Earlier this week Univision journalist Jorge Ramos and his crew were detained by Venezuelan authorities. According to Ramos this was a reaction to some uncomfortable questions he asked Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro during an interview. Ramos detailed his experience being detained and having his crew’s equipment and electronic devices seized in an Op-Ed for The New York Times.
It took little time for Maduro’s American supporters to initiate a smear campaign against the journalist.
At the vanguard of all this is Grayzone Project editor Max Blumenthal, a blogger with a history of ethically questionable behavior. The Daily Beast’s Charles Davis reported that Dania Valeska Aleman Sandoval was tortured for protesting the regime of Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega. Blumenthal’s Grayzone Project used video of her torture extracted confession to criticize those opposing Ortega’s regime. Additionally, he tweeted a picture of himself with a bag over his head to mock a report that Syrian civilians were desperately trying to make homemade gas masks. Journalist Sulome Anderson recently announced she was suing Blumenthal and Norton “for libel and defamation.”
Blumenthal was amongst a group of reporters questioning Ramos after his return to Miami.
Following his election victory, Nicolas Maduro is expected to be sworn in as president of venezuela later this week.
However, those expecting a repeat of the easy win Hugo Chavez enjoyed last October were left shocked after official results gave Maduro only a slender margin of victory.In keeping with the tone of an often bitter election campaign, the loser, Henrique Capriles, has called the win “illegitimate”. He also demanded a full recount, something to which Maduro has agreed.Nevertheless, the narrowness of Maduro’s win – even once confirmed – will raise questions about his leadership.
This piece was published at NACLA. See also Belén Fernández’s short profile of Noriega here.
On May 2, CNN executive producer Arthur Brice published what was purported to be a news article on Venezuela. Instead, Brice’s 4,300-word screed, titled “Chavez Health Problems Plunge Venezuela’s Future Into Doubt,” is little more than a platform for the bizarre theories of Roger Noriega, an ultra-rightwing lobbyist and one-time diplomat under George W. Bush, who Brice references over two dozen times throughout his article.
As a political commentator, Noriega pontificates with total brazenness. He appeared as the chief pundit in Brice’s CNN piece six months after announcing—based on what he said was the belief of Chávez’s own medical team—that the Venezuelan president was “not likely to survive more than six months.” Noriega is not fazed by facts. He promotes his fantastical claims in many major news outlets, often based on anonymous sources. Take, for example, his 2010 Foreign Policy article, “Chávez’s Secret Nuclear Program,” whose subtitle reads: “It’s not clear what Venezuela’s hiding, but it’s definitely hiding something—and the fact that Iran is involved suggests that it’s up to no good.” (State Department officials dismissed this suspicion with “scorn.”)
CNN’s interviews with Noriega and the other mostly rightwing analysts likely led to this demonstrably false claim at the beginning of Brice’s May 2 article: “Diosdado Cabello, a longtime Chavez cohort . . . amassed tremendous power in January when Chavez named him president of the National Assembly.” In fact, even El Universal, a daily Venezuelan newspaper long-aligned with the opposition, conceded in a January 5 report that Cabello was elected as the new president of the National Assembly, even if “only with the votes” of the majority United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Ewan Robertson of Venezuelanalysis.com found that 98 deputies of the pro-government bloc supported Cabello, while the 67-member opposition bloc opposed him. Such mundane electoral processes have guided much of Venezuela’s political dynamics over the past decade.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has offered his unequivocal support to the leader of the ‘Brother Arab Republic of Syria’. Those unfamiliar with the anti-imperial record of this regime might find the following report instructive:
A Senate report released in October 2011 urging the US government to expand the use of social media as a foreign policy tool in Latin America offers another warning for activists seduced by the idea of technology and social media as an indispensable tool for social change.
In this past year as the world witnessed uprisings from Santiago to Zuccotti Park to Tahrir Square, social media has been lauded as a weapon of mass mobilization. Paul Mason, a BBC correspondent, wrote in his new book published this month Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions (excerpted in the Guardian) that this new communications technology was a “crucial” contributing factor to these revolutionary times. Nobel peace laureate and Burmese human rights campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi pointed out in a lecture in June that this “communications revolution…not only enabled [Tunisians] to better organize and co-ordinate their movements, it kept the attention of the whole world firmly focused on them.” CNN even ran an article comparing Facebook to “democracy in action”, while Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who was imprisoned in Egypt for starting a Facebook page told Wolf Blitzer that the revolution in Egypt “started on Facebook” and that he wanted to “meet Mark Zuckerberg some day and thank him personally.”
William I. Robinson writes at Al Jazeera on the subject of the Pink Tide–“the ambiguous turn to the left in recent years in several Latin American countries”:
The Pink Tide governments have been “leftist” insofar as they have introduced limited wealth redistribution, restored a minimal role for the state in regulating accumulation, and administered government expansion in more inclusionary ways. When we cut through the rhetoric, however, a number of these governments – such as the Socialists in Chile, Kirchner in Argentina, and Lula in Brazil – were able to push forward capitalist globalisation with greater credibility than their orthodox neo-liberal predecessors, and, in doing so, to deradicalise dissent and demobilise social movements. What emerged was an elected progressive bloc in the region committed to mild redistributive programmes respectful of prevailing property relations and unwilling or simply unable to challenge the global capitalist order – a new, post-neo-liberal form of the national state tied to the larger institutional networks of global capitalism.
In many Pink Tide countries there has been no significant change in the unequal distribution of income or wealth, and indeed, inequality may actually be increasing. Nor has there been any shift in basic property and class relations despite changes in political blocs, despite discourse favouring the popular classes, and despite mildly reformist or social welfare measures. In Argentina, for instance, the percentage of national income going to labour (through wages) and to the unemployed and pensioners (through social welfare subsidies and pensions) dropped from 32.5 per cent in 2001, before the crisis exploded, to 26.7 per cent in 2005. In Kirchner’s own words, the aim of his policies was to reconstruct capitalism in the country, “a capitalism in which the state plays an intelligent role, regulating, controlling, and mitigating where necessary problems that the market does not solve”. Despite its social programmes, the Kirchner administration worked to demobilise and divide Argentina’s social movements. Continue reading “Latin America’s left at the crossroads”
Since his first electoral victory in 1998, Hugo Chávez Frias has gradually come to permeate practically every facet of Venezuelan society imaginable. Whether it is the daily polemical headlines that scream at passersby from humble newsstands, or the massive roadside billboards displaying the loquacious leader in a variety of guises, it is pretty much impossible to remain ignorant, let alone indifferent, to the omnipotent role that the former paratrooper commander occupies in the collective national psyche.
During the course of his rule, Chávez has attempted to redress the massive economic inequality that exists in this petroleum rich South American nation through a simple redistribution of oil profits to the most disenfranchised demographic in the form of extensive social programs. However, in doing so, the confrontational president has effectively drawn a line in the sand for the Venezuelan electorate over the past twelve years, with few brave citizens daring to openly occupy the middle ground.
Therefore, it came as a shock to Venezuelans of all political affiliations and loyalties this past June 30th when the normally overactive and overexposed president finally dispelled the vicious swirl of rumors surrounding his unusual disappearance from the public eye some two and a half weeks priorby admitting that he was recovering from an operation that had removed cancerous cells from his pelvic area. The news predictably generated feelings of schadenfreude amongst the more sadistic elements of the opposition, while conversely prompting legions of chavistas to openly pray and declare their love for the afflicted leader.
This was all to be expected in the event of such a revelation. What was not, however, was the apparent power vacuum left in the wake of Chávez’s unexpected convalescence in Havana. Amidst the furor of the opposition, who claimed that not only was his undisclosed absence irresponsible yet unconstitutional, the highest ranks of the ruling party PSUV presented a united front to not only their constituents, but to the outside world as well.
However, a different reality belied this perception.