The Observer Exclusive: Hugo Chavez is President of Venezuela

Majority world opinion was not stunned on February 3rd when the UK Observer’s
web site reported a fact about Venezuela. Perhaps it should have been. Hugo Chavez is the Venezuelan President. John Carlin’s anti-Chavez propaganda piece, datelined the February 3rd,
really does contain just that single item of substance.

By toni solo
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Majority world opinion was not stunned on February 3rd when the UK Observer’s
web site reported a fact about Venezuela. Perhaps it should have been.
After extensive investigative research with my own insecure image in
the mirror, I can reveal that this undiplomatic low-level unintelligent
source commented, “well, chop me off at the knees and call me tripod….”
Fact : Hugo Chavez is the Venezuelan President.

John Carlin’s anti-Chavez propaganda piece, datelined the February 3rd, really does contain just that single item of substance, buried deep inside yet another fact-impoverished Observer
report on Venezuela. It is the only relevant substantive fact in the
article. The rest of Carlin’s piece consists almost entirely of
allegations plucked from thin air and quotations from Colombian
government patsies or from unidentified “high-level security,
intelligence and diplomatic sources”.

Carlin’s main allegations are that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC) depend heavily on Venezuelan support and that the
Venezuelan civil and military authorities facilitate FARC narcotics
dealing on a large scale as a matter of policy. He alleges, “Thirty per
cent of the 600 tons of cocaine smuggled from Colombia each year goes
through Venezuela.” But he offers no fact-based argument to support
that claim. It seems to be based on a US State Department report which
Carlin does not acknowledge.

Then he portentously asserts “In the end Foreign Minister Nicolás
Maduro made a public pronouncement in Uruguay in which he said, without
addressing the substance of the allegations, that they were part of a
‘racist’ and ‘colonialist’ campaign against Venezuela by the
centre-left Spanish newspaper El País, where I originally wrote about
Farc and the Venezuelan connection.” Why should the Venezuelan
authorities respond to allegations that have, in fact, no substance?

Carlin as US propaganda shill : drugs and terror

Before looking a bit more closely at Carlin’s self-evidently
dishonest and insincere reporting, it needs placing in relation to the
current campaign by the Bush regime and its allies in the European
Union to discredit the government of Hugo Chavez. Recently US Drug
Enforcement Agency official and US Southern Command military officers
have accused the Chavez administration of failing to act forcefully to
prevent narcotics trafficking and of being a destabilizing influence in
the region. Carlin’s piece is likely to be recycled endlessly in
mainstream media as “proof” of Venezuelan government links to narcotics
and “terror”.

Recent US government accusations against Venezuela follow
Venezuela’s own decision to cut links with the DEA because the
Venezuelan authorities believed the DEA was itself trafficking drugs.
In a January 22nd press conference this year, Nestor Reverol of
Venezuela’s National Anti-Drugs Office said, “It is interesting that
the US authorities say that, by third year in a row, Venezuela does not
collaborate in the fight against drugs and that at the same time, the
UN World Drug Report 2007 certifies that, also by the third year in a
row, Venezuela is the third country with the largest seizures of drugs
worldwide. It appears on pages 78 and 79 of that report…”

Suggesting that the Venezuelan government helps FARC inflict terror
attacks on Colombia, Carlin’s article states disingenuously, “the
Colombian army seems unlikely to succumb to the temptation to cross the
border in violation of international law”. But as Justin Podur has
written “Colombia’s war and the close relationship between the US and
the Colombian military have provided the US with a base from which to
monitor, and attack, Venezuela, a major oil producer with an
independent political project of its own.”

When over a hundred Colombian fighters were located and arrested on
a farm near Caracas in 2004 preparing for terrorist attacks in
Venezuela they turned out to be Colombian paramilitaries. Men trained
and supplied by the Colombian army and coordinated by anti-Chavez
terrorists, like Roberto Alonso, protected by the US and Colombian
governments. In effect Carlin is standing the facts on their head.
Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe is intimately connected with the
narcotics dealing terrorist paramilitaries who plague the frontier
areas with Venezuela, regularly murdering rural workers and their
families.

But it is Chavez whom Carlin sets out to tag with the terrorist
label by accusing him of political support for the FARC. Carlin writes
“What no one disputes, however, is that Chávez is a political ally of
Farc (last month he called on the EU and US to stop labelling its
members ‘terrorists’)…” In fact plenty of people might well dispute the
sense implied by Carlin that Hugo Chavez is a political ally of the
FARC. Carlin points to vague ideological sympathies, but does not offer
a single verifiable instance of official material support on the part
of the Venezuelan government to the FARC.

Chavez has regularly called for a lasting peaceful settlement of
Colombia’s decades’ long civil war. Like many people he thinks such a
settlement cannot be achieved by military means. Calling for
recognition of the FARC as a belligerent force under international law
is a necessary first step towards a settlement and by no means implies
simple “support”.

Carlin may care to skew the intensive efforts by the Venezuelan
government to promote humanitarian prisoner exchanges into a sign of
“support”. But would he then characterize Astrid Betancourt - sister of
FARC captive Ingrid Betancourt - as a supporter of the FARC? She was
widely reported for remarking in Geneva on January 31st this year “the
FARC are not a terrorist group they are a rebel group in arms against
the Colombian State.”

Professional mediocrity

To get an idea of the mediocrity and insincerity of Carlin’s
reporting one just has to compare his work with that of a truly
talented, morally outstanding investigative reporter, Gary Webb. Webb
uncovered the systematic collusion of US government officials in
narcotics dealing by the Nicaraguan Contra. Webb named individuals,
both drugs dealers and government officials and businesses. He even
posted his research material on a web site so critics could check it
out for themselves. After being rubbished by morally corrupt US
newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post, his work was finally vindicated.

In Carlin’s case, one might reasonably expect place names to
indicate transit routes, dates of shipments, names of individual
Venezuelan officials or army units. But there are none. Carlin quotes
his “FARC deserter” source, “Rafael told how he had travelled once by
car with Captain Pedro Mendoza of the National Guard to a military base
outside Caracas called Fuerte Tiuna. He entered with the captain, who
handed him eight rifles. They then returned to the border with the
rifles in the boot of the car.” Does Captain Mendoza exist? What was
his unit? Did Carlin try and talk to him or his superiors? Who knows?
Carlin does not tell us.

Apart from the putative Captain Mendoza, another individual named is
a murdered alleged drugs dealer called Wilber Varela. But Carlin does
not allege that Varela was a member of the FARC. Nor does he link
Varela to any Veneuzelan government or army official. He seems just to
be a random conveniently-dead drugs dealer named to give Carlin’s
article the false impression of containing some relevant facts.

Carlin names only one FARC leader, “Chávez’s contacts with Farc are
conducted via one of the members of the organisation’s leadership, Iván
Márquez, who also has a farm in Venezuela and who communicates with the
President via senior officials of the Venezuelan intelligence service.”
In reality, Marquez probably communicates with President Chavez and the
President’s Venezuelan government colleagues by telephone, since he is
one of the FARC leaders negotiating the humanitarian prisoner exchange
FARC have been proposing for years and which has been consistently
refused by Colombia’s narco-terror President Alvaro Uribe. How does
Carlin know Marquez has a farm in Venezuela? Has he seen the land title
or the escritura?

Fake news into policy fodder

While it is impossible to take Carlin’s farrago about the FARC and
Venezuela seriously it is probably worth pointing out various things.
Firstly, it would be extraordinary if the long Colombian-Venezuelan
border were not used for contraband as such borders are the world over
- whether the contraband is diesel or petrol fuel, drugs or anything
else. That necessarily implies a culture of corruption on both sides of
the border with plenty of Venezuelan civilian and military officials on
the take. The Chavez government has acknowledged that corruption is a
major social and political issue that they are trying to address.

That reality may well be the basis of Carlin’s completely
unsubstantiated claim that Venezuelan civil and military authorities
are colluding with the FARC as a matter of government policy. But
Carlin goes much further in his baseless claims implying that the FARC
depend on the Venezuelan government to be able to exist. That argument
is absurd since the FARC has a decentralized command structure inside
Colombia that has survived for over 40 years, long before Chavez came
to power in Venezuela.

The nitty gritty of Carlin’s report is that it is yet one more
quasi-journalistic text that will be fed into the mainstream corporate
media propaganda machine. From there it will ooze into political
processes like foreign policy committee deliberations in EU country
parliaments and US Congress, greasing the way for Colombia’s
narco-terrorist government to sustain foreign military aid. It offers a
spurious but readily recyclable rationale for US and European
government plans to counteract the success of Venezuelan and Cuban
diplomacy and economic policy in Central America and the Caribbean.

But perhaps the most relevant point about Carlin’s particular brand
of misreporting is that it confirms the intimate links between European
mainstream media and European country governments and security
services. Carlin’s piece is very much in the style of an older UK
anti-journalist called Chapman Pincher. Pincher used to make a
comfortable career writing screeds just like Carlin’s, based on
unattributable sources, smear and guilt by association, regurgitating
whatever the official propaganda line of the day may happen to have
been.

The main reason now to read most Western Bloc corporate media is to
discover what lies they are spreading on behalf of their countries’
governments and corporations. In the case of Venezuela, Carlin’s piece
indicates that one can expect a ratcheting up of the propaganda war
against Venezuela over the next year or so. The campaign’s virulence
will be in direct proportion to three variables.

Firstly, will be the success of President Chavez in his efforts at
regional integration and South-South cooperation. Secondly will come
the failure of Colombia’s narco-terror President Alvaro Uribe to
resolve his country’s social and economic crisis. And thirdly will
figure the Bush regime’s perception of the rate of decline in US
influence in the Andes and the Caribbean. Carlin’s article is a clue
that a military provocation may well not be that far away.

toni solo is an activist based in Central America - articles archived at toni.tortillaconsal.com