Ted Rall / U Express.com – 2006-04-12 09:04:01
The Danger of Hugo Chávez’s Successful Socialism
Ted Rall / U Express.com
(April 6, 2006) — When the hated despots of nations like Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan loot their countries’ treasuries, transfer their oil wealth to personal Swiss bank accounts and use the rest to finance (in the House of Saud’s case) terrorist extremists, American politicians praise them as trusted friends
and allies. But when a democratically elected populist president uses Venezuela’s oil profits to lift poor people out of poverty, they accuse him of pandering.
As the United States and Europe continue their shift toward a Darwinomic model where rapacious corporations accrue bigger and bigger profits while workers become poorer and poorer, the socialist economic model espoused by President Hugo Chávez has become wildly popular among Latin Americans tired of watching corrupt right-wing leaders enrich themselves at their expense.
Left-of-center governments have recently won power in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. Chávez’s uncompromising rhetoric matches his politics, but what’s really driving the American government and its corporate masters crazy is that he has the cash to back it up.
In their desperate frenzy to destroy Chávez, state-controlled media is resorting to some of the most transparently and hilariously hypocritical talking points ever. In the April 4th New York Times Juan Forero repeated the trope that Chávez’s use of oil revenues is unfair — even cheating somehow: “With Venezuela’s oil revenues rising 32 percent last year,” the paper exclaimed, “Mr. Chávez has been subsidizing samba parades in Brazil,
eye surgery for poor Mexicans and even heating fuel for poor families from Maine to the Bronx to Philadelphia. By some estimates, the spending now surpasses the nearly $2 billion Washington allocates to pay for development programs and the drug war in western South America.”
Chávez, the story continued, is poised to become “the next Fidel Castro, a hero to the masses who is intent on opposing every move the United States makes, but with an important advantage.”
Heavens be! A rich country using its wealth to spread influence abroad! What God would permit such an abomination? Notice, by the way, that the United States funds “development programs.” Oh, and it’s a “drug war” — not a bombing campaign against leftist insurgents who oppose South America’s few remaining pro-US right-wing regimes.
Quoted by the Times — which editorialized in favor of and ran flattering profiles of the right-wing oligarchs who attempted to overthrow Chávez in a 2002 coup attempt — is “critic” John Negroponte, whose day job happens to be as Bush’s Director of National Intelligence. Negroponte complained that Chávez is “spending considerable sums involving himself in the political and economic life of other countries in Latin America and elsewhere, this despite the very real economic development and social needs of his own country.”
Pot, kettle, please discuss the $1 billion a week we’re wasting on Iraq while people die for lack of medical care and schools fall apart right here in America. Maybe Chávez should have found a better use for the money he spent on Rio’s Carnival parade. On the other hand, at least it didn’t go to bombs and torture camps.
Televangelist Pat Robertson’s 2005 call to assassinate Chávez was criticized only mildly by establishment media, and primarily on the basis that murdering heads of state violates a U.S. law. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accuses Chávez of a “Latin brand of populism that has taken countries down the drain.” Which ones? Certainly not Venezuela itself, where a
double-digit-GDP boom leads the region and new houses, $10 billion per year is banked for future anti-poverty programs and schools are sprouting like weeds.
Loaded language unworthy of a junior high school newspaper is the norm in coverage of the Venezuelan president. “Chavez insists his government is democratic and accuses Washington of conspiring against him,” the San Jose Mercury-News wrote on April 3rd. Why the “insists”? No international
observer doubts that Venezuela, where the man who won the election gets to be president, is at least as democratic as the United States.
The 2002 coup plotters gathered beforehand at the White House. Surely the Merc could grant Chávez’s “accusation” as fact. The paper continued: “He says the United States was behind a short-lived 2002 coup, an allegation that US officials reject.” He also happens to be right, though it’s hard to tell by reading that sentence.
Eighty-two percent of Venezuelans think Chávez is doing a good job. That’s more than twice the approval rating by Americans of Bush. He roundly defeated an attempt to recall him. So why is Washington lecturing Caracas?
“The [Venezuelan] government is making billions of dollars [from its state oil company] and spending them on houses, education, medical care,” notes CNN. And — gasp — people’s lives are improving.
What if the rest of us noticed? No wonder Chávez has to go.
Ted Rall is the editor of ” Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists,” an anthology of webcartoons which will be published in May.
US Warns Venezuela on Thuggish Activity
George Gedda / Associated Press
(April 10, 2006) — The Bush administration may severely restrict the movements of Venezuela’s ambassador if pro-government activists in Venezuela engage in any more “thuggish” activities against US Ambassador William Brownfield, a spokesman said Monday.
There have been four incidents of harassment directed at Brownfield in recent weeks, including one last Friday when his convoy was pelted with eggs, tomatoes and other food. The convoy was also pummeled by motorcyclists during a miles-long chase through Caracas.
“If we see an incident like this again, I think that there are going to be serious diplomatic consequences between our two countries. And I think that the Venezuelan ambassador might find his ability to move around the United States severely restricted,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
Another official said the administration may take steps to prevent Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez from leaving the grounds of his residence here. The official asked not to be identified because the issue is still under study.
In Caracas, Venezuela’s top diplomat for North America, Mari Pili Hernandez, said it would be a violation of international law if the U.S. put restrictions on Alvarez’s travels.
She said Venezuela is willing to provide protection for Brownfield but sometimes is unaware of his activities.
“What I cannot do is guess what Brownfield is doing,” she said.
The Venezuelan residence here is located in the western part of Washington in the embassy row area.
McCormack expressed hope that curbs on Alvarez’s travels won’t be necessary.
“We don’t want it to get to that point,” he said. “We want Venezuela to fulfill its obligations under the Vienna Convention to help provide protection for our diplomats there.”
He reaffirmed the US view that the harassment of Brownfield was not a spontaneous act but was planned by government officials.
Friday’s incident occurred when Brownfield was at a stadium in Caracas to deliver baseball equipment to underprivileged youngsters.
On Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened to expel Brownfield, accusing him of repeatedly engaging in provocative behavior.
McCormack withheld comment on the personal attacks Chavez delivered against President Bush. Among other disparaging remarks, Chavez said Bush was genocidal.
“I’m just not going to take the bait on this,” he said, adding that the United States is still seeking good relations with Venezuela.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press
Venezuela Presses for Spanish Military Deals
(April 11, 2006) — Venezuela will purchase 10 military aircraft and eight naval vessels from Spain, despite Washington’s attempt to halt the transaction as a threat to regional stability, a Navy commander said.
The United States, fiercely opposed to left-wing President Hugo Chavez, recently vetoed the sale of 12 EADS-CASA transport and maritime surveillance aircraft to Venezuela in the latest incident to stoke tensions between the two governments.
Vice Admiral Angel Eduardo Lopez said Venezuela will send a team to Spain to supervise construction of the vessels and aircraft by the companies Navantia and Casa. He said Venezuela expects to take delivery of the first vessel in 2008.
“Navantia and Casa have fulfilled all the document requirements and we will soon be signing to start work and then make the scheduled payments,” Lopez said according to ABN state news agency.
He said Venezuela also hoped to start work with Spanish manufacturer Rodman for smaller vessels in a few months.
The original $2 billion deal with Spain had foreseen purchases of 10 C-295 transport aircraft, two maritime surveillance planes, four corvette-class warships and four coastal patrol boats.
Washington must give its permission for sale of military equipment containing U.S.-made technology and U.S. officials have called the Spanish arms deals and a Brazilian aircraft purchase sought by Venezuela an unnecessary “spending spree.
Venezuela did not give any details on whether the Spanish companies had managed to find replacement parts for the U.S. technology used for the original transactions.
Caracas says the systems will modernize its armed forces and help with anti-narcotics and border patrol operations. Venezuela recently took delivery of the first three of a lot of Russian helicopters it plans to buy.
Chavez, a former army colonel, has repeatedly accused the US government of trying to topple him or invade Venezuela. An ally of Cuba, he has promised to bring socialist revolution to Venezuela, the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter.
Washington describes Chavez as a negative force in the region and has questioned his commitment to democracy. Elected in 1998, Chavez is training a civilian militia he says will be deployed in a war of resistance should the United States invade — a charge US officials say is populist propaganda.
Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited
Chavez Deepens Military Ties with Iran
Rowan Scarborough / The Washington Times
WASHINGTON (April 10, 2006) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is seeking to deepen ties with Iran, with discussions on holding joint military exercises and obtaining uranium, according to Bush administration officials.
Hamas also is talking to Caracas about sending representatives to Venezuela to raise money for the militant group’s newly elected Palestinian government.
But relations with another ally, Russia, have soured over a deal in which Moscow is selling 100,000 AK-47s to Venezuela. The South American country was counting on receiving new rifles, but Russia has shipped a number of refurbished models, prompting Caracas to halt the deal, the US sources said.
Mr. Chavez’s continuing efforts to cozy up to Iran are of increasing concern inside the Pentagon and State Department.
Mr. Chavez yesterday threatened to expel the US ambassador, after accusing the diplomat of provoking tensions, according to reporters in Caracas. The threat came two days after pro-Chavez demonstrators tossed eggs, fruit and vegetables at Ambassador William Brownfield’s car and the State Department warned Venezuela that it faced consequences if it did not protect the US envoy.
The Washington Times reported in October that the Chavez government had made overtures to Iran about obtaining nuclear technology. The US and European allies are now trying to force Tehran to give up its stated ambition to enrich uranium, a possible first step to building nuclear weapons.
US officials told The Times that talks now include discussions on Venezuela’s obtaining uranium for what is feared to be a fledgling nuclear program in Caracas.
“Hugo Chavez has been clearly talking to Iran about uranium,” said a senior administration official, who asked not to be named.
The official said he could not confirm reports that Venezuela wants to buy uranium from Iran.
Having made several trips to Iran, Mr. Chavez has declared solidarity with the country’s hard-line mullahs and has entertained Iranian officials in Caracas as he seeks to build an anti-US axis that also includes Fidel Castro’s Cuba.
Mr. Chavez has endorsed Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, and voiced support for the terror insurgency in Iraq.
“I am on the offensive,” Mr. Chavez said on the Arab-language Al Jazeera television network, according to a British Broadcasting Corp. translation, “because attack is the best form of defense. We are waging an offensive battle.”
Venezuela, the No. 3 US oil supplier, would have to build a nuclear program from the ground up, and there have been press reports in Latin America that Mr. Chavez wants to buy a reactor from Argentina.
A spokeswoman at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington referred questions to Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, who was not available for comment. Mr. Alvarez denied to The Times last year that Venezuela was supporting insurgencies in South America and that Venezuela bought the 100,000 AK-47s from Russia “because of defensive purposes for the country.”
The Times reported last year that the State Department had formally protested the rifle deal to Moscow. The fear is Mr. Chavez’s left-wing regime is arming neighborhood militias trained by Cuba to enforce a Stalinist-like security apparatus, while putting used rifles on the black market for South American insurgents.
The Web site Strategypage.com reported last week on the refurbished AK-47s.
The senior administration official said he believes the report is true and probably stems from corruption on both ends of the deal.
“Throughout the Venezuelan government, there is a complete lack of accountability because Chavez has destroyed the institutions of accountability,” the official said. “He’s trying to centralize everything to himself.”
A State Department official said the administration is also concerned about the overtures Venezuela is making toward Hamas, the militant organization that executes terror attacks on Israel and recently won Palestinian parliamentary elections.
“We certainly are concerned about the ongoing relationship with Venezuela and a number of countries of concern, not just Iran, but Hamas and others,” the official said.
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