Friday, June 10, 2005

Another day, another dollar 

Mary Anastasia O’Grady, the Wall Street Journals dedicated anti-Chavez scribe, was back to work today. In her latest volley against Chavez she took up the cause of the Maria Corina Machado, the leader of SUMATE who was last seen hanging out with Bush in the White House. As I mentioned the last time Ms. O’Grady wrote an article on Venezuela her job of decrying Chavez has become more and more difficult, to the point where she generally has to use outright falsehoods to make her point. Today’s essay was no exception. Those wishing to read the entire article may find it here but I will comment on the most salient points:

“Chávez paints himself as the second coming of Fidel Castro, who few serious politicians would regard as a Latin democrat.”

No, Ms. O’Grady, Chavez doesn’t paint himself in any such way. It is YOU, and others opposed to him, who try to portray him this way. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because seeing as Chavez has done precious little that you can criticize without resorting to outright lies you have to try to smear him through guilt by association. You can do that all you want but it won’t work – first and foremost because Chavez himself has been exceedingly clear and unambigious that he is not the second coming of Castro or anyone else and that Venezuela is not trying to emulate Cuba. As far as what most serious politicians think of him take a look at what happening at the most recent O.A.S. meeting. That should clue you in.

“Chávez's battle cry is class warfare, even as his policies make poor Venezuelans even poorer.”

Chavez is making poor Venezuelan’s poorer? I don’t think so. Ms O’Grady your ignorance of all things Venezuelan is shining through. In an effort to enlighten you take a look at this. As you will note the income of poor Venezuelan’s went up by 33% last year. Maybe you are mixing up Chavez and the opposition? In that case let me remind you it was the opposition who tried to drive poor Venezuelan’s into the ground by shutting down the oil industry. Yes that’s right, in spite of their new found concern for the state of the economy and the welfare of the poor they spent the better part of two years doing everything they could to destroy both. Chavez is the one who led the recovery of oil production and then used the money from it to implement the social programs which have done so much to increase the income and well being of the poor. Hope this helps clearify things.

“Súmate is adamant that it is not concerned with who governs but rather that those in power respect the rule of law. The Venezuelan democracy, Súmate points out, was set up with a separation of powers, an independent judiciary, civil rights and provisions for clean elections. "It is not enough to have elections," Ms. Machado says. ‘They must be free, fair and transparent. Once elected, you have to behave democratically.’”

I have my doubts about Ms. Machado’s professed concern for the rule of law and democracy. One wonders where this concern was in April 2002 when the opposition overthrew the government, abolished every elected body, and simply ripped up the constitution (who needs to waste time with things like constituent assemblies). If she believes in democracy why didn’t she speak out against what was happening? She definitely was aware of what was happening as she personally (along with her Mom – a very tight relationship obviously) went to Miraflores and stood in the very room where all this was happening.

Actually, when Ms. O’Grady interviewed Ms. Machado she should have asked her why she went to Miraflores that day. I’ve always wondered about that – why would you go inside the presidential palace when the coup leaders where carrying out their coup? Could it be that she doesn’t really support democracy? Could she be like so many others, Teodoro Petkoff for instance, who today pretend to care about democracy and the law but when the chips were on the table on April 11th 2002 cheered on a coup? It sure does look that way.

"It is a matter of record that the Chávez-controlled National Electoral Council (CNE) had custody of the electronic voting machines in last year's recall referendum and refused to allow an independent audit of the paper ballots.”

I’m starting to lose track of how many outright lies we’ve come across in this article. I’m sure Ms. O’Grady must be aware that the referendum she is referring to was fully monitored by the Carter Center and the OAS and both found no evidence of fraud. And indeed they DID audit the voting machines and the machines passed the audit with flying colors. If she is unfamiliar with this she can check the Carter Center report on the referendum linked to on the right. Further, SUMATE has spent most of the past year trying to find independent experts who can back up their claims of fraud. So far they haven’t found a single one.

And again Ms. O’Grady lost the opportunity to ask an important question of Ms. Machado. Her organization, Sumate, carried out exit polls during the referendum. This poll, which was illegally distributed before the polls even closed, supposedly showed Chavez losing the referendum by a 60-40 margin when the official results, verified by the observers, showed him winning by an almost 60-40 margin. It is Sumates exit poll that served as the basis for the claims of fraud. But there is a problem. First, almost all other exit polls on that day showed that Chavez won. Second, the audited official vote totals show that he won. And lastly, even most opposition types with some modicum of rationality accept that he won. So clearly, the Sumate exit poll was very, very wrong. How is this possible? Is it possible that Sumate is so inept that their exit poll really gave such erroneous results? Or is it that to help the opposition save face and undermine Chavez the poll results were intentionally falsified? Too bad O'Grady didn't ask because inquiring minds do want to know.

“To try to maintain his popularity, Chávez spends government revenues, which come mainly from state-owned oil, on free-wheeling social programs. But it's hard to tell from opinion polls just how popular he is, given the threats critics face.”

Ms. O’Grady doesn’t like any opinion poll that doesn’t give her the results she wants. That’s understandable. But to say people are afraid to speak freely in Venezuela? I don’t know – why were they so willing to speak freely a couple of years ago when Chavez was down in the polls but not now when he is up? Almost all the opinion polls are done by firms known to be very hostile to Chavez and you don’t have to give your name. So as much it sticks in O’Grady’s throat the only rational conclusion is that Chavez is indeed quite popular.

Now here is a final thought. Ms. O’Grady is something of an intelligent women. So wouldn’t you think the fact that she has to knowingly write so many lies and falsehoods would cause her to question what she is doing? I sure would hope so. Then again, maybe she just needs the paycheck.


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