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Bashing Venezuelan Democracy
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
For 10 years under Chavez, Bolivarianism has flourished, and the greater its success the harsher its critics. America flounders in corruption, economic chaos and decline.In November/December 2006, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's (FAIR) Steve Rendall explained that "Hugo Chavez never had a chance with the US press." It's been a constant since his December 1998 election, and hasn't let up to this day, with language all too familiar:
Under Article 230 of Venezuela's Constitution: "The presidential term is six years. The President of the Republic can be re-elected, immediately and only once, to an additional term." Currently, Chavez can't run again when his term expires in 2012.
Under Article 192: "Deputies of the National Assembly shall hold office for a term of five years, with eligibility for re-election to no more than one additional term."
Other elected officials are also restricted to a two-term limit.
Last December, Chavez proposed February 15 for a national referendum to let Venezuelans vote up or down for constitutional change. He chose this date because it's when Simon Bolivar spoke at Angostura, "in the recently inaugurated congress of the city in 1819." At the time, presidential elections weren't held, and Bolivar warned against lengthy rule. The opposition is using this in its "Angostura" campaign in spite of how different Venezuela is today - a participatory democracy where people choose and can recall their presidents and other elected officials.
Article 72 of Venezuela's Constitution states:
Try finding that explanation in the dominant media or how near-impossible it is to remove US elected officials regardless of popular sentiment. No US president was ever removed by impeachment, and short of a national convulsion, none likely ever will be - even one as reviled as George Bush.
Chavez supporters collected 4.7 million signatures for a national referendum to current constitutional law. On January 14, the National Assembly modified and approved it (156 - 6) without naming a date.
The provision reads:
On January 16, AN President Cilia Flores submitted the proposal to the National Electoral Council (CNE). It has 30 days to organize and convene a referendum. Sunday, February 15 is the scheduled date.
Assembly representative Luis Tascon said he voted to proceed because no suitable Chavez successor has emerged. "Given that reality, I'll stay with Chavez." Another lawmaker explained he's for it "so that all legally able citizens can run for election and the people can choose from them without limitations of any kind."
After their 91st Plenary Assembly, the (right-wing allied) Bishops'' Conference of Venezuela asked Chavez to reconsider his proposal to be seek indefinite re-elections. They accused him of "extending power into the future (by) illegitimate means."
Chavez said his intention isn't to stay in office indefinitely. "What we have here is a national independence project that still needs more work to consolidate....They say my personal goal is to perpetuate myself in power; nothing could be further from the truth."
Longtime Latin American expert James Petras agrees in his January 11 article titled: "Venezuela: Socialism, Democracy and the Re-Election of President Chavez:"
Given today's dire state of things and no expected change under Obama, "the world looks to President Chavez as the world's foremost humanitarian leader, the outstanding defender of freedom, peace and self-determination." Much more is at stake than a referendum vote. "With its outcome rides the future of democracy and socialism in Venezuela and the hopes and aspirations of hundreds of millions who look to (this leader as an inspiration and) example in their revolutionary struggle(s) to overthrow militarists and depression-racked capitalist states."
Anti-Chavez Media Rhetoric
Marc Plattner is co-editor of the "Journal of Democracy, vice-president for research and studies at the National Endowment of Democracy (NED), and co-director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies. NED is a US government-funded body that functions to subvert democracy, help oust popularly elected leaders, and serve the interests of captal.
On January 13, Plattner got Washington Post op-ed space for his article titled: "Democracy's Competitive Edge - Why Authoritarian Economies Could Have More to Fear From (the current economic) Crisis." His view is that no matter how discredited global capitalism is, "the economic crisis could bring gains for democracy (against) the emergence of nondemocratic (authoritarian) political systems that can claim to offer attractive models. He cites four examples: China, Russia, Iran and Venezuela and says "until late last year (they) were riding high." No longer as the global crisis affects all nations to one degree or other.
Nonetheless, Plattner claims that "authoritarian capitalist regimes," not based on "a coherent ideology" with wide popular support, will fare worst. "As long as they deliver the economic goods, most of their citizens may be willing to accept the accompanying limits on their political freedom."
Plattner ignores Venezuela's model democracy, Chavez's overwhelming popularity, 10 years of social progress, the reduction of poverty, and the uplifting of millions of Venezuelans unlike anything ever before in the country. No nation anywhere runs freer elections. No president better serves his people, who directs more of his nation's resources for social needs, who's an example for leaders everywhere, who shames America's sham democracy, publicly denounces tyranny and repression, opposes foreign wars, doesn't invade his neighbors, practice torture, or undermine other heads of state. He supports human rights, seeks conciliation, rejects conflict, and serves all Venezuelans admirably.
Yet Plattner calls Venezuela "undemocratic" and says American-style "democracy has often displayed a remarkable ability to reform and renew itself....to take a punch and outlast its glass-jawed competitors (and prove its) resilience that may (be) decisive in the competition with its more brittle authoritarian challengers."
Plattner's NED spent the last 10 years trying to undermine Venezuelan democracy, the kind unimaginable in America.
The Wall Street Journal's Mary O'Grady never met a democrat she didn't bash with Chavez again targeted in her January 12 op-ed headlined: "Dictatorship for Dummies." She's deeply disappointed that low oil prices haven't weakened him and notes how defeating him "remains a formidable task."
It gets worse. Venezuelan elections don't matter.
It's a "military government. (He) purged the armed forces" and installed his own loyalists. He's "taken over the Metropolitan Police in Caracas, imported Cuban intelligence agents, and armed his Bolivarian militias, whose job it is to act as neighborhood enforcers. (He indoctrinates school children) in Bolivarian thought, stripped the media of independence and dominates all free television in the country."
He stirs up trouble "against foreign devils like the US, Colombia and Israel." He lets "Iran use Venezuelan aircraft for arms trafficking and Venezuela gets military aid in return. (Besides this), his most effective police state tool (is his) control over the economy. The state freely expropriates whatever it wants....economic freedom is dead....The private sector has been wiped out, except for those who have thrown in their lot with the tyrant."
What to say about such rubbish - so bad, it's not even poor fiction. O'Grady is a Wall Street tool. Her style is agitprop. Her space is a truth-free zone. Her language - hateful and vindictive. Her tone - malicious and slanderous. Her manner - bare-knuckled thuggishness. Her material - mendacious, calculating, and shameless. Yet it appears weekly in her Americas column, and she wins awards for it. Wall Street takes care of its own.
O'Grady fronts for power and highlights the state of today's journalism and why growing numbers turn elsewhere to be informed. Imagine the difference if everyone did.
On January 12, Patrick Esteruelas' Foreign Policy Magazine article headlined: "Hugo Chavez rolls the dice." He says 2009 may prove tough for Chavez with low oil prices "sap(ping) the country's economic strength and compromis(ing) the president's ability to maintain the lavish spending that buttresses his government's popularity."
"If he loses, he won't recover easily." His hold on power will be weakened enough to give the "opposition an opportunity to gain new political momentum. But the larger worry is that a 'no' vote (will threaten Chavez and) could undermine Venezuela's democracy. If he loses (he may consider) more radical and authoritarian" measures.
Esteruelas isn't O'Grady, but his article is painfully inaccurate about Venezuela and Chavez. Chavez wants to strengthen democracy and enhance Bolivarianism, not be "president for life." He's also gracious in defeat and showed it December 2007. When his constitutional referendum failed to pass, he said: "To those who voted against my proposal, I thank them and congratulate them....Venezuelan democracy is maturing (and) I understand and accept that the proposal was quite profound and intense." Changing 69 constitutional articles in one bite proved too much and too easy for opponents to attack.
This time is simpler. The National Assembly approved a single question referendum asking voters up or down on whether to end term limits for presidents, National Assembly representatives, governors, mayors, and state legislators.
On January 9, the Miami Herald's Andres Oppenheimer headlined: "Chavez, allies manipulating anti-Israeli views." Chavez and Hamas' "main state sponsor," Iran, are exploiting the Gaza conflict for political advantage. Why so? "He is in trouble because of falling oil prices, and needs a conflict with Washington to justify his increasingly authoritarian rule."
Oppenheimer berates some Latin American journalists for:
This type rhetoric mirrors much pro-Israeli agitprop. It mischaracterizes Hamas, supports Israeli war crimes, and in this case, accuses Chavez for condemning the aggressor, not the victims.
Francisco Toro is a Caracas-based contributor to The New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, and was editor of the English language version of Veneconomy, a leading Venezuelan bilingual business magazine. Last December, he headlined an article titled: "Why Chavez Wants To Be President for Life" in which he sounds much like O'Grady.
He calls Chavez a "narcissist-Leninist president, (but) 14 years (isn't) long enough to crush capitalism....Will Venezuelans (give him what he wants) the second time around? It's not at all clear (as he's) genuinely popular," but polls show he's vulnerable. Most voters like him, but far lower numbers "express confidence in his ability to solve the country's problems. Majorities dislike his endless televised rants, question key parts of his socialist ideology, reject the Cuban model (and criticize him) on all kinds of bread-and-butter issues. (They also) get a serious case of the heebie-jeebies (about) this enormously volatile and endlessly pugnacious leader potentially run(ning) the country for life..."
Anyone who disagrees with him "is instantly identified as an agent of evil: a fascist running dog of American imperialism, and more than likely, a traitor on the CIA's payroll. Chavez's basic MO is....dissent = treason." Yet, he's "clearly popular and keeps winning elections. What could possibly be so undemocratic about that?"
For Toro, it's not about democracy or dictatorship but rather an "old fashioned cult of personality....something that doesn't have a name yet....(a combination of a) leader's megalomania and his followers' atavistic drive to submit to his tsunami of histrionics....for the benefit of a political sect masquerading as a revolutionary movement (calling itself) a democracy." Now they want "open-ended re-election." Their "worldview" only holds as long as Chavez stays president and continues "this mad experiment."
Toro lives in Caracas and can follow Chavez close-up. But he hasn't a clue about Venezuelan democracy and a decade of impressive social achievements. Its why Chavez stays popular, not about "megalomania, histrionics, (or an) old-fashioned cult of personality." His new referendum may pass this time because Venezuelans support Bolivarianism and the leader they trust to pursue it.
Students Rally to Support the Referendum
On January 22, thousands of university and high school students marched in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities to support passage of the February 15 referendum and against anti-Chavez provocations. Higher Education minister Luis Acuna joined them.
Student leader Andrea Pacheco said re-asserting the student movement was also at issue. The Chavez government "swapped repression for scholarships, inclusion, and new universities." Everyone has access to free education. Millions of Venezuelans want to keep it and have Chavez remain president. Opposition groups have demonstrated violently against him with more likely planned in the run-up to mid-February.
Chavez's 2008 Annual Report
On January 14, Chavez presented it to the National Assembly and a national television and radio audience. He laid out the nation's progress and future plans:
A Final Comment
For 10 years under Chavez, Bolivarianism has flourished, and the greater its success the harsher its critics. America flounders in corruption, economic chaos and decline. Venezuela's star is rising. One man made it possible:
Imagine a future America like Venezuela today. Imagine a caring, not a predatory nation. Imagine a leader in Washington like Chavez. Imagine a groundswell enough to get one.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM to 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national topics. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Mr. Lendman's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
Copyright © 2009 The Baltimore News Network. All rights reserved.
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Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.This story was published on January 27, 2009.
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