Discussion:
Four Stories On Upcoming Venezuela Recall Vote
(demasiado antiguo para responder)
Josh Dougherty
2004-08-12 19:19:14 UTC
Permalink
All of Latin America is Watching
What's at Stake in Venezuela
By YVES ENGLER

August 12, 2004

http://www.counterpunch.org/engler08122004.html

Supporters of democracy should be watching Venezuela this weekend (August
15). Has respect for the rule of law and constitutional government truly
taken root in Latin America or will traditional ruling elites and their
backers in Washington bring us more of the same old "respect for the
electoral process, but only if you vote the way we want" you to vote?

In 1992 a young Venezuelan army officer named Hugo Chavez unsuccessfully
attempted to overthrow a widely unpopular government. This Sunday the same
man will have his six-year presidency put to a popular referendum.

In 1998 Chavez won the presidency with 56 percent of the vote. A year later
Chavez spearheaded constitutional reform, which was overwhelmingly endorsed
by the electorate. For the first time in Venezuelan history the constitution
recognized the rights of indigenous people, guaranteed equality between the
sexes and provided a mechanism to recall the president--in other words, one
of the most democratic constitutions in our hemisphere. To further
demonstrate his commitment to democracy Chavez resigned from office early
and held new elections under the new constitution. He won the 2000 election
with an even bigger majority. Fifty years of corrupt two-party "democracy"
ended when Chavez won. But during his first years in office Chavez did
little to tackle Venezuela's tremendous economic and social inequality. The
poor majority, generally of mixed indigenous and African blood, continued to
live in abject poverty while the wealthy, usually of European ancestry,
maintained their control over the country's oil wealth.

By the end of 2000 programs to expand school attendance were underway. A
year later 49 controversial laws were passed including agrarian reform and a
hydrocarbons law, which increased the government's income from foreign
energy companies.

The opposition, with funding from the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy
and after a crucial meeting in Washington, responded by orchestrating a
short-lived military coup in 2002. During their 48 hours in control the coup
plotters suspended parliament and abolished the constitution.

But, they weren't able to convince all factions of the military that such a
blatant disregard of the democratic will was a good idea. At the same time
hundreds of thousands of the poor majority who elected Chavez surrounded the
presidential palace demanding his return. While most governments in Latin
America denounced this affront to democracy Ottawa took its cue from
Washington and said nothing about the overthrow of an elected president.

The unsuccessful coup gave Chavez the chance to purge disloyal military
officers. It also strengthened his commitment to the poor, his base of
support. Since then a literacy campaign has helped one million poor adults
learn to read. Even more successful is the Barrio Adentro national health
care program, which is made up of neighborhood clinics in under-serviced
city slums and poor rural regions.

In December 2002 and January 2003 the opposition returned to the offensive.
They shut down most of the formal economy for a couple of days. The economic
disruption culminated in a strike/lockout at a bastion of opposition power,
the state oil company PDVSA. The strike/lockout was a catastrophic failure.
It turned many people against the opposition; it led to the dismissal of
18,000 oil workers and the opposition lost control of PDVSA.

To feed the poor during the economic disruption, the Chavez government
opened government-run food stores and kitchens. Thousands of street
children, homeless, retired people and pregnant mothers are now happy to get
free meals from the government.

Since the start of this year Chavez has spent lavishly on social programs.
After last year's nine percent drop in GDP, caused by the opposition's
economic disruption, the economy has turned around. Buoyed by the high price
of oil the Chavez administration is doing what no elected Venezuelan
government has ever done: spend its huge oil revenues on the country's poor.

Not only have the poor benefited from social programs, but they are also
active participants in the country's democratic transformation. Tens of
thousands of "Bolivarian circles", named after Latin America's liberator
Simon Bolivar, have sprouted up across the country. These groups of seven to
twenty residents work collectively to improve their neighborhoods. In the
face of an overwhelmingly pro-opposition private media, community media has
flourished.

Since being elected Chavez has done what international aid agencies and
Western governments claim they want to do; improve the living standards of
the poor and empower them. By any fair estimation he's been a model
democrat, which the recall referendum proves. Polls, even ones paid for by
the opposition media, predict Chavez will win.

Still the U.S. has funded a hostile opposition and tried to isolate
Venezuela diplomatically. The U.S. also harbors anti-Chavez dissidents such
as former president Carlos Andres Perez who last month told the Venezuelan
daily El Nacional that "I am working to remove Chavez [from power]. Violence
will allow us to remove him. That's the only way we have." He went on to say
that Chavez "must die like a dog, because he deserves it." On Tuesday
Spain's El Mundo newspaper reported on a Central Intelligence Agency meeting
held in Chile to prepare a contingency plan in the likely event that Chavez
wins the recall.

All of Latin America is watching. Will the U.S. respect the democratic will
of the people of Venezuela?

Yves Engler is author of the forthcoming book playing Left Wing: From Hockey
to Politics: the making of a student activist. He's traveled extensively in
Venezuela. He can be reached at: ***@hotmail.com


****************

Anti-Chavez Pollsters Panic
Fix Numbers; Reinvent Venezuela
By JUSTIN DELACOUR

As the August 15 referendum on whether Hugo Chavez should continue as
president looms in Venezuela, anti-Chavez pollsters have begun reluctantly
issuing polls showing Chavez in the lead. In June, the Washington-D.C. based
polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc.--working on behalf of
the opposition--conducted a poll showing that 49 percent of Venezuela's
registered voters would support President Chavez versus 44 percent that
would vote to recall him. Another June poll by the Venezuelan firm
DATOS--also commissioned by the opposition--gave Chavez 51 percent of
support, against 39 percent who would vote against him.

Recently Chavez challenged other Venezuelan polling firms aligned to the
opposition to release the results of their latest polls. Venezuelan
Information Minister Jesse Chacon has claimed to have copies of these
polls--which favor Chavez--and has threatened to publish them if the polling
firms do not come forward.

One should not mistakenly conclude that these polls vindicate the
anti-Chavez pollsters as "unbiased."Rather, in the hour of truth, some
pollsters--after having long engaged in highly biased polling designed to
demoralize the government's supporters and to embolden the opposition--will
issue less biased polls in a last-ditch effort to salvage their own
credibility in the face of impending defeat.

(more: http://www.counterpunch.org/delacour08072004.html)

*****************

Will The Gang That Fixed Florida Fix the Vote in Caracas this Sunday?
Venezuela Floridated
By: Greg Palast

Hugo Chavez drives George Bush crazy. Maybe it's jealousy: Unlike Mr. Bush,
Chavez, in Venezuela, won his Presidency by a majority of the vote.

Or maybe it's the oil: Venezuela sits atop a reserve rivaling Iraq's. And
Hugo thinks the US and British oil companies that pump the crude ought to
pay more than a 16% royalty to his nation for the stuff. Hey, sixteen
percent isn't even acceptable as a tip at a New York diner.

Whatever it is, OUR President has decided that THEIR president has to go.
This is none too easy given that Chavez is backed by Venezuela's poor. And
the US oil industry, joined with local oligarchs, has made sure a vast
majority of Venezuelans remain poor.

Therefore, Chavez is expected to win this coming Sunday's recall vote. That
is, if the elections are free and fair.

They won't be. Some months ago, a little birdie faxed to me what appeared to
be confidential pages from a contract between John Ashcroft's Justice
Department and a company called ChoicePoint, Inc., of Atlanta. The deal is
part of the War on Terror.

Justice offered up to $67 million, of our taxpayer money, to ChoicePoint in
a no-bid deal, for computer profiles with private information on every
citizen of half a dozen nations. The choice of which nation's citizens to
spy on caught my eye. While the September 11th highjackers came from Saudi
Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and the Arab Emirates, ChoicePoint's menu offered
records on Venezuelans, Brazilians, Nicaraguans, Mexicans and Argentines.
How odd. Had the CIA uncovered a Latin plot to sneak suicide tango dancers
across the border with exploding enchiladas?

What do these nations have in common besides a lack of involvement in the
September 11th attacks? Coincidentally, each is in the throes of major
electoral contests in which the leading candidates -- presidents Lula
Ignacio da Silva of Brazil, Nestor Kirschner of Argentina, Mexico City mayor
Andres Lopez Obrador and Venezuela's Chavez -- have the nerve to challenge
the globalization demands of George W. Bush.

The last time ChoicePoint sold voter files to our government it was to help
Governor Jeb Bush locate and purge felons on Florida voter rolls. Turns out
ChoicePoint's felons were merely Democrats guilty only of V.W.B., Voting
While Black. That little 'error' cost Al Gore the White House.

It looks like the Bush Administration is taking the Florida show for a tour
south of the border.

However, when Mexico discovered ChoicePoint had its citizen files, the
nation threatened company executives with criminal charges. ChoicePoint
protested its innocence and offered to destroy the files of any nation that
requests it.

But ChoicePoint, apparently, presented no such offer to the government of
Venezuela's Chavez.

In Caracas, I showed Congressman Nicolas Maduro the ChoicePoint-Ashcroft
agreement. Maduro, a leader of Chavez' political party, was unaware that his
nation's citizen files were for sale to U.S. intelligence. But he understood
their value to make mischief.

If the lists somehow fell into the hands of the Venezuelan opposition, it
could immeasurably help their computer-aided drive to recall and remove
Chavez. A ChoicePoint flak said the Bush administration told the company
they haven't used the lists that way. The PR man didn't say if the Bush
spooks laughed when they said it.

Our team located a $53,000 payment from our government to Chavez' recall
organizers, who claim to be armed with computer lists of the registered. How
did they get those lists? The fix that was practiced in Florida, with
ChoicePoint's help, deliberate or not, appears to be retooled for Venezuela,
then Brazil, Mexico and who knows where else.

Here's what it comes down to: The Justice Department averts it's gaze from
Saudi Arabia but shoplifts voter records in Venezuela. So it's only fair to
ask: Is Mr. Bush fighting a war on terror -- or a war on democracy?


Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, 'The Best Democracy
Money Can Buy.' This commentary is based on 'Tango Terrorists,' in the new
chapter of the book's Expanded Election Edition (Penguin 2004). For Palast's
reports on Venezuela for the Guardian of Britain and his exclusive interview
for BBC Television with President Hugo Chavez, go to www.GregPalast.com


************

(Did anyone see a *word* about the following in the US media? - take a look
at the pictures on the link)

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1331

Chavez Supporters Gather in Venezuela's Capital for Largest Pro-Chavez Rally

Monday, Aug 09, 2004
By: Jonah Gindin - Venezuelanalysis.com
Caracas, August 9, 2004-Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez
filled Caracas' largest public venue yesterday, packing the Avenida Bolívar
for well over a mile and overflowing onto side streets all over the
downtown. Clad in red-the colour that has come to represent chavismo in
Venezuela-supporters bore t-shirts, hats, berets, placards, puppets, and
inventive home-made signs all uniformly declaring "No!" to the recall on
Chávez' mandate scheduled for next Sunday, August 15th.
Malísimo
2004-08-12 19:26:19 UTC
Permalink
Post by Josh Dougherty
All of Latin America is Watching
[..]
Since the start of this year Chavez has spent lavishly on social programs.
After last year's nine percent drop in GDP, caused by the opposition's
economic disruption, the economy has turned around.
What a joke!
Post by Josh Dougherty
Not only have the poor benefited from social programs, but they are also
active participants in the country's democratic transformation.
PLOP!
Post by Josh Dougherty
Tens of
thousands of "Bolivarian circles", named after Latin America's liberator
Simon Bolivar, have sprouted up across the country. These groups of seven to
twenty residents work collectively to improve their neighborhoods.
Really?
Post by Josh Dougherty
Since being elected Chavez has done what international aid agencies and
Western governments claim they want to do; improve the living standards of
the poor and empower them. By any fair estimation he's been a model
democrat, which the recall referendum proves. Polls, even ones paid for by
the opposition media, predict Chavez will win.
Se va, se va, se vaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
Post by Josh Dougherty
Still the U.S. has funded a hostile opposition and tried to isolate
Venezuela diplomatically.
Te sale el 73 pa'que no te enojes y pasaje directo, one way, a la cochinera!
--
I am Malísimo... and I approve this message
Cretinism Manifesto
2004-08-12 19:26:36 UTC
Permalink
I thought I blocked you Mut**r Fu****r, GET BACK IN THE CAGE !
Post by Josh Dougherty
All of Latin America is Watching
What's at Stake in Venezuela
By YVES ENGLER
August 12, 2004
http://www.counterpunch.org/engler08122004.html
Supporters of democracy should be watching Venezuela this weekend (August
15). Has respect for the rule of law and constitutional government truly
taken root in Latin America or will traditional ruling elites and their
backers in Washington bring us more of the same old "respect for the
electoral process, but only if you vote the way we want" you to vote?
In 1992 a young Venezuelan army officer named Hugo Chavez unsuccessfully
attempted to overthrow a widely unpopular government. This Sunday the same
man will have his six-year presidency put to a popular referendum.
In 1998 Chavez won the presidency with 56 percent of the vote. A year later
Chavez spearheaded constitutional reform, which was overwhelmingly endorsed
by the electorate. For the first time in Venezuelan history the constitution
recognized the rights of indigenous people, guaranteed equality between the
sexes and provided a mechanism to recall the president--in other words, one
of the most democratic constitutions in our hemisphere. To further
demonstrate his commitment to democracy Chavez resigned from office early
and held new elections under the new constitution. He won the 2000 election
with an even bigger majority. Fifty years of corrupt two-party "democracy"
ended when Chavez won. But during his first years in office Chavez did
little to tackle Venezuela's tremendous economic and social inequality. The
poor majority, generally of mixed indigenous and African blood, continued to
live in abject poverty while the wealthy, usually of European ancestry,
maintained their control over the country's oil wealth.
By the end of 2000 programs to expand school attendance were underway. A
year later 49 controversial laws were passed including agrarian reform and a
hydrocarbons law, which increased the government's income from foreign
energy companies.
The opposition, with funding from the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy
and after a crucial meeting in Washington, responded by orchestrating a
short-lived military coup in 2002. During their 48 hours in control the coup
plotters suspended parliament and abolished the constitution.
But, they weren't able to convince all factions of the military that such a
blatant disregard of the democratic will was a good idea. At the same time
hundreds of thousands of the poor majority who elected Chavez surrounded the
presidential palace demanding his return. While most governments in Latin
America denounced this affront to democracy Ottawa took its cue from
Washington and said nothing about the overthrow of an elected president.
The unsuccessful coup gave Chavez the chance to purge disloyal military
officers. It also strengthened his commitment to the poor, his base of
support. Since then a literacy campaign has helped one million poor adults
learn to read. Even more successful is the Barrio Adentro national health
care program, which is made up of neighborhood clinics in under-serviced
city slums and poor rural regions.
In December 2002 and January 2003 the opposition returned to the offensive.
They shut down most of the formal economy for a couple of days. The economic
disruption culminated in a strike/lockout at a bastion of opposition power,
the state oil company PDVSA. The strike/lockout was a catastrophic failure.
It turned many people against the opposition; it led to the dismissal of
18,000 oil workers and the opposition lost control of PDVSA.
To feed the poor during the economic disruption, the Chavez government
opened government-run food stores and kitchens. Thousands of street
children, homeless, retired people and pregnant mothers are now happy to get
free meals from the government.
Since the start of this year Chavez has spent lavishly on social programs.
After last year's nine percent drop in GDP, caused by the opposition's
economic disruption, the economy has turned around. Buoyed by the high price
of oil the Chavez administration is doing what no elected Venezuelan
government has ever done: spend its huge oil revenues on the country's poor.
Not only have the poor benefited from social programs, but they are also
active participants in the country's democratic transformation. Tens of
thousands of "Bolivarian circles", named after Latin America's liberator
Simon Bolivar, have sprouted up across the country. These groups of seven to
twenty residents work collectively to improve their neighborhoods. In the
face of an overwhelmingly pro-opposition private media, community media has
flourished.
Since being elected Chavez has done what international aid agencies and
Western governments claim they want to do; improve the living standards of
the poor and empower them. By any fair estimation he's been a model
democrat, which the recall referendum proves. Polls, even ones paid for by
the opposition media, predict Chavez will win.
Still the U.S. has funded a hostile opposition and tried to isolate
Venezuela diplomatically. The U.S. also harbors anti-Chavez dissidents such
as former president Carlos Andres Perez who last month told the Venezuelan
daily El Nacional that "I am working to remove Chavez [from power]. Violence
will allow us to remove him. That's the only way we have." He went on to say
that Chavez "must die like a dog, because he deserves it." On Tuesday
Spain's El Mundo newspaper reported on a Central Intelligence Agency meeting
held in Chile to prepare a contingency plan in the likely event that Chavez
wins the recall.
All of Latin America is watching. Will the U.S. respect the democratic will
of the people of Venezuela?
Yves Engler is author of the forthcoming book playing Left Wing: From Hockey
to Politics: the making of a student activist. He's traveled extensively in
****************
Anti-Chavez Pollsters Panic
Fix Numbers; Reinvent Venezuela
By JUSTIN DELACOUR
As the August 15 referendum on whether Hugo Chavez should continue as
president looms in Venezuela, anti-Chavez pollsters have begun reluctantly
issuing polls showing Chavez in the lead. In June, the Washington-D.C. based
polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc.--working on behalf of
the opposition--conducted a poll showing that 49 percent of Venezuela's
registered voters would support President Chavez versus 44 percent that
would vote to recall him. Another June poll by the Venezuelan firm
DATOS--also commissioned by the opposition--gave Chavez 51 percent of
support, against 39 percent who would vote against him.
Recently Chavez challenged other Venezuelan polling firms aligned to the
opposition to release the results of their latest polls. Venezuelan
Information Minister Jesse Chacon has claimed to have copies of these
polls--which favor Chavez--and has threatened to publish them if the polling
firms do not come forward.
One should not mistakenly conclude that these polls vindicate the
anti-Chavez pollsters as "unbiased."Rather, in the hour of truth, some
pollsters--after having long engaged in highly biased polling designed to
demoralize the government's supporters and to embolden the
opposition--will
Post by Josh Dougherty
issue less biased polls in a last-ditch effort to salvage their own
credibility in the face of impending defeat.
(more: http://www.counterpunch.org/delacour08072004.html)
*****************
Will The Gang That Fixed Florida Fix the Vote in Caracas this Sunday?
Venezuela Floridated
By: Greg Palast
Hugo Chavez drives George Bush crazy. Maybe it's jealousy: Unlike Mr. Bush,
Chavez, in Venezuela, won his Presidency by a majority of the vote.
Or maybe it's the oil: Venezuela sits atop a reserve rivaling Iraq's. And
Hugo thinks the US and British oil companies that pump the crude ought to
pay more than a 16% royalty to his nation for the stuff. Hey, sixteen
percent isn't even acceptable as a tip at a New York diner.
Whatever it is, OUR President has decided that THEIR president has to go.
This is none too easy given that Chavez is backed by Venezuela's poor. And
the US oil industry, joined with local oligarchs, has made sure a vast
majority of Venezuelans remain poor.
Therefore, Chavez is expected to win this coming Sunday's recall vote. That
is, if the elections are free and fair.
They won't be. Some months ago, a little birdie faxed to me what appeared to
be confidential pages from a contract between John Ashcroft's Justice
Department and a company called ChoicePoint, Inc., of Atlanta. The deal is
part of the War on Terror.
Justice offered up to $67 million, of our taxpayer money, to ChoicePoint in
a no-bid deal, for computer profiles with private information on every
citizen of half a dozen nations. The choice of which nation's citizens to
spy on caught my eye. While the September 11th highjackers came from Saudi
Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and the Arab Emirates, ChoicePoint's menu offered
records on Venezuelans, Brazilians, Nicaraguans, Mexicans and Argentines.
How odd. Had the CIA uncovered a Latin plot to sneak suicide tango dancers
across the border with exploding enchiladas?
What do these nations have in common besides a lack of involvement in the
September 11th attacks? Coincidentally, each is in the throes of major
electoral contests in which the leading candidates -- presidents Lula
Ignacio da Silva of Brazil, Nestor Kirschner of Argentina, Mexico City mayor
Andres Lopez Obrador and Venezuela's Chavez -- have the nerve to challenge
the globalization demands of George W. Bush.
The last time ChoicePoint sold voter files to our government it was to help
Governor Jeb Bush locate and purge felons on Florida voter rolls. Turns out
ChoicePoint's felons were merely Democrats guilty only of V.W.B., Voting
While Black. That little 'error' cost Al Gore the White House.
It looks like the Bush Administration is taking the Florida show for a tour
south of the border.
However, when Mexico discovered ChoicePoint had its citizen files, the
nation threatened company executives with criminal charges. ChoicePoint
protested its innocence and offered to destroy the files of any nation that
requests it.
But ChoicePoint, apparently, presented no such offer to the government of
Venezuela's Chavez.
In Caracas, I showed Congressman Nicolas Maduro the ChoicePoint-Ashcroft
agreement. Maduro, a leader of Chavez' political party, was unaware that his
nation's citizen files were for sale to U.S. intelligence. But he understood
their value to make mischief.
If the lists somehow fell into the hands of the Venezuelan opposition, it
could immeasurably help their computer-aided drive to recall and remove
Chavez. A ChoicePoint flak said the Bush administration told the company
they haven't used the lists that way. The PR man didn't say if the Bush
spooks laughed when they said it.
Our team located a $53,000 payment from our government to Chavez' recall
organizers, who claim to be armed with computer lists of the registered. How
did they get those lists? The fix that was practiced in Florida, with
ChoicePoint's help, deliberate or not, appears to be retooled for Venezuela,
then Brazil, Mexico and who knows where else.
Here's what it comes down to: The Justice Department averts it's gaze from
Saudi Arabia but shoplifts voter records in Venezuela. So it's only fair to
ask: Is Mr. Bush fighting a war on terror -- or a war on democracy?
Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, 'The Best Democracy
Money Can Buy.' This commentary is based on 'Tango Terrorists,' in the new
chapter of the book's Expanded Election Edition (Penguin 2004). For Palast's
reports on Venezuela for the Guardian of Britain and his exclusive interview
for BBC Television with President Hugo Chavez, go to www.GregPalast.com
************
(Did anyone see a *word* about the following in the US media? - take a look
at the pictures on the link)
http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1331
Chavez Supporters Gather in Venezuela's Capital for Largest Pro-Chavez Rally
Monday, Aug 09, 2004
By: Jonah Gindin - Venezuelanalysis.com
Caracas, August 9, 2004-Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez
filled Caracas' largest public venue yesterday, packing the Avenida Bolívar
for well over a mile and overflowing onto side streets all over the
downtown. Clad in red-the colour that has come to represent chavismo in
Venezuela-supporters bore t-shirts, hats, berets, placards, puppets, and
inventive home-made signs all uniformly declaring "No!" to the recall on
Chávez' mandate scheduled for next Sunday, August 15th.
bulba
2004-08-12 20:48:19 UTC
Permalink
On Thu, 12 Aug 2004 15:19:14 -0400, "Josh Dougherty"
Post by Josh Dougherty
To feed the poor during the economic disruption, the Chavez government
opened government-run food stores and kitchens. Thousands of street
children, homeless, retired people and pregnant mothers are now happy to get
free meals from the government.
Well, Al Capone did that, too...
Cretinism Manifesto
2004-08-12 20:45:53 UTC
Permalink
Post by bulba
On Thu, 12 Aug 2004 15:19:14 -0400, "Josh Dougherty"
Well, Al Capone did that, too...
You can always hope that they bothe end up the same.
bulba
2004-08-12 21:04:50 UTC
Permalink
On Thu, 12 Aug 2004 16:45:53 -0400, "Cretinism Manifesto"
Post by Cretinism Manifesto
Post by bulba
On Thu, 12 Aug 2004 15:19:14 -0400, "Josh Dougherty"
Well, Al Capone did that, too...
You can always hope that they bothe end up the same.
They pretty much are going that way - imagine
US president meddling with Supreme Court
like Chavez did, he's just a populist dictator
wannabe.
Archibald Buttle
2004-08-12 22:06:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by bulba
On Thu, 12 Aug 2004 15:19:14 -0400, "Josh Dougherty"
Post by Josh Dougherty
To feed the poor during the economic disruption, the Chavez government
opened government-run food stores and kitchens. Thousands of street
children, homeless, retired people and pregnant mothers are now happy to get
free meals from the government.
Well, Al Capone did that, too...
Mexico did too. Like Venezuela, Mexico's ruling party has always thrown
a few meager scraps to the poor, enough to keep them from revolting,
but never addresses the reason WHY they are and remain poor (usually
corruption, mismanagement, and theft by the ruling party). So what if
Hugo Chavez gives the poor a few bowls of free soup a week - as long
as he remains in power the poor will remain poor and need that free
soup. If he and his mafia party are overthrown, the poor will be freed
from their shackles and will become successful and no longer depend on
government handouts.
Josh Dougherty
2004-08-12 22:13:46 UTC
Permalink
Post by Archibald Buttle
Post by bulba
On Thu, 12 Aug 2004 15:19:14 -0400, "Josh Dougherty"
Post by Josh Dougherty
To feed the poor during the economic disruption, the Chavez government
opened government-run food stores and kitchens. Thousands of street
children, homeless, retired people and pregnant mothers are now happy to get
free meals from the government.
Well, Al Capone did that, too...
Mexico did too. Like Venezuela, Mexico's ruling party has always thrown
a few meager scraps to the poor, enough to keep them from revolting,
but never addresses the reason WHY they are and remain poor (usually
corruption, mismanagement, and theft by the ruling party). So what if
Hugo Chavez gives the poor a few bowls of free soup a week - as long
as he remains in power the poor will remain poor and need that free
soup. If he and his mafia party are overthrown, the poor will be freed
from their shackles and will become successful and no longer depend on
government handouts.
Yeah, just like they were before Chavez came along and ruined everything for
them.

Chavez seems to get most of his support from the poor and the majority of
them support him. So tell me, how is it that you understand their life
experience and know what's in their best interest, while they are unable to
comprehend their own life experience or what's in their own interest?
bulba
2004-08-15 13:52:59 UTC
Permalink
On Thu, 12 Aug 2004 18:13:46 -0400, "Josh Dougherty"
Post by Josh Dougherty
Yeah, just like they were before Chavez came along and ruined everything for
them.
The fact is that Venezuelans seem to be bent on replacing the bad
deal (don't ask me to defend 'social democracy' in principle) for a
worse one.
Post by Josh Dougherty
Chavez seems to get most of his support from the poor and the majority of
them support him.
Just like Castro did at the time.

A prince is using merchant's and local warlord's money to get him
support among the poor (those are not his money anyway
so why not use them for sake of getting the power). The merchant
and the warlord are understandably pissed off.

But that doesn't make the prince is any good or any better.




--
I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
Robert
2004-08-15 05:10:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by Archibald Buttle
Post by bulba
On Thu, 12 Aug 2004 15:19:14 -0400, "Josh Dougherty"
Post by Josh Dougherty
To feed the poor during the economic disruption, the Chavez government
opened government-run food stores and kitchens. Thousands of street
children, homeless, retired people and pregnant mothers are now happy to get
free meals from the government.
Well, Al Capone did that, too...
Mexico did too. Like Venezuela, Mexico's ruling party has always thrown
a few meager scraps to the poor, enough to keep them from revolting,
but never addresses the reason WHY they are and remain poor (usually
corruption, mismanagement, and theft by the ruling party). So what if
Hugo Chavez gives the poor a few bowls of free soup a week - as long
as he remains in power the poor will remain poor and need that free
soup. If he and his mafia party are overthrown, the poor will be freed
from their shackles and will become successful and no longer depend on
government handouts.
That shows just how much you know

Chavez is the first person to do anything for the people
bulba
2004-08-15 13:53:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by Robert
That shows just how much you know
Chavez is the first person to do anything for the people
That's just PR, dumbo.


--
I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
Robert
2004-08-15 05:09:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by bulba
On Thu, 12 Aug 2004 15:19:14 -0400, "Josh Dougherty"
Post by Josh Dougherty
To feed the poor during the economic disruption, the Chavez government
opened government-run food stores and kitchens. Thousands of street
children, homeless, retired people and pregnant mothers are now happy to get
free meals from the government.
Well, Al Capone did that, too...
I will take Chavey over georgiegirl any day
bulba
2004-08-15 13:54:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by Robert
Post by bulba
Post by Josh Dougherty
To feed the poor during the economic disruption, the Chavez government
opened government-run food stores and kitchens. Thousands of street
children, homeless, retired people and pregnant mothers are now happy to get
free meals from the government.
Well, Al Capone did that, too...
I will take Chavey over georgiegirl any day
Of course, wannabe serfs prefer those like Castro,
Chavez or Peron.

That is the very point: free people would not
fall for such wannabe dictator as Chavez.

But then again, the free people would not "build"
this nonsense that was in Venezuela before.




--
I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
bulba
2004-08-12 21:02:23 UTC
Permalink
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A37649-2004Jul8.html

Chavez remains charismatic, in control and calling the shots at each
twist and turn of the saga. A week before he finally agreed to the
referendum, he signed a law packing the Supreme Court with 12 extra
justices and giving his coalition's majority in the legislature
authority to nullify the terms of sitting justices.

"Yet another example that democracy is not just about voting -- this
is a delusion," Naim said. "It is also about checks and balances,
independent arbiters and referees supervising the electoral process.
It is not just one man, one vote, one time."
Josh Dougherty
2004-08-12 21:32:52 UTC
Permalink
"bulba" <***@bulba.com> wrote in message news:***@4ax.com...

Trying to find mud to throw at the wall i see.
Post by bulba
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A37649-2004Jul8.html
Chavez remains charismatic, in control and calling the shots at each
twist and turn of the saga. A week before he finally agreed to the
referendum, he signed a law packing the Supreme Court with 12 extra
justices
Oh my goodness. He's lowered himself to the tactics of iron fisted
dictators like Franklin Roosevelt.

Anyway, let's take a loot at the law. Here's a pretty concise explanation:
http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1184

Venezuela's 1999 constitution (ratified by the citizens in open referendum)
requires such a new law and also specifies that the entire judicial system
is subordinated, not just procedurally, but also administratively to the
Supreme Court. Most of the law's 29 articles are relatively
uncontroversial. However, three provisions in the new law have raised the
opposition's ire.
First, the new law increases the number of Supreme Court judges from 20 to
32. The opposition says that such an increase is unwarranted and that it
would allow Chavez and his supporters to pack the court all over again, now
that only half of the current judges appear to be sympathetic to the
government. Government supporters, however, argue that the current number of
judges is insufficient for the case load of the court and that the current
number of judges corresponds to the old Supreme Court of the 1961
constitution which had only three chambers, while the new one has six.

Second, the new Supreme Court law allows judges to be named with simple
majority, should three previous efforts to name judges with the
constitutionally required two-thirds majority fail. Here the opposition
argues that this subverts the previous two-thirds majority requirement that
the earlier Supreme Court law had set, allowing the legislature to name
judges with a simple majority. Pro-Chavez legislators point out, though,
that given the current impasse in the nearly evenly divided legislature, an
escape hatch for naming judges must be found. Besides, naming judges by
simple majority is not all that unusual in the international context. U.S.
Supreme Court judges, for example, do not need more than a simple majority.
Post by bulba
and giving his coalition's majority in the legislature
authority to nullify the terms of sitting justices.
Translation: The freely elected congress of Venezuela may vote to impeach
justices, just like in the US.
National Lawyers Guild vice president Nathan Newman wrote of this process in
the United States:

"In fact, over the course of American history, the House of Representatives
has impeached fifteen individuals, including two Presidents, twelve judges,
a senator, and a cabinet member. The Senate has convicted seven of the
fifteen. Most were impeached for acts of personal impropriety but a number
of others have been impeached strictly for their official conduct. The early
history of the Republic saw a number of politically-charged judicial
impeachments."

In fact, the great democrat (or wanna-be dictator apparently) Thomas
Jefferson and his supporters utilized this Constitutional process to impeach
Supreme Court justice Samuel Chase in 1804.
bulba
2004-08-15 13:55:25 UTC
Permalink
On Thu, 12 Aug 2004 17:32:52 -0400, "Josh Dougherty"
Post by Josh Dougherty
Trying to find mud to throw at the wall i see.
There's enough provided by Chavez himself:

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1030

Effectively, he's doing two things: trying to suppress
the media with any means available to him as well
as funding PR campaign 'for the poor' with somebody
else's money. The fact that those money in turn
are largely stolen doesn't contradict the fact that
we see dictator in the making, coming online.
Post by Josh Dougherty
Post by bulba
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A37649-2004Jul8.html
Chavez remains charismatic, in control and calling the shots at each
twist and turn of the saga. A week before he finally agreed to the
referendum, he signed a law packing the Supreme Court with 12 extra
justices
Oh my goodness. He's lowered himself to the tactics of iron fisted
dictators like Franklin Roosevelt.
FDR was in fact highly skilled in manipulating politics, he
was sort of little Big Brother.
Post by Josh Dougherty
Translation: The freely elected congress of Venezuela may vote to impeach
justices, just like in the US.
Translation to the language of reality:

When Jefferson buys a knife, it is for purpose different than when
Chavez buys a knife. And when Jeffferson decides to use that
knife on a guy, it is again for purpose different than the one
Chavez demonstrates when he is waving the knife in presence of
some folks that know this knife can be used on them.

The context and purpose and the end effects are all different.



--
I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
Dan Clore
2004-08-13 13:22:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by Josh Dougherty
(Did anyone see a *word* about the following in the US media? - take a look
at the pictures on the link)
I just looked through Google News search results going from
now back to the ninth. AP did do a story that mentioned this
rally, but also portrays an opposition rally as if it were
equal in size, which seems unlikely. Not many newspapers
seem to have published the story. Today, on the other hand,
there's a similar story about parallel rallies, plastered
all over the place. (And after looking through nearly a
thousand headlines and first paragraphs, I'm getting tired
of the phrase "price of oil".)

It looks like his rich opponents are making good use of the
Internet in their propaganda efforts. And, of course, Dubya
is terribly concerned that there should be no irregularities
in the voting.
Post by Josh Dougherty
http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1331
Chavez Supporters Gather in Venezuela's Capital for Largest Pro-Chavez Rally
Monday, Aug 09, 2004
By: Jonah Gindin - Venezuelanalysis.com
Caracas, August 9, 2004-Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez
filled Caracas' largest public venue yesterday, packing the Avenida Bolívar
for well over a mile and overflowing onto side streets all over the
downtown. Clad in red-the colour that has come to represent chavismo in
Venezuela-supporters bore t-shirts, hats, berets, placards, puppets, and
inventive home-made signs all uniformly declaring "No!" to the recall on
Chávez' mandate scheduled for next Sunday, August 15th.
--
Dan Clore

My collected fiction, _The Unspeakable and Others_:
http://www.wildsidepress.com/index2.htm
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1587154838/thedanclorenecro
Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/9879/
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

"It's a political statement -- or, rather, an
*anti*-political statement. The symbol for *anarchy*!"
-- Batman, explaining the circle-A graffiti, in
_Detective Comics_ #608
JFK
2004-08-13 18:21:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by Josh Dougherty
All of Latin America is Watching
What's at Stake in Venezuela
Discreet Charm of the Status Quo in Venezuela

By Marcela Sanchez
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, August 12, 2004; 10:30 PM

WASHINGTON -- In Luis Bunuel's 1972 satirical film "The Discreet Charm
of the Bourgeoisie," a wealthy group of friends are frustratingly
interrupted by a bizarre series of events -- terrorism attacks,
arrests, military operations and death. Nightmares fold within
nightmares in a surrealistic mockery of their simple desire to sit
around a table for dinner.

It would seem as if Venezuelans are stuck in a similarly frustrating
-- and sometimes just as surreal -- sequence of events. Months have
folded into years of political infighting, accusations, polarization
and unrest that may be about to reach a culminating point. But then
again, maybe not.

It is as if Venezuelans were condemned never to be able to simply
enjoy the benefits of a working democracy. They are scheduled to vote
Sunday whether to recall President Hugo Chavez or let him finish out
the two years left in his term. Most analysts suggest that a narrow
margin of victory by either side could trigger violence and
instability. But a wide margin by either side may be just as
unsettling.

An overwhelming victory for Chavez would most certainly embolden the
Venezuelan leader and give a new mandate to his divisive populist
revolution. Yet if the opposition were to win by large numbers, a
crumbling Chavez government could leave a chaotic void in power.

Amazingly, after months of struggle toward a democratic,
constitutional, electoral and peaceful solution to Venezuela's crisis,
there are those today who wish that nothing will change. To them, less
change means more stability.

A long-sought victory over Chavez "could turn into the worst
nightmare," said Pedro M. Burelli, former member of the board of
directors of Venezuela's state oil company. In a telephone interview
from Caracas, he said a large victory for the opposition could lead to
a quick "implosion" in the Chavez government for which opponents would
be as ill-prepared to respond as Chavez's supporters to accept.

The Bush administration too may be wishing for little change in
Venezuela after Sunday. Over the last few days, Bush officials have
been biting their tongues not to publicly antagonize Chavez. For
officials who less than three months ago were issuing ultimatums and
talking of a "consolidation of a dictatorship" under Chavez, this
sudden silence is remarkable.

It may be a sign that they don't want to give Chavez anything he can
use to his advantage, but it could also be a calculated response to
avoid further instability in the United States' fourth-largest source
of oil just weeks before the U.S. presidential election.

For U.S. business interests, particularly in the oil sector, more of
Chavez no longer seems to be bad news. Three years after he boosted
government royalties to 30 percent and required 51 percent state
participation in new projects, oil companies are showing a new
enthusiasm for Venezuela. Just last week, ChevronTexaco announced a
new $6 billion heavy crude upgrading project in the Andean country,
whose crude reserves are the largest in the hemisphere. At nearly $45
a barrel, only chaos would be a real deterrent to foreign investment.

It is no surprise that business interests would favor more of the
same, but members of the international community have been saying the
same thing. Even some who stepped into the Venezuela crisis months ago
and were frustrated by Chavez now seem willing to bet that the country
would be in good hands if he wins.

Let's hope they are right. And particularly let's hope the
international community will never be called to task for becoming so
invested in the referendum effort that it had no option but to go
along, despite Chavez's repeated attempts to suppress the process.

Surely the threat of chaos is making many people think twice about the
referendum, except for Chavez himself. Nearly three months ago, Chavez
wrote in a Washington Post op-ed column that he was looking forward to
Sunday's referendum. It is a chance, as he put it, to "once again win
the people's mandate." Unfortunately, though, even if no significant
questions are raised about the transparency of the process, Chavez
seems to have made a sport of getting democratically elected only to
play undemocratically.

Despite the wishful thinking of some throughout Latin America, it is
likely that Chavez will play the ugly winner. Instead of using the
referendum for reconciliation, Chavez will probably continue stifling
the opposition and governing on behalf of one group over another. What
will be the charm in that?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A60603-2004Aug12.html
Josh Dougherty
2004-08-13 20:02:42 UTC
Permalink
In Caracas

by Justin Podur; August 13, 2004

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=45&ItemID=6031
It has been an interesting night and day. I have spent a substantial
portion of the past 24 hours listening to Chavez speak. The man speaks a
lot. But let me explain.

Fear...

My interest in Venezuela started with my interest and work on Colombia.
It seemed to me like the two countries, linked historically in so many ways,
were living completely different histories today. I remember the coup in
April 2002 in Venezuela and a moment when I thought Venezuela was going to
go that same route—of paramilitarism, of neoliberalism based on massacre and
assassination. But over the past two years Venezuelans have beaten repeated
attempts at plunging them into that kind of future.

But yesterday I learned that I had overlooked something else—that that
history of murderous counterinsurgency is very much a part of VenezuelaŽs
own history. Last night, at the Complejo Cultural Teatro Teresa Carreno
(which is a theatre built for the rich for their own use), there was a
really moving event. An auditorium of well over a thousand people, mostly
young people, students—real people, not elites—came to a launch of the
fourth edition of a book by a journalist who is now the Vice President of
Venezuela, Jose Vicente Rangel. The book, ŽExpediente NegraŽ, is an
investigation of human rights violations committed during the years of
“democracy” here in Venezuela. There was a guerrilla insurgency here, in
the 1960s and 1970s, and it, like so much else, was repressed savagely—the
whole gambit of disappearances, massacres, assassinations. One President
held publicly to the dictum of “shoot first, find out later”.

In addition to the strangeness of an elite theatre filled with people, the
event itself was quite dignified, I thought. It would have been easy to do
wrong: to turn an event that was a kind of commemoration into a way of
scoring political points. But—and this is not to deny that political points
were scored—the dead were honoured. Several family members of the
disappeared spoke, and told their stories. There were cultural events,
musical groups in between the speeches. And yes, there was Chavez, on the
screen and in person.

The theme of the evening was “recovering memory” ("recuperar" in spanish
has a deeper meaning than recovery in english). The disappeared were shown
on screen. Their families held up their pictures. Their names were named
(Alberto Lovera, Alejandro Tejero, Andres y Jose Ramon Pasquier, Jose
Carmelo Mendoza, Luis Alberto Hernandez… and on and on). A famous musician
of the era, Ali Primera, has a song, based on something a famous priest said
during a service for one of the dead decades ago—“Those who die for life,
cannot be called dead” (again, something is lost in the translation but you
get the idea). The photos were shown in a montage, to the music of Ali
Primera.

What was the political point of all this? Well, at the beginning of this
note I said that my initial interest in Venezuela was not that of someone
looking for the authentic revolution or the next revolutionary fashion—it
was, instead, a kind of fear of a situation that was close to the brink,
with paramilitaries sharpening their knives and waiting for their chance to
restore neoliberalism. I thought of Colombia—but Venezuelans have their
own, living memories of all this. And it only made sense for Chavez’s
people to want to remind Venezuelans of what came before. Chavez does not
do disappearances, torture, and massacres, though they accuse him of being a
dictator. Venezuelans know this. And many of the people in the opposition
are people who did participate in all this. So the cry, “no volveran!”
(they will not return!)

Chavez talks…

The evening ended with a lot of Chavez. First, Luis Britto, one of the
old generation of leftists who is part of the government, showed some
interesting videos. To those who accuse us of censorship, he said, let me
remind you of this freedom of press. He then showed two videos of the
current vice president, Jose Vicente Rangel, who was in the 1990s a TV
personality, trying to interview Chavez, who was in jail after trying to
overthrow the regime in a coup in 1992. Both times, the interviews were
censored, in a very crude way—a big red “CENSURADO” sign was pasted on
ChavezŽs face and the attempt ended.

But then, Britto showed a video of a very long interview Rangel did with
Chavez two days before Chavez won the elections of 1998. That was an
interesting interview—good questions, good answers. Rangel asked about
power—they say you are a man who wants power, Chavez… why? Power for what?
Chavez said, power isn’t like a glass of water you pick up—it is something
you build… I want to build a new kind of power, democratic power, popular
power.

After the long interview, Chavez got up to speak himself. “I will be
brief”, he began, and he was—he only talked for an hour. He told a story of
when he was in the army, and how he witnessed the torture of two campesinos
where he was posted as a young sub-lieutenant in the 1970s. He tried, and
failed, to stop it, but decided then that he had to do something. There
were more stories, too, all trying to return to the point that all those who
died fighting for change did not die in vain, that todayŽs process is built
on their sacrifices.

And talks some more...

Then, this morning, I did what any good journalist should do once in a
lifetime—I went to a mainstream press conference at the Presidential palace!
Now that was a genuine media circus. Several hundred people, from
mainstream media all over Latin America, Europe, and some of our friends
from the United States as well. Indeed, VenezuelaŽs good friend Juan Forero
(read his NYT reports on Colombia and Venezuela if you have a strong
stomach) was sitting just a couple of seats from me. I got to watch him
school another American journalist about all the money that Chavez is
spending on frivolous things like education, health care, and Argentine
beef. I got to watch him elbow that same American journalist and chuckle
when Chavez mentioned how infallible the new voting system and voting
machines were (that gave me a bit of the chills, actually, especially after
getting a chance to read Greg PalastŽs latest… do they know something we
donŽt? All sides here seem to like the machines. Is that not a sure sign
something is wrong?)

(see second story below for more about Forero)

The American journalists (you can probably read more about this on
Narconews—there was a solid Narconews team there today) projected this air
of world-weariness, cynicism, and wisdom to the ways of overblown
politicians. That attitude was striking, considering how little wisdom or
doubt they exhibit when dealing with their own government. But not,
perhaps, surprising.

At any rate, Chavez hit his usual notes in the press conference: Latin
American integration, opposition to neoliberalism, the likely overwhelming
victory in the referendum, the readiness and preparation for any
‘irregularities’, the long history of US destabilization (mentioning Chile
many times) in the region.

My two favourite quotes from the press conference were the following.
First, when asked about what he hopes for from the US, he said—“we could
hope for a lot. What couldnŽt we accomplish with the US on our side? What
couldnŽt we accomplish in fighting poverty, fighting for education, for
health care, for literacy in the neighbourhoods? What couldn’t we
accomplish for all of the Americas, or for the whole world? I would be the
first one to ally with the United States for something like that. But we
cannot hope for anything like that. I read this morning that the US is
about to take Najaf. Instead of withdrawing from Iraq, as Spain did, in a
very dignified way, as other Latin American countries did, they are making
this terrible mistake, with its terrible consequences, even worse.” He
reminded the audience that Venezuela always opposed and continues to oppose
the war in Iraq. And he reminded those present that the reason the price of
oil is climbing is because of that war, in part.

My other favourite quote was about the CIA itself. When asked about the
CIA, he said: “You know, it is like James Bond. Now, I love James Bond. I
think the Sean Connery James Bond movies are irreplaceable. But James Bond
is not as cool now as he was.” (this is fairly loose translation, forgive
me) “Look at Dracula! Is the new Dracula as scary as Bela LugosiŽs Dracula?
Superman? Even Batman, he’s not scary any more, and neither is Robin! The
same is true of the CIA. We, a third world, underdeveloped country, we have
taped the CIA giving classes here in Venezuela—that is, we have infiltrated
them. I’ve called the US Embassy to ask them to stop trying to infiltrate
our military—I know the military, when something is going on, they tell
me...” When asked if the US would try to destabilize Venezuela, he said they
probably would. “But they will fail, again and again.”

LetŽs make a deal?

On the streets tonight, there are demonstrations. One of the opposition,
the ‘Si’ camp, which by the private TV networks looks like it has hundreds
of thousands (check out venezuelanalysis.com for last Sunday’s ‘No’ march
photos). And another, a street party at the palace, of the ‘No’. You see,
there is no campaigning allowed on Friday and Saturday—so this is the last
night to publicly campaign (we will see how this rule is bent or broken
tomorrow...) I am in the wrong place, writing when I should be on the
street. But, I should mention the one thing that the mainstream media are
likely to pick up about Chavez’s speech today.

There was a tone of wanting to play ball: Chavez mentioned the pipeline
deal with Uribe. He quoted from many mainstream Wall Street journalists and
analysts who predicted chaos, and who predicted that a Chavez victory would
bring stability to the markets which the markets, especially the oil
markets, need right now, whereas the opposition has no plan and no idea how
to govern the country. In the midst of some very solid talk about Latin
American integration, the irreversible changes to the constitution and in
terms of land reform, housing, education, health, that have been mobilizing
and democratizing forces, there was also this sense, that the government
could work with the multinationals, work on the megaprojects, and cooperate
in some areas. I imagine the mainstream media will seize on this.

The next days of non-campaigning promise to be interesting. Maybe a
chance to get out of the media zone and talk to some people…



************************

Forero in Caracas: "It's Over" for the Opposition
By Al Giordano,
Posted on Thu Aug 12th, 2004 at 11:08:16 PM EST
http://narcosphere.narconews.com/story/2004/8/12/23816/2803

CARACAS, VENEZUELA; AUGUST 12, 2004: Never mind what he says (or what they
let him say) in print: New York Times Andean correspondent Juan Forero
admitted today, in person, that he believes that Venezuelan President Hugo
Chávez will win the historic referendum vote scheduled for Sunday, August
15. For the Venezuelan opposition, Forero told two reporters today in
Caracas: "It's over."
Kind reader: Are we living inside a dream? Juanito Forero - defender of
coup-mongers(1) and Plan Colombia mercenaries(2), simulator of the
English-language news from South America to Broadway - chose to confess his
secret opinion to none other than this Narco News reporter (who Forero also
called "my great antagonist"). Bearing witness to this strange encounter,
in the halls of the Miraflores presidential palace, was also Lee Sustar,
Labor Editor of the international Socialist Worker.

Yes, to be in Venezuela on this historic week is to live inside a kind of
dream… the inspirational dream that comes before the Great Awakening, when
history is made anew again...


It was on the Fourth of July that I reported to you the facts (3) that the
Commercial Media found so hard to accept: That, despite so many claims for
so many months from so many "journalists" to the contrary, Chávez is headed
for a stunning victory on Sunday. At today's presidential press conference
for more than 200 international journalists, the consensus seemed to have
caught up with Narco News' analysis. "These are days of happiness for the
country," noted Chávez.
Your correspondent's first-ever, face-to-face, not-so-chance encounter
with Forero came as an almost four-hour press conference was about to begin.
Forero arrived minutes before the press conference began and took a seat in
the row of chairs in front of my own and that of 2004 Narco News Authentic
Journalism scholar Jennifer Whitney (also at the press conference, fresh
from this year's J-School in Bolivia, were Ron Smith, Reed Lindsay, Noah
Friedsky, and Charlie Hardy). In the same row as the Timesman was Justin
Podur of Z-Net, who turned around and mouthed Forero's name silently with
his lips, as I winked across the aisle to our Canadian friend. Many
journalists later commented, "Didn't Forero know who he was seated near?" To
my pleasure, the answer was apparently not.

I soon learned what Narco Newsman Luis A. Gómez learned in 2003 when
observing Forero at another presidential press conference (4): Forero is not
a quiet guy. He immediately turned around and began speaking, loud enough
for other reporters nearby to listen, about recent developments in oil trade
agreements between Colombia and neighboring countries.

Since I had learned at J-School, last month, how to use a minidisc
recorder, I decided this would be the moment to give the little machine its
virgin experience in the field. I hit the record button, laid the microphone
on my lap pointed toward Forero and the reporter (named "Chris," I have an
idea of who it was but will confirm before guessing aloud) to whom he was
talking, and slipped on my earphones to be able to hear them better over the
din of 200 reporters chatting. The following is a transcript from the point
in Forero's conversation about the Venezuelan oil trade when the recording
started:


Juan: I know that it's sketchy and bullshit and crap
Chris: Nah, I wouldn't say it's bullshit

Juan: Aren't the bureaucratic hurdles way too much?

Chris: He's using oil… with this San Jose pact

Juan: Regarding the San Jose pact… which is like 20 something years old
or whatever… But Chavez also has this thing… from 2001 where he even further
sweetened the deal for some of these Central American and Caribbean
countries. Are you familiar with that?

Chris: Yeah… He talked about it… the last time he really talked about
it… was when Kirchner was here… and he also talked about it when Uribe was
here and they signed that deal for the construction pipeline to the Atlantic
coast… just to run a pipeline through all that territory

Juan: …through rebel territory (laughs)…

Chris: It's gonna be tough.

Juan: Because I, I'm doing a piece, they're running a piece tomorrow (5)
and y'know I kind of play around this deal of using diplomacy and stuff… And
I didn't put anything and I'm sure my editors are going to ask me when did
he announce this thing but I couldn't find it… and these people (pointing to
Chávez's press staff) couldn't answer anything… and I did also deal with the
San José (oil accords) issue, without saying what San José was, that he also
sweetened the deal with these Caribbean countries.

Chris: The Caribbean community is a pretty tight community… they're so
small… so that they really stand up for each other when it comes down to it,
through Caricom… With cheap fuel, they'll give you the benefit of the doubt…
And then he's got agreements going with Colombia… and he's got agreements
going with Argentina, sending oil and gas down there in exchange for cattle,
grain…

Juan: And they've got a deal where the Argentines will also get to fix
Venezuelan tankers in their ports…

Chris: Which to me is really strange… it goes against everything he
talks about, about making our own industries here… And then what? You're
going to send these ships? It's about 4,000 miles… The problem is that
Venezuela does not have a huge dry dock… and I think until now, don't take
my word for this I'm not sure, but I believe most of the repairs were done
even farther away which is Korea and Southeast Asia.

Juan: Alright: That's good for now.

In the article, now published in today's New York Times, Forero wrote:


"Venezuela has been particularly active in using the O.A.S. to counter
American criticism of Mr. Chávez's government in recent months as it tried
to fend off efforts by a strident opposition movement to mount a referendum
to remove him. The recall vote is taking place Sunday, and political
analysts say Mr. Chávez wants to be prepared to defend the outcome abroad if
there are accusations of fraud or other irregularities."
Hold that thought, kind reader: Because while Forero is telling New York
Times consumers that there could be "accusations of fraud or other
irregularities" in Sunday's vote, it soon became clear, today in Caracas,
that not even Forero believes his own bullshit that he publishes in the New
York Times.

The proof positive came some hours into the press conference, when I
ducked into the hallway for a coffee and a smoke, and was chatting with the
aforementioned Lee Sustar of the International Socialist Organization's
newspaper. Forero came walking by and I called him out, in my best
Venezuelan accent:

"¿Qué tal, Forero?"

The NY Timesman turned around, like a politician on the campaign trail,
and reached to shake my hand. I said, "Luis Gómez sends his regards."

"Oh! How are you?" asked Forero, while grabbing my palm, at first
apparently thinking that I was Gómez. On closer look he said, "wait, you're
not him."

"I'm Giordano."

The other reporter, Sustar, was grinning ear to ear at the exchange. "My
great antagonist!" commented Forero, who then said: "How do you think it's
going?" I gave him a blank look, waiting for him to answer his own question.
"It's over, that's what I think. Chávez will squeak by."

"Squeak by?" I asked, rhetorically. "Listen up: It is going to be a margin
of at least 56-to-44 and maybe larger. You have to learn to subtract the
undecideds from the polls..."

Tonight, hours later, reading Forero's story in tomorrow's New York Times,
I am annoyed, but not surprised. After all, as if we didn't know already,
Forero believes one set of facts - that "it's over" - and yet he tells a
conflicting version to his newspaper's gullible consumers. If he believes
"it's over," that Chávez will win, as he let slip in his shock over finally
meeting his "grand antagonist" today, then why prattle on to Times readers
about possible accusations of fraud?

But this is how the Commercial Media behaves. You know that, kind reader,
and I know it, too. And that is why we join together, as readers and
journalists, in this grand antagonizing project called Narco News, somewhere
in a country called América, to tear down the house of illusions that have
caused so much harm from our hemisphere to your town.

The "Narco News swarm" is now afoot on the streets of Caracas and
elsewhere in Venezuela. Tomorrow we join Authentic Journalist Charlie Hardy
on a walk through the slum neighborhood where he has lived for seventeen
years on the outskirts of this capital city. For Sunday night, to report the
referendum results, Narco News has commandeered a command post with twenty
fast Internet wideband lines for our news team and friendly reporters of
other publications to bring you the true facts of the referendum results,
and act as an informational war room to counteract any disinformation
attempted by those, like Juan Forero and the New York Times, who will tell
you an untrue thing even when they know another truth to be more true.

From somewhere in a dream called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, we
will continue to report to you, our only bosses, the readers, in the coming
days on the immediate history unfolding, again, despite all Commercial Media
efforts to ignore and repress the news.

Salud y abrazo,

Al Giordano
Publisher, Narco News



(1) - http://www.narconews.com/threedays.html

(2) - http://www.narconews.com/forerostory1.html

(3) - http://www.narconews.com/Issue33/article1004.html

(4) - http://www.narconews.com/Issue29/article737.html

(5) -
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/13/business/worldbusiness/13diplo.html?pagewanted=print&position=
Josh Dougherty
2004-08-14 17:34:24 UTC
Permalink
Cuba oil supply hinges on Venezuela vote - Heritage Foundation Opinion
IMAGINE FIDEL CASTRO WITH OIL

By PETER BROOKES | NY Post

SUNDAY is a red-letter day for democracy and for the price of oil:
Venezuelans vote on a referendum on whether to recall President Hugo Chavez.

Long a friend of the United States and since 1958 one of Latin America's
most stable democracies, Venezuela stands at a crossroads, headed for either
democracy or Cuban-style socialism.

Elected fair and square in 1998, Chavez took office with sky-high popularity
on a reform platform. But he has since donned the cloak of political
strongman, run the economy into the ground and helped roil world oil
markets. Plus, he's a good buddy of Cuba's Fidel Castro.

"Dictator" isn't used very often to describe Latin American leaders
anymore — beyond Castro, that is. But Chavez, a cashiered army colonel who
was once jailed for his leading role in a 1992 military coup, could make it
two.

Though now highly unpopular (30 percent approval), Chavez may well survive
the no-confidence vote. Polling is expected to be rife with voter
intimidation, fraud and other voting irregularities.

Certainly, his record to date makes that chicanery seem likely. He has
already rewritten the Constitution to give himself more power, sucked up
power over the state oil company (PDVSA) and stacked lower and Supreme
Court(s).

He's also made a good start on purging the armed forces, misusing them for
partisan political purposes and social programs. Threats to freedom of the
press include physical attacks on journalists.



The fractious opposition has mostly been peaceful — though a botched,
bloodless coup nearly toppled Chavez two years ago. But his misrule has
pushed political and class tensions to such a fever pitch that some fear
civil war.

El Presidente has also made a shambles of Venezuela's already impoverished
economy. Per-capita income has dropped 25 percent since 1998, propelling the
economy backward to the 1950s. Inflation is running at a household
budget-busting 30 percent, unemployment hovers at 18 percent and 33 percent
live in extreme poverty despite massive social programs.

And that's had worldwide repercussions, because Venezuela is a major
oil-producing nation — the world's fifth-largest, with one of the biggest
energy reserves outside the Middle East. It provides 15 percent of U.S. oil
needs, making it one of our top four oil suppliers (after Canada, Saudi
Arabia and Mexico).

Even now, the possibility of another Venezuelan oil strike continues to keep
the oil market skittish, helping keep prices at record $45-a-barrel levels.

Adding insult to injury, Chavez has also encouraged OPEC to raise its
prices, too. In one of his anti-American fits of rhetorical rage, El
Presidente has even threatened to cut off oil supplies to the United States.
That would certainly he a blow to the U.S. economy (even with this week's
welcome Saudi announcement of increased oil supply.)

But then, Chavez is a big chum of Cuba's communist Cold War-holdover, Fidel
Castro. (He's also been friendly in the past with Iraq's Saddam Hussein and
Libya's Moammar Khaddafy.) In exchange for getting Caracas oil on favorable
terms, Havana is providing doctors and teachers — and military advisers.
Venezuela is also knee-deep in Cuban intelligence (DGI) officers.

There's no telling what Castro's political plans for Venezuela might be.
Chavez already has stated his desire to unite Latin America in a
Castro-inspired campaign against U.S. policies. And U.S. officials have
expressed concern that Chavez's government is supporting the Colombian
narcoterrorist FARC rebels.

Democracy is under assault. Chavez is a throwback to the military strongmen
who once ruled Venezuela. What Chavez calls his "Bolivarian Revolution"
(after Latin American independence leader Simon Bolivar) is in fact
fashioned in part on Castro's Cuban revolution.

Washington has supported the referendum as a democratic solution to
Venezuela's political turmoil — one that offers the possibility of peaceful
regime change. But with Chavez in charge, it would be shocking if the voting
were free and fair.

Unfettered international election monitoring should be a prerequisite, but
it's unlikely. Chavez has insisted on stringent controls over any poll
observers. The (Jimmy) Carter Center and Organization of American States
will field teams, but the European Union declined to participate under these
restrictions. (In a hysterical effort to add "international credibility" to
the referendum, Chavez's election monitor invitee list does include Barbra
Streisand and Michael Moore.)

If the referendum turns out to be flawed — or if Chavez resorts to
"extra-constitutional" actions — the global community should withhold
Venezuela's international privileges until the democratic process is
honored.

For instance, the United States should encourage the World Bank to suspend
all loans to the Venezuelan government. And the OAS should consider
suspending Venezuela's membership in the group.

Latin America has made great strides in embracing freedom and democracy.
Today, 22 of 23 Latin American countries are considered to be democratic.
(Cuba is the exception.) But some states, especially those with
leftist-leaning leaders and economic problems (such as Ecuador and
Argentina), might folow Venezuela's path. This would be a significant
setback for the hemisphere and its people.

The U.S. and the international community should stand shoulder to shoulder
in defense of Venezuela's proud democratic traditions and aspirations. With
other Latin American democracies leading the way, the United States should
help ensure that the term Latin American dictator is relegated to the
dustbin of history once and for all.

Peter Brookes, a Heritage Foundation senior fellow, served in Latin America
while on active duty in the U.S. Navy.

E-mail: ***@heritage.org
Sayan Bhattacharyya
2004-08-14 17:38:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Josh Dougherty
Cuba oil supply hinges on Venezuela vote - Heritage Foundation Opinion
IMAGINE FIDEL CASTRO WITH OIL
By PETER BROOKES | NY Post
The fractious opposition has mostly been peaceful — though a botched,
bloodless coup nearly toppled Chavez two years ago.
What bloodless coup? Dozens of people were killed (by snipers, etc) during the
planned demonstration that preceded the actual takeover of power by the
anti-Chavistas....
unknown
2004-08-14 19:37:00 UTC
Permalink
The Heritage Foundation is endorsed by Rush Limbaugh!

Would you believe in anything endosed by a drug addict!

Enough said!

J.D.


On Sat, 14 Aug 2004 13:34:24 -0400, "Josh Dougherty"
Post by Josh Dougherty
Cuba oil supply hinges on Venezuela vote - Heritage Foundation Opinion
IMAGINE FIDEL CASTRO WITH OIL
By PETER BROOKES | NY Post
Venezuelans vote on a referendum on whether to recall President Hugo Chavez.
Long a friend of the United States and since 1958 one of Latin America's
most stable democracies, Venezuela stands at a crossroads, headed for either
democracy or Cuban-style socialism.
Elected fair and square in 1998, Chavez took office with sky-high popularity
on a reform platform. But he has since donned the cloak of political
strongman, run the economy into the ground and helped roil world oil
markets. Plus, he's a good buddy of Cuba's Fidel Castro.
"Dictator" isn't used very often to describe Latin American leaders
anymore — beyond Castro, that is. But Chavez, a cashiered army colonel who
was once jailed for his leading role in a 1992 military coup, could make it
two.
Though now highly unpopular (30 percent approval), Chavez may well survive
the no-confidence vote. Polling is expected to be rife with voter
intimidation, fraud and other voting irregularities.
Certainly, his record to date makes that chicanery seem likely. He has
already rewritten the Constitution to give himself more power, sucked up
power over the state oil company (PDVSA) and stacked lower and Supreme
Court(s).
He's also made a good start on purging the armed forces, misusing them for
partisan political purposes and social programs. Threats to freedom of the
press include physical attacks on journalists.
The fractious opposition has mostly been peaceful — though a botched,
bloodless coup nearly toppled Chavez two years ago. But his misrule has
pushed political and class tensions to such a fever pitch that some fear
civil war.
El Presidente has also made a shambles of Venezuela's already impoverished
economy. Per-capita income has dropped 25 percent since 1998, propelling the
economy backward to the 1950s. Inflation is running at a household
budget-busting 30 percent, unemployment hovers at 18 percent and 33 percent
live in extreme poverty despite massive social programs.
And that's had worldwide repercussions, because Venezuela is a major
oil-producing nation — the world's fifth-largest, with one of the biggest
energy reserves outside the Middle East. It provides 15 percent of U.S. oil
needs, making it one of our top four oil suppliers (after Canada, Saudi
Arabia and Mexico).
Even now, the possibility of another Venezuelan oil strike continues to keep
the oil market skittish, helping keep prices at record $45-a-barrel levels.
Adding insult to injury, Chavez has also encouraged OPEC to raise its
prices, too. In one of his anti-American fits of rhetorical rage, El
Presidente has even threatened to cut off oil supplies to the United States.
That would certainly he a blow to the U.S. economy (even with this week's
welcome Saudi announcement of increased oil supply.)
But then, Chavez is a big chum of Cuba's communist Cold War-holdover, Fidel
Castro. (He's also been friendly in the past with Iraq's Saddam Hussein and
Libya's Moammar Khaddafy.) In exchange for getting Caracas oil on favorable
terms, Havana is providing doctors and teachers — and military advisers.
Venezuela is also knee-deep in Cuban intelligence (DGI) officers.
There's no telling what Castro's political plans for Venezuela might be.
Chavez already has stated his desire to unite Latin America in a
Castro-inspired campaign against U.S. policies. And U.S. officials have
expressed concern that Chavez's government is supporting the Colombian
narcoterrorist FARC rebels.
Democracy is under assault. Chavez is a throwback to the military strongmen
who once ruled Venezuela. What Chavez calls his "Bolivarian Revolution"
(after Latin American independence leader Simon Bolivar) is in fact
fashioned in part on Castro's Cuban revolution.
Washington has supported the referendum as a democratic solution to
Venezuela's political turmoil — one that offers the possibility of peaceful
regime change. But with Chavez in charge, it would be shocking if the voting
were free and fair.
Unfettered international election monitoring should be a prerequisite, but
it's unlikely. Chavez has insisted on stringent controls over any poll
observers. The (Jimmy) Carter Center and Organization of American States
will field teams, but the European Union declined to participate under these
restrictions. (In a hysterical effort to add "international credibility" to
the referendum, Chavez's election monitor invitee list does include Barbra
Streisand and Michael Moore.)
If the referendum turns out to be flawed — or if Chavez resorts to
"extra-constitutional" actions — the global community should withhold
Venezuela's international privileges until the democratic process is
honored.
For instance, the United States should encourage the World Bank to suspend
all loans to the Venezuelan government. And the OAS should consider
suspending Venezuela's membership in the group.
Latin America has made great strides in embracing freedom and democracy.
Today, 22 of 23 Latin American countries are considered to be democratic.
(Cuba is the exception.) But some states, especially those with
leftist-leaning leaders and economic problems (such as Ecuador and
Argentina), might folow Venezuela's path. This would be a significant
setback for the hemisphere and its people.
The U.S. and the international community should stand shoulder to shoulder
in defense of Venezuela's proud democratic traditions and aspirations. With
other Latin American democracies leading the way, the United States should
help ensure that the term Latin American dictator is relegated to the
dustbin of history once and for all.
Peter Brookes, a Heritage Foundation senior fellow, served in Latin America
while on active duty in the U.S. Navy.
Josh Dougherty
2004-08-14 22:40:23 UTC
Permalink
Venezuela:Florentino The Devil And The Opposition

by Justin Podur; August 14, 2004

Last night was the closing of the referendum campaign. It closed with
huge marches of the opposition and the chavistas. They say the opposition
march was the biggest ever—one estimate I heard, from a journalist who was
at the Madrid demonstrations around March 11, is over 500,000 people. More,
he said, than any opposition march, ever, including the “national strike” of
last year and the coup the year before. I cannot verify that, as I was not
there. I was, however, at the “No” rally.

That rally was also huge, and I got there late, as people were already
leaving. I am not very talented at guessing numbers of people. But there
were hundreds of thousands as well, though not as many as at the massive
march last Sunday. For a flavour of the “No” rally {it is always hard to
know what to call the different groups. The opposition calls the chavistas
“oficialismo”, the chavistas call the opposition “escualidos” or
“golpistas"} it is necessary to discuss the famous local legend of
Florentino and the Devil, which is the story the Chavistas have been using
since the referendum was announced. There is even a feature movie coming
out with the title: “A battle between good and evil in the plains”, is the
byline.

Florentino y El Diablo

Chavez resurrected this local legend after the referendum was announced.
The story goes as follows. There is a local music on the plains, based on
improvisation, and musicians play a kind of competitive game, a kind of
call-and-answer game. In the game, the one who gets the last word and
stumps the other, wins. It is like rap, based on lyrical skill and
improvisation. The champion of this game was Florentino. One day the Devil
came along and challenged Florentino to a game, I think for the soul of
Florentino. The one who got the last word as the sun rose would win. And
there is a whole song that tells the story, with lyrics for both parts. In
the end, Florentino won, of course. So Chavez says, he is like Florentino,
the opposition—or the US, as you like—is the Devil, and he will have the
last word.

So, yesterday at the party, this music, Florentino and the Devil was the
recurring theme, and variations of it and the song were sung, including
various musicians doing the call-and-answer with Chavez himself. There were
other jokes too… Chavez ripping open his shirt to reveal a big “NO” T-shirt
underneath. It was a very festive atmosphere—as the “Si” march also
appeared to be, from television and second-hand reports that I have
heard—people were dancing, drinking, listening to the music. The beer to be
had—Polar, owned by Mendoza, one of the wealthiest families of Venezuela, a
member of which {Enrique} is governor of the state of Miranda and leader of
the opposition Coordinadora Democratica. The alternative beer, if you want
to drink it—Regional, owned by Gustavo Cisneros, the wealthiest man in
Venezuela, and one of the main leaders of the opposition. It is not easy to
escape enriching the elite, even at a “No” rally.

The Opposition Press Conference

I tried to rectify my non-attendance at the “Si” rally by going to the
Coordinadora Democratica press conference this morning. A nice
neighbourhood, certainly. A very nice social club setting. And, for the
most part, a different set of media than were at Miraflores yesterday. The
speaker: the aforementioned Enrique Mendoza.

Interesting stuff. He registered protest with much that the government
was doing. There were “hostile attitudes”, for example. International
observers reported, in private meetings with the opposition of course, that
their work was being “blocked”. How, specifically, he was asked. Well, he
could not say specifically, out of respect for the “privacy” of the
observers, who expressed worry that they might be kicked out and decided not
to complain publicly, the most important thing being that they stay in the
country. There are up to two million Venezuelans who will not use the
voting machines but will vote with ballots, and Mendoza is worried that
these ballots will be used to track voters and intimidate them. There are
people who signed to bring the referendum about who now appear to be dead—he
did not actually say whether or not they really were dead when they signed,
something that seems to have happened—and others are getting “the runaround”
from the electoral authorities. He thanked the Carter center and the OAS
profusely, several times, noting that without their intervention we would
not have gotten to the point we are at. In spite of all these government
actions, Mendoza said, he was absolutely sure that the opposition would win.

The question and answer period was interesting as well. A Swiss
journalist asked if the opposition could govern within the framework of the
constitution or whether they would seek changes if they were in government.
Mendoza said no, they would work with the constitution. A Brazilian
journalist asked if the opposition would dialogue with Chavez. Mendoza said
that a condition of dialogue was that Chavez release the sixty political
prisoners—these, presumably, are people imprisoned for their role in the
coup of 2002. Picking up where Chavez left off yesterday, another
journalist asked about all the Wall Street confidence in Chavez. Did the
opposition also have the confidence of Wall Street, Mendoza was asked.
Mendoza gave a touching reply. This is a matter for Venezuelans to decide.
“When we win on Sunday, we will win something beyond price. We will win a
victory for our values, of reconciliation.”

One Venezuela, where the rich and poor can coexist

The CNN correspondent had an interesting question. She said—given that
there are no guarantees of transparency, what will you do if the government
announces that it has won, when you do not believe that it has. Are you
prepared for another national strike, or what. Mendoza answered that there
was no point in such speculations, that the opposition is democratic above
all.

But the most touching statement came at the end. A question from TV
Azteca in Mexico—the FOX NEWS or Globovision of Mexico—asking Mendoza “What
kind of Venezuela are you seeking”. Mendoza answered: “We want a Venezuela
where people respect one another. Where we are all Venezuelans, we are all
together, whatever religious differences we might have, whatever class
differences we might have. One Venezuela, where the rich and poor can
coexist.” Truly, a moving vision for any country.

It was, overall, an interesting set of evasions and lies, combined with
some setting up for the post-referendum claim that there was fraud. As for
the voting machines, it seems like fraud will be difficult to do by way of
the machines. The system works as follows. You register. You are faced
with a touchscreen that very clearly asks are you SI or NO with the buttons
clearly marked. You press one. The machine prints out the result. You
check if the printed ballot matches what you pressed on the touchscreen,
then you put the paper in the box. So there is the machine result and the
paper trail, and hence a way of checking one against the other. There might
be ways of cheating even with this system, but it is not a system made to
facilitate such things… no hanging chads around here.

A last note on “polarization”. I am not convinced that it is so terrible
a thing. Chavez mentioned yesterday that they cannot blame him for
polarization—the country was polarized well before he showed up. All
societies are, to the extent that they are unequal, polarized. When the
poor are starving, that is not “polarized”, unless they are fighting back
somehow or finding some expression. Then, there is “polarization”. I
believe that the world would benefit a great deal if US society was a lot
more “polarized” than it is. But there is a problem with polarization too,
and you can see it when you look at the statements of the “oficialismo”
versus the “opposition” or the “people” versus the “oligarchy” or of the
“chavistas” versus the “escualidos”, different sets of names for two groups,
none of which are “neutral”. Where there is polarization, there are
radically different stories that cannot be reconciled, and evaluating them
on their factual or logical merit is often very difficult, because the
sources of the facts are themselves combatants. You are right now reading
the report of a deeply biased observer, one whose biases are not at all
hidden. This is not something that will change after the referendum. But
it is important not to miss a key point: here there are two sets of
official, irreconcileable pronouncements, both highly visible, both with
plenty of power and support behind them. In most of the world there is only
one, and the rest is completely marginalized. In which situation is it
easier to figure out for yourself what is true… is a real question.



----------------------------------



Subverting Democracy

by Jonah Gindin; Venezuelanalysis.com; August 14, 2004


When in 1998 former paratrooper Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías was elected
President on a revolutionary mandate to completely rewire Venezuela’s
elite-based ‘democracy’, the opposition lay in shambles. So complete was
their defeat that the two traditional parties that had alternated leadership
of the country since 1958 did not even field candidates. Six years later,
after a failed coup, two devastating but failed general strikes, and an
international publicity campaign to paint Chávez as a cruel dictator without
support, the Venezuelan opposition to Chávez’ ‘Bolívarian revolution’ has
reached the point of no return: a recall referendum—scheduled for tomorrow,
August 15th. As a last resort the opposition has thrown its weight behind a
constitutional strategy in the hopes that it might accomplish what force and
blackmail could not.

Yet it is never so clear-cut with Venezuela’s opposition, and even those
who are now sulkily pursuing a peaceful path to recall Chávez are often
inseparable from those who have made no such grudging commitment to the
constitution. Along with the opposition’s non-violent strategy looms the
macabre threat of violence; the presence of Colombian paramilitaries
recently discovered in a training camp in Caracas is only the most worrisome
example to date.

Opinion polls are coming out on what seems like a daily basis; yet
rather than providing insight into public opinion, they are reinforcing both
camps of their projected victories. Yet the opposition campaign itself
appears to be faltering in the face of unprecedented chavista mobilization,
particularly since the launch of their plan for a post-Chávez country was
overshadowed by the revelation that it was funded in part by the National
Endowment for Democracy (NED).

In effect, they have painted themselves into a corner. Calling for the
referendum since day 01 allowed them to site their democratic commitment
when they came under fire for supporting military coups, employer lock-outs,
and provocateur street violence, but now that it is actually going to happen
they are unprepared, or worse, unsupported.

In the wake of potential defeat, opposition strategy appears to be based
more on how to lose as little as possible, than on how to win. Since he was
first elected in 1998, Chávez has been dismissed by much of the mainstream
international media as just another Latin American populist with
authoritarian tendencies. If Chávez wins the referendum this August 15th,
that characterization will be difficult to sell. With that in mind,
opposition strategy aims to check any potential rise in Chávez’
international stock in the event of his victory at the ballot box.

To do so, they are using the media and influential international bodies
to prepare the ground for accusations of fraud if Chávez is not recalled. A
Chávez victory on the 15th is most dangerous to US neoliberal plans for the
region as an example to other countries, thus, the international media has
stepped up attacks on Chávez since the date for the recall was announced
last June. Paralleling the media-offensive are increasingly vocal
accusations by human rights organizations (and one in particular) against
alleged abuses by the Venezuelan government.

As a departure from previous illegal approaches to getting rid of Chávez
this strategy has an inherent advantage. The change is essentially one from
force—from a more traditional and familiar notion of asserting elite
power—to hegemony. This same development changed US strategy in Nicaragua in
the 1980s from one centering around the violence of the contras to one that
used that violence but that depended more on the media and other segments of
civil society.

They use the hegemonic force of democracy to subvert a democratic
process. Six years of participatory democracy reduced to one vote—subject to
all the subsequent pressures and opportunities to influence the outcome.
That is, the opposition is able to appear to be using democratic channels,
since they’re comrades-in-arms are the private media and human rights
groups. Though these institutions are central to any democracy, their
hegemony is used to limit democracy to this cooptable foundation; a
foundation that is compatible with neoliberalism and has historically been
hostile to an expansion of the terms of representation. They’re active
complicity in counter-revolution in Chile, Nicaragua, in recent elections in
El Salvador, and in Venezuela is only a footnote to their existence. The
role of private media and many NGOs in the new imperialism is to facilitate
the hegemony of ‘democracy light’—that form of democracy that works
hand-in-hand with neoliberalism. Thus, participatory democracy, as a threat
to the hegemony of representative democracy, is also a threat to the
privileged social status of the private media and of NGOs—as institutions.

On August 15th they will thus have succeeded in reducing an infinitely
complex, multi-dimensional experiment in deepening democracy to an exercise
in representative democracy that is fundamentally flawed, for it lends
itself to disproportionate influence by these groups. Their words are
systemically given more weight than any given citizen, even though these
institutions are made up of mere citizens—though almost universally foreign
ones. If that is the case, why are they permitted so much influence? Why is
the future of a sovereign nation dependent upon the blessing of two US-based
organizations—the OAS and the Carter Center? And subject to the reactionary
opining of other extra-Venezuelan institutions?

As Chávez put it Thursday morning in a press conference at Miraflores
Palace, "the leaders of the opposition have never said that they will
respect the results of the referendum…what they have said is that they will
recognize the results once the international observers recognize them….We
have welcomed the international observers, but this decision is not in their
hands. Here we have an institution, this is no colony, after all….here we
are free."

International Media and the Chain of Disinformation

Opposition to President Chávez has always been dominated by the upper
class. Large land-owners, media barons, corrupt labor officials and other
Miami-philes were behind the general strikes and coup-attempts that preceded
the current recall campaign. Recently however, the old alliance of big
business and corporatist labor has been buttressed by the growing
anti-chavism of much of Venezuela’s small middle-class. Currency devaluation
and economic difficulties have disproportionately affected the middle class,
pushing them into the open arms of an opposition that has used their control
over private media to gain a near-monopoly on public debate. Though with 80%
of Venezuela’s population in poverty, the middle-class represents a small
group, they lend legitimacy to an opposition with little moral capital.

Since the collapse of the two traditional political parties Acción
Democratica and Copei, the opposition to President Chávez has been unable to
regain political coherence. The Coordinadora Democratica (CD)—the most
recent attempt at lumping together the fractious, chaotic mish-mash of
'anti-chavists'—has failed to articulate anything resembling a political
program. Yet it is only recently that they have even appeared to desire one.
Until the current recall campaign put them head-to-head against Chávez and
his Bolívarian revolution, the CD appeared content to concentrate their
energy and resources on anti-chavism, rather than on offering an
alternative.

Criticism consisting largely of the most base and often racist
mud-slinging served them well in fostering the impression internationally
that Chávez is an inept, closet-communist, who is ruining the economy and
funding Colombian guerrillas to boot. With their near-total control over the
domestic media, the spread of opposition propaganda has gone completely
unchecked. Journalistic integrity has been thrown to the wind with the all
too familiar justification that there is a war to win.

Discrediting the Electoral Process

Much US coverage of Venezuela over the past month has focused on
controversy surrounding the use of voting machines for the upcoming
referendum. A June 13th Washington Post editorial refers to "the National
Electoral Council, controlled by the president's loyalists"; the
opposition's "acceptance of the rule of law"; and Chavez's underlying
intention to subvert the democratic process, since "the votes would be
counted using untried electronic voting machines supplied by a consortium in
which the government has a financial stake,"—all in the first paragraph.

The sequence of statements reveals a clear strategy of suggesting that
a) the officials in charge of the vote cannot be trusted, b) the opposition
is the law-abiding victim of a power-hungry populist, and c) that not only
the voting officials, but even the voting infrastructure is stacked in
Chávez’ favor.

In keeping with the time-tested journalistic theory that it is the first
50 words of a story that matter, Juan Forrero and John Schwartz of the New
York Times waste no time, beginning: "Touch-screen voting machines, which
have been plagued by security and reliability concerns in the United States,
will be used in the recall vote on President Hugo Chávez, prompting his foes
and foreign diplomats to contend that the left-leaning government may use
the equipment to manipulate the vote."

They continue, quoting an expert—to lend credibility to their
transparently politically motivated reportage—"‘a fully electronic computer
can be programmed to produce whatever outcome the developers - or the people
in charge of the developers - want it to.’"

But the reality of the voting machines is infinitely more complicated:
the voting software is available for public and professional scrutiny, the
information will be sent to 7 different locations to ensure that fraud can
be located, and there will be a manual count of the receipts printed from
the machines. The government too is alleging plans to commit fraud by
manipulating the telecommunications infrastructure that allow the machines
to send the information instantaneously to a central register. The company
in charge is CanTV; company-president Gustavo Roosen was education minister
under former-President of Venezuela Carlos Andres Perez, who recently told
the Caracas opposition paper El Nacional that the only solution to the
‘Chávez question’ was to kill him like a dog.

Added to the mix are the pollsters commissioned by the opposition to
evaluate the political mood of the country. As Diaz Eleazer Rangel, a
columnist for Venezuela’s largest circulating daily notes, the only possible
explanation for the terrible track-record of polling companies in Venezuela
is their political motivation—pollsters who must answer to a particular
political party or current adjust their information accordingly.

Beyond merely attempting to please one’s sponsors, many pollsters are
also guilty of using polls to directly influence events by suggesting one
side has a momentum it may not actually have. Hence, these comments by
Datanálisis analyst Luis Leon in a meeting with the foreign press: "Chavez
isn't completely out of the game, but he's in trouble…If the vote happens
legally, Chavez should lose."

Human Rights Groups: Recycling Misreportage

One of the most revealing indications that international human rights
groups’ coverage is not only biased, but factually inconsistent, is the slew
of reports condemning Chávez’ alleged pressures on freedom of expression.
This is a country where 90% of the print and television media are actively
engaged in calling for the overthrow of the government (only recently by
constitutional means); and where not a single journalist has been jailed
since Chávez came to power. The only time that news organizations have been
shut down was during the coup when the illegal government of Pedro Carmona
closed community radio and television stations that remained loyal to
Chávez. Despite their active participation in the coup, no newspapers were
closed once Chávez was restored to power, and no charges were brought
against opposition media.

In an editorial in the Venezuelan evening paper Tal Cual, opposition
leader Teodoro Petkoff vents his frustration with the tactics of the
opposition of which he is a prominent member, noting:

Speaking of incongruity, doesn't it seem to this periodical [El
Universal] and to their collaborators that there is nothing more
"inconsistent", more "legitimating" for the government…than a newspaper with
national circulation and continental fame that spends tons of ink accusing
the Chávez government of totalitarian dictatorship…and continues circulating
as usual?

Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently released a report criticizing Hugo
Chávez and the Venezuelan government of threatening the legal rights of its
citizens by attempting to tip the political balance of the country’s
judiciary in their favor. And they may have a point—the law in question
would allow a slim chavista majority in the National Assembly to push
through their nominees. But while politicizing the judiciary could have
detrimental effects to citizens’ legal rights, it’s also common
practice—most noticeably in the US.

The fact that Venezuela has been singled out for criticism, the timing
of the report, and the tone and content suggest that HRW’s motives may be
less than altruistic. The report makes repeated comparisons between Chávez’
speculated court-packing intentions and the success of Carlos Menem in
Argentina, and Alberto Fujimori in Peru in "remaking their judiciaries to
serve their own interests." Comparing Chávez to Menem or Fujimori is,
perhaps, the report’s most transparent partisan moment.

Another important element is to lay blame for the polarization of the
country at Chávez’ feet. According to HRW, "the consensus around judicial
reforms has largely dissolved as the country has grown increasingly
polarized in response to President Chávez’s policies and style of
governance." This argument is a favorite of the opposition, and as we saw
above, is often recycled by the international media. Yet the idea that the
country was not polarized on February 27th, 1989 during the Caracazo, for
example, when anywhere from 327 (government figure) and 3,000 (independent
estimates by journalists) people were killed by the Venezuelan military is
offensive to the Venezuelans who lived the tragedy.

But by far the most important aspect of the report is the link it
creates between the Supreme-Court Law and the upcoming referendum. Criticism
of the law is certainly justifiable, but at various points in the report it
becomes clear that there is something else at stake. By pointing out that
the final judgment on the August 15 referendum on Chávez’ mandate as
President rests with Venezuela’s judiciary, the report explicitly suggests
that Chávez has the final say over the results. Accordingly, the report
argues:

The packing and purging provisions of the new law—which would be
objectionable under any circumstances—are particularly troubling given the
current political context. The prime target of any packing and purging
efforts is likely to be the electoral chamber of the Supreme Court….By
appointing two new justices to the chamber, the governing coalition will be
able to tip the balance its own way...

Thus, it is established that Chávez has rigged the judiciary in his
favor, that the country is violently divided due to Chávez’ brinkmanship,
and that if the referendum doesn’t go his way Chávez is willing to flex his
judicial muscle to make sure an unfavorable referendum result gets
overturned.

Getting Away with it

Attempting to defend itself from being characterized as partisan, the
report states:

It is critically important that…the criticisms offered here not be
mischaracterized as partisan attack. Human Rights Watch does not take a
stand on the political conflict currently underway in Venezuela. When
sectors of the opposition launched a coup d’état in April 2002, we denounced
their actions forcefully…

It is difficult to take this plea seriously considering that the report
has essentially imagined the ‘siege’ on the judiciary in time for the
referendum, attempting to characterize critical problems with Venezuela’s
judiciary as a recent development. But, as Gregory Wilpert has noted,
"blaming the Chavez government for problems that pre-date it and not giving
credit where it is due are tactics one would expect from a partisan
opposition attack…not from a serious human rights organization."
Furthermore, HRW’s condemnation of the April 2002 coup that briefly toppled
Chávez was somewhat weaker than one have might hoped.

On April 11th, 2002, the head of Venezuela’s chamber of commerce and
self-proclaimed president Pedro Carmona Estanga abolished the National
Assembly, the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman, and every other semblance of
democracy. The next day, José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the
Americas Division of Human Rights Watch, released an official statement
saying:

We call upon the transitional authorities in Venezuela to restore the
country's democratic institutions as soon as possible and to guarantee that
the human rights of Venezuelans will not be violated, regardless of their
political beliefs or affiliations. (Emphasis added).

By referring to the illegal government of Pedro Carmona Estanga as
"transitional authorities" Vivanco lends them legitimacy, completely
ignoring the fact that this was a coup, and that there are no ‘authorities’.
Particularly the word "transitional" suggests that Carmona’s junta was
actually ‘filling a vacuum of power’ as they claimed, rather than creating
that ‘vacuum of power’ through a well-orchestrated coup. Furthermore,
requesting that democratic institutions be restored "as soon as possible,"
can hardly be characterized as forceful.

Using Democracy to Undermine Democracy

On Sunday, the opposition appeared to show its hand; speaking on behalf
of the Coordinadora Democratica on Sunday, Enrique Mendoza declared "we have
the technological capacity to know the tendency of the referendum by 2pm on
the 15th, a tendency that will be irreversible and one hour after that we
will broadcast our first preliminary bulletin." The only possible reason
that the CD would be interested in publicizing preliminary results is to
preempt a Chávez victory by claiming that their exit polls give them an
opposition victory, which will be the basis of allegations of fraud.

The National Electoral Council (CNE) responded to Mendoza Monday,
threatening harsh sanctions on any party that releases any kind of poll or
bulletin on the referendum results until after the release of the official
results. In a press conference Tuesday, Francisco Díaz of the Carter Center’
s Caracas office supported the CNE announcement.

In the event of a Chávez victory next Sunday, such support may well
prove crucial. Opposition attempts at discrediting the results will be
impervious to government denunciation; the only effective response will be
clear, strong statements by the OAS and Carter Center supporting the results
released by the CNE. Yet the fact that the democratic process in Venezuela
rests so precariously on the shoulders of these two institutions presents a
problem since their neutrality has been questionable in the past.

The Carter Center’s mandate in monitoring elections is self-limited to
the actual electoral process. Thus, in observing the elections in Nicaragua
in 1990, or the recent elctions in El Salvador—two processes in which the US
exerted incredible pressure to secure friendly (anti-FSLN and anti-FMLN,
respectively) votes—no mention was made by the Carter Center of the
political effect of this pressure.

For its part the OAS has a more open conception of its role in
"promoting and consolidating representative democracy," yet it has also
proven unwilling to address flagrant US interventionism in Latin American
electoral processes.

Yet the joint-statement made by the OAS and the Carter Center after the
signature-collection process in Venezuela last May that triggered the
referendum sparked a bitter debate with the National Electoral Committee
(CNE), precisely because they had over-stepped their bounds as international
observers. According to CNE president Francisco Carrasquero the OAS and
Carter Centre violated the agreement they signed with the CNE by publicly
interpreting Venezuela’s constitution.

Recent statements by both the OAS and the Carter Centre suggest that
they will be careful to maintain neutrality, and take precautions against
their statements being used in partisan fights in the wake of the
referendum. But, the reality is that international perceptions of the
authenticity of election results this August 15th will be based almost
entirely on OAS and Carter Center statements, and if they bow to US pressure
the opposition will be given the carte blanche they need to undermine a
Chávez victory.

"There is nothing more neutral than what we are doing here," noted
Valter Pecly Moreira, the head of the OAS delegation in Venezuela during a
recent interview. "Both sides have many expectations and we know that…our
responsibility is enormous. The whole team will be working in a professional
and technical manner, without taking sides, as it must be."

During a recent senate hearing on Venezuela Jennifer McCoy, head of the
Carter Center mission in Venezuela noted,

I personally and an entire team, including an engineer and a
statistician…went to receive a full presentation of the machines….We were
very impressed with the presentation we received, the security measures that
were shown to us, and the functioning of the machine that we witnessed. A
very important process is having the paper trail, the paper receipt, which
are provided by these machines.

At one level, the opposition has already succeeded, for they have set
the stage to cry foul on the 15th using mostly ‘democratic channels’. Thus,
they have succeeded in limiting the test of Venezuelan democracy to one day,
one single election. Six years of creating a more profound democracy that is
participatory, moving towards decentralization, that addresses notions of
social and economic democracy has been been reduced into the limited terms
of representative democracy.

"The essence of democracy should be participation," noted Chávez in a
press conference on Thursday, "that is what we believe, not representation.
Representative democracy is an elite trap designed to ensnare the hopes of
the of the people, at least that it is how it worked in Venezuela for a long
time. We have broken with this paradigm and our democracy is representative,
but it goes far beyond representation."

It is in this respect that no matter how neutral, no matter how
professional the OAS and Carter Center may be they are conplicit in using a
specific, limited hegemonic definition of ‘democracy light’ to undermine a
profoundly democratic revolution. It has been a powerful, if largely silent,
coup d’État for the opposition to define the terms by which Venezuelan
democracy will be decided. It will be decided according to the same criteria
upon which they based 40 years of pre-Chávez corruption and cronyism; and
for which they were long hailed by the US as the hope of Latin American
democracy.
steve
2004-08-15 02:28:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by Josh Dougherty
Venezuela:Florentino The Devil And The Opposition
Thanks for that.

Fascinating.
Josh Dougherty
2004-08-15 04:04:47 UTC
Permalink
and another....

The calm before the?
http://blog.zmag.org/index.php/weblog/entry/the_calm_before_the/
Posted by Justin Podur at 05:32 PM
Today is the day before the referendum. Not only is campaigning formally
closed, but there is also a law in effect, quite common in Latin America,
that no alcohol is to be sold or consumed until well after the referendum.
And with good reason, given that both the NO and the SI forces want their
followers to be up by 3am and voting by 6am.



The Opposition Plan

One can put together the comments of the various opposition figures {please
see the previous entry on the Mendoza press conference} and get a picture of
what the opposition plan is. Short of some kind of violent provocation {and
there have been warnings of that as well} to try to discredit the whole
electoral process, the opposition has signalled repeatedly that it plans to
announce the results at 2pm. Then, when the real results are announced
after the polls close at 6pm, the opposition will say {assuming that the
opposition loses the referendum, which it will if there is not fraud} that
its results disagree with the official results and argue that a fraud has
occurred. At that point things will depend on the integrity of the Carter
Center and the OAS {gulp}. That is not strictly true. There are all kinds
of observers here, more media than ever before, so things will depend on the
ability of everyone with integrity to get the truth out past all of those
who are going to lie about the result. My own suspicion, based on the
highly unscientific methods of watching the SI rallies and talking to random
people, is that the result will be closer than the NO forces might like, but
quite decisive.

If the SI forces claims are then discredited, as they should be, they and
the US will just keep the “fraud” card in their hand, waiting for the
correlation of forces to change. Then, at some point down the road, if
Chavez loses a substantial chunk of support, or the army, or the oil
company, they will bring out the claim that the referendum was “fraudulent”
when they try to bring him down. This is the way the same kinds of forces
used the Haitian elections of 2000 in legitimating the coup that happened
there this year. For now, though, it is hard to think of what else they
will be able to do.

As for the role the 2pm announcement of the results by the opposition might
play, it is again hard to know. It could create some disorder and
confusion, but it seems that everyone has been trying to prepare the
electorate for it at any rate. This morning in a press conference, the
President of the state television channel 8, Vladimir Villegas, had it
right. He said “The opposition is announcing that they are going to
announce the results tomorrow at 2pm. The polls open at 6am and close at
6pm. How are they going to know the results four hours before the polls
close. If they are going to announce it at 2pm, I would invite them to
announce the results now! They are not going to know anything then that
they do not know now!” And it is that absurd. (For more detail on the
opposition plan and strategy, see the piece by Jonah Gindin today on ZNet
and venezuelanalysis.com)

Control Rooms

In spite of the absence of campaignings, today is a day of frantic activity.
I realize I promised that I would do interviews. And I have met a lot of
interesting people with a lot of interest to say. Every single one of them
has one response when I ask them for an interview. “Of course! Call me
just as soon as the referendum is over!” Fair enough. Indeed, even if the
opposition plans some bad business, it is as likely to come immediately
after the referendum as it is to come before.

But people are better prepared this time around. If anti imperialists were
kicking themselves for not doing more to stop the coup in 2002 (we were)
they are trying to learn from their mistakes. I know of at least two
alternative media “control rooms” that are being set up. One is by the
intrepid NarcoNews team (check them out at narconews.com and the narcosphere
blog) and another is organized by aporrea.org. What they have here is a lot
like some of the best indymedia centres I have seen at the big anti
globalization demonstrations and meetings. Indymedia from many countries
are here, rebelion.org, aporrea.org, antiescualidos.com, lots of alternative
radio folks from all over Latin America and Europe. They have set up
computers, techies, phones, food… people are even staying here. Of course
there are all the sensible security precautions… they say they have been
hacked already, more than once. The idea of both control rooms is to create
a real newsroom where people can complement each others work, where people
can check and cross check information (this one has four televisions, each
tuned to a different news channel) and complement each others efforts.) If
things do get ugly, we have learned from (at least some) of our mistakes and
can (hopefully) do better than last time.

The most likely scenario for tomorrow is also the best case scenario. A
clean, uneventful day of voting, resulting in a sound victory for the NO
forces, and a big party to follow. That is what I would like to be
reporting tomorrow. Stay tuned, regardless.
torresD
2004-08-16 05:35:52 UTC
Permalink
Thank you so much for this, on the ground, report, Mr. Dougherty.



"Josh Dougherty" <***@comcast.net>
Venezuela:Florentino The Devil And The Opposition

by Justin Podur; August 14, 2004

Last night was the closing of the referendum campaign. It closed with
huge marches of the opposition and the chavistas. They say the opposition
march was the biggest ever-one estimate I heard, from a journalist who was
at the Madrid demonstrations around March 11, is over 500,000 people. More,
he said, than any opposition march, ever, including the "national strike" of
last year and the coup the year before. I cannot verify that, as I was not
there. I was, however, at the "No" rally.

That rally was also huge, and I got there late, as people were already
leaving. I am not very talented at guessing numbers of people. But there
were hundreds of thousands as well, though not as many as at the massive
march last Sunday. For a flavour of the "No" rally {it is always hard to
know what to call the different groups. The opposition calls the chavistas
"oficialismo", the chavistas call the opposition "escualidos" or
"golpistas"} it is necessary to discuss the famous local legend of
Florentino and the Devil, which is the story the Chavistas have been using
since the referendum was announced. There is even a feature movie coming
out with the title: "A battle between good and evil in the plains", is the
byline.

Florentino y El Diablo

Chavez resurrected this local legend after the referendum was announced.
The story goes as follows. There is a local music on the plains, based on
improvisation, and musicians play a kind of competitive game, a kind of
call-and-answer game. In the game, the one who gets the last word and
stumps the other, wins. It is like rap, based on lyrical skill and
improvisation. The champion of this game was Florentino. One day the Devil
came along and challenged Florentino to a game, I think for the soul of
Florentino. The one who got the last word as the sun rose would win. And
there is a whole song that tells the story, with lyrics for both parts. In
the end, Florentino won, of course. So Chavez says, he is like Florentino,
the opposition-or the US, as you like-is the Devil, and he will have the
last word.

So, yesterday at the party, this music, Florentino and the Devil was the
recurring theme, and variations of it and the song were sung, including
various musicians doing the call-and-answer with Chavez himself. There were
other jokes too. Chavez ripping open his shirt to reveal a big "NO" T-shirt
underneath. It was a very festive atmosphere-as the "Si" march also
appeared to be, from television and second-hand reports that I have
heard-people were dancing, drinking, listening to the music. The beer to be
had-Polar, owned by Mendoza, one of the wealthiest families of Venezuela, a
member of which {Enrique} is governor of the state of Miranda and leader of
the opposition Coordinadora Democratica. The alternative beer, if you want
to drink it-Regional, owned by Gustavo Cisneros, the wealthiest man in
Venezuela, and one of the main leaders of the opposition. It is not easy to
escape enriching the elite, even at a "No" rally.

The Opposition Press Conference

I tried to rectify my non-attendance at the "Si" rally by going to the
Coordinadora Democratica press conference this morning. A nice
neighbourhood, certainly. A very nice social club setting. And, for the
most part, a different set of media than were at Miraflores yesterday. The
speaker: the aforementioned Enrique Mendoza.

Interesting stuff. He registered protest with much that the government
was doing. There were "hostile attitudes", for example. International
observers reported, in private meetings with the opposition of course, that
their work was being "blocked". How, specifically, he was asked. Well, he
could not say specifically, out of respect for the "privacy" of the
observers, who expressed worry that they might be kicked out and decided not
to complain publicly, the most important thing being that they stay in the
country. There are up to two million Venezuelans who will not use the
voting machines but will vote with ballots, and Mendoza is worried that
these ballots will be used to track voters and intimidate them. There are
people who signed to bring the referendum about who now appear to be dead-he
did not actually say whether or not they really were dead when they signed,
something that seems to have happened-and others are getting "the runaround"
from the electoral authorities. He thanked the Carter center and the OAS
profusely, several times, noting that without their intervention we would
not have gotten to the point we are at. In spite of all these government
actions, Mendoza said, he was absolutely sure that the opposition would win.

The question and answer period was interesting as well. A Swiss
journalist asked if the opposition could govern within the framework of the
constitution or whether they would seek changes if they were in government.
Mendoza said no, they would work with the constitution. A Brazilian
journalist asked if the opposition would dialogue with Chavez. Mendoza said
that a condition of dialogue was that Chavez release the sixty political
prisoners-these, presumably, are people imprisoned for their role in the
coup of 2002. Picking up where Chavez left off yesterday, another
journalist asked about all the Wall Street confidence in Chavez. Did the
opposition also have the confidence of Wall Street, Mendoza was asked.
Mendoza gave a touching reply. This is a matter for Venezuelans to decide.
"When we win on Sunday, we will win something beyond price. We will win a
victory for our values, of reconciliation."

One Venezuela, where the rich and poor can coexist

The CNN correspondent had an interesting question. She said-given that
there are no guarantees of transparency, what will you do if the government
announces that it has won, when you do not believe that it has. Are you
prepared for another national strike, or what. Mendoza answered that there
was no point in such speculations, that the opposition is democratic above
all.

But the most touching statement came at the end. A question from TV
Azteca in Mexico-the FOX NEWS or Globovision of Mexico-asking Mendoza "What
kind of Venezuela are you seeking". Mendoza answered: "We want a Venezuela
where people respect one another. Where we are all Venezuelans, we are all
together, whatever religious differences we might have, whatever class
differences we might have. One Venezuela, where the rich and poor can
coexist." Truly, a moving vision for any country.

It was, overall, an interesting set of evasions and lies, combined with
some setting up for the post-referendum claim that there was fraud. As for
the voting machines, it seems like fraud will be difficult to do by way of
the machines. The system works as follows. You register. You are faced
with a touchscreen that very clearly asks are you SI or NO with the buttons
clearly marked. You press one. The machine prints out the result. You
check if the printed ballot matches what you pressed on the touchscreen,
then you put the paper in the box. So there is the machine result and the
paper trail, and hence a way of checking one against the other. There might
be ways of cheating even with this system, but it is not a system made to
facilitate such things. no hanging chads around here.

A last note on "polarization". I am not convinced that it is so terrible
a thing. Chavez mentioned yesterday that they cannot blame him for
polarization-the country was polarized well before he showed up. All
societies are, to the extent that they are unequal, polarized. When the
poor are starving, that is not "polarized", unless they are fighting back
somehow or finding some expression. Then, there is "polarization". I
believe that the world would benefit a great deal if US society was a lot
more "polarized" than it is. But there is a problem with polarization too,
and you can see it when you look at the statements of the "oficialismo"
versus the "opposition" or the "people" versus the "oligarchy" or of the
"chavistas" versus the "escualidos", different sets of names for two groups,
none of which are "neutral". Where there is polarization, there are
radically different stories that cannot be reconciled, and evaluating them
on their factual or logical merit is often very difficult, because the
sources of the facts are themselves combatants. You are right now reading
the report of a deeply biased observer, one whose biases are not at all
hidden. This is not something that will change after the referendum. But
it is important not to miss a key point: here there are two sets of
official, irreconcileable pronouncements, both highly visible, both with
plenty of power and support behind them. In most of the world there is only
one, and the rest is completely marginalized. In which situation is it
easier to figure out for yourself what is true. is a real question.



----------------------------------



Subverting Democracy

by Jonah Gindin; Venezuelanalysis.com; August 14, 2004


When in 1998 former paratrooper Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías was elected
President on a revolutionary mandate to completely rewire Venezuela's
elite-based 'democracy', the opposition lay in shambles. So complete was
their defeat that the two traditional parties that had alternated leadership
of the country since 1958 did not even field candidates. Six years later,
after a failed coup, two devastating but failed general strikes, and an
international publicity campaign to paint Chávez as a cruel dictator without
support, the Venezuelan opposition to Chávez' 'Bolívarian revolution' has
reached the point of no return: a recall referendum-scheduled for tomorrow,
August 15th. As a last resort the opposition has thrown its weight behind a
constitutional strategy in the hopes that it might accomplish what force and
blackmail could not.

Yet it is never so clear-cut with Venezuela's opposition, and even those
who are now sulkily pursuing a peaceful path to recall Chávez are often
inseparable from those who have made no such grudging commitment to the
constitution. Along with the opposition's non-violent strategy looms the
macabre threat of violence; the presence of Colombian paramilitaries
recently discovered in a training camp in Caracas is only the most worrisome
example to date.

Opinion polls are coming out on what seems like a daily basis; yet
rather than providing insight into public opinion, they are reinforcing both
camps of their projected victories. Yet the opposition campaign itself
appears to be faltering in the face of unprecedented chavista mobilization,
particularly since the launch of their plan for a post-Chávez country was
overshadowed by the revelation that it was funded in part by the National
Endowment for Democracy (NED).

In effect, they have painted themselves into a corner. Calling for the
referendum since day 01 allowed them to site their democratic commitment
when they came under fire for supporting military coups, employer lock-outs,
and provocateur street violence, but now that it is actually going to happen
they are unprepared, or worse, unsupported.

In the wake of potential defeat, opposition strategy appears to be based
more on how to lose as little as possible, than on how to win. Since he was
first elected in 1998, Chávez has been dismissed by much of the mainstream
international media as just another Latin American populist with
authoritarian tendencies. If Chávez wins the referendum this August 15th,
that characterization will be difficult to sell. With that in mind,
opposition strategy aims to check any potential rise in Chávez'
international stock in the event of his victory at the ballot box.

To do so, they are using the media and influential international bodies
to prepare the ground for accusations of fraud if Chávez is not recalled. A
Chávez victory on the 15th is most dangerous to US neoliberal plans for the
region as an example to other countries, thus, the international media has
stepped up attacks on Chávez since the date for the recall was announced
last June. Paralleling the media-offensive are increasingly vocal
accusations by human rights organizations (and one in particular) against
alleged abuses by the Venezuelan government.

As a departure from previous illegal approaches to getting rid of Chávez
this strategy has an inherent advantage. The change is essentially one from
force-from a more traditional and familiar notion of asserting elite
power-to hegemony. This same development changed US strategy in Nicaragua in
the 1980s from one centering around the violence of the contras to one that
used that violence but that depended more on the media and other segments of
civil society.

They use the hegemonic force of democracy to subvert a democratic
process. Six years of participatory democracy reduced to one vote-subject to
all the subsequent pressures and opportunities to influence the outcome.
That is, the opposition is able to appear to be using democratic channels,
since they're comrades-in-arms are the private media and human rights
groups. Though these institutions are central to any democracy, their
hegemony is used to limit democracy to this cooptable foundation; a
foundation that is compatible with neoliberalism and has historically been
hostile to an expansion of the terms of representation. They're active
complicity in counter-revolution in Chile, Nicaragua, in recent elections in
El Salvador, and in Venezuela is only a footnote to their existence. The
role of private media and many NGOs in the new imperialism is to facilitate
the hegemony of 'democracy light'-that form of democracy that works
hand-in-hand with neoliberalism. Thus, participatory democracy, as a threat
to the hegemony of representative democracy, is also a threat to the
privileged social status of the private media and of NGOs-as institutions.

On August 15th they will thus have succeeded in reducing an infinitely
complex, multi-dimensional experiment in deepening democracy to an exercise
in representative democracy that is fundamentally flawed, for it lends
itself to disproportionate influence by these groups. Their words are
systemically given more weight than any given citizen, even though these
institutions are made up of mere citizens-though almost universally foreign
ones. If that is the case, why are they permitted so much influence? Why is
the future of a sovereign nation dependent upon the blessing of two US-based
organizations-the OAS and the Carter Center? And subject to the reactionary
opining of other extra-Venezuelan institutions?

As Chávez put it Thursday morning in a press conference at Miraflores
Palace, "the leaders of the opposition have never said that they will
respect the results of the referendum.what they have said is that they will
recognize the results once the international observers recognize them..We
have welcomed the international observers, but this decision is not in their
hands. Here we have an institution, this is no colony, after all..here we
are free."

International Media and the Chain of Disinformation

Opposition to President Chávez has always been dominated by the upper
class. Large land-owners, media barons, corrupt labor officials and other
Miami-philes were behind the general strikes and coup-attempts that preceded
the current recall campaign. Recently however, the old alliance of big
business and corporatist labor has been buttressed by the growing
anti-chavism of much of Venezuela's small middle-class. Currency devaluation
and economic difficulties have disproportionately affected the middle class,
pushing them into the open arms of an opposition that has used their control
over private media to gain a near-monopoly on public debate. Though with 80%
of Venezuela's population in poverty, the middle-class represents a small
group, they lend legitimacy to an opposition with little moral capital.

Since the collapse of the two traditional political parties Acción
Democratica and Copei, the opposition to President Chávez has been unable to
regain political coherence. The Coordinadora Democratica (CD)-the most
recent attempt at lumping together the fractious, chaotic mish-mash of
'anti-chavists'-has failed to articulate anything resembling a political
program. Yet it is only recently that they have even appeared to desire one.
Until the current recall campaign put them head-to-head against Chávez and
his Bolívarian revolution, the CD appeared content to concentrate their
energy and resources on anti-chavism, rather than on offering an
alternative.

Criticism consisting largely of the most base and often racist
mud-slinging served them well in fostering the impression internationally
that Chávez is an inept, closet-communist, who is ruining the economy and
funding Colombian guerrillas to boot. With their near-total control over the
domestic media, the spread of opposition propaganda has gone completely
unchecked. Journalistic integrity has been thrown to the wind with the all
too familiar justification that there is a war to win.

Discrediting the Electoral Process

Much US coverage of Venezuela over the past month has focused on
controversy surrounding the use of voting machines for the upcoming
referendum. A June 13th Washington Post editorial refers to "the National
Electoral Council, controlled by the president's loyalists"; the
opposition's "acceptance of the rule of law"; and Chavez's underlying
intention to subvert the democratic process, since "the votes would be
counted using untried electronic voting machines supplied by a consortium in
which the government has a financial stake,"-all in the first paragraph.

The sequence of statements reveals a clear strategy of suggesting that
a) the officials in charge of the vote cannot be trusted, b) the opposition
is the law-abiding victim of a power-hungry populist, and c) that not only
the voting officials, but even the voting infrastructure is stacked in
Chávez' favor.

In keeping with the time-tested journalistic theory that it is the first
50 words of a story that matter, Juan Forrero and John Schwartz of the New
York Times waste no time, beginning: "Touch-screen voting machines, which
have been plagued by security and reliability concerns in the United States,
will be used in the recall vote on President Hugo Chávez, prompting his foes
and foreign diplomats to contend that the left-leaning government may use
the equipment to manipulate the vote."

They continue, quoting an expert-to lend credibility to their
transparently politically motivated reportage-"'a fully electronic computer
can be programmed to produce whatever outcome the developers - or the people
in charge of the developers - want it to.'"

But the reality of the voting machines is infinitely more complicated:
the voting software is available for public and professional scrutiny, the
information will be sent to 7 different locations to ensure that fraud can
be located, and there will be a manual count of the receipts printed from
the machines. The government too is alleging plans to commit fraud by
manipulating the telecommunications infrastructure that allow the machines
to send the information instantaneously to a central register. The company
in charge is CanTV; company-president Gustavo Roosen was education minister
under former-President of Venezuela Carlos Andres Perez, who recently told
the Caracas opposition paper El Nacional that the only solution to the
'Chávez question' was to kill him like a dog.

Added to the mix are the pollsters commissioned by the opposition to
evaluate the political mood of the country. As Diaz Eleazer Rangel, a
columnist for Venezuela's largest circulating daily notes, the only possible
explanation for the terrible track-record of polling companies in Venezuela
is their political motivation-pollsters who must answer to a particular
political party or current adjust their information accordingly.

Beyond merely attempting to please one's sponsors, many pollsters are
also guilty of using polls to directly influence events by suggesting one
side has a momentum it may not actually have. Hence, these comments by
Datanálisis analyst Luis Leon in a meeting with the foreign press: "Chavez
isn't completely out of the game, but he's in trouble.If the vote happens
legally, Chavez should lose."

Human Rights Groups: Recycling Misreportage

One of the most revealing indications that international human rights
groups' coverage is not only biased, but factually inconsistent, is the slew
of reports condemning Chávez' alleged pressures on freedom of expression.
This is a country where 90% of the print and television media are actively
engaged in calling for the overthrow of the government (only recently by
constitutional means); and where not a single journalist has been jailed
since Chávez came to power. The only time that news organizations have been
shut down was during the coup when the illegal government of Pedro Carmona
closed community radio and television stations that remained loyal to
Chávez. Despite their active participation in the coup, no newspapers were
closed once Chávez was restored to power, and no charges were brought
against opposition media.

In an editorial in the Venezuelan evening paper Tal Cual, opposition
leader Teodoro Petkoff vents his frustration with the tactics of the
opposition of which he is a prominent member, noting:

Speaking of incongruity, doesn't it seem to this periodical [El
Universal] and to their collaborators that there is nothing more
"inconsistent", more "legitimating" for the government.than a newspaper with
national circulation and continental fame that spends tons of ink accusing
the Chávez government of totalitarian dictatorship.and continues circulating
as usual?

Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently released a report criticizing Hugo
Chávez and the Venezuelan government of threatening the legal rights of its
citizens by attempting to tip the political balance of the country's
judiciary in their favor. And they may have a point-the law in question
would allow a slim chavista majority in the National Assembly to push
through their nominees. But while politicizing the judiciary could have
detrimental effects to citizens' legal rights, it's also common
practice-most noticeably in the US.

The fact that Venezuela has been singled out for criticism, the timing
of the report, and the tone and content suggest that HRW's motives may be
less than altruistic. The report makes repeated comparisons between Chávez'
speculated court-packing intentions and the success of Carlos Menem in
Argentina, and Alberto Fujimori in Peru in "remaking their judiciaries to
serve their own interests." Comparing Chávez to Menem or Fujimori is,
perhaps, the report's most transparent partisan moment.

Another important element is to lay blame for the polarization of the
country at Chávez' feet. According to HRW, "the consensus around judicial
reforms has largely dissolved as the country has grown increasingly
polarized in response to President Chávez's policies and style of
governance." This argument is a favorite of the opposition, and as we saw
above, is often recycled by the international media. Yet the idea that the
country was not polarized on February 27th, 1989 during the Caracazo, for
example, when anywhere from 327 (government figure) and 3,000 (independent
estimates by journalists) people were killed by the Venezuelan military is
offensive to the Venezuelans who lived the tragedy.

But by far the most important aspect of the report is the link it
creates between the Supreme-Court Law and the upcoming referendum. Criticism
of the law is certainly justifiable, but at various points in the report it
becomes clear that there is something else at stake. By pointing out that
the final judgment on the August 15 referendum on Chávez' mandate as
President rests with Venezuela's judiciary, the report explicitly suggests
that Chávez has the final say over the results. Accordingly, the report
argues:

The packing and purging provisions of the new law-which would be
objectionable under any circumstances-are particularly troubling given the
current political context. The prime target of any packing and purging
efforts is likely to be the electoral chamber of the Supreme Court..By
appointing two new justices to the chamber, the governing coalition will be
able to tip the balance its own way...

Thus, it is established that Chávez has rigged the judiciary in his
favor, that the country is violently divided due to Chávez' brinkmanship,
and that if the referendum doesn't go his way Chávez is willing to flex his
judicial muscle to make sure an unfavorable referendum result gets
overturned.

Getting Away with it

Attempting to defend itself from being characterized as partisan, the
report states:

It is critically important that.the criticisms offered here not be
mischaracterized as partisan attack. Human Rights Watch does not take a
stand on the political conflict currently underway in Venezuela. When
sectors of the opposition launched a coup d'état in April 2002, we denounced
their actions forcefully.

It is difficult to take this plea seriously considering that the report
has essentially imagined the 'siege' on the judiciary in time for the
referendum, attempting to characterize critical problems with Venezuela's
judiciary as a recent development. But, as Gregory Wilpert has noted,
"blaming the Chavez government for problems that pre-date it and not giving
credit where it is due are tactics one would expect from a partisan
opposition attack.not from a serious human rights organization."
Furthermore, HRW's condemnation of the April 2002 coup that briefly toppled
Chávez was somewhat weaker than one have might hoped.

On April 11th, 2002, the head of Venezuela's chamber of commerce and
self-proclaimed president Pedro Carmona Estanga abolished the National
Assembly, the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman, and every other semblance of
democracy. The next day, José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the
Americas Division of Human Rights Watch, released an official statement
saying:

We call upon the transitional authorities in Venezuela to restore the
country's democratic institutions as soon as possible and to guarantee that
the human rights of Venezuelans will not be violated, regardless of their
political beliefs or affiliations. (Emphasis added).

By referring to the illegal government of Pedro Carmona Estanga as
"transitional authorities" Vivanco lends them legitimacy, completely
ignoring the fact that this was a coup, and that there are no 'authorities'.
Particularly the word "transitional" suggests that Carmona's junta was
actually 'filling a vacuum of power' as they claimed, rather than creating
that 'vacuum of power' through a well-orchestrated coup. Furthermore,
requesting that democratic institutions be restored "as soon as possible,"
can hardly be characterized as forceful.

Using Democracy to Undermine Democracy

On Sunday, the opposition appeared to show its hand; speaking on behalf
of the Coordinadora Democratica on Sunday, Enrique Mendoza declared "we have
the technological capacity to know the tendency of the referendum by 2pm on
the 15th, a tendency that will be irreversible and one hour after that we
will broadcast our first preliminary bulletin." The only possible reason
that the CD would be interested in publicizing preliminary results is to
preempt a Chávez victory by claiming that their exit polls give them an
opposition victory, which will be the basis of allegations of fraud.

The National Electoral Council (CNE) responded to Mendoza Monday,
threatening harsh sanctions on any party that releases any kind of poll or
bulletin on the referendum results until after the release of the official
results. In a press conference Tuesday, Francisco Díaz of the Carter Center'
s Caracas office supported the CNE announcement.

In the event of a Chávez victory next Sunday, such support may well
prove crucial. Opposition attempts at discrediting the results will be
impervious to government denunciation; the only effective response will be
clear, strong statements by the OAS and Carter Center supporting the results
released by the CNE. Yet the fact that the democratic process in Venezuela
rests so precariously on the shoulders of these two institutions presents a
problem since their neutrality has been questionable in the past.

The Carter Center's mandate in monitoring elections is self-limited to
the actual electoral process. Thus, in observing the elections in Nicaragua
in 1990, or the recent elctions in El Salvador-two processes in which the US
exerted incredible pressure to secure friendly (anti-FSLN and anti-FMLN,
respectively) votes-no mention was made by the Carter Center of the
political effect of this pressure.

For its part the OAS has a more open conception of its role in
"promoting and consolidating representative democracy," yet it has also
proven unwilling to address flagrant US interventionism in Latin American
electoral processes.

Yet the joint-statement made by the OAS and the Carter Center after the
signature-collection process in Venezuela last May that triggered the
referendum sparked a bitter debate with the National Electoral Committee
(CNE), precisely because they had over-stepped their bounds as international
observers. According to CNE president Francisco Carrasquero the OAS and
Carter Centre violated the agreement they signed with the CNE by publicly
interpreting Venezuela's constitution.

Recent statements by both the OAS and the Carter Centre suggest that
they will be careful to maintain neutrality, and take precautions against
their statements being used in partisan fights in the wake of the
referendum. But, the reality is that international perceptions of the
authenticity of election results this August 15th will be based almost
entirely on OAS and Carter Center statements, and if they bow to US pressure
the opposition will be given the carte blanche they need to undermine a
Chávez victory.

"There is nothing more neutral than what we are doing here," noted
Valter Pecly Moreira, the head of the OAS delegation in Venezuela during a
recent interview. "Both sides have many expectations and we know that.our
responsibility is enormous. The whole team will be working in a professional
and technical manner, without taking sides, as it must be."

During a recent senate hearing on Venezuela Jennifer McCoy, head of the
Carter Center mission in Venezuela noted,

I personally and an entire team, including an engineer and a
statistician.went to receive a full presentation of the machines..We were
very impressed with the presentation we received, the security measures that
were shown to us, and the functioning of the machine that we witnessed. A
very important process is having the paper trail, the paper receipt, which
are provided by these machines.

At one level, the opposition has already succeeded, for they have set
the stage to cry foul on the 15th using mostly 'democratic channels'. Thus,
they have succeeded in limiting the test of Venezuelan democracy to one day,
one single election. Six years of creating a more profound democracy that is
participatory, moving towards decentralization, that addresses notions of
social and economic democracy has been been reduced into the limited terms
of representative democracy.

"The essence of democracy should be participation," noted Chávez in a
press conference on Thursday, "that is what we believe, not representation.
Representative democracy is an elite trap designed to ensnare the hopes of
the of the people, at least that it is how it worked in Venezuela for a long
time. We have broken with this paradigm and our democracy is representative,
but it goes far beyond representation."

It is in this respect that no matter how neutral, no matter how
professional the OAS and Carter Center may be they are complicit in using a
specific, limited hegemonic definition of 'democracy light' to undermine a
profoundly democratic revolution. It has been a powerful, if largely silent,
coup d'État for the opposition to define the terms by which Venezuelan
democracy will be decided. It will be decided according to the same criteria
upon which they based 40 years of pre-Chávez corruption and cronyism; and
for which they were long hailed by the US as the hope of Latin American
democracy.

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