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Hugo Chavez wants to capitalise on Lopez Obrador possible triumph in Mexico

By Raúl Tortolero

14 March 2006 | Response to Venezuelan Foreign Minister Alí Rodríguez Araque. Yesterday, on a Monday, we woke up in Mexico hearing statements by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Alí Rodríguez Araque alleging that we, members of the Mexican press and the government, were plotting against his government in a well-orchestrated campaign.

Allow me to clarify a few points, Señor Rodríguez. It is very clear what your true intentions are as you make these statements, which of course are not part of reality, but instead belong to a campaign in favor of López Obrador.

While wanting to deny this connection, you make it evident. And I will tell you right away why I think so. In Mexico it is simply impossible for the press to be in lockstep agreement with the federal government in order to harm someone as far removed as Mr. Hugo Chávez.

But for no other reason than that the government has never been able to even agree with itself to the extent that it might be able to orchestrate an international onslaught against anybody. President Fox has made enemies with Kirschner, with Evo, and with Chávez.

In other words, not just with Chávez. He does not enjoy such exclusivity. Not at all. Evidence of Fox’s lack of tact vis-a-vis international diplomacy abounds. The Venezuelans know it. Fox has embarked upon distancing our country from our Latin American brethren with his unnecessarily clumsy actions. These are totally useless.

Some months ago he stated something much too absurd, as if speaking on behalf of us, the people of Mexico, namely: that in the United States we did work “not even black people” were willing to do. As a result of that, you will recall, Señor Alí Rodríguez, protests were unleashed by black groups in our neighboring country to the north. And these opinions by Fox were not because of any racist campaign or any plot by the Ku Klux Klan, or posturing by a supremacist of the Mexican postcolonial Creole aristocracy. No.

It was only because Fox has not yet finished connecting his brain to his speech stream and he truthfully makes us suffer many embarrassing moments internationally. Just a few days ago, at a meeting held by Fox with the Japanese, our chief executive said that our populist governments had tricked us “as if we were a bunch of despicable Chinese.”

In other words, his mouth again. This fish is dying because of his mouth. Certainly causing indignation now among Chinese communities within and outside of Mexico. A few months back he expressed during an interview that if Evo Morales, upon rising to power, had no intention of commercializing Bolivia’s natural gas then perhaps “he was going to have to eat it.” Evo Morales found that to be annoying and rightly so.

Then Fox softened up and said that the press had misinterpreted him. Then this same press, that always misinterprets him and only prints about his verbal and diplomatic blunders, would be the one which, according to you, Mr. Foreign Minister, is very much united with Fox in order to affect Venezuela. It is impossible. Remember when, in Mar del Plata, Fox began to defend certain positions closely aligned with US interests that annoyed the Argentine president? Well, Señor Alí, even Maradona began to criticize our president. Just imagine. And then came the mutual accusations between Fox and Chávez, where both ended up, in the eyes of public opinion, “getting pricked,” because no people can feel proud when their presidents waste time playing “he said, she said.”

If you were to read the homepages of the Mexican news media websites, Señor Alí (I do not know if that is allowed in Cuba, where you are currently staying), you would realize that everyday here, without exception, the right and the left, and also the center, criticize Fox, without any restrictions, for each and every one of his mistaken statements concerning other countries’ policies and recently even comments against women’s dignity. He referred to them using the phrase: “two legged washing machines,” thus creating an obvious unrest among the ladies.

Do you see it, Mr. Foreign Minister? Do you see it? Everyday the Mexican press finds new reasons for criticizing Fox and we criticize him all the time with absolutely nothing to fear. Well now, you cannot affirm the same thing with respect to Venezuela, because in your country, as you are well aware, everyday there are reports of harassment, persecution, aggression and threats directed against journalists, and a series of attitudes contrary to the free practice of journalism.

You need no proof of this, since many worthy Venezuelan journalists who continue to publish the truth without bowing their heads —not without dread for reprisals, but with more courage than fear— have been able to document it.

Only yesterday, while you were stating that the Mexican government and the press were plotting against Chávez —something that could have been caused only by an overdose of anesthesia in your nervous system— an order was being issued for the arrest of the prestigious journalist Ybéyise Pacheco. What do you say about that? Here in Mexico, Señor Alí, the drug traffickers are the journalists’ only enemies. We have already had colleagues die from bullet wounds, but in no case has it been due to government prosecution.

At least during this six year presidential term, there has been a respect for freedom of expression. Not one single journalist is in jail for having written opinions against the federal government. There are harassing lawsuits against some of our companions, remnants from other times; there are pressures, but the truth is that here we can write as we please. And in Venezuela, what about that, Señor Rodríguez? Now there will be time for me to write, on my own, the entire list of Venezuelan colleagues behind bars.

And, as I was telling you, the Mexican federal government doesn’t agree with itself either, something that proves that it is unable to orchestrate anything in unified fashion, much less against Chávez. When some political figures —among them many from the federal government— pushed to strip Andrés Manuel López Obrador of his immunity as member of the chamber of deputies, their lack of judgment and strategies only led to the opposite results of what they sought, that is to say, they ended up helping El Peje [López Obrador’s nickname]. If the government had been run as a unit and had any discipline, the results would have been different, but that was not so. The cabinet secretaries throughout this six year term have shown overwhelming examples of why they cannot work as a team. Then, what part of the government is it that is working in unison along with “the press” against Venezuela? And what are we going to draw from this?

Do not build up your hopes, Señor Rodríguez. It is one thing for Fox to be a “loose lip” who speaks nonsense without making up for the enormous and grave diplomatic consequences that he causes, and another thing for him to have the strategic and logistical capacity to orchestrate anti-Chávez attacks.

You cannot demonstrate this in any way. The Mexican press stands in solidarity whenever it is attacked by external factors, such as narcotraffic, but meanwhile, all the time is spent on competing for reports and information, and the editorial lines are much too different so as to have everyone in full agreement —not least with Fox— in order to slander Venezuela. That does not happen in Venezuela either.

And how are they all going to get together in order to attack Mexico? Is it not true that is not possible?

I myself have published in the LA REVISTA section of EL UNIVERSAL (Mexico City) some texts where I approach the issue of the mission the then-ambassador Vladimir Villegas would have had in Mexico. The foundations of these texts are very clear: one is an interview with Villegas himself, exactly meant so that he would not later claim that we had not taken him into account. That we had not received his opinion. Then we asked him everything we wanted to and he had the chance to respond. And, for certain, everything he said was published without changing even a single comma. It was a respectful encounter.

The other article spoke of the presence of Bolivarian circles, of the friendship between Perredistas [members of the Party of the Democratic Revolution—PRD] and Villegas, of the presence of Villegas at campaign events of Perredista candidate Marcelo Ebrard, and at events with people from the Cuban embassy and Perredista members of the chamber of deputies where they promoted taking up Cuban and Venezuelan educational and social programs in order to integrate them into López Obrador’s “Alternative Project for Nationhood.” Also, some months ago we documented for NOTICIERO DIGITAL in Venezuela and VCRISIS in London the new profile of the PRD youth, many of whom sympathize with Chávez and have formed Bolivarian circles. If writing about that constitutes an anti-Chávez campaign, there is nothing to be said. But of course it is not so.

A few days ago there appeared in the daily LA CRÓNICA some reports that described the activities of those circles in México in support of the Perredista campaign. I spoke to my friend Pablo Hiriart, the director of that paper about the words Alí Rodríguez is directing at us, the Mexican journalists.

Hiriart considers these conspiracy theories fit in with very paranoid political views. I asked him what he thinks Rodríguez pursues with his statements, and he told me that he does not know, but that there really are Bolivarian circles here, that the former ambassador admitted that he met with Bolivarian circles. But that there is no proof of links to the money. “If I had it I would have published it,” he tells me. But the evidence is there that Chávez has financed other countries and would have no reason not to do it here.

Precisely. Only let’s remember how many millions he gave to Evo a while back. Just like that, as if he were his godfather. And doesn’t he help Ollanta Humala? And what about helping Daniel Ortega?

On his part, journalist Joaquín López Dóriga on RADIO FÓRMULA then interviews López Obrador yesterday and of course the PRD candidate denies having any links with Chavismo. The claim that he is being financed by Hugo Chávez is just “a crude remark,” he said. “Let them present proof that Chávez finances me. I am inspired by Morelos, Juárez, Villa, Zapata; I do not need to go looking for examples outside the country.”

That is to say that Chávez, according to El Peje, would not be an example to be followed. That is comforting should it be true, something we will be verifying along each step of the way, if it turns out that López Obrador wins the elections. Because in case there is any resemblance, we will have been tricked. In Mexico we do not want any hard or soft core dictatorships, nor governments that gain power through the vote only to make plans never to surrender it and conduct “accommodating” elections, in which nobody believes and absenteeism prevails, with other “accommodating” candidates who represent none other than a simulation that legitimizes the elections. And we do not need messianic leaderships based on the ecstasy of petroleum, which only increases the number of poor people.

Therefore, Señor Rodríguez, I will tell you that your statements made this past Monday are so lacking in adherence to the Mexican reality, where —as I have said— not even the Mexican government ever gets its act together to do anything, let alone with the press, all of which only make evident exactly that which we discovered a long time ago: that you and Chávez no longer know how to even try to help López Obrador. That you people are looking for a way to have the probable victory of El Peje be perceived at the international level as a victory for continental Chavismo, of a victory where Chávez appears to be the regional ideological leader that he is not. There is no other explanation for the presence in Mexico specifically by someone like Villegas, who served his term as ambassador to Brazil during the Lula campaign, so questioned now for having received foreign financing.

Likewise there is no explanation either for your performance this past Monday. I propose to you that if you really want to repair our bilateral relations that you look up Mexican federal legislative deputy Emiliano Ramos, a friend of Chávez, of Villegas and of many Mexican politicians. I have spoken at length with him. He is a sincere fellow and a fighter. He can serve as a bridge of friendship between peoples, I would say, provided he does not start wanting to import Chavista ideas into our country and behaves at the level of the circumstances.

At the same time, Señor Rodríguez —and I must leave you now because you are on a Cuban holiday due to your health— you can speak with legislative deputy Rodrigo Iván Cortés, of a tendency very different from that of Ramos, but who can also serve as a bridge for understanding. And please do it for Venezuelans, because we are very much aware that keeping alive the flame of his fight against Fox is all that suits Chávez.

P.S. Today we express our solidarity with journalist Ybéyise Pacheco, for whom an order of arrest has been issued in Venezuela. There, one finds one more bit of evidence of the lack of freedom of expression under the Chávez regime. Ybéyise, perhaps you might want to seek exile here in Mexico. I say this seriously. We, your fellow Mexican journalists, would be delighted to have you because you would have so much to tell us about how the great Chavista democracy spends its time against those who seek the truth. And here nobody will throw you in jail.

Translated by W.K.



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