While ABC News swallowed whole the charismatic-leader-helping-the-poor-offering-free-health-care-education-adult-literacy-and-job-training-initiatives-that-help-millions-of-VenezuelansTM crap and would like us to believe that Venezuela’s President Uses Oil Money for Health Care and Aid for the Poor, the nearly as sympathetic Toronto Star manages to mention Hugo’s hubris: Poor are fed by Chavez’s vanity: Clinics, cheap food boost support, but poverty remains high in Venezuela.
You would think that by now ABC could manage to do a puff piece without actually using the very words from the Venezuelan government ad that ran last year?
Hugo Chávez has a new role in Hollywood,
not as an Oliver-Stone conspiracy hero, but as a videogame villain.
The media games continue as Chavez supporters deem Mercenaries 2 “a justification for an imperialist aggression”.
FrontPage Magazine (which incorrectly believed Hugo’s lie about the Oliver Stone movie), in its article Chavez’s Incredible Shrinking Revolution, notices that
When you strip away the red from Hugo Chavez’s rhetoric and the dishonest propaganda glorifying him from the world’s left-wing press, the naked Chavez turns out to be little more than an old-fashioned Latin American military dictator like Pinochet, a prating megalomaniac Caudillo propped up mostly by secret police and stolen oil money. Even the New York Times, if only to save its own waning credibility, has begun to report Chavez’s defects and decline.
José Enrique Idler points out that, while Castro has managed to keep Cuba as a prison,
The world is more interconnected, and Latin America is no exception. Globalization has become the norm and governments increasingly play by the rules of investment and economic exchange. Brazil’s president, Lula, recently cited economic stability as one of his triumphs, declaring that the future “will be built on strong investment in education and training, with tax relief to encourage new investment, notably in science and technology.” Additionally, Peru and Colombia have now struck free-trade agreements with the U.S — and Ecuador and Panama may be next.
In Thursday’s Wall Street Journal front page article, Bolivia Marching To Chávez’s Beat, Evo Morales refers to Hugo as Bolivia’s “godfather.” (Nice choice of words, Evo!) Not everybody likes that:
As his power and influence grow, Mr. Chávez and his tactics are running into limits in a region where most people resent outside interference — be it Spanish rule centuries ago or U.S. intrusion in recent decades. Support for Mr. Chávez has become a political flashpoint in races in Mexico and Peru.
Mr. Chávez’s support of Bolivia’s decision to kick out foreign energy companies this month and nationalize its natural-gas reserves has also put him in direct confrontation with Brazil, South America’s largest economy. Brazil depends on Bolivia for half its natural gas, and Petrobras, Brazil’s state oil company, is the biggest foreign investor in Bolivia’s energy industry.
Mr. Chávez also may face stiffened opposition at home. Although he is still highly popular, his overseas spending makes growing numbers of Venezuelans angry. Despite high oil prices, problems like street crime and poverty have continued to loom large under his rule.
But Hugo’s money – along with the ever-present Cuban “doctors” – is going a long way towards buying Evo much needed popularity among the underclass:
Mr. Morales has also adopted many of Mr. Chávez’s social programs, including the use of Cuban doctors and teachers in poor neighborhoods. An estimated 708 Cuban doctors and volunteers have set up six clinics that offer, among other things, free eye consultations. At a Santa Cruz clinic, 200 Bolivians recently stood in a line that snaked around the block, waiting in the hot sun to get appointments for an eye examination. The clinic performs 100 free cataract operations daily. Some patients spent the night sleeping on the steps of the clinic. “It’s a miracle,” said Juan Alvarez, 56, an upholsterer awaiting surgery on an eye that clouded up three years ago after an injury.
Literacy classes are also a big hit. In a cramped classroom on the wind-swept plateau above La Paz, a few dozen Aymara Indian women and men gathered around a television set recently to learn the alphabet. At the end of the day’s session, Hugo Chura, the Bolivian official in charge of the program, stood up to give a pitch. “Previous governments here never cared about you,” he said in the Aymara language. “But the new president does. And he has friends like Fidel Castro and the Venezuelans who care about you, too.” The class broke out in applause.
Thanks to such programs, Mr. Morales’s approval ratings now hover above 80%. That will come in handy in early July, when the country votes to elect a new assembly to rewrite the constitution.
Understandably, Some are worrying Bolivia has sold soul to Venezuela, for a lot of money, as Chavez plans 1.5 billion dollar energy, mine investments in Bolivia as part of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA).
If you think any of the investments will yield wealth to the poor, you are mistaken: The Wall Street Journal has an article today, Chávez Pushes Boliva, Cuba Trade, which points to ruinous politically-driven command economies:
Some of the basics of ALBA trade have yet to be worked out. When Bolivian entrepeneurs asked Mr. Aguirre [a merchant at a trade fair last week] for his Venezuelan-made paper, he said he didn’t know yet. “We have nothing concrete on that”, he said. In the background of his booth was a poster of Mr. Chávez, his arm draped around Mr. Morales, while in the background a smiling Mr. Castro looked approvingly on both men.
Elsewhere Bolivian Indian women in traditional bowler hats met with Cuban trade officials and Venezuelan entrepeneurs, who encouraged them to sell alpaca sweaters and embroidered shawls in Cuba and Venezuela, although neither country is known for cold weather.
. . .
It was tough going, acknowledged Rina Zeballos, president of the 1,200-trong Movement of Indian Women of the Kollasuyo, a weaver’s cooperative. “We are producing these shawls, but we don’t have a market”
No amount of Hugo’s money can change the weather. Maybe his buddy Red Ken should help him market some sweaters in the UK instead of in the tropics. But Hugo and Evo are talking confederation, so odds are they won’t be sweating the alpaca marketing details.
Either way, the propaganda continues, with the WaPo claiming that Chavez Educates Masses at a University in His Image (via Elephants in Academia)
The vast majority of students at the three-year-old university grew up in poverty. Now they are recipients of a tuition-free education. They are also part of a massive underclass that Chavez aims to empower through the social programs that have fed his domestic popularity. The school, the cornerstone of those programs, is aimed at educating millions and promoting the sort of social activism that Chavez says can help Venezuela’s poor majority to overcome decades of oppression by the rich.
The Bolivarian University of Venezuela, a large-scale, PR excercise rich in propaganda, is not quite as the WaPo makes it. Instead, according to a first-hand account (via email),
The story is baloney. When I was in caracas, I put on the red t-shirt and checked this stupid thing out. Teaching at it were old grussies from the 1960s, long gray hippie-haired idiots who had been in the cold too long, wretched miserable, meritless “academics” who had
always formed the hardcore left in vz society and were too fanatical and extreme to ever fit in at a real university. Think “professional protestor” and you will get the picture. They knew nothing. One got up and did a spiel on atomic energy, showing a drawing of the famous atom star and explained that this was proof chavismo worked. It was that nutty, that meritless. And they were heavy rum drinking drunks, who ernestly played guitar after every class. Gee groovy.
As for the people in it, none were there because they wanted to be. They were there because of the govt check it involved. I was wondering why mom, pop and ghetto baby in head-to-toe red were all there, why young college students were there, and then i looked at the sign in sheet – it was everyone saying they were associated with some chavista schooling program. It was the checks that made them listen to the indoctrination, nothing more.
Hugo’s hosting this week’s OPEC meeting. Venezuela’s oil minister said Caracas would back any move to curb the cartel’s output, which naturally would drive up prices.
That’s this week. Last week Tony Blair scored high,
The Prime Minister claimed that he had not been treated this way since the school, AFP quoted.
“The only thing I could tell about President Chávez is that he has the best line of insults among world leaders.”
Yesterday Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo asked the Organization of American States (OAS) on Monday to give a ruling on Venezuela’s interference in Peru’s election. Via Publius Pundit, Hugo threatens that if front-runner Alan Garcia wins, Venezuela would not have diplomatic relations with Peru. Saturday’s London Times predicts Defeat looms for Chavez’s allies in Peru, and the bottom line is,
Chavez may in any case be obliged to concentrate on problems at home. Despite bumper revenues from high oil prices, Venezuela’s central bank said last week that it had lost $142m (£76m) in the first four months of this year, largely because Chavez’s administration had overspent.
Former Peruvian intelligence chief and now jailbird Vladimiro Montesinos has written a book where he claims that presidential candidate Ollanta Humala, is a product of Cuban and Venezuelan intelligence (link in Spanish).
I’m sure Hugo’s not too pleased with Uribe’s landslide win in Colombia:
Uribe is Washington’s chief ally in a region where the Bush administration is not popular.
“We want a modern democracy with security, freedom, transparency and respect for all institutions,” Uribe told supporters in Bogota after the results were read out.
Venezuela News and Views has some Random thoughts on Colombia.
Aleksander Boyd is Walking for democracy in Venezuela.
The media games continue. The stakes are high.
Update 2: Because it isn’t imperialism unless the yankis are involved: Hugo talked up his first draft of the Bolivian constitution during his latest Alo, presidente show. Spanish article here.
(technorati tags Americas, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Colombia)