Sunday, September 02, 2007

Wall Street Journal Attacks Chavez With Disinformation and Propaganda

The Wall Street Journal has launched yet another tirade of propaganda about the leadership of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. The latest attack on Chávez comes in the form of a review of a couple of books that are being published on the populist leader. Here are a few choice extracts from their 'review' [I have added some comments in brackets and underlined particularly dubious claims]:

On April 11, 2002, at least 500,000 protesters took to the streets to push back. When Mr. Chávez ordered the military to use force against them, the officer corps refused, and Mr. Chávez was unseated [no comment on US involvement]. But he still had ideological allies inside the military working to outmaneuver his enemies, and the chavista machine soon called its own protesters to the streets. Two days later he was restored to power, though few know exactly how it happened. Today his government is ever more authoritarian, seizing major assets (in May he took over Venezuela's last privately held oil fields), revoking the license of important opposition media and tamping down political opposition by threatening the employment of those who oppose him. More and more, Mr. Chávez's Venezuela resembles Perón's Argentina -- if not the China of Mao, whom Mr. Chávez once so admired.

One of the great frustrations of President Chávez's adversaries has been his skillful use of the law -- under the guise of democracy -- to thwart his opposition.


Graft is worse than ever, and Mr. Chávez himself, who has destroyed nearly all institutional checks on his power, says that he won't step down from the presidency until 2030 [Chávez has made no such claim. In fact, he has simply stated that if the opposition fail to put up a candidate, he would decree a referendum to enable him to remove term limits and thus allow him to run again for office. Effectively, this could mean that he would remain in office until 2030, but he would have to elected for this to happen. Why this is so contentious is rather bizarre. A British Prime Minister can stay in office as long as they receive enough public support. There is no term limit.].

More worrisome still, Mr. Chávez has used his country's oil wealth to engage in a weapons buildup and to fund subversion in neighboring Latin American countries [military expenditure under Chavez is actually lower than it was under pre-Chavez Venezuela]. His public rhetoric -- notoriously on display at the United Nations in September 2006 -- is provocatively anti-American. He has made friends with the "axis of evil," cozying up to Iran and North Korea on both the political and the economic front [These relationships are often mentioned by anti-Chavez campaigners. I have to admit, I am a little uncomfortable with his ties to Iran. However, the relationship with Iran is part of an effort to ensure Venezuela continues to command high oil prices and thus ensure the continuation of the programmes to help the poor. Essentially, the Iranian role is give technological assistance to the Venezuelan oil industry. It takes a rather different stance on Israel than Iran. In fact, Venezeula has had strong trading ties with Israel over recent years, at least until the US put an end to this relationship. As for North Korea, Venezuela openly condemned the nuclear test performed by the dictatorship]. Not surprisingly, he has garnered more attention from the U.S. than any Latin leader since Daniel Ortega and the days of Soviet meddling in Nicaragua.

Whatever else Hugo Chávez may be, he is the product of his country's troubled recent history. For more than two decades before he came to power, Venezuela's oil wealth was in the hands of the state. As such, it was a corrupting force, channeling money and power to political favorites and corrupt oligarchs. Little surprise, then, that Venezuela's democracy collapsed under such an arrangement and that an egomaniacal military officer schooled in communist ideology stepped into the breach. Whether Mr. Chávez's opponents, since then, have learned anything about the importance of limited government remains to be seen.

Another classic example of Western liberal media attacking a democratically elected government that dares to challenge the status quo. When the leading capitalist press is eager to spread lies and disinformation about Chávez, you know that he must be doing something right. The irony is, of course, that the Wall Street Journal has previously stood up for a real dictator, Musharraf of Pakistan. Clearly, Musharraf is a 'good dictator', compliant to America's wishes and therefore a friend of the capitalist establishment. Chávez's crime is that he is not compliant and has made enemies amongst the capitalist establishment. No wonder the Wall Street Journal is so scared.