Monday, December 29, 2003

Letters to the Editor: The Venezuelan ambassador writes to the Washington
Post

And so does Georgetown University...

Monday 29, December 2003

On December 14 The Washington Post published an excellent editorial on Venezuela. The link is gone now, but I have copied it Sunday 12/14.

Now, this has generated two letters to the editor. The first one is from the ambassador of Venezuela himself. I post it with my comments (red: Mr. Alvarez, purple: my comments)

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

The Dec. 14 editorial "Eye on Mr. Chavez" about Venezuela stated as fact the opposition's claim to have gathered 3.5 million signatures calling for a recall referendum on President Hugo Chavez. But the leaders of the opposition have yet to turn the petitions over to the National Electoral Council. Nor has the Organization of American States or the Carter Center or the media seen the signatures.

And this is written by an ambassador? Perhaps the Post delayed the publication (mischievously on purpose?) but 3.4 million signatures were handed in on Friday 19. The ambassador HAD TO KNOW that the opposition would be handing the signatures, even if they were fake or invalid!

As for the unfortunate comment on the OAS or the Carter Center. It is not their business to verify the signatures. What the ambassador tries disingenuously is to make people forget is that the OAS and the Carter Center have stated that the collection process proceeded in a normal and regular fashion. A well known tactic.

The editorial also said that Mr. Chavez "triggered an ultimately unsuccessful coup against himself by ordering police and the military to attack opposition demonstrations." The Post used an unsubstantiated claim to justify a military coup against a democratically elected government. More than 50 people were killed, and the coup leaders dissolved the country's democratic institutions, including the Congress and the Supreme Court.

Yeah, well, same old story. The "unsubstantiated claim" is actually quite substantiated: there is a tape where Chavez is heard trying to make the Army take position in Plan Avila, a military provision that would have allowed the armed forces to shoot the marchers on April 11 2002. I am not sure exactly what was triggered after the military received that unscrupulous order, but it was not certainly to Carmona that Chavez was radioing that day...

Finally, the editorial alleged that Mr. Chavez is dismantling Venezuela's democracy. Every change that our government has made since 1998 has been accomplished using peaceful and constitutional means. Hugo Chavez has twice been elected in voting internationally recognized as free and fair.

You can read the editorial of the Post and this last item is not questioned. What is questioned, and the ambassador knows it quite well, are the recent attempts at ending whatever is left of the independence in the judicial power. Not to mention curtailing the freedom of expression, the recent seizure of Globovision transmission equipment as the latest example.

This is in sharp contrast to the opposition, which has staged a bloody coup attempt and several economically devastating oil strikes in hopes of unseating a democratically elected president.

Several oil strikes? Please! The first one was a worker strike (2000) when Chavez reneged the government obligations. This is the strike that created Carlos Ortega, and it was at a time where Chavez was riding high in the polls. The other was the 2002/2003 strike of known results. That last one was certainly to unseat Chavez, but by then the poll numbers of Chavez had changed. It is just like chavista paranoia to try to put all together as an immense conspiration that predates whatever it needs to predate, according to the needs of the moment.

BERNARDO ALVAREZ HERRERA

Ambassador, Embassy of Venezuela, Washington


Yep, this is our ambassador in Washington. I am not sure who he is trying to fool, but surely not the folks at the Post.

=== === ===

The other letter is quite a piece of work from somebody that I know nothing of but that supposedly does independent and objective research at Georgetown University, which has an important department for foreign affairs. I am quoting the part that does not reflect what is already stated in the ambassador letter. Purple, my comments.

The editorial also said that Mr. Chavez "triggered an ultimately unsuccessful coup against himself by ordering police and the military to attack opposition demonstrations." The coup has been shown to be a well-organized right-wing effort with questionable democratic credentials. Further, members of the metropolitan police -- under the command of the mayor of Caracas and prominent Chavez opponent Alfredo Peña -- did most of the killing.

Umm... And the proofs are? It is astounding to me that a faculty member (?) of Georgetown University is not aware (or does not want to be aware?) that no independent "commission of truth" has been installed, a tool used in several South American countries emerging from deep political traumas. The Chavez administration and Chavez controlled National Assembly have sabotaged any serious attempt at finding the real truth, preferring the pro-Chavez courts of Aragua State to do their deed, that is proving "innocent" the Llaguno shooters and trying to make guilty a few cops of "la Metropolitana" (and Peña what? If his cops are guilty how come he is not on trial?) For all that I know the charges leveled by the letter could be right, but right now they are NO MORE credible than what the Post writes.

Mr. Chavez should respect the will of the majority should it choose to revoke his presidential mandate, just as the opposition should respect the will of Chavez supporters who choose to do the same to opposition lawmakers (government supporters gathered more than 2.6 million signatures, enough to call a referendum on 37 opposition lawmakers). This, though, does not justify The Post offering farfetched allegations and rumors as fact.

And the point is? How come the letter mentions ONLY the total gathered by the government who finished their slow tabulation just as the opposition finished its own tabulation? Is this coming from the law department or the foreign department of Georgetown?

MARTIN AUSTERMUHLE

Center for Latin American Studies, Edmund A. Walsh
School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University


I have no idea who the writer is, but his letter seems to match too well the one from the ambassador. Coincidence? I will let the reader speculate on the objectivity presented in that letter.

=== === ===

But this was not all. The page of the Post gives two paid advertisement links. One is for Venezuelan coffee; the other for Venezuelanalysis.com. This last site is little more than a propaganda machine for the Venezuelan government. That it is so is simply confirmed by "someone" paying to advertise it in the Washington Post (according to an explanation link). As far as I know I do not see real news agencies such as AP advertising in the Post web pages...

Really, when the history of the Chavez propaganda machine will finally be revealed I am sure that a few surprises are in store for us. I, for one, cannot wait to see who paid what to whom to say what.

=== === ===
Note added 24 hours later (first time I do edit a post of mine except for an occasional glaring grammatical mistake, I am very strict at standing by my words once posted):

I did a quick Google search on Martin AUSTERMUHLE. It turns out that he is a Master´s student at Georgetown. Nothing wrong with that of course, and nothing wrong writing to the Post as a Graduate Student. However, the Post did a mistake in not checking out Martin before. The way he is introduced anyone could be led to think that he was some authority from Georgetown. I did sense that something was odd in his letter to the editor and I did put a question mark (?) when I qualified him as a faculty member. My intuition was right and I should not have trusted the Post on the credentials published. My mistake, I will be more careful next time, even if magic words like "Harvard" appear.

Still, obviously Mr. Austermuhle needs to do more homework on Venezuela. And Georgetown University might want to make sure that its Graduate Students do not speak in its name.

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