Venezuela // Context is for dummies: the humanitarians~ 8 min

Part 1 of 3

By Duarte Guerreiro

We watched 206 RTP, SIC and TVI (the main TV stations in Portugal) news segments, broadcast between January 22 and February 13, in order to better understand the main propaganda mechanisms being used against Venezuela.

Barring a minority of outright lies, it became clear that most of the arguments used depended upon the absence of context. All the crimes of the past and their perpetrators are thus compressed into a single present moment and placed upon the lapel of the enemy of the hour.

For those with a modicum of context regarding Latin America and the homicidal shenanigans of the US empire, what is happening in Venezuela is transparent.

However, “copy paste” journalism is counting on nobody having said context. Or perhaps the journalists themselves don’t have it and this all seems like the most natural thing in the world after you’ve built a career out of retyping State Department and NATO press-releases.

The scratched disk repeats the following: Venezuela was an enchanted kingdom full of natural riches until evil Chávez arrived and took power to install a socialist dictatorship. From that moment on, hunger, poverty and hyperinflation ran rampant. He was succeeded by Maduro, who is even worst than Chavez. Everything wrong with Venezuela, now and forever, can be placed at the feet of both of these men and their brainwashed followers who don’t know what’s good for them.

Let us then recover the proper context for what is happening.

Context: the humanitarians

It is curious to witness how the same politicians that the media treats as idiots when it comes to internal politics are pictured as serious people when it is time to support external interventions. As an example, the news loves to giggle at Trump’s declarations and tweets. But whenever Trump wages war on the Third World, he is treated with the utmost seriousness. Of the 206 RTP, SIC and TVI news segments we saw, not one reveals even a slight cynicism about what is said by Trump and his henchmen. Everything is treated as legitimate.

If these were people of unassailable character, it might be comprehensible. But they are men such as Elliott Abrams, special envoy for Venezuela. Abrams made his way into history as the guy who helped arm and finance ultra violent death squadrons in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, as a way to inoculate immiserated peasants against any redistributive notions. Just to make it clear, we are talking about group rape of underage girls; summary executions of entire communities, including children and babies; displaying mutilated corpses as warnings and the worst tortures imaginable.

Abrams was the only person condemned over the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan presidency – not because he helped carry out thousands of tortures, rapes and murders – but because he lied to Congress about having done it. For his crime, he suffered the cruel punishment of a 50 dollar fine and a 100 days of community service. In 2002, he added to his life’s work, by giving tacit approval to go ahead with the coup against Chavez.

Is it not relevant to today that the weapons which were sent to the Contras back then were disguised as “humanitarian aid” for Nicaragua? One would think that such knowledge would be an important source of context for the present situation. Instead, journalists prefer to mock the “Maduro regime’s” suspicions towards the humanitarian gifts of men like Abrams.

Then we have John Bolton. Bolton made a career out of being a liar in service of empire. His favorite gambit is to accuse such and such country of possessing or being close to acquiring nuclear or biological weapons. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Bolton was one of the main advocates for the Iraq War – the one that killed a million people – by using the “weapons of mass destruction” excuse. Those weapons, as expected, were never found, as they never existed. Again, is this not the type of context which would be important to include in coverage about Venezuela? In the case of Bolton, he doesn’t even try to hide what he is really after.

It’s also funny that, after the “humanitarian” circus in the Venezuelan border on February 23, the United States is now trying to use the destruction of a truck carrying “humanitarian aid”, very likely at the hands of opposition protesters themselves, as an argument to accuse the Venezuelan government of crimes against humanity. It is funny because crimes against humanity are judged before the International Criminal Court. And Bolton publicly said, speaking for the Presidency, that the United States do not recognize the ICC’s authority, will not cooperate with the ICC and would take measures against ICC judges if they ever moved to prosecute American citizens.

The other people frequently quoted are Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice-President Mike Pence. Both were financed by the oil industry and the Koch brothers in particular. As it happens, they own a refinery in Texas which processes heavy crude oil. If you guessed that said oil is the kind present in Venezuela’s soil, congratulations.

Even more damning is the media’s acritical posture towards the United States and its crocodile tears regarding democracy and humanitarian crises while the Yemen war is still ongoing. Saudi Arabia, a monarchy lacking any kind of democracy, is carrying out a year long genocidal blockade against the Yemeni people.

Incapable of defeating the Yemeni resistance on the battlefield, they are looking to kill this people through hunger and disease. To accomplish this, they use North-American weapons, which depend upon North-American logistics and maintenance in order to keep functioning. It is a war which the United States could end tomorrow with a snap of their fingers. Where is the humanitarian aid for the people of Yemen?

For the children of Yemen, there is no humanitarian aid. Only hunger, cholera and death.

During the same period, January 22 until February 13, in which RTP, SIC and TVI produced 206 video segments about Venezuela, how many do you think they produced about Yemen? RTP didn’t make a single one, and both SIC and TVI had one each – of the Pope asking for peace.

In truth, using hunger as a weapon is nothing new for the US. Here is Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, proclaiming that using sanctions “against Saddam”, which lead to the deaths of half a million Iraqi children, was “worth it”.

On the European side, we have the unelected President of the European Council, Donal Tusk, lamenting Maduro’s lack of a democratic mandate. We have the French President Emmanuel Macron criticizing the violent police repression in Venezuela while the French police is gouging out the eyes and hands of the Yellow Vests. We have the Spanish Prime-Minister Pedro Sanchez pronouncing ultimatums for holding “free” elections in Venezuela while the entire machinery of the Spanish State is working overtime to crush Catalonian independence. It is a festival of hypocrisy.

By now, we have endured over two decades of “humanitarian wars”. Countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria have been flattened. The continued acritical dissemination of the “defense of democracy and human rights” argument when it comes to the North-American and European foreign policy challenges gullibility. The reason why North-American media does it is perfectly logical. But what compels Portuguese media to do the same?

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