VHeadline editor & publisher Roy S. Carson writes: Personally, I do not give much truck for US-based mass media reports that scream dictator, strongman, authoritarian etc., in revivalist ad hominen rhetoric against Venezuela's elected President Hugo Chavez Frias. I seriously regret the kind of journalism that ignores the civilian fatalities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia and whatever other theater of United States warfare around the world that the Bush maniac wishes to involve the complacent masses of American citizens or the amateur dramatics that scream "Vampire bats" in the latest re-enactment of "Jaws" hysteria to fill column inches of US newsprint.
It's the kind of quasi-critique of Venezuela's democratic government and its leaders that provides convenient eye-candy for US TV viewers and distracts from the woeful situation into which the North American sandwich between Canada and Mexico has plunged under the Bush dictatorship and with the rocky-horror prospect of a bitter old man about to rattle his Zimmer frame if the US electorate is foolish enough to want to flush the once-proud nation down the international plughool and goodbye!
All the while, constructive criticism of the mayhem that currently inflicts the Venezuelan political scenario is brushed aside as the antics of yet another Banana Republic instead of waking up to the fact that the real world way south of the Rio Grande is anything but Sancho Panza parking his donkey outside a run-down bodega in the blazing desert, complete with compulsory cactus and dust storms brewing.
The situation is serious! Get away from the ad hominens and the hatred spewed over Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias. See Venezuela's reality for what it is! The nation's future is at stake and, while Chavez' original ambitions for the good of the Venezuelan people were founded in genuine concern for the mis-rule and corruption of half a century that went before 1999, one is now faced with the question: What, if anything has changed?
Yes, in terms of social welfare provision, primary health care and education, in terms of political awakening of the masses to the fact that at long last they have a voice at the ballot box, in terms of almost everything, Venezuela has changed dramatically over the ten years since President Hugo Chavez Frias decisively won decidedly democratic elections in December 1998. But have the changes been for the ultimate democratic good of the Venezuela people?
Opinions, of course, vary from beholder to beholder but -- getting away from the obvious Bushite bias of the Washington Beltway Bullies and the rah-rah hype of Fox News and the New York Times -- it has to be realized that Venezuela's democracy, constitutionality and even the rule of law has disastrously begun to slide.
Yes, I know -- we at VHeadline have supported Venezuela's democracy, constitutionality and the rule of law as a central journalistic ethic to lead us through extremely difficult rejections, volumes of hate-mail and sickeningly cretinous death threats. We have believed that President Chavez' original ambitions would surmount the massive barriers of corruption, malfeasance and mis-management of public affairs that have plague this beautiful country that could well be heaven on earth were it not for the evil-doers that permeate the very fabric of Venezuelan society. We understood that Valhalla was NOT to be achieved instantaneously and that the sheer logistic of the battle would leave many victims by the wayside ... but where did it all go wrong?
Democracy: While espousing a multi-polar political ethic, the President's men have sought sectarianism as a convenient pathway to their personal ambitions. It's our way or no way has been their keynote ethic (or lack of it) as they built their power bases on the backs of grassroots believers in the Bolivarian Revolution. Certainly, the nation's Father, Simon Bolivar would be shaking his head and mumbling "more of the same, more of the same" before retracing his steps to Santa Marta and Gran Colombia's oblivion away from the fractioned politicking of Caracas wheeler-dealer manipulations replicated in such spookily remembrance of his own travails in the early 1800s. Yes, even the exalted Liberator, Simon Bolivar gave up on Caracas and went away!
Constitutionality: The President's men have begun to treat the Constitution in the same way as US 'Big Brother' George W. Bush ... as "just another piece of paper" ... rather than the foundation on which The Law should be fairly based and practiced without let or hindrance. Certainly without political let or hindrance, much less political and personal bias or benefit or at the momentary whim of autocratic decision-makers who stumble out of kilter through mazes of Legislation not knowing -- or much caring -- whither.
Rule of Law: Venezuela has always been a lawless society. The Wild West of cowboy literature is a good comparison and it has to be recognized that it is largely unintelligible to WASPs but more easily understood as a cultural inheritance from the dregs of the Spanish Empire in constant conflict with the innocence of the native Carib and Amazonian indians. While Venezuelans are most generous and hospitable of peoples to be found around the world, the culture is infested with 'locos' whose sole purpose in life appears to be working out the elaborate intricacies of how to earn more than a crust by devious means, often when doing it the 'proper way' would be infinitely easier but less exciting in the thrill. Imposing WASPish values like paying proper taxes, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not steal and the rest of the Ten Commandments and more, requires a major shift in cultural values ... which doesn't come easy as President Hugo Chavez Frias has learned the hard way.
He could, of course, realize Washington's and Bush's wettest dreams and use the very dictatorial and strongman tactics of which the US mass media accuses, but, to his credit he has personally resisted the temptation although, I feel sure, there are quite a few miscreants in his own administration that he would love to line up before a firing squad and a convenient brick wall at the Presidential Palace.Instead -- and this is perhaps his greatest failing -- he chooses to rely too much on unprofessional 'personalities' within his closest clique of ministers, ambassadors and ivory tower flunkies to do thing right, while invariably they do things wrong and are subsequently reluctant to admit the error of their ways. They choose to hide their faces, or more often to brazen out the inevitable flak to show lesser mortals that they are among the 'untouchables' ... and yet they are the antipathy of democratic governance and an anathema to what Chavez in his heart of hearts truly has ambitioned for his Venezuelan people.
Take for example the breaking news that Minister of Communications & Information (MinCI) Andres Izarra is to head the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) press and publicity campaign ahead of November 23 local and regional elections!
One would suppose that such an announcement would be swiftly followed or even preceded by an announcement that the MinCI Minister would stand down for the duration of such purpose because of the political implications involved. Of course, the nation's Communications & Information service has become blurred in recent years from its original purpose of serving the nation, morphing into an excluding public relations machine for the President and his political inclinations while totally ignoring all and any voice of the Venezuelan people that may disagree with the message a la Hugo Chavez.
While Andres Izarra is, of course, an able professional to lead the President's political party PR in the run-up to the elections, the urgent question arises if the situation now presents a conflict of interests for, surely, his duties as MinCI Minister SHOULD be pan-political although, in contemporary practicality, it is anything but politically comprehensive or politically uncompromising.
Former Venezuelan Ambasador to the United Nations, Milos Alcalay -- a hardened career diplomat who was sidelined by the Chavez administration four years ago for expressing his concern over human rights violations -- doesn't bite his tongue about what is happening to the flow of vital information about what is truly happening in Venezuela. He says (referring to the Izarra appointment) "Of course, there IS a conflict of interest ... it is a palpable demonstration of absolute identity and confusion between party interests and the constitutional interests of the Venezuelan State." Alcalay goes on to say "currently, there appears to be no limit with the unparalleled confusion of government appointments, budgets and objectives especially where the state-controlled radio and television channels are concerned ... they are the complete negation of objectivity!"
The senior diplomat (retired) should know ... he's banned from appearing on Radio Nacional and/or Venezolana de Televison (VTV) and has been branded as a diehard 'escualido' (Chavez opponent, translated as 'squalid one') for having expressed and continuing to express his opinions about miscreants infesting the machinery of government.
"The same thing is happening in the armed service," Alcalay says. "They have become an instrument of the President's party rather than constitutional government ... military personnel are now obliged to swear allegiance to 'Socialism, Fatherland or Death' rather than to the institutionality and security of the State. The same thing has happened in the Venezuelan Foreign Service ... diplomats have now been forced to become political commissars rather than ambassadors and what would otherwise be considered 'normal' embassy and consular staff. The President's party political ideology is being imposed on other sectors of government and they are trying to dominate everything ... the nations economy, culture ... even the Church, what to believe or not to believe!"