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Venezuela's Looking Good

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    Robertson s not alone in his dislike of Chavez By Mattie Weiss http://informationclearinghouse.info/article10024.htm 08/29/05 Star Tribune -- -- Last Monday,
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 2, 2005
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      Robertson's not alone in his dislike of Chavez
      By Mattie Weiss
      http://informationclearinghouse.info/article10024.htm


      08/29/05 "Star Tribune" -- -- Last Monday, Christian televangelist
      Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan president
      Hugo Chavez. While Robertson's remarks were shocking in their utter
      disregard for global democracy and the rule of law (he eventually
      apologized), he is by no means the first to beat the drum against
      Venezuela.

      In fact, his comments were merely a more vitriolic version of what
      the Bush administration has been saying for some time, with
      declarations to "contain" Chavez and the funneling of millions of
      dollars to opposition groups within the country. The White House even
      supported a 2002 military coup, before popular uprisings restored
      Chavez to power. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense
      Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and now Robertson are all in their own ways
      trying to build the case that Chavez is a menace, a danger to
      democracy and a source of instability in the region.

      But I was in Venezuela just this month. And I saw a different
      reality.

      I attended the 16th World Festival for Youth and Students, which drew
      more than 15,000 young peace and justice activists from across the
      globe.

      What I saw, in the enormous city of Caracas and the rural towns of
      Monagas state, were huge numbers of people who, for the first time in
      their lives, have free and adequate health care, the opportunity to
      attend university, access to land grants and work contracts,
      constitutionally assured rights for women and indigenous people, and
      free breakfast programs for children. And with all this, a sense of
      dignity and ownership over their lives.

      Let me show you.

      In a room that smells of Tiger Balm, with rain beating on the roof, a
      doctor massages the curled hands and feet of a crippled boy while his
      mother murmurs gentle words. Before the free hospital was built, the
      boy had no access to regular physical therapy and lived in constant
      pain.

      An old woman, her eyes gleaming through thick glasses, says that two
      years ago, when she enrolled in a reading class taught by university
      volunteers, she practically ate the books in her hunger for words,
      flying through basic reading and moving on to high school equivalency
      courses. She plans to attend one of the nation's new free public
      universities next year. At 76 she dreams of being a lawyer.

      The 22-year-old Osmar, with tight curls and baggy jeans, says that in
      yesterday's Venezuela he would have been a taxi driver or sold
      cigarettes on the street, doing "work without honor." But he was
      among the thousand top scorers on a nationwide exam and will soon
      leave for five years of free medical school in Cuba.

      These individuals, like millions across Venezuela, have experienced
      tangible, visible change in their lives over the last several years.
      But while these changes have made Chavez a hero in the eyes of
      Venezuela's poor majority, they have made him an enemy in the White
      House.

      It makes Washington's blood boil that Chavez not only denounces its
      global mandates of fiscal austerity, structural adjustment and
      radical privatization, but that Venezuela has the resources to
      successfully enact its own development model.

      Using its oil wealth, Venezuela is constructing one of the truly
      alternative models of economic growth in today's world. The fourth-
      largest exporter of petroleum to the United States, Venezuela has
      shifted production from multinational corporations into the hands of
      the state, which now harvests the bulk of this liquid gold in order
      to sembrar el petroleo, "sow the oil," and invest billions inwards.

      So while Venezuela sows its oil, Washington is sowing the seeds to
      unseat Chavez. It is building up the case for invasion, a coup or an
      assassination. If, for many of us, Robertson's comments were the
      first we registered of this positioning, it is not the first for
      Venezuelans, who speak often of being the potential next
      battleground, overt or covert, in the United States' deceptive and
      never-ending "war on terrorism."

      Let us be wary. Very. For those moving to vilify Chavez are the same
      people who knowingly lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,
      who used nonexistent uranium to justify a war in which tens of
      hundreds of young Americans and countless Iraqis have died.

      Let's also honor the value of freedom, of human dignity and
      democracy. Let us support Venezuela's right to build its own future.

      Mattie Weiss lives in Minneapolis.

      Copyright 2005 Star Tribune.

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      http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/opinion.cfm?id=1855952005

      Chavez should praise the Lord for death call

      BRIAN WILSON

      IF PAT Robertson, the bellicose evangelist who broadcasts for God and
      Bush, did not exist, Hugo Chavez would have been very glad to invent
      him. Robertson's call for Chavez to be assassinated by the United
      States on the grounds that it is cheaper than having a war, should
      help to keep the president of Venezuela both alive and in power for a
      few more years.

      The relationship between the US and Venezuela deserves a lot more
      attention than it normally gets, because it acts as a litmus test on
      so many wider issues. How comprehensive, even now, is US opposition
      to terrorism as an instrument of regime change? What lengths will
      Washington go to in order to safeguard oil supplies? Who offers the
      more attractive vision for his impoverished neighbours - George Bush
      or Hugo Chavez?

      Similar questions could have been asked in Latin America and the
      Caribbean over many decades, and there would not have been much doubt
      about the answers. The Robertson line would have prevailed with
      little regard for the consequences - least of all for the
      impoverished people. Nowadays the problem for Washington is that
      there are many in the world who are on the lookout for double
      standards - not only to justify criticising the US (as was always the
      case) but for attacking it, which is rather different.

      The US is already facing a diplomatic pickle over the case of Luis
      Posada, one of its favourite terrorists, who is accused of blowing up
      a Cuban aircraft in 1976 with 73 people on board - many of them
      Venezuelan. Posada has turned up inconveniently in the US, and they
      now have to decide whether or not to hand him over to the Venezuelan
      authorities, who are seeking to extradite him. One would have thought
      that Washington has an overwhelming vested interest in sending out an
      unambiguous message that it will bring terrorists who blow up planes
      to justice.

      However, there are plenty in Washington who basically agree with
      Robertson. Latin America is their backyard. Different standards
      apply. Robertson's unique stupidity did not lie in thinking
      about "taking out" Chavez but in articulating it. There is already
      every reason to suppose that Washington was deeply involved in the
      failed attempt to oust Chavez in the bungled 2002 coup, which led to
      the elected president being restored with greater popular support.

      The particular difficulty for the US in relation to Venezuela is that
      it needs the oil. Venezuela is the fifth biggest producer in the
      world, and the major exporter outside the Middle East. At present
      Chavez is hedging his bets by negotiating with other markets,
      including China, to reduce dependence on the US as a customer. He is
      also threatening to stop supplying the US for overtly political
      reasons - retaliation for exactly the kind of activities Robertson
      has obligingly advocated.

      Chavez is himself an ambiguous and erratic figure. Venezuela, for all
      its past corruption and poverty, has had elected governments for
      almost half a century and Chavez tried to overthrow one of them in
      his own 1992 coup. Many remain suspicious of his authoritarian
      tendencies. But the fact remains that he was not only elected but had
      his presidency overwhelmingly confirmed in a referendum that his
      enemies forced in order to get rid of him.

      It is very easy to understand why. Chavez's relationship with Cuba is
      central to his strategy, and the two countries have cut a deal that
      is difficult to fault. Cuba gets cheap oil and the peasants in remote
      Venezuelan villages find themselves receiving the services of Cuban
      doctors and teachers. In the centre of Havana, the biggest hotel is
      reserved for poor Venezuelans flown over daily for hospital
      treatment. When the blind see and the lame walk, they know who to
      vote for.

      Chavez has now expanded this approach. On the very day when Robertson
      was calling for him to be killed, Chavez was in Montego Bay
      finalising an agreement with the Jamaican prime minister, PJ
      Patterson, to supply oil on favourable terms, thereby saving the
      country half a million dollars a day in imports. The Dominican
      Republic, which had been brought to the verge of collapse by high oil
      prices, has been rescued by the same kind of arrangement.

      Amidst all the self-satisfied hype that surrounded the G8 meeting at
      Gleneagles, a crucial reality was virtually ignored. It is that the
      most pressing cause of impoverishment to developing countries is the
      massive increase in oil prices. Probably the reason for ignoring it
      was that, unlike other deep-rooted problems, it was entirely possible
      to do something about it in the short term if the political will
      existed. But it didn't. Chavez is doing for his poor neighbours what
      the G8 declined to do for theirs.

      There is a test in all of this for British foreign policy. When the
      coup occurred in 2002, the immediate response of the Foreign Office
      was to rush out a statement welcoming the overthrow of an elected
      government. Before the ink was dry, Chavez was back in power. In
      other words, we made complete fools of ourselves by being too
      pathetically hasty to welcome what was assumed to be a success for
      Washington. Did that make us any better than Pat Robertson? Will we
      do better in future?

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