Guardian’s Man in Caracas

He doesnt just look like one, he also acts like one.

Gore Vidal once said of Truman Capote that his death was a good career move. I suspect that for the same reason Rory Carroll wishes deep inside that his encounter with the Mahdi Army in Iraq had also been fatal. That way, at least he would still have a reputation, since most people tend to instinctively assume the best of the departed.

This clown has been redeployed to Venezuela, and as is the wont of every tabloid hack who through whatever stroke of luck graduates to a putatively respectable publication, he appears to conflate the country with its leading demonized figure, in this case the person of Hugo Chavez. In his tortured attempts to make the Venezuelan leader appear buffoonish (no mean feat for someone who comes from a place which thrice elected Tony Blair its Grand Ayatullah), he invariably ends up making himself look ridiculous. For the past few days he has been running silly reports about how the name of a new affordable mobile phone produced indigenously may be a slang reference to a penis. I felt compelled to send him this email:

I am moved by the fact that you offer your readers some modest amusement in these hard times by making public your fascination with male genitalia . But you must take into account the possibility that some of your readers may have already entered their teens and expect that a reporter covering a country of 28 million people and nearly a million square kilometers would have more significant things to report than real or imagined penis references made by its leader. Besides, tautology is not good form; there is already a dick in the byline.

Don’t hesitate to convey your displeasure: rory.carroll@guardian.co.uk

Chávez creates a new bestseller

Chavez gives a book to Obama during the Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain
Hugo Chavez gives Barack Obama a copy of Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina (The Open Veins of Latin America) by Eduardo Galeano during a meeting at the Summit of the Americas. Photograph: Ho/Reuters

Chávez creates overnight bestseller with book gift to Obama. I was wondering which book it was that Chavez passed on to Obama at the summit of the Americas. He chose well: it was Eduardo Galeano’s classic The Open Veins of Latin America. ‘Sales surge for book about history of Latin America’s exploitation after exchange at summit of Americas’ reports Andrew Clark in the Guardian.

A 36-year-old historical tract attacking the imperialist exploitation of Latin America has become an improbable overnight bestseller after the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávezabruptly presented a copy to Barack Obama.

During a session of the summit of the Americas in Trinidad at the weekend, Chávez strode up to Obama, patted him on the shoulder and, with a friendly handshake, gave him a paperback copy of Eduardo Galeano’s 1973 work, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.

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Independent’s Churnalism on Venezuela

Chavez welcomes actor and director Sean Penn aboard the presidential planeNick Davies coined a fabulous new term in his book Flat Earth News to describe the kind of filler-fluff that very often passes for journalism in US and UK. Here is the latest example from the Independent. Some clown named Guy Adams who is apparently based in Los Angeles does a hatchet-job on Hugo Chavez and by extension Sean Penn, Oliver Stone, Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover for their links to the popular Venezuelan leader, and he can’t find anything better to rely on than a quote from the ageing Hollywood has-been Maria Conchita Alonso with ties to the right-wing Cuban exiles in Miami. ‘In normal circumstances, Alonso’s interview might have been brushed under the carpet’, he correctly points out. But clearly not when it lands in the hands of the Independent’s celebrity gossip extraordinaire who goes on to tell ‘left-wing luvvies’ in the movie business to wake up because their hero had the temerity to describe Hollywood as ‘a medium of American “cultural imperialism”‘.

The clown then proceeds to offer this acute insight:

Penn, who since his Oscar-winning performance in Milk has become a vociferous gay rights activist, is also open to allegations of hypocrisy. The Venezuelan leader’s political hero, Fidel Castro, imprisoned and executed gay men, and once declared: “In this country [Cuba] there are no homosexuals.”

Talk about six-degrees-of separation. I bet this cat can prove that everyone who claims to abhor rape is a hypocrite since through a mere separation of 6 people everyone has ties to a rapist.

Further indictments are in order:

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The Independent’s Knee and Jerk

Hugo Chavez’s activities usually elicit a knee-jerk response from most of the British media. The title of the latest Independent’s leading article summarizes it well: “A perilous new twist in the Venezuelan revolution“.  Now consider, Venezuela conducts an open and fair referendum on the term limits on the president, and this is termed “perilous” and “… hope that, for the sake of the Venezuelan people, it does not end up dragging the country back into the mire of authoritarianism.”  Why should a referendum be construed as a peril? If anything a referendum is a bona fide democratic procedure and thus it should enhance the democratic nature of Venezuelan society.

The Independent’s editorial writers state: “The scrapping of term limits will do nothing to help build confidence in the rule of law. All free nations need firm checks on executive power. Developing nations like Venezuela need these checks just as much as richer countries.”  Why do they criticise a Venezuelan referendum meant to expand term limits while in the UK there are no term limits at all for Prime Ministers, and most other political offices?  Technically, in the UK, the same Prime Minister could cling on to power for decades, but, for some unspecified reason, it is only when Chavez seeks an extension of his term that there is a problem with it. And is the extension of president’s term really detrimental in Venezuela’s observance of “the rule of law”?  And when was the last time these same editorial writers pontificated about Hosni Mubarak’s investiture-for-life as Egypt’s decades-long president? The simple answer is: they haven’t done so. In the case of corrupt and dictatorial “presidents” who cling on to power for decades, e.g., Hosni Mubarak, or the autocratic monarchs of the Gulf States, the editorial writers are mostly silent.  It is clear that a double standard seems to apply.

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