Thursday, March 20, 2008

Luckily for him he doesn't live in Colombia 

This past Monday Mary Anastasia O'Grady wrote her usual drivel about Venezuela, this time focusing on the student movement. As usual, there were plenty of distortions and outright falsehoods, but pointing them out here as long since grown tiresome so I'll leave that as a homework assignment.

But there was one paragraph that I thought was cute - the one where she focusses on the horrific violence faced by student leaders in Venezuela:

It is perhaps a sign of Mr. Goicoechea's effectiveness that he has received "all kinds of threats" against himself and his family. Last year he and a group of students were the targets of a small explosion set off at a public forum. At the same event, an attendee who disagreed with his ideas snuck up behind him and, when he turned around, punched him in the nose. "It's not important that they broke my nose," he says, but that the incident highlights the problem of intolerance. He says that his high profile mostly protects him, but ordinary people don't enjoy such protection. For them, violence and intimidation mean they cannot express themselves.

Sounds rough, getting punched in your nose. Fortunately, I myself have never had my nose broken. I did see it happen to someone at the grammar school I attended. I was so outraged by it I wrote to the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner to demand an investigation into why the school principal wasn't protecting our basic human rights. Never did hear back from them. I lost all respect for the U.N. when I realized they just didn't give a damn about human rights violations occuring on playgrounds all over the United States.

Anyways, I think Ms. O'Grady must have been confused when she wrote that average people in Venezuela are intimidated and afraid to speak out. I am sure she must have been referring to Colombia. In Venezuela people speak out all the time (just ask your average shop owner what he/she thinks about Chavez, trust me they won't hold back) and I've never heard of anything bad happening to the organizers of demonstrations (well, besides this poor guy getting punched in the nose).

Now, had this Mr. Goicoechea been speaking out against the government in Colombia he might really have something to worry about. For example, a few weeks ago large demonstrations were organized in Colombia to protest the violence by the government and paramilitary organizations. Many of the organizers recieved death threats. And Colombia being Colombia death threats are anything but idle threats. In fact, six of the organizers have already been killed Given the Colombian right wing's habit of chopping people up into small pieces and dumping them in rivers Mr. Goicoechea's nose might be all that would be left of him.

So, being a little less sarcastic and a little more serious here, in Venezuela a student leader protests against the government and gets punched in the nose. In Colombia human rights workers and union members organize protests to remember those slaughtered by the government and already half a dozen of the organizers have been murdered.

Think about it - where would YOU feel safer opposing the government and where would YOU be more likely to keep your political views to yourself?

I am sure most of us can answer those questions quite easily even if Ms. O'Grady will avoid them like the plague.


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