News and opinions on the situation in Venezuela

Wise move for Bush to get used to President Chavez … now, rather than later! Venezuela


Monday, January 23, 2006

Canadian Islamic Congress president, Dr. Mohamed Elmasry writes: On examining western media coverage of Israel, you soon discover that this tiny state receives intensive — and mostly positive — coverage.

It is rare to read any negative news, critical editorials, or adverse commentary on Israel in any mainstream western newspaper.

Even recent news about the current Israeli prime minister’s eating habits, heart problems and illness has received ample coverage; if not on the front pages, at least in the first five pages. In short, Israel attracts a level of positive media coverage which, if paid for at going public relations rates, would cost millions of dollars per year. (Note: this article was written before the major stroke that left Ariel Sharon clinging to life and in a medically induced coma.)

This comes in distinct contrast to the media coverage given other countries that are often more newsworthy.

Take Venezuela, for example: This major South American nation of 25 million people was virtually ignored throughout 2005. What little coverage happened was mostly negative — no informative analysis or features, no human interest stories, no in-depth editorials; not much even in the travel section.

You may well ask why there is such a geographical imbalance in the western media, which likes to lay claim to traditional values such as the search for truth and the maintenance of journalistic “freedom.”

Here you may find some answers…

The George Bush administration hates Hugo Chavez, the elected President of Venezuela. Thomas Shannon, American Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs, described him only weeks ago as “a threat to regional stability.”

Why? you may ask. It is because Chavez is not a posturing dictator, but a democratically elected Head of State. His election was reported to have been free and fair by independent observing bodies such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Carter Center. But Mr. Shannon went even further by asserting that “democracy in Venezuela is in grave peril.”

Again, you may well ask, why is this so? The plot thickens — you see, Chavez is a national hero to his people because he stands against America’s exploitation of his nation’s wealth. He is outspoken against American imperial designs, not only on his own continent, but in other regions such as Iraq and the Middle East. Even more dangerously, he is a longtime friend of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who has been on the US’ bad-boy list from day one.

And Chavez openly sides with his nation’s poor; that is, most of Venezuela’s 25 million citizens. He is determined to fight the drug trade and the organized crime syndicates behind it; to lessen his country’s dependence on finite natural resources (including oil); and to create a larger, more prosperous middle-class through the redistribution of national wealth.

Moreover, Chavez also committed a major sin (in Washington’s eyes) by buying weapons from Spain, rather than from US sources. And his social justice agenda is catching on elsewhere in South America; Bolivia’s Evo Morales won last month’s presidential election on a platform that placed greater emphasis upon social justice.

Now other Latin American countries, like Argentina, Brazil, and even Chile, are seeing the US as a greedy and arrogant superpower which historically exploited them and continues to do so — not only through unfair globalization favoring the rich and powerful, but also through the insincere promotion of so-called democratic reforms.

The US tried very hard to undermine Chavez’ presidency by backing marginal opposition groups which have no grassroots support. But in the December (2005) National Assembly elections, candidates backed by Chavez won a substantial majority.

Opposition interests, backed by Washington, claimed the elections were not free and fair; that press freedom is threatened; and that human rights are not respected in Venezuela. But the elections were judged free and fair by independent observers in contrast to criticisms by the Venezuelan media, which are still mainly owned by opposition interests. The court system has been reformed, however, and human rights have been extended to the general populace as never before.

Now, we must ask; where are Canada’s media with respect to news from Latin America?

In a word, nowhere. The Canadian media totally ignore the struggle of Latin American countries against the bullying tactics of the US … a struggle not unlike that which Canada itself wages against blatantly unfair American trade practices. In fact, Canadians have a duty as historically entwined friends of the US to tell Americans that less greed is good for everyone.

Why are we not doing so?

Hugo Chavez will most likely win Venezuela’s 2006 presidential election, and the next one in 2012. And if current trends hold true, he will win them both fair and square. His popular policies will also gather increased support from other Latin American countries.

So it would be a wise move for Washington to get used to him — and his growing bloc of influence — now, rather than later.

The Bush administration (and its successors) will be much further ahead dealing with a democratically-elected President of Venezuela, instead of trying to undermine him in the interests of short-term benefits for America’s rich and greedy minority.

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry is national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. He can be reached at np@canadianislamiccongresscom ISRAEL AND VENEZUELA IN 2005ņol

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