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13 November 2007

Response to the anti-Chávez article in Adbusters #74

I’ve been a regular reader of Adbusters for quite a while now and more often than not there is always at least one article per issue that I strongly agree with and at least one that I strongly disagree with. That being said, I’m taking the atypical measure of writing to take exception to Sean Condon’s “turning tyrant” in Issue #74 regarding President Chávez of Venezuela. [URL: http://adbusters.org/the_magazine/74/Turning_Tyrant.html ]

Like any modern government, there are certainly fair grounds to be critical of the Bolivarian regime in Venezuela, for example its relations with the counter-progressive regime of Iran and its growing militarism. Nevertheless, when subjected to a basic realpolitik “cost/benefit analysis,” I believe the Bolivarian regime remains one of the most progressive governments in the world and still deserves the support and solidarity it has received from progressive elements elsewhere. However, to substantiate my point, some of Mr. Condon’s primary contentions do deserve a bit of comment.

First, with respect to RCTV, this particular private media outlet actively aided and abetted in the 2002 coup attempt and the effort to illegally overthrow the government of Venezuela. No state can realistically be expected to actively license and authorize the operation of a media outlet that has moved beyond criticism to active – and utterly undeniable – sedition against the state, its people, and its legal representative government. Most of Venezuela’s media remains privately owned and operated and remains actively critical of the Chávez government and its initiatives – all of which is to be expected in any free state – however, RCTV in particular crossed the line between exercising freedom of speech and complicity in an armed insurrection against the state in the interests of a foreign power (the U.S., the only government to immediately recognize the coup). Rest assured that if Adbusters were to move beyond active criticism (freedom of speech) and into direct mobilization and support of an armed insurrection against the Canadian government and the abduction of the prime minister, it too would be shut down and few would fault the Canadian government for doing so.

Secondly, regarding the current proposal to end presidential term limits and some of the related constitutional reforms, I agree that this is certainly somewhat less than encouraging, but again, it is not being done without the active consent and endorsement of the Venezuelan people. Specifically, on December 2 of this year the Venezuelan people – not the legislature – will have the direct ability to approve or deny the proposed constitutional reforms in a national referendum. The idea that great leaders with great ideas might be allowed to continue in their positions longer than normal – with the consent of the people – is hardly unique to Venezuela; remember even in the U.S. we chose to elect FDR for four successive terms (1932, 1936, 1940, & 1944) without lapsing into an authoritarian dictatorship.

The question of the autonomy of Venezuela’s central bank - Banco Central de Venezuela – is another of the constitutional reforms suggested by the President Chávez as part of the Bolivarian Process and is of vital import if the Process is to advance. Essentially, Article 318 of the reforms brings the central bank under control of the elected government of the people so that its policies – specifically in relation to monetary policy - support the interests of the people over the interests of the international markets. That is, contrary to the neo-liberal “Washington Consensus” in which the well being of people is secondary to the well being of international markets and the plutocratic elites, this proposed reform will allow the government and central bank to more effectively coordinate economic policies in support of the Bolivarian Process for the benefit of the Venezuelan people. To quote the Embassy of Venezuela fact sheet: “As Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has argued, the many tradeoffs involved in crafting monetary policy and promoting economic growth in developing countries ‘cannot be relegated to technocrats, particularly when those technocrats place the interests of one segment of society above others.’”

Finally, regarding the notion of expelling foreigners that criticize the government, this presentation by Mr. Condon is somewhat misleading. While Chávez did indeed make this statement, there has been no real change in policy and one must also keep such comments in the context of a myriad of foreign enterprises openly working in Venezuela to undermine the regime. Specifically, these foreign subversives include USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Conservative Party (UK), American Security Council Foundation, assorted Latin American Rightists, and so on. Chávez has very real and legitimate reasons to be wary of foreign critics entering his country and agitating against freedom and democracy in favor of free markets and plutocratic exploitation.

Anyway, make no mistake about it, a number of decisions by the Chávez government do in fact provide reason to worry, but to date there is nothing that should result in “dread and disappointment.”

John Sigler
Bolivarian Circle ‘Chief Tierra Blanca’
a/k/a “Americans for Chavez”

Notes, which can be included or excluded as you will:

“…actively aided and abetted in the 2002 coup attempt…” – Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, "Coup Co-Conspirators as Free-Speech Martyrs: Distorting the Venezuelan media story," FAIR Media Advisory, 25 May 2007, http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3107

“Most of Venezuela’s media remains private owned and operated…” - Stuart Munckton, "Corporate media outraged: Venezuela expands free speech," Green Left Weekly, 6 June 2007, http://www.greenleft.org.au/2007/712/36966

“…end presidential term limits and some of the related constitutional reforms…” - Gregory Wilpert, "Referendum for Venezuelan Constitutional Reform to be in 2 Parts," Venezuelanalysis.com, 2 November 2007, http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/2798

“… approve or deny the proposed constitutional reforms in a national referendum.” - Venezuel Analysis, "Over Hundred Thousand Venezuelans March in Support of Constitutional Reform," Venezuelanalysis.com, 5 November 2007,

“ - Banco Central de Venezuela – “ - Banco Central de Venezuela, http://www.bcv.org.ve/

“To quote the Embassy of Venezuela fact sheet …” – Embassy of Venezuela, “"Constitutional Reform of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela," Embassy of Venezuela Website, undated, http://www.embavenez-us.org/news.php?nid=3791

“…Chávez did indeed make this statement…” - Rory Carroll, "Chávez to expel foreign dissenters," The Guardian, 23 July 2007, http://www.guardian.co.uk/venezuela/story/0,,2133102,00.html

“…USAID …” - Eva Golinger, "USAID in Bolivia and Venezuela: The Silent Subversion," Bolivia Rising, 12 September 2007, http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/2600

“…National Endowment for Democracy…” - Michael Barker, "Washington Promotes 'Independent' Media in Venezuela," Upside Down World , 20 September 2007, http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/2624

“…Conservative Party (UK)…” - Calvin Tucker, "Conservative Party’s Venezuelan Friends in Low Places," The Guardian, 2 September 2007, http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/2579

“…American Security Council Foundation …” - Michael Fox, "'Crisis in the Americas' – A Page Out of Washington’s Propaganda Playbook on Venezuela," Venezuelanalysis.com, 29 October 2007, http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/2771

“…assorted Latin American Rightists…” - John Pilger, "The Old Iran-Contra Death Squad Gang is Desperate to Discredit Chavez," The Guardian, 17 August 2007, http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/2552

you really need to go to venezuela, or stop talking like this. you cannot spend time there (i have been there for the last month and am writing this from colombia) and not see the horrific performance of the chavez government in every area. chavistas are bullies, freedom of expression is blatantly restricted (as is freedom of movement, freedom from unreasonable searches, seizures and roberies by the military, etc.), local people everywhere - who understand anything about the issues - are contra chavez (witness the pro chavez propoganda - it is everywhere official - everywhere where chavez pays to have it put up using govt money, but it is nowhere voluntary, businesses and homes do not choose to mount chavez propoganda). and moreover the quality of life is crap right now. people can´t get milk, eggs, sugar, basic necessities. they live in fear of crime and corrupt police and military. in short, they must overcome their own govt in order to life good lives. even here in colombia, which has nothing of the natural resources that vz has, quality of life is notably, undeniably better. you obviously can see some problems from your analysis, but yet you choose to be willfully blind to the realities stemming from these problems. please stop supporting this terrible regime.
This comment is from Bolivia. I write this comment with fear as our President Evo Morales is backed by the clown Chavez of Venezuela, much to our disgust. Many of us Bolivians are fed up with what is happening on our country. I agree with the article "Turning Tyrant" (Hugo Chavez) from Adbusters 74
Today, most of Bolivia is shut down, because Our MAS Gov. does not seem to know how to manage the country. Only with lies and more lies. Who is be hind all of this? Chavez. 56% of the Bolivian population voted for Evo including myself, as we were tiered of very corrupt Govts. of the past.. Evo, promised us a bright future.
Socialism done in the right way, is great and the way it was preached to us, sounded even greater. So why not go for it? Uncle Sam had committed some gross mistakes and unfortunately they and we are all paying for it now. The USA Govt. would never admit to have committed mistakes, but because of mistakes made in the past we are all paying for what is happening in our country at present.
Evo has become buddies with Chavez and now we see our country in chaos, and just like the last com mentor said about Venezuela, similar things are happening happening here in Bolivia. I will quote what anonymous said "local people everywhere who understand anything about the issues- are CONTRA Chavez" we can add Evo and also our Vice President Alavaro Lineras to the list.
We have stepped from the frying pan into the fire. Like a newspaper article said today. Why doesn't Chavez (Evo) stop attacking the oligarchy's, USA and now the Spanish King, but deal with high inflation, poverty etc. etc.. I understand, even with all the petrodollars going into Venezuela, poverty is is more abundant in that country, as it is here in Bolivia. I drove up to Evo's home town last week end, Oruro and I was shocked to see so much poverty every where. I come from one of the more progressive cities of Bolivia. One could see the contrast, like nice cars or people dressed nicely, and you would look at there licence plates and they were from one of these cities. The gap between the rich and the poor is large and this is not good, but Evo and the MAS seem bent on destroying everything. I see NO progress in his home town, but people that seem beaten in life and carrying the weight of the world on there shoulders. I never had so many beggars come up to my car and to my person asking for money, food etc. I am middle class, but next to these people I felt rich. I work hard for what I have. It did make me feel bad and I shed a tear for my country. I don't have answers, only that we need leaders that really want to do good for our country, weather they be Indian or white, right or left in thinking. We need honest, willing to sacrifice and NOT be run by outsiders.
Back to Chavez. He is arrogant, an idiot and says foolish things. Our President is close behind. Chavez enters Bolivia in the Venezuelan Presidential plane and sends others planes when ever he wants to. They land in our cities at 3 AM. What for? Any body's guess. Rumours have it they are having arms shipped in. Chavez threatens Bolivia, even a few days ago, in Chile saying he would defend Evo with Venezuelan gun's if someone tried to topple him out of power. Who the heck does he think he is to threaten Bolivia and Bolivians?? It is our business and our politics, not Chavez's. Our President does nothing to stop him to defend Bolivia. Bad, bad
So what is the future for Bolivia. It seems now only two roads, Civil war or a harsh Totalitarian rule. If you listen to our state TV channel, we laugh as it is, just out right lies what is said. Bolivia is paradise according to them and the Mas and Evo are doing a great job. That has become character of this MAS Government. lies. Who do we have to thank for the chaos we are in Chavez the President clown of Venezuela.
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