The power of truth
By Aleksander Boyd
08.12.05 | Last week I received an invitation to participate in a radio programme. By agreeing to take part I wanted to test myself by walking into a sycophant's den. Britain was represented by Members of Parliament for the Labour Party John McDonnell (also honorary president of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign in the UK) and Jeremy Corbyn, Rail, Maritime and Transport Union boss Bob Crow, Speaker's Corner regular Heiko Khoo and Charlie, who's meant to be a journalist specializing in Venezuelan affairs and is related to the Hands Off Venezuela campaign. Comments from Otto Reich represented the right and USA imperialism. The Venezuelan opinion was divided; Hugo Chavez's party line was peddled by Venezuelan Ambassador to the UK Alfredo Toro Hardy and Teresa, a Venezuelan film director living in London and Jorge Martin, correspondent of Hands Off Venezuela. I was considered the voice for the opposition. The programme was to be moderated by Nadim Mahjoub.
The gig started with Venezuelan drums, songs from Ali Primera, babble from Hugo Chavez and, of course, thick American-accented voice clips taken from the docu-drama The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. I considered the latter choice very odd, especially if one considers the manipulation of events presented by the film. When I stated that Nadim made clear the purpose of the programme was to discuss Venezuela and not the propagandistic Irish film. Teresa started with the common rant about the USA trying to boycott the attempts of poor old Chavez. That was followed by remarks made by Ambassador Toro Hardy who, again, reiterated the chavista maxim that has it that a lot of elections mean a lot of democracy. He then leaned on the recent Latinobarometro poll that indicates that Venezuelans have the highest level of preference for democracy as a system of government in Latin America. No mention was made by Toro Hardy to the notorious decline that Venezuelans feel with respect to the way in which their democracy is working, ranking the country second to last in that segment. Toro Hardy wasted no time in laying the blame on opposition shoulders "unfortunately those are the same groups that tried a coup d'etat in 2003, those are the same groups that paralysed the country at the end of 2003..." (sic), in sum Chavez would be proud of him. Now when things got truly sticky to the very well educated and polished Ambassador was when Nadim asked to expound on the meaning of 'XXI century socialism'. Pretty much as his diplomatic colleague in Washington, Toro Hardy just could not give an intelligible description of the project, but he ventured into saying that it was based on the European socialist model. Indeed, I would like to see European examples of illegal expropriation of private property, breach of contract done unilaterally without legal repercussions to the responsible party, illegal dismissal of thousands of workers without any sort of indemnization, a head of State ordering the military to disobey rulings from the highest court in the land and so on and so forth. You did great Ambassador, you won your Cambridge post...
Now a brief pause in the story. As readers may know, my fellow bloggers Miguel and Daniel have also been interviewed these past days and comparing responses to similar questions one can conclude first of all that the task of Venezuelan diplomats in such circumstances is to toe the party line. And secondly, they just don't have the slightest clue about what 'socialism of the XXI century' means. Also interesting to note that the prejudices, complexes and resentment of the international apologists of Hugo Chavez obnubilate the understanding of the situation they may had. The racial and social cards are the all time favourites.
Let me continue with the international perspective. There is a consensus among this lot that Chavez, a democratically elected president, is the victim of various nefarious sources. Topping the list, you've guessed it, is the ominous USA. Poverty, crime, unemployment, diseases, and the whole panoply of social problems of Latin America are generated by the evil empire headquartered in Washington DC. We then have the 'oligarchic' opposition, otherwise know as imperial pawns or elite classes, which, as any serious sociologist would know, represent a tiny minority of society. The 'democratically elected' shield sort of protects Chavez from any accusation one may bring. For instance the opposition did purportedly wrong in 2002, by staging a coup (that never took place according to the highest court of Venezuela), but Chavez did right in 1992 because Carlos Andres Perez was leading a near dictatorship and massacred many thousands of people. Little do they comment on how Perez left Venezuela's presidency -imagine a dictator impeached...
In any case the devil, henceforth the USA, wants to take control of Venezuela's oil. When faced with the factual argument of Chevron Texaco having been granted, by the Chavez regime, contracts in the Orinoco oil belt the chavista crowd go mute. Now check out this question "how many times, for example, George Bush, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac have been elected in the last ten years and how many times Hugo Chavez has been elected?" Incredibly Nadim, by all standards an ignoramus of the Venezuelan situation, dares to pitch that ball. My reply "well Chavez was elected in 1998. In 1999 a national constituent assembly, formed by him, did away with all the constituted and elected powers of the country, and as a result they passed a new constitution, then in 2000, after the new constitution was passed, Mr. Chavez ran for re-election, so he has been elected two times, that's it. As George Bush and Tony Blair, I believe, has been elected three times." Out with number of elections under leader's belt in with Otto Reich...
The devil's advocates, epythomised by Otto Reich, has no right to speak or utter opinions about Venezuela, for he's American and his views are contrary to the social predicament of Chavez. Moreover Reich, "a professional liar" (sic) according to Charlie, was found guilty to be illegally distributing propaganda and disinformation in "a congressional, I believe, hearing" (sic) said this Venezuelan expert. Quick question here: is it not true that such is precisely the case of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign vis-a-vis our country, i.e. to distribute propaganda and misinform the public? Certainly union leaders, Labour MPs and other such luminaries from Britain can use all sorts of foul language and lay all blames on Venezuela's opposition and that's all fine and dandy.
Heiko Khoo said in Britain electoral authorities can also tally together who voted for whom, ergo the opposition's recent fraud claims are "spurious excuses to justify the interest of a small oligarchs which fears that they going to lose power" (sic). Perhaps the news that Hugo Chavez has been in power since 1998 have not arrived to Speaker's Corner...
In Nadim's view, because the Bolivarian revolution has the support of a couple of MPs and a union boss, every other person should be supportive of the neocommunist pet project that Chavez has decided to implement. These honourable members of British society are just as clueless as Nadim, for them everything boils down to class struggle and worker's rights. In a crass attempt at embarrassing me, a voice clip of Carlos Andres Perez (CAP) was played and I was asked to comment on remarks made by CAP regarding Chavez and how he should be killed like a dog. I stated that I was of the opinion that Chavez should, instead, be made accountable for the many crimes he has committed to date and when I was about to comment on the decision of the Royal Spanish Audience to send the case for crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court, Nadim decided to cut me off.
There were other instances whereby I completely and utterly crushed the sycophant's nonsensical and ludicrous arguments by simply stating facts, Chavez's infatuation with all things Castro was one of them, which brings me to conclude that the international defence team of Hugo Chavez is so ignorant and so disconnected from the country's reality that not even their best and brightest are in a position to counter arguments presented by someone with a superficial knowledge of contemporary Venezuela. Their interest in the country is but the result of a successfull anti-Bush rethoric put up by Chavez. Factual evidence to the contrary notwithstanding these fanatics are convinced that Chavez has been elected 11 times in 7 years, that he brought free education and health care to Venezuela, that his bend towards authoritarianism and communism exists only in oligarch's minds, that his relationship with Fidel Castro and the FARC is a positive thing, etc. Nothing matters as long as he talks tough with respect to the devil and Bush. To be frank I had much fun and I would do it again.
My fellow bloggers on the other side of the pond also ridiculed the 'knowledge' that American chavistas had. Our problem is that, lacking a fat checkbook, our message does not get spread as we wanted. This comment from Miguel sums it all up:
...first of all I don't think Venezuela is a rich country. Venezuela has a per capita income of a little over $4000 per inhabitant, which is actually quite low by Western standards, and not very evenly distributed either. But more so, in the last seven years -Chavez has been in power for seven years- when he came to power oil was at $12 a barrel, today the Venezuelan basket stands around $42 a barrel, and nevertheless the GDP per capita has not increased in these seven years, and the country has also acquired some $17 billion in debt in the meantime.
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