Sunday, February 04, 2007

Alek Boyd writes to this blog

Alek Boyd, from Vcrisis, did write me a letter somewhat related to the preceding post, as to how these conferences on Venezuela are often planned. I thought that it would be interesting to publish it as a Sunday free thread of sorts.

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Dear Daniel, following up on your recent story I would like to share with you (and your readers?) this bit:

The thing about these events, IMHO, is that in the current format they are utterly useless. Good to spread propaganda at campuses worldwide though. In these events one would find the typical lefty crowd pretending, without the slightest remorse, that they know better than Venezuelans what's in their best interest. It’s racism at its crudest.

Having said that I find heartening that Duke did find the time to invite Lander to cheer for Chavez, at least he is Venezuelan, but failed to do as much to find a voice representative of the opposition, for McCoy is certainly no expert in Venezuelan matters nor will she provide a balance to Lander's views.

Some UK universities have tried to organize similar events, although they have miserably failed at finding speakers who can present chavismo coherently. While I was in Venezuela, John Greenwood from Sheffield University sent the following message:

I was directed to your site by David Munk, Deputy Foreign Editor of The Guardian, and am attempting to contact Aleksander Boyd. I am a member of the University of Sheffield Debating Society committee and we are organising a debate on the re-election of Hugo Chavez. We will have a speaker from Venezuela Information Centre to argue for the proposition \"This house would re-elect Hugo Chavez\" and would like to secure a person with similar levels of knowledge to put the opposing case.

The debate is likely to be on Monday the 27th of November (so that it is close to the elections) here at the University of Sheffield and we will be able to cover travel expenses if necessary.

The debate itself will consist of a main speech by the proposition and opposition (roughly 12 minutes each), comments and questions from the floor (lasting approximately half an hour), and a closing summary speech by each side (around 3 minutes in length).

If you can think of anyone that would be willing to speak at such an event please do contact me either by email or telephone…

Naturally I was taken aback by Greenwood’s attempt at securing a person with “similar levels of knowledge to put the opposing case” as if any of the propagandist of the Venezuela Information Centre had any knowledge beyond spitting pure and unadulterated propaganda. Therefore I reply, as politely as I could, with the following message:

Many thanks for your message and invitation, which I will have to decline given that I am in Venezuela shadowing presidential candidate Manuel Rosales and won't be returning to the UK till year end. It would have been a good opportunity to debate issues pertaining to my country and I'm afraid I can not recommend any other person since I do not know anyone in the UK -safe Venezuelan Ambassador Toro Hardy- as knowledgeable of Venezuelan contemporary politics as myself.

Having said that I find odd your choice of speaker to argue in favour of Chavez for the Venezuela Information Centre is nothing but a propaganda outlet composed by English radical leftists who have never lived in Venezuela and whose knowledge of Venezuelan affairs is superficial, to say the least. Fortunately for our country's democracy none of the international apologists of Hugo Chavez vote in our elections, ergo their opinions are entirely irrelevant.

In any case I feel obliged to thank you again for the invitation and should you wish to organize another debate amongst opposing views held by Venezuelans residing in the UK in the future do not hesitate in contacting me.

Latter developments proved some of us right and so Mr. Greenwood reissued the invitation, sending the following message:

Dear Aleksander,

I am contacting you with reference to an email that I sent to you regarding a debate that we were attempting to on the subject of Hugo Chavez back in November. I hope that you had a good trip to Venezuela in the intervening period despite Chavez's re- election. At the time of my last email you replied promptly and helpfully but unfortunately we were unable to find anyone willing to speak against the motion "This house re-elect Hugo Chavez". As such we are now hoping to host a debate on the subject in early March instead (hopefully the week of the 5th) and I am contacting you to establish whether you would be willing to oppose the motion "This house would endorse the Chavez revolution in Venezuela"

I appreciate the comments that you made in your reply to my email regarding our choice of proposition speaker (from the Venezuela Information Centre) and motion (worded in a pro-Chavez manner) and I would like to assure you that Sheffield Debating does not intend to host a partisan, pro-CHavez event. As part of our brief as debaters we are required to put motions that challenge the status quo and in this instance we believe that the general feeling in the UK would be to oppose a radical left-wing leader such as Chavez. In that light we have tabled a motion that appears to support him. Crucially, the motion is only intended to act as a provocative opening sentiment to the debate, which will then continue to allow both sides identical time and privileges in order to put their case.

Obviously, we have approached a group that are strongly in favour of Hugo Chavez to put the case for the proposition and in the interests of neutrality we would like to secure a speaker with equally strong feelings of opposition to argue against the motion. As such I am approaching you again to invite you to speak at our debate in the hope that you are free at the time and willing to do so. On the side of practicalities we would be able to pay for any travel and accommodation expenses that you incur so please do not let those factors prejudice your decision.

I very much hope that you can speak at the debate as we think it is important and worthwhile holding. I look forward to your response.

Please note the quote “in this instance we believe that the general feeling in the UK would be to oppose a radical left-wing leader such as Chavez” (sic). Now that Congress has enabled Chavez to rule by decree and do with Venezuela and its citizens pretty much as he wishes for the next 18 months the tide has finally turned. A quick review of the most important news outlets around the world shows a shared consensus about the damaging effects that such a move has for our country, whose system of governance can no longer be defined as democratic. It is a dictatorship in the literal sense, as officially announced by the all-chavista Assembly in Plaza Bolivar a few days ago. As ever, not one to shy away from meaningful exchanges, I replied Greenwood with the following message:

Dear Joe,

many thanks for your email and invitation. It is quite refreshing to read you arguing that the general feeling in the UK would be to oppose a radical left-wing leader such as Chavez. Indeed this week's new ministerial appointments -whereby more military coup companions were strategically placed- points to a radicalization of the 'process'. However my stance with regards to participating in a debate where Chavez's so called Bolivarian revolution will be defended by English fellows that are not authoritative sources in anything to do with Venezuela, beyond the propaganda they are constantly fed, remains.

Should you be able to find a Venezuelan citizen living in the UK knowledgeable and willing to take on the responsibility of speaking in favour of Chavez please do let me know for it would please me to debate with a fellow countrymen in your university's setting. As commented earlier I do not wish to waste my time, or that of the audience present in your debating event for that matter, with others whose superficial knowledge of this country's politics will undermine what could be an otherwise interesting and enriching experience.

Unfortunately my last message –sent 6 January- went unanswered...

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