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Venezuela's Manipulated Democracy

By Miguel Octavio | The Devil's Excrement

20.04.05 | I have been holding off on commenting on the internal elections of Chavez’ MVR party, after all, holding elections of his party is more democratic than anything the opposition has done in the last few months for its supporters. And if truly democratic and fair, one has to praise Chavez and his MVR because if there is something this country needs is a huge dose of democracy, no matter where it comes from.

Having said that, the process has not been as free or as democratic as desired. Other parties in Chavez’ coalition like PPT and Podemos were only allowed to file candidates according to a predetermined quota. Who decided on the quota? MVR authorities, of course. This, of course, is a distortion of the process as it does not give individuals the right to file their candidacies. We could call it manipulated democracy.

Similar complaints have been raised in many parts of the country. Basically, MVR authorities closely controlled who could run, in some sense limiting the extent of the democratic process. But, once again, people did vote and participated in electing some of the candidates which is definitely a step forward in this beleaguered country.

But the ugly face of the process did flare up yesterday, when the celebration of the anniversary of the country’s independence, which was organized, led and composed of Chavistas, was interrupted by a violent protest by other Chavistas. Their basic complaint was that only those chosen by the Mayor of the Libertador District himself, Freddy Bernal, were allowed to be candidates in the process.

The speaker at the ceremony was none other than "mystic" General Baduell, which meant that Caracas’ Bolivar square was full of National Guards. Despite this, the protest got to be so strong that the General had to actually cut short his speech.

But the most surprising aspect was that the same Government that has been so critical of the manipulation of information by the private TV channels, the same person, now Minister of Information, who resigned from a private TV channel in April 2002 in protest for the blackout of Chavista protest by that channel, chose to simply hide what was happening. The ceremony was actually being transmitted live by the official TV channel. But if you watched it, you could not tell anything anomalous was taking place. No images of the protests were shown, the microphones were carefully manipulated so that the sounds of the protests could not be heard, and most images became simply close-ups of the speakers, so that the surroundings could not be seen. Only if you watched carefully did you notice that Baduell cut short his speech, which was confirmed today by the press.

The explanation by Minister of Information Izarra was typical of this carefully manipulated democracy. Said Izarra: “This was not a news program, …we were transmitting an official act. It is the policy of the Ministry, it was the instruction given”. Yes Andres, you can justify anything, when you are the one guilty of manipulation. Excuses are the easiest thing to come up with.

Thus, even the attempts to make this country look more democratic by one hand of Chavismo appear to be quickly destroyed by the other hand. The truth is, the protests are not covered by any of the “official” sources today either. But we are sure Minister Izarra certainly has an explanation for how this “news” sources were not covering the “news” yesterday either. Could it be that the Minister instructed them not cover it? Or did the Minister have other reasons for this additional manipulation?



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