Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Too far is too far 

Take a close look at these ads and see if there is anything in particular you notice:

See it yet? Ok, here is another one to help you out:

Hopefully by now you've noticed what this post is going to be about but if not here it goes anyways. Each of the advertisements I have posted here were government placed ads in the Ultimas Noticias newspaper (Venezuela's largest newspaper). Notice than on each ad there appears the slogan "Con Chavez Gobernamos Todos" which means "With Chavez we all govern". I first noticed this slogan starting to appear on some government advertisements and notices about a month ago but it is now appearing on virtually all of them. And of course what is impossible to deny is that this is a very blatant partisan political slogan being plastered all over the the place.

This is clearly wrong on a number of levels. First and foremost the government is clearly paying to promote one particular politician - Hugo Chavez. Almost as bad, it appears to merge the government and the President creating the impression that the government is being run only to benefit people of a particular political persuasion. When the European Union wrote its observation report on the legislative elections of last December, although they said the actual voting process was excellent and virtually flawless (people in the U.S. - quit drooling with envy,) they pointed out that "ventajismo" - or the government giving an advantage to one side - was a problem. State resources were used in the campiegns of pro-Chavez candidates, they were used to get people to the polls and they were otherwise used to influence the vote. Truthfully this happens in all countries to some extent and in Latin America it is rampant. The government of Hugo Chavez is by no means unique in doing this either by the standards of the rest of Latin America or by historical Venezuelan standards.

Nevertheless, this is clearly an egregious breach of normal standards of how a government should conduct itself. Clearly putting the slogan "Con Chavez Gobernamos Todos" is going way too far. Rest assured who ever comes in to observe the upcoming presidential elections will slam the Venezuelan government over this. And justifiably so. Sure, some will justify this saying that the vast majority of the media is controlled by the opposition and long ago gave up any pretense of objectivity. That is certainly true. In fact it could be said that most of the opposition controlled media is nothing but one big anti-Chavez commerical. But as most of us learned in the first grade, two wrongs don't make a right. So this slogan should do a quick disappearing act.

By the way, think those ads were the extent of it? Not by a long shot. Here are some more and bear in mind all of these came just from todays edition of Ultimas Noticias.

This ad clearly shows there is no ban on mixing religion and the state. It is from Seniat, the Venezuelan equivalent of the IRS

You may ask, does the government normally put so many ads in the paper? No. On average in Ultimas Noticias they put two. I'm not sure why there were so many today. Maybe it has something to do with it being a holiday week.


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