While President Chavez readily dismissed the “lies” produced by Spanish-language media corporation Univision, a documentary released by the company late last week is now being used by right-wing members of the US Congress to demand Venezuela be formally designated a “State Sponsor of Terrorism”.
UNIVISION: USING A LIE AS AN EXCUSE
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez referred to Univision´s recently-released documentary “La Amenaza Iraní”, or “The Iranian Threat” in English, and explained that “television shows were broadcast on US networks claiming that Venezuela is scheming terrorist attacks with Iranian terrorists against the United States”.
“They are using a lie as an excuse to attack us”, Chavez affirmed, and “we must be attentive”.
Commenting on the timing of the documentary´s release, Chavez questioned Univision´s “assault” on Venezuela and Cuba, key members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), just days after Caracas successfully hosted the founding summit of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (Celac).
Univision´s “The Iranian Threat”, which cites uncorroborated evidence of “Iranian backed money-laundry and drug-trafﬁcking cartels that are used to back Islamist networks and training camps in Venezuela and elsewhere”, also accuses acting Venezuelan Consul in Miami Livia Acosta Noguera of being “very receptive” to terrorist plots in 2006 when she was Cultural Affairs Ofﬁcer at the Venezuelan Embassy in Mexico.
A follow-up article on Univision.com afﬁrms that Noguera used her time in Mexico to “cultivate relations with Mexican leftist groups such as Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) and ally to presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador”.
The news company added that the Venezuelan diplomat “was linked to activists and directors from the Cuban and Iranian embassies in Mexico and with a group of students and professors of the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) who worked in a supposed cyber attack towards the United States”.
According to Univision, Noguera “was very receptive” when Cuban diplomats, secret agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and undercover reporters in Mexico City talked of “cyber
attacks” that would harm “US interests and undermine the US in Latin America”.
Such an attack, sponsored by Iran and facilitated by Venezuela and other non-US allies in the region, could prove “worse than September 11th (2001)”, afﬁrmed Univision´s “The Iranian Threat”.
In comments to the press, US State Department Spokesman Mark Toner called the Univision documentary “very disturbing”, though he regretted the US Government has “no information to ascertain” the information in the report, “right now”.
UNIVISION: INFLUENCING US POLITICS
Univision, which sold for $ 13.7 billion back in 2007, now belongs, in part, to Israeli American media mogul Haim Saban. Currently Univision´s Chairman, Saban sparked controversy in 2007 after telling Israeli daily Haaretz, “When I see (Iranian President) Ahmadinejad, I see Hitler”.
In a May 2010 profile published in The New Yorker, writer Connie Bruck noted that Saban´s “greatest concern is to protect Israel by strengthening the United States-Israel relationship”.
According to Bruck, Saban´s self-deﬁned “three ways to be inﬂuential in US politics” are “make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets”.
Apart from his role as Chairman of Univision, Saban is a major contributor to both ruling US parties (Democrats and Republicans) and is the ﬁnancial support behind the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee´s (AIPAC) Saban National Political Leadership Training Seminar, both of which stand ﬁrm with Isreal against Palestine and regional power Iran.
US CONGRESS BACKS ATTACK
Responding to claims in the Univision documentary, and based on other “unnamed sources”, members of the US Congress last week issued an open letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanding Venezuela be formally designated a “State Sponsor of Terrorism”.
According to Republican Senator John Ensign (R-Nevada), “under President Chavez, the Venezuelan government has established a growing alliance with state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran and Cuba and provided support for terrorist organizations such as the FARC in Colombia”.
“Since 2007”, Ensign claims, “Venezuela has conducted weekly Tehran-Damascus-Caracas ﬂights without proper controls and customs inspections”.
Republican Senator George LeMieux (R-Florida) shared Ensign´s concerns, telling Congress “folks get off the plane in Venezuela, and who knows where they go”.
LeMieux, who failed to cite the source of his claims, added, “Iran has now sent shock troops to Venezuela” and asked the Obama administration to pay more attention to “the gathering storm that is Venezuela”.
Venezuela does not run a weekly ﬂight to Tehran from Caracas. The Venezuelan airline Conviasa, does have a weekly commercial ﬂight from Caracas to Damascus, which is subject to all normal controls of any other commercial airline.
Pressuring Clinton, Ensign afﬁrmed, “It’s no secret to the US people that Venezuela wishes harm to the United States. What is a secret is how many more ties to terrorist organizations and State Sponsors of Terrorism does Venezuela need to be declared a State Sponsor of Terrorism”.
Other senators signing the letter to Clinton include: Robert Bennett (R-UT), Scott Brown (R-MA), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Jim Bunning (R-KY), John Cornyn (R-TX), James Inhofe (R-OK), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), James Risch (R-ID), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).
The Congress members presented no evidence other than rumors and uncorroborated reports to back their dangerous claims against Venezuela.
If successful, ongoing attempts to demonize Venezuela could have negative effects on the economy since being designated a “State Sponsors of Terrorism” means increased restrictions on bi-lateral trade with the United States and a ban on receiving US economic assistance. Venezuela does not, however, receive any official economic assistance from the US government, although US agencies provide substantial funding to anti-Chavez groups working to oust the Venezuelan President.
Though the Bolivarian revolution has made significant progress towards political and economic independence, Venezuela´s economy is still largely dependent on the US as its major purchaser of oil and principal source of consumer goods. It is precisely because of it s historical dependence on the US that the Venezuelan government has sought to diversify the country´s bi-lateral trade relations by partnering with, among many others, Iran.
One example of strengthening trade relations between Venezuela and Iran is found in the rural Venezuelan state of Cojedes, where some 2,000 low income families now live in the Ezequiel Zamora urban housing complex designed and built by Iranian construction ﬁrms.
After heavy rains displaced some 100,000 Venezuelan families in late 2010, Iran also committed to using its expertise in housing development to build 50,000 homes across Venezuela.