US Media, Venuzuela and Reality
We have about 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction... We should cease to talk about vague and... unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal with straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better. -- George Kennan, 1948
I hope you don't use Fox news to inform yourself of world events. But the highly slanted administration mouthpiece can be utilized as a sort of barometer in the sense of "what is our government up to?".
Fox has come out hard against Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela lately, offering the US viewing public a lying picture of a totalitarian madman at the helm of an oil rich nation crucial to Americas energy security. Let us use the internet to seek out a fair and balanced picture of the reality of Chavez's Venezuela.
Venezuelan Minister of Communication and Information, Andrés Izarra analyzed some leading American news sources between the months of January and February and sees:
that in light of the large influx of erroneous and de-contextualized information, it is evident that the US private media has joined forces with the US Department of State and spokespeople of the Bush administration in an effort to launch a "smear campaign" against the Venezuelan government. According to Izarra, this "smear campaign" has the objective of undermining the mandate of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in order to, at the very least, destabilize the country, and at the very worst, set the stage for a military intervention.
"This new assault appears to be oriented towards de-legitimizing the efforts of the Venezuelan people and the Venezuelan government to democratically advance in order to propel changes towards political, economic, and social progress of our country," asserted the Minister.
A common “news” item in the media that Izarra countered was that the Venezuelan government is considering cutting off oil exports to the U.S. "Venezuela is not pursuing nor is it studying any measure to cut the supplies of oil to the United States," Izarra said in response.
Eduardo Galeano offers a picture that Fox News dare not paint- as the networks treatment of the last two US elections shows, Fox, much like the present administration is afraid of Democracy.
A strange dictator, this Hugo Chávez. A masochist, with suicidal tendencies: he established a constitution that allows the people to get rid of him, and then took the risk of this happening in a recall referendum, which Venezuela is the first country in history to have held. He was not punished: 5,800,629 Venezuelans voted for him to remain president, with 3,989,008 against—a margin of 19 per cent. This was the eighth election Chávez has won in five years, with a transparency of which Bush could only have dreamed.
Faithful to his own constitution, Chávez accepted the referendum called by the opposition, and put his presidency at the disposal of the people: ‘You decide’. Until now, presidencies have been interrupted only by death, putsches, popular uprisings or parliamentary proceedings. The Venezuelan referendum has ushered in an unprecedented form of direct democracy. An extraordinary event: how many leaders would be brave enough to do such a thing? And how many would remain in power afterwards?
Greg Palast offers a picture of what is going on in Venezuela that Fox will ignore. The reality that Chavez is President to the masses, not the richest percentile of population.
Here's Venezuela in a snapshot.
The matronly blonde in the stylish leaopard - patterned blouse doesn't like the President of this Latin state. Correction: Maria Christina Tortosa hates, despises, sees red when she speaks of President Hugo Chavez. "A co-moon-ist!" she avers in English.
Her polite interlocutor -- red t-shirt, brown skin, eyes impatiently averted -- is in a good mood. Jorge Lara collected six thousand signatures of local voters seeking to recall members of Congress who oppose his hero Chavez.
And that's what it's all about. Race and class. Whatever else you hear about Venezuela, this is the story in a single frame. Like apartheid-riven South Africa, the whites, 20% of the population, have the nation's wealth under lock and key. The Rich Fifth have command of the oil wealth, the best jobs, the English-language lessons, the imported clothes, the vacations in Miami, the plantations.
That is, until Hugo Chavez came along.
Now the brown people, like community activist Lara -- and President Chavez himself-- have a piece of the action. "Negro e indio," Chavez calls himself. Black and Indian. And the blondes don't like it.
In our country, where mentioning the realities behind governance, the fact that the rich elite are catered to, say in tax cuts, or that minority Americans needs are sidelined, using the present administrations push to privatize Social Security as an example are called the dirty term "class war" Mr Chavez has a distinctly FDR sort of nuance.
I'll offer you a compendium of links that demonstrate the US governments complicity in Mr Chavez nearly being overthrown in a coup. The CIA knew what was going on.
The National Endowment for Democracy is a bipartisan group that intervened in Venezuela's political process. In an Orwellian twist it funds the overthrow of a President of the people.
In the past year, the United States channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to American and Venezuelan groups opposed to President Hugo Chávez, including the labor group whose protests led to the Venezuelan president's brief ouster this month.
The funds were provided by the National Endowment for Democracy, a nonprofit agency created and financed by Congress. As conditions deteriorated in Venezuela and Mr. Chávez clashed with various business, labor and media groups, the endowment stepped up its assistance, quadrupling its budget for Venezuela to more than $877,000.
Bush administration representitives met with the folks plotting to overthrow Chavez.
Senior members of the Bush Administration met several times in recent months with leaders of a coalition that briefly ousted the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, and agreed he should be removed from office, Administration officials have acknowledged.
But the officials gave conflicting accounts of what the America had told these Chavez opponents about acceptable ways of ousting him.
One senior official said it was insisted that the Venezuelans use constitutional means. "They came here to complain," the official said. "Our message was very clear: there are constitutional processes. We did not even wink at anyone."
But a United States Defence Department official involved in the development of policy towards Venezuela said the Administration's message was less categorical.
"We were not discouraging people," the official said. "We were sending informal, subtle signals that we don't like this guy. We didn't say, 'No, don't you dare', and we weren't advocates saying, 'Here's some arms; we'll help you overthrow this guy'. We were not doing that
The Navy and US Intelligence assisted the coup.
The coup was also supported by Special Operations psychological warfare
(PSYOPs) personnel deployed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They put
together Spanish-language television announcements, purportedly from
Venezuelan political and business leaders and aired by Venezuelan television
and radio stations, saying Chavez "provoked" the crisis by ordering his
supporters to fire on peaceful protestors in Caracas. U.S. communications
technicians also helped to jam cell phone and radio frequencies in Caracas
and other major cities.
Here is a link to pictures showing the masses that support President Chavez. Looks like Democracy to me.
The Fox "news" report we began with is the perfect segue from all we have just read
to todays headline "Venezuela's Chavez Says U.S. Plotting to Kill Him"
Why, after supporting an unsuccesful coup attempt against Chavez would the US government wish to kill him? This quote from a lengthy article touches on the coup attempt and some reasons behind it:
The power elite in the United States has never been happy with democratically-elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, but it took the Bush administration to turn up the heat against him. Matters reached a boiling point in April with the coup d'etat against Chávez which surprisingly lasted only two days as millions of Venezuelan poor came to his defense. Many of the details about the ousting of Chávez and his replacement by corporate mogul Pedro Carmona Estanga, during those 48 hours, have yet to be sleuthed out, but key evidence implicating Bush and his cohorts has already accumulated.
The primary clues are revealed in the repeated criticisms of Chávez by Washington--echoed in the commercial media--and its immediate virtual endorsement of the Carmona regime by its failure to condemn the coup. In this stance, the U.S. stood alone. The unmistakable backdrop behind the U.S. position is Venezuela's status as the fourth largest oil-exporting country in the world, and currently the third largest source of U.S. oil imports.(1) "Venezuela is a major cash cow for Phillips Petroleum and ExxonMobil. Chevron Texaco and Occidental Petroleum are two other major oil companies with interests in Venezuela and Colombia."(2)
The mantra of complaints against Chávez who had been elected in record landslide votes in 1998 and 2000, included his Bolivarian reforms to "take from the rich and give to the poor;" his refusal to allow U.S. planes to fly over Venezuelan territory for its war in Colombia; his opposition to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA); and his leadership in OPEC where he works for a fairer deal for Venezuela and other oil-producing countries by pushing up oil prices. (In the process, Venezuela dropped below Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico in supplying oil to the U.S.) Also particularly rankling to the Bush Administration with its abundance of right-wing Cubans, is Chávez's sale of oil to Cuba in exchange for medical care.
Venezuela has been receiving about half of its revenues from the state owned Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA).(3) So providing more for the country's poor multitudes necessarily meant maximizing the gains from Venezuela's rich national resource, oil. This entailed altering the 60-year-old agreement with foreign oil companies "that charges them as little as one percent in royalties," plus handing them huge tax breaks, according to the London Guardian (4) The giant transnational oil corporations and business interests, coveting all that black gold, had far different plans. Not surprisingly, the PDVSA figured heavily in all the intrigue and machinations leading to the coup. "Opposition business leaders have said openly that they want to depose Chávez "so they can boost oil production or even privatize the country's cash cow [PDVSA]....they have been enraged ...over Chávez's efforts to take resources from the rich to aid the poor, who represent 80 percent of the population," says Newsday writer, Letta Tayler.(5)
As he donned his presidential sash(ordered months before from Spain (6)) and dined sumptuously with his co-conspirators, the 48 hour usurper, Carmona, moved almost instantaneously to turn around Chávez's Bolivarian policies and consolidate what amounts to an "oiligarchy." Within 48 hours, he dissolved the parliament and the supreme court, dismissed all mayors and governors, stopped the shipment of oil to Cuba, and started a massive wave of repression across the country.
Please read the full article cited above. In asking foreign oil companies to pay a fair market price after years of pumping out undervalued crude to finance governmental policy that is for the people of Venezuela Chavez has put his life on the line.
Here are some reasons why the US may find Chavez frightening (adapted from the first article in a series called "Touching the Revolution"):
* The eyes of the world are watching the social development, economic growth and the power of the successful democracy in The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela - and once people have tasted real democracy, they never turn back. For 40 years the corrupt regimes in Venezuela had kept 80% of the people in abject poverty. Under Chavez, poverty is still quite evident, particularly in the barrios. But life is getting better. My soon-to-be-published interviews with people living in the barrios will show that to be the case. When you are with them, they tell you so and you can see it in their faces. Cheap labor has always been the darling of the empire's capitalists and the Venezuelan people are saying "No longer!"
* President Hugo Chavez Frias is considering Venezuela's options for selling oil to countries other than the United States. (I believe the terms are "free enterprise" and "market economy").
* In sweetheart deals with previous corrupt Venezuelan regimes, U.S. oil companies had been stripping the Venezuelan people of their oil for decades while paying little to nothing in royalties. That has changed.
In November, 2004, Chavez raised the tax on several multibillion-dollar oil ventures in the southeast Orinoco belt to 16.6 percent from the earlier level of 0 percent to 1 percent. In late November, 2004, in the eastern oil port of Puerto La Cruz, Chavez stated:
"Today, we are starting the second phase of the true nationalization of PDVSA and of Venezuela's oil, aiming for full petroleum sovereignty."
President Chavez is transforming Venezuela from a country, heavily dependent on imports from the U.S. for decades - into an independent nation with a developing manufacturing base that promises a future of vibrant international trade. This transformation includes land reform to develop Venezuelan agriculture on massive tracts of land that have been illegally held dormant by the very wealthy while Venezuelans have had to import food from other countries, to a large extent from the U.S.
The U.S. has failed miserably at its attempts to bring down the democratic government of Venezuela. The U.S. "captains of industry" and oligarchs in Washington have never learned how to fail with grace, regardless of the numbers of failures they have under their belt.
In the embarrassing coup attempt that failed in 2002.
In several attempts to assassinate President Chavez.
In the recent referendum to unseat President Chavez.
In failing to deceive the 80% of Venezuelans who elected Chavez, despite the fact that 98% of the private media in Venezuela is controlled by the US-backed opposition.
On December 2, 2002, the US-backed executives and managers of Venezuela's state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) went on strike, shutting down Venezuela's oil industry in an ill-advised tactic to bring down the Chavez government. When they went on strike they sabotaged the industry by destroying essential documents, computers and software. The people who worked in the industry, however, learned how to repair the damage and restore the flow of oil and took over PDVSA. 18,000 managers were fired for their role in the strike in February, 2003.
Venezuela serves as a model for revolution from plutocracy to democracy for other Latin American countries and around the world.
* The Bolivarian government in Venezuela is rapidly educating the people at all socio-economic levels and an educated population is always a threat to those who govern through the deception and manipulation of a state-controlled, corporate media.
* The Venezuelan people have been empowered and true freedom and real democracy runs through their society with a spiritual electricity that is palpable. In my series, Touching the Revolution, I will introduce a Spanish word that has no English equivalent to describe the current that flows through Venezuelan society. The spirit of revolution to better things presents a threat to the few who would control the many.
* Finally, Venezuelans' fierce defense of their own sovereignty, their impeccable record of respect for the national sovereignty of other nations and their absolute demand for the right to self-determination - these all are a direct threat to the Richard Lugars of this world whose job, first and foremost, is to protect corporate profits.
The article cited in the above speaks about legislation called the Conventional Arms Reduction Act sponsored by Richard Lugar. The act talks about limiting conventional arms around the world. The author of the cited article links this one as well "Disarming Latin America" which mentions Hugo Chavez buying Russian military rifles to arm his Army and National Guard.
He went on to say, "I call on all the Venezuelan people to incorporate themselves into the national defense, the territorial defense, the defense of the national sovereignty; and of course I not only make a symbolic call to the people; no, as head of the state, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces I have already begun to give the orders to open the channels, in order to open the massive popular participation into an integrated national defense."
The FAN has been ordered to select and summon retired military professionals as part of the active reserve to "incorporate them into the tasks for popular organization for the defense of the country in each district, in each ravine, in each island, in each field, in each university, in each factory, in each jungle, in each place where there is a group of patriots, there they must be organizing themselves."
Recent history concerning Chavez Venezuela seems to echo the reasons stated in US government papers for intervention in Castro's Cuba:
In July 1961 the CIA warned that "the extensive influence of 'Castroism' is not a function of Cuban power. . . . Castro's shadow looms large because social and economic conditions throughout Latin America invite opposition to ruling authority and encourage agitation for radical change," for which Castro's Cuba provided a model. Earlier, Arthur Schlesinger had transmitted to the incoming President Kennedy his Latin American Mission report, which warned of the susceptibility of Latin Americans to "the Castro idea of taking matters into one's own hands." The report did identify a Kremlin connection: the Soviet Union "hovers in the wings, flourishing large development loans and presenting itself as the model for achieving modernization in a single generation." The dangers of the "Castro idea" are particularly grave, Schlesinger later elaborated, when "the distribution of land and other forms of national wealth greatly favors the propertied classes" and "the poor and underprivileged, stimulated by the example of the Cuban revolution, are now demanding opportunities for a decent living." Kennedy feared that Russian aid might make Cuba a "showcase" for development, giving the Soviets the upper hand throughout Latin America.
In early 1964, the State Department Policy Planning Council expanded on these concerns: "The primary danger we face in Castro is . . . in the impact the very existence of his regime has upon the leftist movement in many Latin American countries. . . . The simple fact is that Castro represents a successful defiance of the US, a negation of our whole hemispheric policy of almost a century and a half." To put it simply, Thomas Paterson writes, "Cuba, as symbol and reality, challenged U.S. hegemony in Latin America." International terrorism and economic warfare to bring about regime change are justified not by what Cuba does, but by its "very existence," its "successful defiance" of the proper master of the hemisphere. Defiance may justify even more violent actions, as in Serbia, as quietly conceded after the fact; or Iraq, as also recognized when pretexts had collapsed.
Chavez has signed agreements with China concerning energy resources as well as satelite and radar technology, the latter to better police Venezuela's border with Columbia.
I'll leave you wih a quote from Woodrow Wilson:
Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer
insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation
must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed
against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by
financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the
sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process.
Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful
corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused.