MEDIA ROOTS — Abby Martin breaks through the veil of establishment myths surrounding the late President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, by highlighting the criticisms and achievements of his 14-year presidency and outlining why he was such a threat to the status quo. (Transcript included below.)
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UPDATED 10 MAR 2013 13:53 CST
Abby Martin: “Alright, guys. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the news of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez passing away. He lost his two-year battle with cancer on Tuesday, March 5th, at the young age of 58. Although he gave a voice to Venezuelan people in a way unlike any other Venezuelan leader, during his 14-year leadership, Chávez was a controversial and polarising figure on the world stage, who was, both, hailed and smeared.
“Now, if you’re looking at the rhetoric from the US establishment, you’re only getting the side of the story, that paints Chavez as a ruthless dictator, a tyrannical socialist, and a madman dead-set on destroying America. See for yourself.”
FOX NEWS (woman with blonde hair): “Well, it’s being called the Tour of Tyrants, Iran’s Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez making a joint appearance yesterday. You’re seeing a video that, joking about Iran’s nuclear programme and US anger.”
CBS NEWS (male voice): “A problem? It’s coming at the hands of a man the US describes as nothing short of a dictator, Hugo Chávez.”
Abby Martin: “Strong words from media organisations, who had already made up their minds about what type of leader Chávez was.
“So, how is the same establishment press running with the news of his death? Let’s find out.”
NBC NEWS (woman with blonde hair): “We move on now to the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez who lost his two year battle with cancer on Tuesday. He was a polarising and outspoken figure.”
FOX NEWS (male voice): “He referred to the US as the evil empire and famously branded US President George W. Bush as the devil during an address at the United Nations. And he warned his countrymen frequently of an impending US invasion of Venezuela.”
CBS NEWS (male voice): “Adding to the tension was Chávez’s long list of dubious friends, like a who’s who of American enemies, from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.”
CNN NEWS (male voice): “The price of his socialist agenda? Hugo Chávez, himself. Term limits were abolished. Even his critics admit he could have gone on winning elections indefinitely. His biggest failure may be his unilateral success, a legacy of one. Before his death, critics said Chávez was leading Venezuela in the control of narco-traffickers.”
NBC NEWS (woman with blonde hair) (c. 2:18): “And this morning US officials are wondering how his passing will impact relations with the oil giant.”
Abby Martin: “Yes, of course, the big question: What’s gonna happen to the oil? Can you make it anymore obvious? Look, I’m not gonna sit here and glorify Venezuela or Hugo Chávez, or socialism, for that matter. In fact, there are many legitimate criticisms to be had. Take, for example, the heightened rates of violence and censorship and prosecution of political dissidents.
“But you’ll hear the less appealing aspects of Chávez ad nauseum from the corporate press. So, my job is to tell you what they won’t. And I’m gonna lift the veil on the most egregious myths said about the Venezuelan president.
(c. 2:59): “So, let’s get back to the subject of oil. After all, Venezuela has the largest reserves of crude oil in the western hemisphere. And the bold move by Chávez to nationalise the nation’s petroleum resources has been one of the biggest points of contention.
“The seizures of foreign- and corporate-controlled lands in the country, along with the redistribution of wealth amongst the populace are notions, that do not sit well with many. Unlike other developing nations, that allow multinational corporations to sell off the country’s natural resources, Chávez began to initiate incremental steps, giving the state full control over its oil reserves.
“With these funds, the government was able to instate various programmes of social development, narrowing the country’s wealth disparity and developing Venezuela into a principal player in the international community.
“Despite what you’ve heard about Hugo Chávez, it is undeniable that, under his leadership, the poorest in the country were empowered.
“In 2009, the Center for Economic and Policy Research published a report on Venezuela’s economic expansion. It highlighted that, under Chávez, the country’s GDP nearly doubled in only five years; extreme poverty was down by 72%; child mortality down by a third. There was unprecedented access to universal health care. And college enrolment was on the rise.
(c. 4:20): “Still, the myth we hear is one of a socialist comandante who manipulated the poor with handouts to gain their loyalty and support. But, in reality, he helped the poor enormously. It’s just a fact, that doesn’t bode well with the people supporting corporate domination over the region.
“Another media talking point is that Chávez was a ruthless dictator, who redrafted the Constitution to dissolve term limits to insure his perpetual, tyrannical reign. Dictator? Not so much. Chávez won the seat of President four separate times, often by an overwhelming majority. The last election, alone, drew over 80% voter turnout. It was a process that, former US President, Jimmy Carter characterised as being, quote, ‘the best in the world.’
The referendum in question, to dissolve term limits was voted on and passed by over 50% of the people in the country. So, when it comes to democratic participation, Venezuela puts the US to shame. You won’t find that kind of enthusiastic voter turnout anywhere in this country.
“Chávez also has been painted as a conspiracy theorist and a loon for his questions of the Bush Administration’s role in 9/11 and for accusing the US of assassination and coup attempts to unseat him.
“But is it really so ludicrous to imagine that scenario, given the CIA’s sordid history of assassinations and coups across Latin America and against leaders, that didn’t quite fall in line with American interests? In fact, there’s mounting evidence linking the Bush Administration to a 2002 coup, that briefly did oust Chávez. And officials at the Organisation of American States have said that the US was not only aware of the coup, but that they, in fact, sanctioned the coup.
“By dismissing Chávez as a dictator like the media machine tends to do, we’re ignoring all of these valid points. That same media machine ignores the impending tyranny in this country, the soft fascism leading to the indefinite detention of US citizens in 12 years of endless war.
“When you look at who Chávez was, lumped in with the likes of Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Saddam Hussein, they share a commonality. They all opposed the US corporate imperialist take over of the planet.
“Going forward, keep this in mind: When a leader is vilified and demonised, it usually signifies they’re a threat to the status quo. So, regardless of what you’ve heard or what your personal thoughts are about Hugo Chávez, he simply cannot be dismissed as a tyrant because his voice of opposition, and others like him, serves a necessary divide to prevent global corporate enslavement and tyranny.”
Transcript by Felipe Messina for Media Roots and Breaking the Set.