Jackson Diehl, a Deputy Editor of the Washington Post, recently wrote a column about Leopoldo Eduardo López, a mayor of Chacao, a district of Caracas, Venezuela. It was widely syndicated, and appeared in the Miami Herald on July 1, and in one of my local papers, the Morning Call of Allentown, PA, on July 2 under the title, “Venezuela's Chávez Fears Caracas Mayor”. No evidence is presented in Diehl’s analysis that supports the claim of the headline, and Diehl is quick to tip his hand in his lead paragraph, as follows:
“Defenders of Hugo Chávez like to argue that there is no alternative to the Venezuelan caudillo other than the feckless and unpopular politicians who preceded him in the 1990s. The simple refutation of that canard is Leopoldo López, the 37-year-old mayor of central Caracas, whose boyish good looks only underscore the fact that he represents a fresh generation.” (Jackson Diehl, Morning Call, 7/2/2008)
Diehl fabricates an argument he can refute easily, by making the argument he wants to refute and attributing it to “Chávez defenders”, without citation. Then he calls Chavez a caudillo, or military strongman, without mentioning that Chávez has won several national elections to become and remain President, and has lost important elections also, and abided by those results.
Nowhere in the column is there a mention that López, with his good looks and US education, is a Mayor of a rich and exclusive central district of Caracas, Chacao, which is a neighborhood filled with foreign embassies and richly appointed homes. His political roots are in the rightwing, upper middle class and rich opposition groups that have opposed Chavez and social reform in Venezuela. López’ social roots are in the upper class. He attended Kenyon College in Ohio and received a Master’s Degree from Harvard. He then was able to get a job for the State-owned oil company PVDSA. His current problems and the administrative restrictions imposed by Comptroller General Clodosbaldo Russian have been accepted for enforcement by the National Electoral Council. They are a result of improper campaign contributions funneled to his campaign, through his mother, from the PVDSA, while they were both employees of the corporation.
Also, Lopez is facing municipal corruption charges for his activities as Mayor of Chacao. Kiraz Janicke writes, in a June 19, 2008 article in Venezuelanalysis titled, “Venezuela’s Electoral Council to Respect Disqualification of Candidates Accused of Corruption”;
“López is also being investigated for misuse of municipal resources in support of a group of rebel military officers who camped out in Altamira Plaza (in Chacao municipality) for more than a year after the coup, from November 2002, and who were linked to a string of bomb attacks and apparently politically motivated murders in Venezuela during 2003.”
Lopez has been a spokeperson for the ultra-right groups that have opposed Chávez consistently, stridently and at times violently. He was a supporter of the 2002 coup that overthrew Chavez and for a period of hours claimed to control Venezuela. He signed the Carmona Document during this coup, which dissolved the Supreme Court and National Assembly. Diehl repeatedly tries to build a case that he is a populist and a democrat, and of course does not ponder such contradictions as his participation in a violent overthrow of the Venezuelan government. Lopez recently stated, “What's important is that the United States advances an agenda that makes a priority of democracy and human rights, as well as poverty alleviation and addressing inequality. Chávez has no answer to that.'' (from www.citymayors.com, as quoted by Andrew Stevens, Deputy Editor, in an article “Kidnapped and shot at, a Venezuelan mayor opposes country’s president”.)
It is statements like these that tip off the editorial writers of the rightwing press of the US that this guy is safe; he is a supporter of the US actions that have preyed upon and exploited the Americas, leaving many rich and many more poor. In the above-quoted statement, I believe Lopez clearly indicates that he supports these neoliberal, militarist policies of the US.
Diehl presents Lopez as a victim of human rights abuses because he has been prohibited for running for office for three years as an administrative measure. He does not mention that 180 of the 371 others who have had the same sanctions applied are supporters of Chávez.
Chávez must always be presented by rightwing propagandists like Diehl as a caudillo and stigmatized by any means available. Diehl writes, “Like the rulers of Iran, with whom he has cultivated a close alliance, Chávez has adopted the tactic of rigging an election by excluding his most formidable opponents in advance.” Venezuela Comptroller General Russian notes, “Article 65 of the Venezuelan Constitution states ‘Those who have been condemned for crimes committed during the exercise of their functions, which affect the public patrimony, cannot stand for office in any popular election for a period of time, fixed by the law, until the completion of the sentence, and in accordance with the gravity of the crime,’ and establishes that sanctions can be applied as a result of civil, penal or administrative investigations.”
López speaks the language that the corporate press of the US understands and can get behind – he is one of us, they recognize. There have been assassination attempts against Lopez – they must come, in the judgment of Diehl, from “supporters of Chávez.” This is a grave charge, and proof of such activity would lead to condemnation from all points of the political spectrum. However, nothing is presented by Mr. Diehl that rises above innuendo and puffery. This columnist who writes from one of the premier press voices of the United States has latched onto a politician with a pretty face and a facile and complicit analysis to build a case that democracy in Venezuela lies only with those who support the US, in lockstep and without reservation. Chávez´ program of new economic and social models based on democracy, regional needs and true sovereignty must be demonized, and painted into a corner by hostility and lies by those who most of all fear the rise of a true democratic movement rising from Venezuela.