By Daniel Margrain
The corporate mass media are well aware what side of the class war their bread is buttered. Their reporting of the events in Venezuela is a case in point. “Venezuela Leaps Towards Dictatorship” said The Economist. “Venezuela Flirts With Outright Dictatorship”, exclaimed The Independent. The New York Times headlined with “Venezuela’s Descent Into Dictatorship”, while The Guardian’s “Let’s Call Venezuela What it is under Maduro: a Dictatorship”, was even more forthright in it’s message. To top it all, Newsweek went for the double whammy, “Putin Steps In To Bolster Venezuelan Dictator, Maduro.”
The sensationalist headlines that present a totally distorted picture of the events unfolding in the country, illustrate the extent of the anti-Venezuela government propaganda witnessed since president Nicolas Maduro augmented the Venezuelan constitution spearheaded by his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, in 1999.
We have been here before. In May, 2006, The Independent stoked up fear of the rise in grass roots democracy throughout Latin America with their headline: ‘The Big Question: Should we be worried by the rise of the populist left in South America?”
Rather than emphasizing the widespread growth in bottom-up democracy throughout the region as a positive development, the paper instead implied that this popular movement of the left represented a threat to democracy. The unspoken assumption is that Washington has a right to intervene in a country like Venezuela to curtail these “threats.”
Then, as now, the aim, is to divert public attention away from the fact that, historically, the US and its proxies have wrought terrible destruction on the country. Instead, the media continue to characterize democratic forces that are resisting the external meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs and attempts to undermine its sovereignty, as the enemy within.
Meanwhile, opposition forces who are tearing the country apart, are depicted as true democrats fighting an illegitimate fascist government. Since Maduro’s Constituent Assembly election victory last week, this inverse of reality has been peddled as a stated fact almost daily in the corporate media. Joe Emersberger writes:
“Readers will not also know that the convening of a Constitutional Assembly is provided for under Venezuela’s 1999 constitution which was ratified in a referendum. The debate over its constitutional validity hinges on whether an initiating referendum is required. The relevant articles (347, 348) are far from explicit or clear that either an initiating or final referendum is required. The indirect constitutional arguments for a final referendum, for obvious reasons, are much stronger, but Maduro has committed to one. Also, the opposition did not just boycott the vote: its supporters perpetrated lethal acts of violence to prevent people from voting.”
The Constituent Assembly process initiated by Maduro has mass popular support among Venezuelans, a majority think the process will defend social gains of recent years, and 65 per cent agree that elections should take place in 2018.
One of the ways the establishment media set out to deceive the public is through their use of pejorative labels. For instance, the popular support for Maduro among the Venezuelan people, has been termed “Populist”. After the Russian Revolution, “Bolshevik” or “Bolshie” became, for a short while, the buzz word of choice. Then, especially during the Cold War, the favoured propaganda word became “Communist”, which was particularly effective in ensuring Washington’s bloodbath throughout Central America under Reagan continued during the 1980s.
Often used to justify the kind of mass murder outlined, these words are also used when the establishment – who are characterized as being of the centre – perceive themselves losing ground to mainly left-wing forces. Populist has become almost universal and used without explanation and as if it were a politically neutral statement of fact.
The purpose is to depict ordinary people on the left angered by injustice and inequality, as naive and irresponsible. By contrast, the implication is that those on the right are responsible citizens and that the hardships people face are the result of foreseen and preventable socioeconomic circumstances. Any pain and suffering is thus depicted as being the fault of both the individuals concerned and the political forces on the left they vote for, not the fault of a corrupt corporate controlled media and government that systematically undermine both.
Ever since Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution in 1999 became established, attempts have been made by the corporate media to systematically demonize the Venezuelan leadership and its supporters as justification for the US to procure the natural resources of the country and to crush any resistance towards regional self-determination. John Pilger observed that western media attacks “resemble uncannily those of the privately owned Venezuelan television and press, which called for the elected [Chavez] government to be overthrown”.
The attempt to justify Chavez’s overthrow largely stemmed from the myth that the former Venezuelan president came to power as a result of an illegal coup and therefore had no democratic legitimacy. This myth continues today. However, the truth, as Media Lens observed, is “that Chavez actually came to power in the general election of 1998, taking 56 per cent of the vote.”
Citing the December 7, 1998, Post-Election Statement on Venezuela, the media analysts go on to describe how the Carter Centre – a human rights organisation which monitored the election – described the process as “transparent and peaceful that clearly reflected the will of the Venezuelan people”. Chavez was re-elected in 2000 with an increased share of the vote (60 per cent) and won again by a similar majority in 2006. He won a fourth term in the October 2012 election, five months before his death in Caracas on 5 March 2013.
Craig Murray points out that “Hugo Chavez’ revolutionary politics were founded on two very simple tenets:
1) People ought not to be starving in dreadful slums in the world’s most oil rich state
2) The CIA ought not to control Venezuela.”
What the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela inspired by Chavez represents to the establishment – as is the case with Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Podemos in Spain – is the threat of a good example. Of the hundreds of media reports on Chavez, almost none depicted events in Venezuela as a fundamentally positive and urgently needed attempt to improve the condition of impoverished people who had been exploited by a succession of right-wing Washington-friendly governments that asset-stripped the country and reduced vast swaths of the population to paupers.
According to John Pilger, three years before Chavez was elected, the rate of poverty in the country increased from 18 per cent in 1980 to 65 per cent in 1995. The renowned investigative journalist cited 95 year old Mavis Mendez who said that Chavez “planted the seeds of true democracy, and I am full of joy that I have lived to witness it.”
The seeds of Chavez’s legacy are what current president Nicolas Maduro is continuing to cultivate. But this is what the fascist opposition want to destroy so that the fabulously wealthy corrupt elites who own politics and control the corporate media, can enrich themselves even more. Maduro, represents a threat to this form of socialized wealth usurpation.
As Media Lens point out, for many decades “Washington have funneled money, weapons and US-trained death squads battling independent nationalism across Central America” to achieve their nefarious objectives. John Pilger argued that as part of this process, Venezuela was being “softened up” as a precursor to its subsequent destruction. According to the journalist “a US army publication, Doctrine for Asymmetric War against Venezuela, described Chávez and the Bolivarian revolution as the ‘largest threat since the Soviet Union and Communism‘.”
With the death of Chavez and the election of Maduro in 2013, the opposition have seized their opportunity to up the ante. This has been bolstered by what US senator Marco Rubio absurdly described as Maduro’s attempt to “permanently change the democratic order”. In reality, the purpose of the newly constituted assembly is to make the democratic gains made by Chavez irreversible.
As independent investigative journalist, Abby Martin shows, the calls to defend the gains of the revolution refer mainly to the social programmes known as “Missions” which cover everything from infrastructure investment and affordable housing, through to free education, healthcare and cultural and art projects for the poorest.
The gains have been phenomenal. Since the Bolivarian revolution was established, poverty has fallen from 43 per cent in 1999 to 26 per cent in 2017 and extreme poverty from 17 per cent to less than 7 per cent. Moreover, children’s attendance at school increased from 6m to 13m, while college attendance has more than quadrupled. Because of the expanding free universal healthcare in the country, infant mortality dropped by 50 per cent.
The constituted assembly under Maduro is about preserving these gains, not advancing the revolution in any significant way. But rather than viewing these gains as a positive, the opposition seem determined to reverse them no matter what. Their method of achieving this is to overthrow the elected government through violent insurrection and thereby assume absolute control of the apparatus of the state.
Since April, organized violent attacks have included the use of explosives directed against the National Guard, and the targeting of constituent assembly members. Last week, a lawyer working for the assembly was killed in the middle of the night in his home in the southeastern city of Ciudad Bolivar and another burned alive.
The tally of the protest related deaths (as of August 8, 2017) are below:
Deaths caused by authorities: 14
Direct victims of opposition political violence: 23
Deaths indirectly linked to opposition barricades*: 8
Accidental deaths: 3
People killed in lootings**: 14
Deaths attributed to pro-gov’t civilians: 3
Deaths still unaccounted for / disputed: 61
The end game for the fascist opposition and their allies in Washington, is regime change in Venezuela. Rex Tillerson admitted as much after Wikileaks revealed that the US Secretary of State said:
“Either Maduro decides he doesn’t have a future and wants to leave of his own accord, or we can return the government processes back to their constitution.”
In other words, Tillerson is threatening to remove Maduro if he doesn’t “leave on his own accord.”
With millions of US dollars flowing into the country to fund opposition groups, this is the clearest signal yet that Washington is preparing for an illegal coup to oust another democratic leader of a sovereign state. Regardless, the Western corporate media will continue in their Orwellian fashion to depict the opposition fascists as democrats and the democrat Maduro as a dictator.
Thankfully, we have alternative social media to enable us to make better sense of the situation. RT did a particularly good job of presenting both sides of the story, while independent investigative journalist Abby Martin, who was in the midst of opposition demonstrations, exposed the regime change agenda for what it is.
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