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:
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.
Ben Dangl breaks the sound barrier, exploding many myths about Latin America that are all-too-often amplified by the corporate media in the United States. Read this much-needed book.”
The motorcycle thundered off the highway onto a jungle road of loose red dirt framed by trees, families lounging in front of their farmhouses, and small herds of disinterested cows. We pulled up to a dusty store to buy food for our stay in the rural community of Oñondivepá, Paraguay, and asked the woman behind the counter what was available. She nodded her head, picked up a saw, and began hacking away at a large slab of beef. We strapped the meat and a box of beer on to the back of the motorcycle and roared off down the road.
A volleyball game was going on when we arrived in the area where landless activist Pedro Caballero lived. His wife offered us fresh oranges while his children ran around in the dirt, playing with some wide-eyed kittens. The sun had set, so Caballero’s wife lifted a light bulb attached to a metal wire onto an exposed electric line above the house, casting light on our small gathering of neighbors. Suddenly, the dogs jumped to action, joining in a barking chorus, and lunged toward the edge of the woods. They had found a poisonous snake, a common cause of death in this small community far from hospitals.
The Real News — Gregory Wilpert is a sociologist, freelance journalist, editor of Venezuela Analysis, and author of the recently published book, Changing Venezuela by Taking Power. During this episode of The Real News with Paul Jay Wilpert argues that the Venezuelan election results will make governing more difficult for Hugo Chavez.
At one point during the military coup in Honduras last year, a US representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) joked that Hondurans were living in a state of “magical realism”, a folkloric literary genre blurring reality and the surreal, often in the historical or political context of Latin America.
He wasn’t far off, despite the bizarre comparison: A democratically-elected president is overthrown by an elite conspiring against him, forced out of the country, the military takes over, the people revolt in massive opposition, while governments across the world refuse to recognize the new regime and withdraw their ambassadors. Only the United States, the most powerful of all countries, remains on the fence, then hops off onto the side of the golpistas (coup-makers) while presenting a straight face of diplomacy.
Oliver Stone’s new documentary about Latin America’s leftward political shift and its growing independence from Washington is being lambasted by the media. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Stone calls out the mainstream media in his new film South of the Border for its mostly one-sided, distorted coverage of the region’s political leaders—most significantly Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
In an interview with CBS about his new film Stone remarked about America’s obsession with empire, maintaining global hegemony, and the paranoia that accompanies such obsessions, saying, “We’re a sick country.”
And as if on cue, the mainstream media has published a flurry of attacks on the documentary, consequently supporting Stone’s arguments in the film about ideological biases and misinformation tainting media coverage about the region, while revealing symptoms of this “sickness” he mentions, such as intellectual impotence, pathological lying, and ideological blindness. Continue reading “The Media Empire Strikes Back: Reviewing Reviews of South of the Border”
I was surprised during my trip to Colombia last month when my seemingly enlightened Bogotácab driver, who had been telling me about his support for Green Party presidential candidate Antanas Mockus in the upcoming elections, suddenly shifted gears and announced that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was loco.
The mental state of its leader was not the only issue the driver had with the neighboring country, and he added that money for Venezuela’s social programs came not from oil wealth but rather from proceeds Chávez received as part of an international drug smuggling ring. Among the co-conspirators in the ring, I learned, was ex-President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, ousted in a coup last summer which according to the cabbie had been justified based on the fact that Zelaya was also loco.
The army in Honduras has ousted and exiled its leftist president, Manuel Zelaya, in Central America’s first military coup since the cold war, after he upset the army by trying to seek another term in office.
The US president, Barack Obama, and the EU expressed deep concern after troops came at dawn for Zelaya, an ally of the socialist Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, and took him away from his residence.