An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Thursday, February 20, 2003  

Venezuela and the International Media

Last April I heard an extraordinary interview on Today FM's The Last Word presented by Fintan O'Toole. It was with a woman I know vaguely called Kim who was in Venezuela making a documentary about Hugo Chavez, their charismatic President. Chavez had been elected in a landslide victory some year's previously and had introduced a constitution which was put to the people in a referendum and supported by a strong majority. During her interviews with him, a coup took place which was reversed within 24 hours and which gave her a unique opportunity to film the events firsthand. The documentary was shown on RTE on Tuesday night and it is one of the most powerful pieces of television I've ever seen. See here for more info.

Chavez' big problem was that the people who elected him were the poor. The middle classes and the CIA weren't too happy. Venezuela is the world's fourth largest exporter of oil. The oil is owned by the state but had been controlled by an elite who kept the profits amongst themselves. Chavez' goal was to get the price of oil increased and distribute the revenue in a manner which would benefit the poor: the same people who had elected him. Sounds like democracy to me...but not the United States.

The documentary showed Colin Powell and the head of the CIA briefing various Senate committees assuring them that Chavez was not a democrat and that they were concerned about his rule. This was a man who was elected by 80% of the people!

Anyway, on April 11, the anti-Chavez people conducted a huge rally. A counter demonstration by pro-Chavez people took place. The two marches headed towards each other and the police were in-between. Suddenly snipers began shooting on the pro-Chavez crowd. 10 were killed. 100 injured. Some of the pro-Chavez people tried to shoot back at the snipers. The pictures were captured by one of the privately owned TV channels and broadcast around the country and, via CNN, around the world. But what did they show? They showed one narrow shot of the pro-Chavez people shooting and the commentary indicated that they were shooting on the anti-Chavez demonstrators, which was not the case at all.

That night,a coup took place. Chavez was taken prisoner when he refused to resign. A new president was sworn in and it was announced that the constitution and the Supreme Court were being disbanded.

And what was going on in the White House? Ari Fleischer briefed the media that Chavez was a brutal ruler who had had the army shoot peaceful demonstrators and the US government were relieved that he had resigned (lie! he never did) and that a democratic government that had the support of the people was in office. LIE LIE LIE.

Unfortunately (for the new government and the US and Ari) the people demonstrated (peacefully) demanding that Chavez be returned. They had the momemtum and within 24 hours everything had turned around. Chavez was back to fight another day. And there were plenty of those.

So here's the important point. The White House and CNN briefed the world that:
- Chavez was not a democrat (Lie)
- he was not supported by the people (lie)
- he had shot at peaceful protesters (lie)
- he had resigned (lie)
- there was a democractic government in place (lie)
- the US were hopeful that the status quo (ie pre-Chavez) was restored (true).

Here's the link for Ari's briefing that day.
Here's the one a few day's later where he's trying to back track. I must find out who "Terry" is. Terry was on to something but not quite clear on the facts.

posted by Sarah | 12:44 0 comments
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