of his organs affected. On May 11, he returned to Venezuela after completing the treatment and expressed his optimism for recovery. "I'm on the plane... Heading for the Venezuelan fatherland. With more optimism than ever! We will live and we will conquer!" Chavez said that day in a message on Twitter. 

Since then, the Venezuelan President has participated in several televised meetings and called in to different news programs to discuss his policies and provide updates on his health. He has admitted he can no longer be the “work horse” he was before, and now must limit himself to an 8-hour workday, ensuring he keeps his diet and sleep in check. But previous to his health scare, Chavez was a super-President, appearing on television in public events for hours – sometimes even eight hours – and participating in three to four activities daily, often in different parts of the country. He barely slept and drank excessive amounts of black, sugary coffee. He worked until the wee hours of the morning and listened to every voice, attended every request. His level of energy was extreme, as was his anxiety and commitment to continue rebuilding Venezuela and ensuring his policies reduced poverty and provided for the most needy. 

Now, as Chavez runs for his third full term, his pace is no longer extreme, but it’s certainly on par or above his counterparts. Even throughout his cancer treatments, President Chavez was on top of his duties, informing the public via television and Twitter about budgetary issues and new projects underway. He never dropped the ball, despite the severity of his situation. 

Chavez has cancer, and he is fighting it hard, with the same strength he has used to propell his nation forward, often against the toughest obstacles. But President Chavez is not “out of the game”, as Dan Rather morbidly implies. Polls show him with double-digit leads over the opposition presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, a neoconservative known for his violent role in the April 2002 coup d’etat against Chavez. A majority of Venezuelans know – and love – President Chavez for his immense humanity and his passionate commitment to improving their lives. And they will vote for him again. 

Dan Rather has always emphasized the necessity of “courage” in reporting, yet he shows cowardice and sloppy ambition by racing to publish unconfirmed reports on President Chavez’s health, and by touting slanderous epithets to describe the Venezuelan head of state. He also shows a complete lack of respect for President Chavez’s humanity by perpetuating gruesome rumors about his mortality. Mr. Rather appears to have left his journalist ethics and principles behind, and has chosen – at least in this case – to be a pawn of yellow journalism.