Sunday, January 14, 2007

Demystifying Venezuela

From the Citizen Alice Blog - Jan 13, 2007

Confused About Venezuela?

by Eva Golinger

Over the past few days, major newspapers in the United States, such as The
New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall
Street Journal, have published editorials aggressively and harshly
criticizing recent declarations and decisions made by re-elected President
Hugo Chavez and his cabinet. A large percentage of the content of these
editorials, which reflect the viewpoints of the newspapers, are based on a
distortion and misconception of new policies being implemented in Venezuela and the overall way government is functioning.

In the Washington Post's "Venezuela's Leap Backward", published on January
10, the editorial board intentionally and mistakenly portrays the recent
presidential elections this past December in Venezuela as illegitimate and
unfair. By falsely claiming that Chavez conducted a "one-sided campaign that
left a majority of Venezuelans believing they might be punished if they did
not cast their ballots for him", the Post wants its readers to think
Venezuelans who voted for Chavez did so under duress and fear. Nothing could
be further from the truth. A majority of Venezuelans publicly express their
sincere admiration and approval of President Chavez in an open and fearless
way on a daily basis in this country.

Most Venezuelans believe Chavez is the best president the nation has ever
had, and statistics prove that his government has built more bridges,
railroads, hospitals, clinics, universities, schools, highways and houses
than any administration in the past. The Post editorial also attempts to
downplay the "only 7 million votes" Chavez received, not mentioning that
those seven million votes represent more than 63% of total votes - a
landslide victory to the opposition candidate's 37% - and that no president
in Venezuelan history has ever, ever received such a large number of votes
in an election.

The New York Times editorial, also published on January 10, attacks a
recent statement made by President Chavez regarding the nationalization of
one telephone company, CANTV, and an electric company. However the Times
doesn't explain that the CANTV is the only non-cellular telephone company
in the country, giving it a complete monopoly on national land-line
telecommunications and control over a majority of Internet service as well.

Furthermore, the CANTV was privatized only in 1991, during the second
non-consecutive term of Carlos Andres Perez a president later impeached for corruption who implemented a series of privatization measures, despite
having run for office on a non-privatization platform just three years
before. In fact, as soon as Carlos Andres Perez won office in 1988 after
convincing the Venezuelan people he would not permit "neo-liberalism" on
Venezuelan shores, he immediately began to announce the privatization of
several national industries, including telecommunications, education and
the medical and petroleum sectors. This deception led to massive
anti-privatization protests during February 1989 during which the
government ordered the armed forces to "open-fire" on the demonstrators and
arrest and torture those not killed. The result was the "Caracazo", a
tragic scar on contemporary Venezuelan history that left more than 3,000
dead in mass gravesites and thousands more injured and detained.

The re-nationalizing of Venezuela's one landline phone company is a
strategic necessity and an anti-monopoly measure necessary to ensure that
Venezuelans have access to telecommunications service. (Take it from someone who lives here. You can't even get a landline if it isn't already installed
in your residence. The waiting list is over 2 years and you have to bribe
someone to actually do the job). And furthermore, the new Minister of
Telecommunications, Jesse Chac�n, announced that any company "nationalized"
will be fully compensated for its shares and property at market value.

The third issue put forth in the editorials is the recent announcement by
President Chavez that the license of private television station RCTV to
operate on the public airwaves is up for review in May 2007 and most likely
will not be renewed. The government has based its denial of the license
renewal on RCTV's lack of cooperation with tax laws, its failure to pay
fines issued by the telecommunications commission, CONATEL, over the past twenty years, and its refusal to abide by constitutional laws prohibiting
incitation to political violence, indecency, obscenity and the distortion of
facts and information.

The public airwaves, as in the case of the United States, are regulated by
government. Television and radio stations apply for licenses from the
telecommunications commission and are granted those licenses based on
conditional compliance with articulated regulations. When a station does not
abide by the requirements, it generally is fined and warned, repeatedly,
until compliance is assured. In the specific case of RCTV, the station and
its owner, multi-millionaire Marcel Granier, have refused to comply with the
law and have continued to abuse and violate the clear and concise
regulations that are supposed to guarantee Venezuelan citizens their
constitutional right to "true and accurate information" (Article 58 of the

RCTV's owner, Marcel Granier, played a key role in the April 2002 coup
d'etat against President Chavez and has used his station to engage in an
ongoing campaign of anti-Chavez propaganda and efforts to destabilize the
nation through distorting and manipulating information to create panic,
apathy, fear and violence in Venezuelan society. The station's clear
violations of the telecommunications regulations and the Constitutional
guarantees that protect freedom of speech and access to true and accurate
information provide sufficient reason to deny the renewal of its license to
use the public airwaves.

Unlike the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times (Fidel Chavez?, January
11, 2007) mistakenly claims, Chavez and his government are not "shutting
down" the private media station. RCTV can continue to operate on the private
airwaves, i.e. cable and satellite television. As would be the case in any
country where law and order are respected, RCTV will not receive a renewal
on its license to remain on the public airwaves because it repeatedly
violated the law during more than a decade.

Unfortunately, international groups that allegedly protect freedom of the
press and of speech around the world, have fallen under the influence and
manipulation of RCTV president Marcel Granier, who through his close
relationship with Washington, is conducting a campaign to defend his station
by user the banner of freedom and liberty. But consistent lawbreakers and
coup leaders should not receive the support of international press watchdog
groups and human rights defenders. Rather, those groups should praise the
decision of the Venezuelan government to maintain the public airwaves in the hands of the public. The license so abused by RCTV will most likely be
granted to various community and alternative media groups and stations in
Venezuela that have emerged over the past few years as a result of the
direct encouragement and support of the Chavez administration.

Finally, the editorials in the Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles
Times and the Wall Street Journal, all criticize President Chavez's
announcement to create a new political party in Venezuela: the United
Socialist Party of Venezuela. The editorials inaccurately claim that Chavez
will dissolve all political parties in the country and allow only one party
to operate. This is a dangerous and false inference.

What Chavez really declared was the formation of a new revolutionary party that would be open to all parties that support the revolution. There will be no closing down or abolishing of other political parties in the nation; they
can all remain as they wish and those that choose to merger or support the
new party can also freely do so.

Furthermore, Chavez indicated that the reason for the designing of a new
political party is to break free from the old corrupt hierarchical party
structures of the past that concentrate power in the hands of few and
exclude and ignore the vast majority of supporters. Chavez remarked that the
new party he seeks to promote will be formed by grassroots community
movements, and that there will be no power structures that isolate and
marginalize constituents.

If you only read the US press, you must be very confused about Venezuela.
The extreme levels of distortion, lack of fact checking and source
verification and outright manipulation of information in the US media on
Venezuela is quite troubling and dangerous in a nation that has waged wars
based on false data and misleading policies.

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