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Re Venezuela: Deceit and Lies in the US Senate

By Aleksander Boyd

London 26 June 2004 – Mark Weisbrot was invited to the recent hearing in the US Senate about democracy and human rights in Venezuela. Gossip has it that his invitation came about after Republican Jack Kemp, who was the initial option, declined to speak about the US-Venezuela bilateral energy relationship. No wonder, following his gross and widely known fiasco with Free Market Petroleum, in its attempt to sell oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Kemp saw fit to avoid the humiliation of having to confront Senators and other specialists. The Democrats considered appropriate to take on board Kemp’s suggestion, reinforced by the request of Ambassador Alvarez Herrera, to have Weisbrot invited to the hearing in representation of Venezuela.

It is a sad day when an intellectual mercenary represents us before the US Senate. Imagine a Bush advocate defending America’s policies and actions in a hearing in Cuba’s Senate. Would the Liberal Democrats, or Americans at large, be happy about that? I think not and neither am I happy with the disgraceful decision of having a pathological liar “setting the record straight” about my country. Fortunately he was diplomatically scolded by other members of the panel and for that I am grateful. Weisbrot’s independence and non-partisan character came pronto in his statement, as hors d'oeuvre. Predictably he commenced his truthful exposition with the customary waffle about the oil strike, alas for some reason he failed to mention that Hugo Chavez declared to the diplomatic corps in January this year that the strike was of his making. Ergo to set the record straight our economy was not destroyed by the knee jerk reaction of less that 1 percent of the workforce but rather by 1 individual in his megalomanic and frenzied adventure to gain control of PDVSA. One can only wonder what wave of actions, legal or otherwise, would have caused in the US the admittance, by Bush, of such criminal behaviour.

The doctrine of “it has happened before and it has happened somewhere else” appears to be the first thing that these self-appointed intellectuals learn when they go about their business of defending the indefensible. Furthermore, Weisbrot has not heard “… any reputable human rights organization argue that they have worsened under the five years of Chavez' government. Nor have they argued that the government has engaged in any systematic repression of political dissent.” Is this man an analyst working for a think tank? How come he is not aware of the reports produced in that respect by the Inter American Human Rights Court, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Society for Human Rights just to name but a few of the most reputable?

Weisbrot claims that some of the threats to Venezuela’s democracy come from the US and he cites funding given by the NED to “organizations headed by leaders of military coup in 2002…” The unearthing of such damaging evidence came of course from “Eva Golinger, a lawyer and investigator located in New York. Eva Golinger does not receive any funding from the Venezuelan government and has conducted this investigation independently” Weisbrot dictum. It turns out that Eva Golinger has indeed received payments from the Venezuelan government, via the spin outlet known as the Venezuelan Information Office. Legal provisions that impede Venezuelan NGOs to accept foreign funds exist not. The attack against that well oiled and formidably efficient organization called Sumate is ever present. Weisbrot says, leaned on the prohibition of accepting foreign financing of electoral campaigns in the US, that America “…should not insist in violating the laws, sovereignty and democracy of other countries in ways that would not be permitted here.”

Quite comical his argument; firstly Sumate is an organization that organizes, monitors, trains, and supervises all technical and operative aspects of electoral processes. As such, and thanks to their proven efficiency, many of the illegal manoeuvres of the chavista CNE have been denounced promptly and effectively. Second, Justice Baltazar Garzon conducted an investigation regarding money laundering and illegal contributions made by the Spanish bank BBVA to Hugo Chavez’ campaign which uncover donations that mounted, by 07.07.1999, to $ 1.525.586. Could it be that Weisbrot conveniently forgot about that?

The Venezuelan media had its share of blame in Weisbrot acute analysis. He paints them as being totally opposed to the regime, which in fact they are. However he forgets, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say Weisbrot suffers from thematic amnesia, to mention the multiple and forced ‘cadenas’ of Chavez that have cost the private channels about $350 million thus far. Neither does he mention that the president lied in a national televised speech --in April 11, 2002 and more recently in February 27, 2003—when he referred to the situation of the country as completely normal while less than a mile from where he was addressing the nation Venezuelan citizens were being shot at, wounded and assassinated. Such scenario, needless to say, would never be allowed in industrialised and modern societies. More than two years have elapsed since those events, yet the regime has not investigated the murders ignoring also proposals by foreign governments and international human rights organizations to create a truth commission to help with the investigations.

To give solid support to his presentation Weisbrot added two appendixes; the first his biased, factually inaccurate and false article “Media Falls Short in Iraq, Venezuela.” The second the evidence uncovered by ‘independent’ Golinger. Since Weisbrot and Golinger are so sure about the NED violations and the crimes committed by Sumate, perhaps they could write in collaboration an article exposing the breach of the latter to our legislation.

To conclude, I feel absolutely disgusted by the fact that such rabble is representing me before the US Senate. Senators of the USA: next time you decide to hold a hearing about my country, please refrain from inviting ill informed individuals.

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