Tuesday, December 04, 2007

oy vey 

Just wanted to respond to Finchy's comments in the Venezuela post below:

I have to say that I am offended that this post appears on AmCop and the photographs that I submitted to the blog, several weeks back, of armed gangs attacking STUDENT BUILDINGS of the university in Caracas following a peaceful anti-Chavez protest, were not at very least also posted. At the time the photos also happened to be fresh off the press, I might add, emailed to me by a friend in Caracas who is herself a leftist and would be depressed to see a dedicated website like this publishing any of the constant dross that is churned out by the Chavez regime.

1) You're almost exactly inversely misinformed about the student violence. The anti-Chavez group was attacking the Chavistas and the Chavistas were defending themselves. In fact they were trying to get out of a burning building that the anti-Chavistas had torched and barricaded their opponents into. You can read about it here, or see video here.

But of course, its all probably pro-Chavez dross anyway, right? Surely our awesome media keeps us properly informed.

The fact that Chavez's dictatorial referendum was voted down is a GOOD THING. If you actually understand what is going on in that country at all, it is an amazing expression of democratic power that an otherwise powerless people voted down a disgusting referendum that would have basically made Chavez leader for life and abolished human rights in that country-- and did it with the Chavez regime basically controlling the entire government. Even our beloved poor in the barrios did not come out in great numbers for Chavez.

2) The point of the post below wasn't whether or not the referendum was a good thing. I don't know if it was good or not. I'm not Venezuelan, it's not for me to say. Venezuelans apparently decided that they didn't want it to pass. Good for them. What I do know, and what is (or should be) for me to say, is whether or not my government should be fucking with other people's internal politics.

In any case, given that Venezuela has freer and fairer elections than we do, according to international observers, the defeat of the referendum doesn't quite qualify as an "amazing expression of democratic power". Unless you're willing to say that about every Venezuelan election of the last ten years. Also, given that 90% of the media system is in private hands who are hostile to the Chavez government, it's hardly qualifies as "amazing" that the referendum was defeated.

Chavez is a dictator. You want him to be a hero because we are short on heroes and he says all the right things about Bush. But ANYONE could say that shit. Words are cheap, and easily rewarded.

3) Words are indeed cheap. Words like "dictator" are really cheap. Chavez has been elected by large margins in free and fair elections several times against a vigorous and unsupressed opposition faction. He conceded the Sunday referendum defeat the very next day. Unless of course by "dictator" you are departing from strict usage and prefer instead the Party usage: "head of state that Washington does not like". If you're a Party member, words mean whatever you say they mean. Membership has its privileges.

Don't you think it's interesting that a mass student movement came out against Chavez? Doesn't that tell you anything at all? Chavez called them spoiled brats-- in fact they are the last bastion of educated leftists in the country. They know that Chavez is no leftist, but a pretender. This is why they were attacked several weeks ago with a violence that is beyond imagining in the United States.

4) It is interesting that a mass student movement came out against Chavez and was not suppressed. It's also very interesting that factions of this "movement" get financial and advisory support from large corporations and US government slush-funds. It's also interesting that masses of students and other people regularly come out in support of Chavez. It is also interesting that before Chavez, people who attended opposition rallies were regularly murdered, and under Chavez they have not been.

It would apparently indicate that there is a good deal of democratic activity going on in Venezuela. Certainly seems like they take democracy more seriously than we do. A strange thing for a country under dictatorial rule, no?

I also want to add that the need to pinpoint some U.S. role in what happened is, ironically, an example of typical American self-absorption. For something unusual to happen, anywhere, we have to have manipulated the poor and uneducated people there. It's as though other countries aren't allowed their own internal ideological lives, they're too busy paying attention to what we want them to do. No way.

5) Pinpointing the US role is not an example of American self-absorption. Given the CIA's habit of overthrowing foreign governments, its perfectly reasonable. Given US involvement in the 2002 Venezuela coup, it's even more reasonable. And when you consider that most of the contributors and readers at this blog are American, well it's just downright ultra-super-mega-reasonable that we try to stay informed about our government's criminal activity. Our government has this unfortunate tendency to act "as though other countries aren't allowed their own internal ideological lives".


According to the pro-Chavez speaker in this video, speaking on the floor of their National Assembly, the Venezuelan state owns 5% of radio stations and 8% of TV stations. This is roughly corroborated by this blog post which claims 95% of the media is in anti-Chavez hands. Also roughly corroborated by this post which claims a "vast majority" of the media is in opposition hands. Also roughly corroborated by this post by an American expat in Caracas who claims:

I have lived in Venezuela for most of the past 22 years and have never experienced such freedom as that which the Venezuelan population enjoys today under Hugo Chavez. That would include freedom of information. Never, in the past 22 years, has the mass media experienced the freedom it has had during the presidency of Chavez. One can freely buy anti-Chavez newspapers on streets and the airwaves and television channels are amply filled with anti-Chavez commentators.

Obviously none of that is really ironclad stuff. However I can't find anything by the opposition, the people with the most incentive to brandish damning facts, except for fact-free complaints about how there is no more free speech. The 2006 HRW report discusses a restrictive law that was passed, but notes that, "The radio and television law has not led to a clampdown on the audiovisual media."

I can't find any mention of media outlets (plural) that Chavez has "repeatedly shut down". There was one TV station whose license was not renewed, RCTV.

The student in the above-linked video also notes that pre-Chavez there were 60 student leaders killed by government forces in Caldera's 1st term, 12 student leaders killed in Perez's last term, 8 students killed in '89 protesting insurance policies, and 60 students brought before military tribunals that same year. Orders of magnitude worse than what is going on now.

As a thumbnail indicator, a cursory look at HRW and Amnesty reports in Venezuela verifies the trend. They get worse and more voluminous as you go back in time.

You can read about US funding of Venezuelan oppo groups here, here, here and here. You can read about US support of the failed 2002 coup attempt here. USAID, Freedom House, and the National Endowment for Democracy are known imperial slush-funds. Google it.

As for Stalin Gonzalez: the US government would give money to someone named Stalin Hitler Satan Castro bin Laden if they thought it would further their foreign policy goals.

I don't care if you hate Bush too. It's not about Bush, or about Bush v. Chavez. The point is that you're waving the bloody 'dictator' shirt with shit evidence. No matter how many verified votes there are, and no matter that he conceded defeat, YOU know that in his secret heart of hearts Chavez burns for nothing more than the chance for TOTAL CONTROL OF VENEZUELA and then...THE WORLD!!! Bwahahahah! (cue minor key organ music)

And how do you know this? Because you have some friends who don't like him? Because it's impossible to get another picture of the situation from US media since they're too busy carrying water for the Empire? Because you don't know how to use the internet to find the opposing views? Because not having presidential term limits is a dictator-for-life mandate? By that logic, the US was a dictatorship for most of its existence and France still is one.

Jesus. It doesn't matter if Chavez is one of Bush's biggest priorities. It matters that he's apparently one of yours. If you're so cheesed about dictators you should start at home, and then proceed in concentric circles of support outward. If you ever managed to get through all the actual dictators that your tax dollars pay for, and still have time left over for the "wannabes" that you have nothing to do with, you might eventually get to Chavez. If he's not long in his grave by then.

Now where's my Biggest Freakshow on the Intertubes Award?

UPDATE II: There's a good post-mortem on the referendum here.

UPDATE III: Good ones here and here too. That last by (gasp!) a liberal. (I must be getting desperate.) An interesting statement by Venezuelan anarchists opposing the reform is here, taken from this site.


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