Discussing democracy: US voices on the 2012 elections page 7
Guns, cinema and politics page 8
Friday, July 27, 2012 | Nº 119 | Caracas | www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve
Venezuela’s Chavez ramps up campaign, leads polls Recreating Simon Bolivar This year on the celebration of independence hero Simon Bolivar’s birth, July 24, the Venezuelan government revealed a 3D digital image of the Latin American liberator. The lifelike photographic image, which was developed based on the facial bones contained in his tomb, is the ﬁrst ever seen of Bolivar, who to date has only been visualized in portraits. page 3
Venezuelan jockey a winner
Venezuela rejects court’s bias An Inter-American Court’s decision in favor of a Venezuelan terrorist provoked a serious response. page 4 Analysis
Human Rights Watch abusive A report by the organization shows clear prejudice against Venezuela. page 5
Tens of thousands are ﬂooding the streets of Venezuelan cities throughout the nation in support of incumbent President Hugo Chavez. His campaign events have picked up momentum for the October 7 presidential elections, and Chavez is leading his opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski, in the polls by over 20%, according to recent ﬁgures. Despite undergoing extensive treatment for cancer during the past year, Chavez is energized and campaigning in full force. page 2
Venezuela leaves international dispute group T/ AVN
BBC takes sides The British media outlet plays favortism in Venezuelan politics. page 6
enezuela’s exit from the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, or ICSID came into effect today, after the country made its withdrawal ofﬁcial before the World Bank last January 25. The six-month period required to carry out the withdrawal is stipulated in article 71 of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (the ICSID Convention), endorsed
on behalf of Venezuela by the provisional government of Ramon J. Velasquez in 1993. Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said early this year that the ICSID Convention was signed by a government which “lacked popular legitimacy” and under the pressure of “transnational economic sectors which helped to dismantle Venezuela’s national sovereignty”. According to article 72 of the ICSID Convention, Venezuela’s exit does not imply that it won’t comply with previous rulings imposed on
the country, which add up to ﬁve billion dollars. The latest lawsuit ﬁled by a transnational company against Venezuela was submitted on June 18. It was ﬁled by Europe’s Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, whose subsidiary Norpro was nationalized in Venezuela in 2010. ICSID’s bias towards international capital has been conﬁrmed not only in 22 lawsuits ﬁled against the Venezuelan State, but also since its creation, “it has ruled 232 times in favor of transnational interests, out of 234 lawsuits received throughout its history”, stated released by Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry in January, 2012.
Venezuelan-born jockey Ramon Dominguez made history last Sunday by becoming the second rider ever to win 6 races in one day at the Saratoga Race Course in New York State. John Velazquez of Puerto Rico was the ﬁrst to do so in 2001. ”I am very excited. Coming into today, I looked at the program and was very excited about my chances. We all know luck is a big factor. Everything clicked into place. I am very happy to win six races. At Saratoga, it’s anybody’s dream. This is a place you want to do it, for sure”, Domínguez said. Dominguez took six out of 10 races on Sunday with the winning horses Paper Plane, Summer Front, Rigby, Temper in Command, Reach for a Peach and Wet One.
2 Impact | . s Friday, July 27, 2012
The artillery of ideas
The former lieutenant colonel made reference to previous Venezuelan governments which allowed the middle class “to sink” in the 1980s and 1990s as a consequence of the country’s neoliberal policies. “Only the Bolivarian Revolution could save the true Venezuelan middle class from bankruptcy and disaster”, he said of the social and economic crises that plagued the nation in the decades leading to his ﬁrst electoral victory in 1998.
HOMES & ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE
Venezuela’s Chavez rallies supporters, inaugurates factories & development projects T/ COI P/ Presidential Press
enezuelan President Hugo Chavez spent last weekend in the Western state of Zulia where he inaugurated a petrochemical plant, presided over the delivery of new subsidized homes, and urged his supporters to work towards electoral victory in October. On Saturday, the candidate of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) headed a campaign rally in the city of Maracaibo where thousands of backers turned out to show their support of the nation’s Bolivarian Revolution led by the twoterm incumbent head of state. “My heart is with you and your heroic people, my dear Zulia”, Chavez declared during the festive rally, which saw dancing, singing and musical performances from local acts. The demonstration in Western Venezuela’s most populous and economically signiﬁcant city was visited by a large youth contingent that expressed its support for the revolutionary principles and social programs that the government has enacted over the past 13 years. “I came today to see my Comandante up close. The youth of Zulia are with him because he has included us in educa-
tional programs”, 18-year old Jose Nunez said at the rally. During his speech, Chavez made a call to win the October 7 elections by a landslide and thereby preempt allegations from the nation’s right-wing regarding electoral fraud. “If we win by two or three percent, these people have their violent plans”, Chavez said of possible destabilization attempts in the wake of a socialist victory. According to a new poll released by the Venezuelan Institute of Data Analysis, Chavez maintains a lead of 20.3 points over his conservative challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski.
INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT While in Zulia on Sunday, Chavez inaugurated the Petrochemical Complex Ana Maria Campos in Los Puertos de Altagracia and referred to the initiative as part of Venezuela’s move towards greatness. “The historic destiny of Venezuela is greatness. We’re inaugurating this brand new plant... because the Bolivarian Revolution has arrived here and has recovered, after 200 years, our independence”, he said. Chavez reported that the new industrial complex would have the capacity to save the nation $30 million in imports of butylene while producing some
900,000 tons of polyethylene plastic by 2017. “In 2012, we will have produced 300,000 metric tons of polyethylene. In 1998, 200,000 tons were produced. In 2017, we’re going to pass 600,000 in route to producing 900,000 tons. This is a 200 percent growth in just 4 years”, Chavez said. Plastic products such as bags, glasses, and electric fans were on display by the workers and managers of the plant on Sunday as Chavez and his Oil Minister, Rafael Ramirez, toured the facilities of the industrial complex. The increased domestic production of plastic derived from
the oil sector, according to Chavez, will also provide an important boost for national industries and assist the private sector in its continued economic growth. A good part of the plastic production “is going towards the private sector and will be further developed in their industries and businesses for domestic consumption and the international market”, the Venezuelan head of state informed. As such, industrial investments in public enterprises, Chavez noted, are beneﬁting all of Venezuelan society, including the country’s middle class.
During the broadcast on Sunday, Chavez oversaw, via satellite, the delivery of 94 new homes to residents of San Rafael Mojan in the municipality of Mora. The homes form part of the government’s expansive public program, Mission Housing Venezuela, which seeks to build 3 million new residences by 2019. The Venezuelan President also participated via satellite in the inauguration of the thermoelectric plant Bajo Grande in the municipality of Tablazo. Electric Energy Minister, Hector Navarro, informed that the new facility has the capacity to generate 100 megawatts of power and that a further 400 megawatts will be incorporated as a result of new wind power initiatives. Jesus Longo, Internal Director of the state oil company, PDVSA, referred to the energy measures as a way for the resource-rich state of Zulia to create its own power sources for the petroleum industry while providing for the needs of residents. “The old PDVSA...never generated its own energy. Now, we’re building this plant which with free up large blocks of energy for the people”, Longo said of the facility which will supply more than 26,000 residents in the area with electricity. The PDVSA manager underscored the fact that Venezuela’s largest public company is currently developing another 28 power-generating projects, 19 of which are designed to further the self-supply of energy for the oil industry. President Chavez described the advances in local energy autonomy as an important part of his government’s strategy to ensure that localities are equipped with the tools necessary to satisfy the needs of business and of residents. “These projects have as their goal to give the Western part of the country its own energy generation which is so necessary for life and economic-industrial development”, he said.
. s Friday, July 27, 2012
The artillery of ideas
Venezuela’s electoral commission ramps up security measures T/ COI P/ Agencies
ith just over 10 weeks before the realization of the country’s presidential elections, Venezuela’s National Electoral Commission (CNE) is tightening its preparations for October 7 through heightened security measures and high-tech anti-fraud initiatives. On Sunday, the CNE closed enrollment for the initiative known as “Make Your Mark” which obliges enlisted voters to register their thumbprint with the electoral authority in order to ensure the integrity and veracity of the electronic ballots cast at polling stations around the country. The measure began on June 22 and has successfully updated the prints of more than 3 million people through the deployment of over 3,000 registration machines made available to residents in 1,600 enrollment points throughout the country. The month long campaign was intended to rectify more than 1.8 million faulty prints that had been made available to the CNE through the government’s Identiﬁcation and Immigration Administration (SAIME). CNE President, Tibisay Lucena, has informed that while the “Make Your Mark” initiative is meant to avoid voting fraud, citizens will not be prevented from exercising their suffrage rights in the case of not having previously registered their print with the agency. Venezuela’s polling system is comprised of highlyadvanced digital voting machines which leave constituents with a paper receipt and has been praised by international organizations for its transparency and integrity. Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, however, initially refused to sign on to an accord which commits all presidential aspirants to respect the outcome of the vote as administered by the CNE on October 7. The document, which vows that the candidates must
concede to principles of nonviolence and deference to the CNE as the arbiter of the electoral contest, was signed by the current incumbent, Hugo Chavez on July 17. Capriles, whose campaign subsequently decided to capitulate to the pact, has cited the electoral commission’s unwillingness to regulate government broadcasts as his motive for not immediately signing the accord. But the use of “cadenas”, which oblige national media outlets on the public airwaves to transmit programs related to government policies and initiatives, was defended by President Hugo Chavez last Sunday. The socialist head of state described the transmissions as necessary to inform citizens on important government issues that are often ignored by opposition-aligned private broadcast media stations. “Part of the strategy of the bourgeoisie is to put a lid on the good things that the revolution is doing”, Chavez said during the inauguration of a plastics factory in the state of Zulia last Sunday. “The bourgeois television stations don’t broadcast our events, nor do the radios or newspapers say anything”, he added. For its part, the CNE has expressed its unwillingness to regulate the government broadcasts as the content of the programs are not related to the campaign activity of any given party. “The topic of the cadenas does not belong to the CNE as some politicians insist. This is a topic that is outside the scope of the agency”, said Socorro Hernandez, Rector of the electoral commission on Monday.
Venezuela’s Chavez unveils 3D image of hero Bolivar T/ Daniel Wallis – Reuters P/ Presidential Press
enezuela’s Hugo Chavez unveiled a 3D image of South America’s 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar on Tuesday, based on bones the President ordered exhumed two years ago to test his theory that Bolivar was murdered. In a ceremony to mark the 229th anniversary of Bolivar’s birth, senior government ofﬁcials and military commanders clapped as Chavez and a group of school children unveiled the new image, which was based on scans of Bolivar’s skull. The socialist leader reveres Bolivar - he renamed the country the “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” - and has wrapped his leftist “revolution” in the imagery and language of the region’s battle to break free of colonial power Spain. “He was a true giant of the human cause, the human battle ... this is his face”, Chavez said, sitting below two giant prints of a life-like depiction of a distinguished-looking Bolivar boasting a gold-braided uniform and prominent sideburns.
“Now we know with precision and receive with inﬁnite intensity the luminous presence of this gaze, this living face”. The President, who is seeking a new six-year term in an October 7 election, also tweeted a link to the image from a mobile phone on his @chavezcandanga account. Chavez, in his ﬁght against the “Yankee imperialism” of the United States, repeatedly invokes Bolivar, who is second only to Jesus as a ﬁgure of reverence in parts of South America. Chavez normally gives televised speeches in front of large paintings of Bolivar, a brilliant Venezuelan soldier and military tactician who freed much of South America from centuries of Spanish rule. Chavez ordered a striking new mausoleum built for Bolivar’s remains, which will be ﬁnished soon. On Tuesday, he also held aloft two ornate antique pistols for the cameras, saying they had belonged to his hero.
‘FIGHT FOR THE FATHERLAND’ Chavez cites Bolivar as the inspiration for his leftist policies. He has long suggested Bolivar was poisoned by enemies
in Colombia, rejecting the more common version cited by historians that he died of tuberculosis there in 1830. Two years ago, amid unusual scenes of a military honor guard in white biohazard suits and face masks exhuming the remains during a pre-dawn ceremony at the National Pantheon, the President assigned a team to investigate Bolivar’s death. A year ago, it reported back that “the Liberator” may have died of accidental poisoning probably as a result of taking toxic medicines that were widely used at the time. They did not rule out tuberculosis. After the scientist heading the 3D image project explained on Tuesday how it had been created using multiple scans and the latest forensic facial reconstruction methods, Chavez said Venezuelans were jubilant to see Bolivar’s “real face” at last. “And not just in Venezuela, but in all the countries of Latin America, the Caribbean and further aﬁeld”, he said. “I believe Bolivar is born again every day in every one of us, in these people, in these children ... in the ﬁght for the fatherland which never ends”.
4 Integration | . s Friday, July 27, 2012
The artillery of ideas
Venezuela, Argentina build South American energy integration
During the press conference, Chavez took the opportunity to hail the entrance of Venezuela
into the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) trade alliance that will take place on July 31. The arrival of the Caribbean nation as a full member of MERCOSUR was decided after Paraguay, the only country objecting to Venezuela’s admittance to the bloc, was suspended from the organization following the “institutional coup” that deposed President Fernando Lugo last month. Venezuela’s participation in the regional alliance, which currently includes Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil, will, according to President Chavez, “open a new horizon of possibilities for the growth and aggrandizement of the South American Homeland”. As such, the head of state reported that his country will create a $500 million fund to grant credits to private and public sector Venezuelan ﬁrms to facilitate their participation in trade deals with MERCOSUR associates. A presidential commission has also been established to stimulate and streamline the OPEC member’s insertion in the bloc. “We’re going to create a MERCOSUR fund and I want to take the opportunity to invite productive Venezuelan businesses from the private sector to come to the convocation of the [Presidential Commission]. A list of businesses is being made whose ﬁrms have the potential to be important exporters”, Chavez said. The two-time incumbent President informed that Venezuela expects to add 240,000 new jobs as a result of its admittance to MERCOSUR.
his extradition from the United States shortly after his escape. The US State Department has not yet responded. Meanwhile, Diaz Peña received support from Miami Republican congresswoman Ileana RosLehtinen, a known supporter of terrorists such as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, who masterminded bombings against Cuba and assassination attempts against Fidel Castro for decades. Earlier this year, Chavez tasked a council of state made up of allies to study whether or not Venezuela should remain in the group. The Costa Rica-based tribunal, part of the Washingtonbased Organization of American States, or OAS, has heard a series of cases accusing the Chavez government of authori-
tarianism and rights abuses during his 13-year rule. Before Chavez was elected in 1998, the court accepted less than a handful of cases against Venezuela, despite widespread human rights abuses and mass killings by state authorities that occurred in Venezuela from 1960-1998. The court’s sister organization, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, has also been criticized for meddling in the affairs of its member nations. Brazil last year upbraided the group for urging a halt to the construction of a hydroelectric dam along a tributary to the Amazon River. The OAS in June postponed the issue of reforming the human rights commission for six months.
T/ COI P/ Presidential Press
enezuela President Hugo Chavez met with Argentine Planning Minister Julio De Vido last Monday in Caracas for discussions that saw the head of the Caribbean nation invite his South American allies to join in the oil exploitation of the largest crude reserves in the world. The conversations focused on cooperation between the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and the recently re-nationalized Argentine ﬁrm YPF to explore and drill in the Orinoco Belt, home to nearly 300 billion barrels of crude. “We are pleased to receive [the Argentine delegation] in the oil business... not just in the exploration and production of oil, but also in any other area that we may agree upon”, said Hugo Chavez during a press conference held outside the presidential palace of Miraﬂores. YPF, originally an Argentine state energy company, was privatized in 1998 under pressure from the International Monetary Fund and sold to the Spanish ﬁrm Repsol. Earlier this year, President Cristina Fernandez ordered the nationalization of the country’s largest energy company
due to Repsol’s low production quotas and failure to maintain adequate reserves. The new partnership between YPF and PDVSA, as explained by Chavez on Monday, would consist in the Argentine ﬁrm’s participation in the exploitation of mature ﬁelds in the Orinoco belt as well as PDVSA’s collaboration with
energy projects in Argentine territory. Venezuela signed a similar agreement with the public Argentine company Enarsa in January that establishes the production of 100,000 barrels of crude daily from the Orinoco Belt. “Now we want YPF, with all of its force, potential and ex-
Venezuela: “Inter-American Court protects terrorists” T/ Agencies
enezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday the South American nation is withdrawing from a regional human rights court that Latin America’s progressive leaders have increasingly criticized as a pawn of Washington. Allies of Venezuela including Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua have accused the Inter-American Court of Human Rights of improperly weighing in on disputes still
being heard in domestic courts and working to undermine leftist governments. “Venezuela is withdrawing from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, out of dignity, and we accuse them before the world of being unﬁt to call themselves a human rights defender”, Chavez announced. The move came on the heels of a ruling by the court saying Venezuela had violated the rights of a man convicted of bombing diplomatic ofﬁces of Spain and Colombia in Ca-
racas, arguing jail conditions were deplorable. The man in question, Raul Diaz Peña, was sentenced to nine years in prison but ﬂed to the United States after winning a conditional release, the foreign ministry said in a statement. Diaz Peña was received with open arms by the Venezuelan and Cuban expat community in Miami, known as a safehouse for Latin American dictators, terrorists and fugitives. He is considered a fugitive terrorist by the Venezuelan government, which requested
perience to participate in the Orinoco Oil Belt and oil ﬁelds that are already producing”, the head of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela said on Monday.
MERCOSUR: A NEW HORIZON
. s Friday, Jul 27, 2012
The artillery of ideas
Abusing the facts: Human Rights Watch’s latest Venezuela report T/ Rachael Boothroyd F/ Agencies
n 2008, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on the state of human rights in Venezuela under the Chavez government. Entitled “A Decade Under Chávez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela”, the report was lambasted by over 100 academics, specialists and journalists on Latin America, who cited the report as not meeting even the “most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility”. Four years later and it would appear that HRW has decided to totally bypass these complaints, because the report’s sequel “Tightening the Grip: Concentration and Abuse of Power in Chávez’s Venezuela”, released on July 17, is equally full of bias, omissions and sensationalism, while lacking facts, context, and even a transparent methodology. According to the writers of the report, since HRW ofﬁcials were expelled from the country in 2008, “the human rights situation in Venezuela has become even more precarious” and the government has increasingly censored media, silenced its critics and “packed” the Supreme Court full of its supporters. While the HRW report was seized on unquestioningly by the private national and international press as irrefutable proof that the Chavez administration had indeed “trampled human rights”, in Venezuela it was dismissed by the Attorney General of the Republic, Luisa Ortega Diaz, as hypocritical, given that the organization has consistently “remained mute” in the face of some of the most ﬂagrant human rights violations of the 21st century. These human rights violations include a coup d’état against the democratically elected government of Hugo Chavez in 2002, which HRW failed to denounce, despite the fact that the new and unelected government killed around 100 unarmed protesters in the space of two days. Ortega is not wrong on the organization’s hypocrisy, and despite the New York-based agency’s keen interest in the internal
political situation of other countries, its website boasts a paltry section on human rights issues in the US, with no mention of the US population’s access to healthcare and housing, Republican gerrymandering, political lobbying, or of Obama’s now infamous “drone attacks”, which led former Democrat President, Jimmy Carter, to denounce the current government last month for its “widespread abuse of human rights”. This is unsurprising given the political nature of HRW’s inception. Born out of organizations such as “Helsinki Watch” which sought to “shine a light on” human rights abuses in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, HRW has never been able to claim political neutrality or even impartiality, and its conception of human rights is strictly limited to liberal democratic notions of human rights, and their emphasis on civil and polical rights. This is perhaps one of the reasons that Venezuela’s signiﬁcant advances in social rights, including access to housing, substantial increases in school and university enrolment, access to healthcare and improved women’s rights and political representation are not mentioned at any point in the
139 page report. Equally, there is no mention of some of Venezuela’s substantial gains in the arena of democratic freedoms, including the right to vote, reﬂected in increased voter turnout and registration, the right to politically organize, or governmental investigations and legislation aimed at providing justice for the families of those who were murdered as a result of political repression from 1958-1998. In reference to Venezuela’s courts, HRW infers that the country’s Supreme Court Justice (TSJ) has been “packed” full of Chavez supporters in an autocratic move by the national government, without mentioning that members of the TSJ must be elected by the National Assembly, which is itself a body that is legitimately elected by the Venezuelan people. HRW’s report also makes no attempts to deal with the problems currently facing the Venezuelan judicial system, which in spite of government efforts at reform, continues to be marred by a historical legacy of corruption and elitism and is currently inadequate for delivering justice in cases where the most powerful in society are pitted against the most vulnerable. Nowhere is this more obvious
than in the persecution of labor and peasant activists, hundreds of which have been collectively murdered at the hands of corporations such as Mitsubishi, where 2 worker activists have been killed and 300 dismissed, or by wealthy landowners opposing the government’s land reform policies; details which are scandalously absent from the “human rights report”. However, it is in its section on the media in Venezuela where the report’s authors evidently lose all grip on reality and any remaining claim to political neutrality. Despite the fact that the majority of the Venezuelan media is currently in private hands and the fact that ownership of the media is central to any debate surrounding the functioning of democracy, HRW’s report tries to argue that the Chavez government is increasingly using its “power” to silence criticism in the media. A charge that is being repeatedly levelled at the government by the international corporate press in the run-up to the October elections. Just a few weeks ago, Venezuela’s political opposition submitted a proposal to the country’s National Electoral Committee (CNE) demanding that Chavez should not be allowed to use any
state media for any form of “self promotion” until after the elections. Their request, however, did not include any such demand for regulation of the private media, despite the fact that a quick review of the owners and editors of Venezuela’s private media reads like a “who’s who” of the country’s political opposition and business elite. In fact, the family of current opposition candidate for the presidential elections, Henrique Capriles Radonski, just happen to be the owner of “Ultimas Noticias,” one of the most widely read newspapers in the country, selling 210,000 copies on average daily. Another prominent newspaper, Talcual, is edited by Teodoro Petkoff, a staunch anti-Chavez political ﬁgure who oversaw the implementation of a series of neoliberal economic reforms as Planning Minister under the government of Rafael Caldera in the mid 1990s. The Committee on Hemispheric Affairs stated in 2009 that “nine out of ten newspapers, including El Nacional and El Universal, are staunchly anti-Chavista” and Wikileaks has since revealed that privately funded newspapers such as El Nacional, which sells around 80,000 copies a day, saw ﬁt to directly solicit the US government for ﬁnancial support, and received it. Televised media, Venezuela’s most popular source of news, is equally stacked against the government. The Venevision channel is owned by billionaire media mogul and businessman Gustavo Cisneros, who, as the New York Times coined it, is one of Latin America’s “most powerful ﬁgures”. He also happens to be one of the world’s richest men and is estimated to be worth over $4 billion. Another powerful ﬁgure on the Venezuelan media scene is millionaire businessman Guillermo Zuloaga, the majority shareholder of Venezuela’s answer to Fox news, Globovision. Zuloaga has been extremely vocal in his opposition to Chavez, and has even labelled the President a “threat to the United States” in the international press. Given the wealth, breadth, circulation and concentration of Venezuela’s private media, the report’s assertion that government persecution has left Globovision as the “only major channel that remains critical of President Chávez” is not just misleading, but it is a downright lie. Yet downright lies and distortions appear to be the only way for HRW to make its case against the Chavez government.
6 Media | . s Friday, July 27, 2012
La artillería del pensamiento
Choosing sides: The BBC’s coverage of the venezuelan election r ace T/ News Unspun
n the upcoming Venezuelan presidential elections, to be held in October of this year, the electorate will choose between current President Hugo Chavez and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, former governor of Miranda state. BBC coverage of the run-up to the presidential elections to date has depicted a situation in which one ‘youthful’, ‘energetic’ candidate who ‘likes to stay in touch with voters, visiting shantytowns, often on his motorbike, to supervise projects and play basketball with the locals’ has preached ‘a message of inclusivity and unity’ while ‘crisscrossing Venezuela on a “house to house” tour’. The current government’s candidate, however, is ‘seeking a third term at the age of 57 but physically weakened after a battle with cancer’ and has been accused of ‘planning to hang on to power by force if Mr Chavez loses the election’ by unnamed opposition sources. It’s not hard to get the impression (however misrepresentative) from this portrayal of a battle between the ideas of a fresh, hopeful government and old, tired, political stagnation. That this is far from the reality of the situation, and it doesn’t an-
swer the question of why Chavez is leading in the polls, which is seemingly irrelevant to BBC reporters. This battle, it seems, is one of ideology: our news can’t see a problem with a pro-business and pro-market candidate, yet it will happily disgrace candidates who reject this ideology. In Europe recently, democratically elected heads of government were replaced with unelected leaders. Their pro-free-market credentials, earned them the label ‘technocrats’ in the news media, which fretted little about this degradation of democracy. There is a plain and simple explanation for the starting point to the bad press surrounding Hugo Chavez’s government: Western governments do not appreciate heads-of-state whose policies are unaccommodating to the interests of international business. The debate of course becomes far more complicated beyond this starting point, but this should be kept in mind when reading news reports on Venezuelan politics. One of the central themes recently propagated is that Hugo Chavez should be afraid of a challenger. In September last year, when Leopoldo Lopez was running to stand for the opposition, he asked at a rally: “Is it true what they are saying all
over Venezuela, that you are afraid of me?” BBC News obediently emphasized this, running with the subtitle “Afraid?” within their report. In the last few months, numerous references have been made to the ‘strong challenge’ that Capriles presents. The idea that Chavez should be afraid, coupled with the accusations that he would ‘hang on to power’ if he loses the election, invokes the idea of a power-hungry leader that needs to fear democracy. Interestingly, Hugo Chavez has promised the opposition that he would respect the result of the election (though this story was spun and presented by the BBC as some sort of fascinating revelation – Hugo Chavez in respect for democracy shocker – at the time), but the opposition parties have not yet promised the same. That news about Venezuela may not always revolve around Chavez seems an unknown idea in British news. Chavez is presented as a central ﬁgure to stories with which he often has nothing to do. A clear example appeared last month when television station Globovision paid a ﬁne for its coverage of the El Rodeo prison riots. The media regulator CONATEL ﬁned the channel for ‘replaying interviews of distraught prisoners’ mothers
269 times over four days and adding the sound of gunﬁre to reports.’ All in all, the story had nothing to do with Hugo Chavez. Yet the BBC headline referred to the station as the ‘Anti-Chavez Venezuelan TV Globovision’, opening the article by pointing out that the station is ‘highly critical of President Hugo Chavez’. That the story had nothing to do with Hugo Chavez only later became apparent, potentially leaving readers with the implied connection from the start that the station was ﬁned because it was critical of Hugo Chavez. In terms of coverage for the opposition, we generally see only positive news about Capriles. So that we can sympathize with his plight, we are told of ‘state media, where Mr Capriles is normally mentioned only in insults’. The audience share of state television in Venezuela grew from 2% to 5.5% between 2000 and 2010, yet we are told in a BBC article that ‘state-owned media has expanded dramatically since Mr Chavez took ofﬁce in 1999’. In the UK, incidentally, ‘state media’ has a 36% share of the market, according to ﬁgures from the Broadcasters Audience Research Board. There is a case to be made that present-day Venezuela is an example of a healthy democracy
which has made huge social progress. This social progress is something that the opposition parties can no longer deny, and Capriles is promising to continue some of these social reforms if he wins the election. The BBC will happily tell us that Chavez has a two-digit lead over Capriles in the polls, but will not explain why, as it continues to relay praise for Capriles. What is apparent is that those gathering news are spending a lot of time listening to opposition politicians and the representatives of business – who will of course be critical of a government that refuses to let markets run the country – and very little time listening to those who actually choose between the candidates. In a previous study, we have found that the BBC has used terms such as ‘dictator’, ‘autocrat’, etc. in descriptions of Chavez more often than it stated that Hugo Chavez was democratically elected. Now we see overwhelming favor for the opposition candidate. This isn’t balanced reporting, this is an assault on a form of sovereign governance dressed up as a love of democracy. And when someone rejects ‘our’ ideology and gains the popular vote, our news struggles to tell us the full story.
. s Friday, July 27, 2012
The artillery of ideas
orreo del Orinoco International is pleased to bring our readers this exclusive interview with Gayle McLaughlin, Mayor of Richmond, California. A lifelong activist in US movements for peace, justice, and civil rights, McLaughlin has worked tirelessly as Mayor of Richmond to force oil giant Chevron to pay its “fair share” to the city and its residents. McLaughlin provides important insight on corporate control of US politics and the leadership role played by the Bolivarian Revolution in the global movement for social justice. What are your thoughts on the upcoming presidential elections to be held in the United States? While President Obama’s election in 2008 was an historical achievement in that the people of the US elected our ﬁrst African-American president, he has shown by his policies that he is not willing to challenge the injustices of the system. He has embraced the system that has taken him to the highest political ofﬁce in the country. As a Democrat, he is tied into the duopoly that politically runs this country. Both Democrats and Republicans are corporate-controlled parties, are dependent on corporations for their massive campaign funding, and as such are beholden to corporations in their policy-making. During the Obama administration years thus far, my city, the City of Richmond, has suffered greatly. Our unemployment rate rose at one point to 19 percent and lingers at 17 percent; the home foreclosure crisis hit Richmond harder than most cities, leaving thousands, who previously were homeowners, without homes; development has slowed to a crawl, and our immigrant population continues to struggle without a comprehensive humane immigration policy. As a largely low-income urban community, we face all the problems of such communities – including problems of health, education, and crime. We, on the local level, have been forced to work harder to make changes for ourselves. What are your thoughts on the Bolivarian Revolution, on President Hugo Chavez? The values promoted by the Bolivarian Revolution, championed by Hugo Chavez, are values that I hold dear as well, including self-determination and economic independence,
Discussing democracy: U.S. voices on the 2012 elections
equitable distribution of revenues, and putting working people ﬁrst and above private corporate greed. The election of Hugo Chavez was a magniﬁcent achievement of the Venezuelan people and it has roots in centuries of struggle by many in Latin America. Chavez’s anti-imperialist stance and opposition to neoliberal capitalism, along with his solidarity with other Latin American countries, including Cuba, has courageously and profoundly challenged US foreign policy has wielded enormous political inﬂuence in the world. I believe the use of revenues from their vast oil wealth to invest in social, economic and cultural development is an example of how self-determination works. Unlike major oil giants, like Chevron and Exxon, Venezuela is skillfully using its country’s natural resources to beneﬁt the people and build a more equitable society (rather than reaping massive proﬁts for the beneﬁt of corporate executives and wealthy stockholders). While
we all must do our part to end our addiction to oil to reverse global warming, it is both powerful and signiﬁcant that Venezuela is ﬁnding a way to use its oil resources to bring beneﬁt to its people rather than have the oil companies rape them of their own natural resources, as sadly is happening in too many other countries. What impact has oil giant Chevron had in Richmond? The Chevron Richmond Reﬁnery has operated in the City of Richmond for over 100 years. The neighborhoods around the reﬁnery, predominately people of color, have among the highest rates of asthma, heart disease and cancer in the state of California. The health of people in Richmond has suffered for decades as a result of pollutants emitted daily by this oil giant. On March 25, 1999, for example, an explosion sent 18,000 pounds of corrosive airborne sulfur dioxide over the Triangle Court neighborhood. The smoke killed trees, burned the fur off squirrels, and sent hundreds of temporarily blinded, vomiting
residents to hospitals. Every Wednesday we hear the sound of a siren, which is a test of the County warning system. This is a constant reminder to us all of the danger that exists living side by side with a major oil reﬁning operation that we know puts its billion dollar proﬁts before all else. With the full weight of its money and inﬂuence, Chevron has resisted the proposals of the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) that have called for it to pay its fair share of taxes to the people of Richmond. They ﬁght us by funding candidates who stand with them. They also put their big money into play opposing voter initiatives that call for fair taxation. Millions of dollars are contributed by Chevron every election season attempting to defeat our RPA candidates and our initiatives. Still they fail. In the last election (2010), all of Chevron’s candidates lost. Chevron has been forced to deal with our progressive movement in many ways, including agreeing to provide an additional 114 million dollars of taxes to
the people of Richmond over a 15-year period. We have made great progress in getting out from under the corporate inﬂuence of this behemoth, but of course we still live in a corporate dominated society, and it takes all our efforts to continue to push the envelope and gain more ground in order to continue to address the needs of our community. Our strength is based on knowing that justice is on our side and rooted in our dedication to continuing the struggle. What are your thoughts on the struggle for social and economic justice in the Americas - both North and South? The struggle for social and economic justice in the Americas is tied in with the global struggle for justice everywhere. An injustice to one is an injustice to all. Latin America has been in the forefront of much of this struggle, and I am proud to be among those who stand in solidarity with the progressive movements of Latin American countries. We have all gained much from the revolutionary movements of countries like Cuba and Venezuela. First and foremost, we have gained great motivation and inspiration from the spirit that fuels these movements, but we have also gained much insight and knowledge from their concrete accomplishments. The people of the United States have a major role to play in the struggle for a progressive future. The people of the US are not unlike the people of countries that have suffered profoundly from imperialist policies of domination, although we have unique characteristics of our own struggle. We are inundated daily with the mentality of the world oppressors, and yet millions of ordinary North Americans have rejected and continue to reject this mentality. The role of the people of Venezuela is a role that only Venezuelans can truly deﬁne and implement. From afar, however, it would seem that their role is to continue showing, as no other country has, that an effective anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist struggle can be waged and won in the 21st Century! They carry the torch, along with Cuba, of self-determination for all the nations and all people struggling under the yoke of imperialism. And, as I stated earlier, they provide great inspiration and insight to those of us living in the belly of the beast, here in the US, resisting and building strength until we emancipate ourselves.
Friday, July 27, 2012 | Nº 119 | Caracas | www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve ! PUBLICATION OF THE &UNDACION #ORREO DEL /RINOCO s Editor-in-Chief %VA 'OLINGER s Graphic Design Aimara Aguiilera
Guns, cinema and politics
T/ Paul Dobson
ometimes life just comes up and slaps you in the face with irony doesn’t it? Unfortunately this week that slap reverberated around a Colorado cinema at about midnight, where, tragically, a lone gunman opened ﬁre on an unsuspecting audience watching the latest Batman ﬁlm. Where is the irony in this incredibly regrettable event, I hear you scream? Well, let me explain. The neoliberal governments never tire of telling the world how dangerous Venezuela is. Be it through their mouthpieces in the Human Watch Committees, the UN, the capitalist press, or directly through Hilary Clinton, Alvaro Uribe, or Mitt Romney. The British neoliberal government even warns off tourists in their “advice to travelers” in their Foreign Ofﬁce website, which uses the words “drug trafﬁckers”, “illegal armed groups” “risk of kidnapping” and “criminal activity” all in just the ﬁrst bullet point.
This political propaganda, which is not without its own, particular,destabilizingmotive, is repeated and sensationalized by their puppets here in Venezuela: by Capriles, Globovision, or El Nacional newspaper. Like magicians producing rabbits from their imperialist top hats, they show off unproven statistics to the world, of murders, rapes, express kidnappings, prison riots, and robberies, of how you are more likely to be shot here than in Afghanistan or Palestine or Iraq. At their local meetings all they talk about is “so and so” who knew “so and so” who maybe knew “so and so” who saw a man get shot. It is implanted into their minds. Isn’t Venezuela so very dangerous! It must be Chavez’s fault, they conclude. Violent crime is something which has been openly and publically recognized by the selfcritical Chavez and his government as a problem which is yet to be solved. Without conceding that the problem is as big as the opposition’s myths and spin makes it seem, Chavez has rec-
ognized it in its cultural and historical context. After providing comprehensive solutions to the health, education, university, economic, alimentary, productive, and agricultural problems faced by the country in 1998, the Revolution has failed, for now, to resolve the gun crime problem, which has elevated itself to be a key issue in the upcoming elections. This is why we have seen such dramatic changes in the last year on this issue. Venezuela is well on its way to completely disarming the entire civilian population. A recent disarmament law closed all commercial gun shops, and centralized military and police gun contracts under the Interior Ministry’s control. Since 2003, 280,725 guns have been decommissioned or destroyed, and high proﬁle actors and sportspersons are being used to promote educational campaigns against gun ownership, which can be seen on all the TV channels and in numerous public places, such as on the Metro of Caracas. This is complemented by reform of the prisons, of
the police forces, and the judicial system. It is only a matter of time before arms which are still held with a valid permit are declared illegal too, as the socialist government pushes towards a society where law enforcers are the only ones armed. In the US, which is yet again mourning the victims of a seemingly random shooting in a public place, gun ownership is not just legal, but considered a fundamental right, especially in the south, and is enshrined in the Constitution. Apart from a police background check, there are very few checks done, and the sale of guns is often instantaneous. Forty-nine of the 50 states have some sort of law allowing concealed weapons to be carried in public. In 2007 there were 31,224 ﬁrearm related deaths, and 75,684 nonfatal gunshot injures reported in 2000. Eleven armed assassination attempts on US Presidents, and recent tragedies such as the Columbine School massacre (1999, 13 dead, 24 injured), the Beltway Sniper attacks
on a highway (2002, 10 dead, 3 wounded), the Virginia Massacre in a technological institute (2007, 32 dead 17 wounded), and the Tucson shootings in a parking lot (2011, 6 dead, 13 injured) only go to prove the problems of such a liberal gun policy in such a violent country. In Colorado State, gun controls have amazingly been loosened since the tragedy of Columbine. However, gun controls alone don’t eradicate violent crime. A gun doesn’t ﬁre itself. It is a point which is recognized by Freddy Bernal, President of the Presidential Mixed Commission For Arms and Munitions Controls in Venezuela: “the new (disarmament) law won’t resolve on its own the problem of the criminality and violence”. He went on to state that “a law isn’t a magic wand, but that the complex problem of criminality and violence is being taken on by important forces in government”. Social exclusion, paranoia, desperation, a bunker mentality, a “dog eat dog” society, and the inability to solve personal issues, are all complemented by the promotion and gloriﬁcation of violence in the media, soap operas, music, video games, hunting, and other cultural aspects more commonly associated with capitalist rather than socialist societies. As Rod Dreher, senior editor at The American Conservative puts it: “Evil or insane people will always ﬁnd a way around the laws. The idea that stronger anti-gun laws would meaningfully discourage thugs in the US inner cities from acquiring and using weapons is risible”. Mr Dreher goes on to explain how “guns are inextricably woven into the American psyche”, which leads us back to the irony. It is wretchedly ironic that US authorities, consistently criticizing Venezuela for its gun crime levels, are unable to address their own gun crime problems which have been painfully highlighted this week. The inability of neoliberals to recognize the huge advances being made against gun crime in Venezuela are ironic, and they only show their lack of commitment to do the same and protect their citizens in their countries. Yet again, Venezuela is posing a dangerous threat to the USA, the threat of setting a good example.