31.1.09

Antisemitism on the rise in Venezuela: Hugo Chavez's supporters beset synanogue in Caracas

This is not an isolated event. As much as Venezuelan Foreign Secretary wants to distance the government from antisemitism, it remains a fact that this is a direct consequence of the constant official onslaught against reason, against civil, political and religious rights in Venezuela. Chavez's antisemitism is a known fact by now, and the picture above [see here for more] is just latest proof of the deteriorating climate, fostered by the Venezuelan caudillo.

Not only the Jewish people are prosecuted and harassed in this manner: a few days ago the Vatican office in Venezuela was attacked again by chavista thugs. Needless to say that purported investigations into these actions are yet to produce any results. And then some idiots have the gall to object Human Rights Watch report about the anti democratic nature of the putschist in office.

29.1.09

Human Rights Watch (HRW) dismisses questions from Venezuela 'experts' as baseless allegations.

Below Human Rights Watch (HRW) response to the more than 100 experts Chavez apologists that questioned protested its damning report on Venezuela. Expectedly, HRW dismissed them again (read first reply here) as unhelpful critics who disseminate baseless allegations. Perhaps someone should inform HRW that that's what some of them do for a living.

January 28, 2009

Miguel Tinker Salas
Professor of History
Pomona College

Gregory Wilpert
Adjunct Professor of Political Science
Brooklyn College

Greg Gandin
Professor of History, Director of Graduate Studies
New York University

Dear Mr. Tinker, Mr. Wilpert, and Mr. Grandin,

I am writing in reply to your January 12 letter, which was a response to our December 29 letter in which we address your December 16 letter and its critique to our report "A Decade under Chavez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela."

Once again we have taken the time to review your criticisms to see if they are well-founded, and once again we have concluded they are not. Your latest letter essentially recycles your previous allegations, which I responded to at length in my previous letter to you. I see no point in recycling that response here.

One observation in your most recent letter that I fully agree with is that anyone interested in evaluating your criticisms should read those earlier letters and, above all, the report itself. I have no doubt that reasonable people may have different views regarding some of the more complex issues we address in the document. But I do not see how scholars who actually read our report can reasonably conclude, as you do, that it "does not meet even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility." On the contrary, what they will find is an objective and rigorous analysis of some of the very serious human rights problems facing Venezuela today.

Human Rights Watch welcomes and actively seeks out constructive criticism of our work. We find it helps refine our arguments and correct any errors we may have made in our reporting. Less helpful are critics who opt instead to disseminate baseless allegations regarding our findings, our sources, and our motives.

You claim to be interested in fostering a dialogue. Yet you do so by misrepresenting our work and demanding that I order my colleagues to retract their criticism of the Chavez government. Clearly we have a different notion of what constitutes meaningful dialogue.

It seems to me that there is no purpose in continuing this back and forth any further at this time. However, if in the future you have criticism that actually reflect the content of our work--or other information and analysis that you believe may enhance our understanding of developments in Venezuela-- please do not hesitate to share them with us.

Sincerely,
Kenneth Roth

28.1.09

Gregory Wilpert of Venezuelanalysis married to Chavez's official

In 2004, an investigative report about the Venezuela Information Office (VIO) was published. Public records, from the Foreign Agent Registration Unit of the US Department of Justice, demonstrate that VIO is nothing more than Hugo Chavez's propaganda arm in US soil. Since, it remains a proven fact that most of the benign literature and positive coverage that has been written and published about the Venezuelan pustchist comes either from employees of the Venezuela Information Office, such as Eric Wingerter of BOREV.NET, or from people with suspect relationships with VIO, such as Mark Weisbrot of CEPR.

These propagandists, none of whom are Venezuelan, feed and quote from each other in an attempt to present a coherent, objective and detached image. More often than not, when defending Chavez's stance in international media, they are presented as "independent analysts," in order to dupe the public. This controversial case of misrepresentation is especially significant in the case of one Gregory Wilpert of Venezuelanalysis.com.

Gregory Wilpert is a German-American sociologist, who landed in Venezuela sometime in the early years of this decade. In May 2002, right after the coup of April in which Hugo Chavez was removed from power for three days, a site called Aporrea (http://aporrea.org) was registered by Martin Sanchez, a Venezuelan who was, purportedly, studying IT in the USA (Chicago) at the time. Aporrea came to be Chavez's voice in internet, reason for which it received public funding, however it is published in Spanish. Therefore an English site was also required, and thus Venezuelanalysis.com was registered in August 2003, probably by Martin Sanchez. Gregory Wilpert would soon join Sanchez in Venezuelanalysis, who since November 2004, is quoted in various online publications, among which his own, as Venezuelan Consul in Chicago. Venzuelanalysis is also funded by the Chavez regime, according to another apologist.

There is an evident conflict of interests here, accentuated by the fact that Wilpert is yet to come out of the revolutionary closet and explain his relationship with the Chavez regime. While in Venezuela, Wilpert married, literally, into the revolution. Carol Delgado Arria de Wilpert has had a rather interesting, and meteoric, rise. Mrs Wilpert has performed different roles for the revolution, from International Relations Coordinator for the National Council for the Rights of Children in Venezuela and local contact of pollster Evans & McDonough, where she shared responsibilities with another VIO contractor 'environmentalist' Michael Schellenberger, to PDVSA representative and special advisor to the Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia

In the footsteps of Sanchez, Carol Delgado Arria de Wilpert has recently been appointed as Venezuelan Consul General in New York, where Wilpert is meant to be Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College. Each and every opinion of Greg Wilpert about Venezuela, whether speeches, online articles or books, need to be appraised under this light, that is to say, he is married to a Venezuelan public servant and his work in Venezuelanalysis has been funded with Venezuelan public funds. As any other individual, Wilpert is entitled to his opinions. What is truly despicable, intellectually dishonest and unbecoming of someone in academia, is to cloak clearly compromised views under a mantle of independence. Alas this seems to be a treat of chavistas: the case of tax fraudster Eva Golinger, who misrepresented herself until evidence emerged, springs to mind. Oddly, while evidence of the official appointment of Mrs Wilpert suggests disregard to Venezuelan and American legislation, there does not exist one single reference, official or otherwise, about the designation of Martin Sanchez as Venezuelan Consul in Chicago. Further, it is highly probable that both Martin Sanchez and Carol Delgado Arria de Wilpert have violated US travel regulations for Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials.

There is nothing wrong with being an apologist or a political hack. Gregory Wilpert can present himself as an independent all he wants. It remains factual however that, beyond Wilpert's marriage to a Venezuelan official, his work is geared at extolling a regime led by a putschist militaristic caudillo that funds and protects narco-terrorists, and whose disregard for human, civil and political rights is amply documented.

21.1.09

Venezuela voted against ceasefire in Gaza

Venezuela voted against ceasefire in Gaza (resolution 1860) during the UN's General Assembly celebrated on 16 January. Venezuela's vote, through Ambassador to the UN Jorge Valero, contradicts policy dictated by President Chavez, who had Israel's Ambassador, and its diplomatic corp, expelled from Venezuela on 7 January.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY DEMANDS FULL RESPECT FOR SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 1860

CALLING FOR IMMEDIATE GAZA CEASEFIRE, AS EMERGENCY SESSION CONCLUDES

Resolution Adopted by Vote of 142-4-8, After Two-Day Debate;

Expresses Grave Concern About Developments on Ground Since Council Text’s Adoption

The General Assembly, gravely concerned about the intensified military operations in the Gaza Strip and heavy civilian casualties since last week’s adoption of resolution 1860 by the Security Council, this evening demanded full respect for that text, including its urgent call for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces and unimpeded provision of humanitarian assistance.

Following a two-day emergency special session convened to address the three-week old crisis, the Assembly adopted its own resolution on the issue by a vote of 142 in favour to 4 against (United States, Israel, Venezuela, Nauru), with 8 abstentions (Australia, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria, Syria). (See Annex II.)

The Assembly called on all parties to exert all efforts to ensure, in cooperation with the Council, full and urgent compliance with resolution 1860. It also expressed support for the Secretary-General’s mission, among other international and regional efforts under way, and called on States to extend support to measures aimed at alleviating the humanitarian and economic situation. Finally, the Assembly held out the possibility of resuming its special session if requested by Member States.

The text adopted this evening, put forward by Egypt, was the result of a lengthy debate over both content and voting procedure, as it displaced a draft put forward yesterday by General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann. The Assembly President withdrew his sponsorship of that draft, after a vote was requested. Ecuador then assumed sponsorship of the text and orally amended it, although it was never brought to a vote. Instead, the Assembly, in a procedural vote, decided it would first take action on the Egyptian text.

Speaking after the vote on resolution A/ES-10/L.21/Rev.1, the Observer of Palestine said the Assembly had tonight sent a very strong message to Israel to end its aggression. He thanked the General Assembly and its President for achieving a nearly unanimous vote calling for an immediate ceasefire, to be followed shortly by Israel’s immediate withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. He thanked all delegations for applying pressure on Israel, isolating that country and compelling it to comply with resolution 1860. If Israel did not comply, his delegation would “go knocking on the door of the Security Council with a Chapter VII draft resolution”. He expected the Assembly to be with the Palestinian people until the gunfire stopped, the siege was lifted and the borders were opened.

Israel’s representative, explaining her vote against the text, said many speakers in today’s “open and endless” session had excelled in rhetoric, but less so in reality. Israel had engaged in the current situation not by choice, but because it had been forced to do so. Hamas had fired numerous rockets and 1 million innocent Israeli civilians had been endangered. The resolution was deeply flawed, in that it did not mention Hamas and its use of civilian homes, schools and mosques to hide weapons and launch terrorist attacks. Nor did it mention Hamas’ enormous efforts to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip. Further, Article 12, section 1 of the United Nations Charter prohibited the Assembly from making recommendations on issues while the Council was still seized of those matters.

Similarly, the United States representative said his delegation voted against the text as the situation in Gaza and southern Israel was a serious matter best dealt with through efforts on the ground. The basic elements for a durable ceasefire had been laid. Moreover, the Memorandum of Understanding on preventing the supply of arms to terrorist groups was signed today between the United States and Israel. A separate General Assembly resolution was neither necessary, nor useful.

Abstaining from the vote, the representative of Canada explained that his delegation supported the text’s call for compliance with resolution 1860 to achieve an immediate ceasefire, but regretted that it failed to recognize that rocket attacks by Hamas had led to the crisis. Those must be stopped.

Weighing in at the end, Egypt’s representative said he believed that the Assembly President had, to some degree, prodded the Security Council to action last week by scheduling the resumed emergency session on the very day the Council was set to meet. He thanked all those that had voted in favour of the text, as well as those that had abstained in the vote. “We’re all in the same boat,” he said, adding that the resolution did not represent a victory for some over others, but it was a victory for all.

In closing the special session, President D’Escoto said he would be less than frank if he did not say he was very disappointed. The Assembly was in far worse shape than he had thought. “We will never make it if we don’t act in a more decisive and affirmative manner.”

Also speaking today were the representatives of Brunei, Jamaica, Switzerland, Venezuela, Libya, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Russian Federation, Nicaragua, Iceland, Kuwait, Oman, Tunisia, China, Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Liechtenstein, Pakistan, Australia, Cape Verde, Chile, Maldives, Norway, Rwanda (on behalf of the African Group), United Kingdom, Japan, Benin, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Republic of Korea, Panama, Grenada (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Comoros, Finland, Italy, Portugal, Afghanistan, Spain, Slovenia, Ireland, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Cyprus, United Republic of Tanzania, New Zealand, Sweden, Belgium, Malta, Lebanon, France, Czech Republic (on behalf of the European Union), Costa Rica, Djibouti, Gambia, Cuba, Iran, Federated States of Micronesia, Canada, Syria, Indonesia and Bolivia.

The Permanent Observer of the Holy See also spoke.

The General Assembly will reconvene at a date to be announced.

Link to the text: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2009/ga10809.doc.htm

11.1.09

Venezuela's disgraceful opposition leadership

This is something I was meaning to tell since I came back from Venezuela's presidential race in January 2007. Chavez has been able to do what he has done, for one simple reason: the absolute uselessness of his opposition. Be it student leaders, charismatic mayors, regional governors, media barons, or regular politicians, it is quite hard to find another country where the combined effectiveness of an opposition front is so pathetic. Chavez lost the amendment referendum in 2007, for he messed up with his constituency, with those who get the vote out, and those who protect him. He didn't lose because some posh kids organized a couple of marches. He didn't lose because Raul Baduel threatened him. No. His first lost came about because he alienated his own military, his own governors and public officials, who dreaded giving him enough power to appoint shadow authorities, to create new federal, regional and municipal public institutions that could imperil access and control of easy cash, at respective levels. If results are to be believed, 3 million chavistas sat out the vote and Chavez was forced to concede.

In 2006, the opposition failed to cover 40% of polling booths. 40% opposition no-shows of 33,000 booths 'equaled' 7 million votes for the incumbent. One year after that the opposition still did not manage to cover all stations, but defeat -for Chavez- came from within, for let's face it: Venezuela's opposition are 4.5, maybe 5, million folks, who will vote for anyone but Chavez.

So now the country is facing another election. Having lost control of the most populated cities and states, Chavez needs to get on with the job of approving his indefinite re-election, in light of falling oil prices and ensuing drop in popularity. Without money there's no lost love between the poor and Chavez. It's a very straightforward and mercantilistic relationship, characteristic of the sheer materialism of all Venezuelans. The opposition is prepping for what they do best: fuck things up. Instead on pointing at the obvious, illegality of amendment/constitutional reform and wholesale chavista failure, they are waltzing along at the tunes played by el golpista.

The latest, is an encounter in Maiquetia airport between Alberto Federico Ravell (owner of Globovision), Julio Borges (owner of Primero Justicia), Luis Felipe Planas (head of a political empty shell called COPEI), Omar Barbosa (co-owner of Un Nuevo Tiempo) and a 20-something year old kid, from one of Chavez's hundreds of community media networks. So the group of 'experienced' politicos and media baron were arriving from Puerto Rico, allegedly from a meeting with US DoS officials. In the agenda, strategy to defeat Chavez's indefinite re-election attempt. The conversation goes something like: "hey Alberto, so you got instructed by the US on how to defeat the amendment? How did it go? How are you guys going to do it?" asks the kid. The owner of Venezuela's only 24-hour information channel says "it went well, we won't import radioactive material from Iran, we won't seek Cuba's advice..." Then Ravell says something about the food he had and, in response, the kid accuses him of being on the US payroll. At this point, Ravell loses his temper and swears back, making even homophobic remarks. But it gets worse. The other three imbeciles, Borges, Planas and Barbosa, had been watching the whole thing and, amazingly, could not nail this kid, who, admittedly, is not even a journalist, but a product of Chavez's warrior-like media factory and kept ridiculing them. See the whole thing here.

I happen to be incensed at this, not because of the assaulting non-journalist (obviously he's doing the only thing chavistas are good at), but at Ravell, for he is, let us not forget, the owner of Venezuela's only 24/7, news only, media network. Mind you this is the guy who travels around the world 'advocating' for freedom of expression, while denouncing attacks against himself, his network and staff. This is the guy who goes to Madrid, with the director of El Nacional, to whinge, to the King of Spain, about the political situation. This is the guy who, together with minions of Gustavo Cisneros, has ears and eyes in all opposition meetings, when not witnessing first hand, while his partner is making a fortune from financial deals with the regime. So why is he traveling abroad to political meetings? What's in it for him? Who gave him the right to bring more shame and unnecessary disrepute to us, as opposition? But how about the other three? How can it be explained that a bunch of politicos can't utter a half coherent reply to a kid firing volleys? I'll tell you why, because the kid was speaking the truth, or at least part of it was. As they say in that land were I was born "los agarraron cagando y sin papel".

It is truly a disgrace that the leadership of the opposition is in the hands of such perfidious and intellectually barren fellas. They deserve Chavez, who's already heard the news and will get a lot of mileage from this.

5.1.09

Noam Chomsky fails academic standards demanded from HRW

A few days ago, we published in Miguel's blog a public letter in response to the 100 or so 'Latin America experts' who criticised HRW's report on Venezuela, so there's no point in rehashhing its arguments here. But as the 'experts' stated that HRW's report "does not meet even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility" we decided to check whether the criticizing signatories do observe those standards they are demanding from HRW. In order to do this, we conducted a little experiment and chose from the list the only academic with a global reputation, Noam Chomsky that is. Since Chomsky signed the letter in his professional capacity, as Professor of Linguistics, Massachusets Institute of Technology, I sent him an email. The exchange is pasted below. As can be read, Chomsky does not apply minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality and accuracy. Further, Chomsky is not even bothered by the fact that propagandists of Hugo Chavez are using his name, and that of the institution he works for, to lend 'credibility' to spurious and baseless allegations, as rightly stated by HRW, in its response to them.
----- Original Message -----
To: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>
Date: 1/3/2009 11:22 AM
Subject: Your criticism of HRW's Venezuela report
Dear Professor Chomsky,

Here's hope that this email finds you well. A few days ago, I saw your
name as signatory of an open letter
[http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2008/12/17-2] that a group of
people addressed to HRW, wherein criticism about lack of academic
standards of veracity and objectivity was expressed. Since you are
identified as Professor of Linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, I am taken the liberty to write to this MIT email address of
yours.

In that respect, and without intention of delving into the personal
motivations you may have had to lend your name and credentials for such
purpose, I would like to ask one thing: the letter claims that I am a
"mentally unstable opposition blogger," therefore could you please send
me copy of the academic studies, or research, upon which such remark is
based?

With best wishes,
Aleksander Boyd
Subject: Re: Your criticism of HRW's Venezuela report
From: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>
Reply to: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>
Date: 1/3/2009 5:06 PM
To: Alek Boyd

You'd have to contact the initiators of the statement, maybe Greg Grandin or
the other Latin Americanists who formulated the statement.

Noam Chomsky

----- Original Message -----
Subject: Re: Your criticism of HRW's Venezuela report
From: "Alek Boyd"
Date: 1/3/2009 5:20 PM
To: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>

Well, thanks for such a swift reply Professor Chomsky, but your name is
on that list and I would have thought that signatories to it, especially
those with a global reputation such as yourself, would exercise caution
at the time of allowing third parties to use your name and position to
support their public statements. That being the case, I respectfully
reiterate my initial request, perhaps you can pass it along to Greg
Grandin and the other Latin Americanists that conducted research about
my mental state.

Cordially, Alek Boyd

Subject: Re: Your criticism of HRW's Venezuela report
From: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>
Reply to: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>
Date: 1/3/2009 8:09 PM
To: Alek Boyd
Nobody used my name. I don't know how involved you are in public statements. Signers are expected to know the basic facts, but not to research every specific detail. For that, they rely on the reputation for care and integrity of those who write and distribute the statements. If they were to research every particular fact there would never be a statement protesting the crimes of Iran or the Soviet Union or any atrocities anywhere.

There's no reason for me to forward your concerns to the Latin American academics who wrote and distributed the statement.

Noam Chomsky
----- Original Message -----
Subject: Re: Your criticism of HRW's Venezuela report
From: "Alek Boyd"
Date: 1/3/2009 9:44 PM
To: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>

Begging your pardon Professor Chomsky, but there is every reason for you to forward my concerns to those who wrote and distributed the statement, for your integrity is on the line. The public expects you to behave according to certain moral, ethical and professional standards, as an academic of considerable reputation. Allowing others to use use your name, and that of the institution you work for, for questionable political purposes, carries a duty of care towards statements made, as you have rightly pointed out. Your repeated negative to send me information pertaining what you call basic facts, or to put my concern to those who irresponsibly have used your name and credentials to discredit me, suggest that you are not aware of what your name has been used for and that those who have formulated the statement do not have any academic evidence to support their claims.
It should not be difficult for more than 100 purported Latin Americanist demanding "minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility" to others, to produce research and scholarly work upon which their arguments are based, or am I to suppose that they have failed the very principles they are demanding from others? No issue would have arisen had they signed that letter as private individuals, however as you are all using some form of professional accreditation or another, to lend credibility to your concerns, you are duty bound to, at the very least, inform the public about methods followed to arrive at certain conclusions.
It is extraordinary indeed to read from the intellectual claimed as the world's most influential, that every specific detail should not be researched. Alas a sign of the decaying, condescending, and rotten academic establishment of our times.
Subject: Re: Your criticism of HRW's Venezuela report
From: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>
Reply to: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>
Date: 1/4/2009 3:13 AM
To: Alek Boyd
I'm sorry that you do not understand how petitions work, or that by your standards there would never be one. But that's your problem, not mine.

You can easily access the addresses of the Latin American academics who wrote and organized the petition, and if you have some objection, you can contact them.
----- Original Message -----
Subject: Re: Your criticism of HRW's Venezuela report
From: "Alek Boyd"
Date: 1/4/2009 11:09 AM
To: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>
My only problem is that you have signed a letter, in your professional
capacity, where a statement about my mental state has been made, and
this exchange proves that you don't apply principles you, purportedly,
demand from others. You do know that claim made is not the conclusion of
research conducted by psychologists/psychiatrists or other such capable
accredited professionals, but rather it's an unsubstantiated accusation
made for political purposes. Worse still, you don't seem to care what
others say in your name.
I take that you are as prone to abandon minimum accuracy standards -to
side with ideological partners- as the guy next door, and for the
record, I am not interested in the slightest in communicating with the
propagandists who organized the petition. Of all the signatories, you
are the only one who does have a global academic standing to care for.
Therefore before escalating my concerns to MIT authorities, I will
respectfully ask you, for the third time, for academic evidence in the
form of research and studies conducted, which led you, Noam Chomsky,
Professor of Linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to
sign a letter wherein I am referred to as a "mentally unstable
opposition blogger."
Thanking you in advance, Aleksander Boyd
Subject: Re: Your criticism of HRW's Venezuela report
From: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>
Reply to: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>
Date: 1/4/2009 6:44 PM
To: Alek Boyd
I've already explained to you how you should remedy whatever problem you perceive, and why your charges make no sense at all, and if applied, would simply terminate all petitions -- whether from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, or anyone else.

If you don't want to remedy the problem, I'm afraid I cannot help you.

Noam Chomsky
----- Original Message -----
Subject: Re: Your criticism of HRW's Venezuela report
From: "Alek Boyd"
Date: 1/4/2009 10:13 PM
To: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>
It is not about how you want me to remedy the problem, but about how I
want you to remedy the problem and you can, in fact, help me, by simply
saying what sort of academic standards were followed to reach a
conclusion about my mental state. The onus is on you, for it was you who
signed a letter containing defamatory and baseless allegations.

Aleksander Boyd
Subject: Re: Your criticism of HRW's Venezuela report
From: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>
Reply to: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>
Date: 1/5/2009 3:00 AM
To: Alek Boyd
I've explained to you how you can remedy the problem that you perceive. And I've explained to you the very reasonable standards for petitions. There is no point running through it again.
----End of exchange----
There are some aspects that need expanding on. First, it is truly a shame that serious and reputable organizations, such as MIT, allow staff to make use of institutional credentials for questionable political purposes of personal nature. Second, it is also a sad spectacle to see serious and reputable organizations, such as HRW, wasting limited resources and staff in addressing criticism from a bunch of sycophants (some of them, like Greg Wilpert for instance, having benefited from public funds dispensed by Hugo Chavez's revolution), for none qualifies as expert in anything other than official propaganda, as far as Venezuela is concerned. They are not valid interlocutors at discussing Venezuelan affairs, no one elected them and most, if not all, are not even Venezuelan. Third, it is evident that rigorous academic standards are not the forte of Chavez's international cheerleading squad, while their absolute ignorance of Venezuela's legislation and binding international human rights treaties is patent. Fourth, it is remarkable to read, from perhaps the world's most renowned leftist academic, admission that it is perfectly correct to be dishonest, false, inaccurate and sloppy.

An open letter to the critics of the HRW report on Venezuela

An open letter to the more than 100 Latin American "experts" who criticized the report on Venezuela by Human Rights Watch

Dear Sirs:

We have read your letter criticizing the report A Decade Under Chavez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela by Human Rights Watch and are flabbergasted by its superficiality and the same lack of academic rigor you claim to demand from HRW.


In fact, its title alone is quite deceiving as some of the names signing the letter hardly qualify as "experts" on Latin America and it is quite clear that the common bond of those signing the letter is simply a blind support towards Hugo Chavez and his fake pseudo revolution. It is not based on any factual knowledge about what is happening on Venezuela and what you criticize of the cited report.

On the issue of discrimination on political grounds, you are of course referring to the infamous Tascon/Chavez list, a perverse database of those that signed a petition to recall the mandate of Hugo Chavez, which has been widely used to discriminate in employment and providing services to Venezuelan citizens. You question the veracity of such discrimination, which Teodoro Petkoff has called an "apartheid" list, but maybe HRW should have linked this video from the documentary "The List":


(For a written summary of "The List", read here) where in minute 0:49 Hugo Chavez says "Anyone that signs against Chavez his name will be registered for history". Later in minute 2:17 President Chavez in his Sunday variety show Alo Presidente (#214) jokes about the Tascon list and the fear people have of being in it. Finally in minute 3:08 at a public Cabinet meeting Hugo Chavez says: "The famous Tascon list should be filed away. That is now over. Let the Tascon list be buried, it surely played its role at a certain moment, but it is now over":

What else could the Venezuelan President have meant when he publicly made that order to "file away" and "bury" that list? Bury it had a very clear meaning: Chavez knew and backed the list for a long time, never condemned it and just ordered that it no longer be used. He ordered it buried as local newspapers began printing dozens of cases daily of discrimination and firings using the Tascon/Chavez list. Many of these cases are well documented in "The List". But in the name of accuracy and rigor maybe you could all have simply taken the time to download the Tascon/Chavez database and played with it. This perverse use of technology represents and abominable example about what mankind can do in the name of ideology and politics. It classifies millions of Venezuelans as pro or against Hugo Chavez. Those in favor are called "Patriots", of course, and to insure that the appropriate pressure can be brought upon those against this empty revolution, it includes everyone's address, voting center and a powerful search function.


Just think, you can spy on your family and neighbors from the comfort of your own laptop and know whether they signed against Chavez (if you are against him) or whether they have benefited or not from the Government;s direct assistant programs (if you are for him), creating a tool for division and hate for all Venezuelans.

Just its existence and elaboration by a Government that claims to be democratic is a violation to the rights given by the Venezuelan Constitution as well as the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And remember, Chavez ordered it buried, but never condemned it.

Yes, Venezuela is indeed not a political model for anyone as clearly exposed by HRW and Jose Miguel Vivancos. The country is a signatory of these International agreements and declarations which you failed to take into account in your letter. But not knowing them is no excuse, particularly when you are asking for the rigor that an academic peer review process should have.

And yes, in most cases it can not be proven that there was discrimination. When one of us was denied a passport, he was not given a piece of paper stating it was because he had signed against Chavez, but was told only verbally that was the true reason. This happened to thousands of Venezuelans who could not obtain a passport or an ID card for months after the 2004 recall referendum.


As for employment or Government contracts, even after Chavez asked that the list be buried, it was used to get rid of the enemies of the state who worked at oil company Sincor when the Government nationalized it. The newly named President of that company left no doubt about it: "This is a matter of the State. There is a list being circulated in the press and it is real. It came out of here, we are investigating it and whoever leaked it will go to jail. It will be applied to key personnel which is within or outside the company". And yes the people were fired, so much for inaccuracy and hearsay, no?


And there is the case of Rocio San Miguel and two other lawyers (shown in "The List") who worked at the Council for Borders, who just happened to tape 55 minutes of telephone conversations with their superiors, who explained to them they were fired for signing against Hugo Chavez and that the Venezuelan Vice-President directly approved it. That case is now in the Interamerican Human Rights Court.

And while you correctly state the Government had the right to fire the oil workers for striking, you bypass the not so irrelevant fact that it not only did it illegally, ignoring Venezuela's strict labor legislation, but it confiscated severance pay (also illegal under Venezuelan law) as well as voluntary pension fund contributions and savings of all these workers without any Court order allowing it. These workers ranged from low level messengers to secretaries, to indeed, high level executives. Venezuelan Labor Courts have failed to process a single one of the appeals for these cases since 2003. If that is not overt discrimination and violation of due process and the rule of law, then what is?

As for self-censorship which you so un-rigorously dismiss, you fail to note the dozens of reporters whose programs have been cancelled in the media outlets who decided to "follow orders" from the Government, in contrast to the illegal termination of broadcasting license and seizure of the property of TV station RCTV, which refused to obey the orders from highest levels of power in Venezuela.

And it is absolutely laughable when you state that "The report even uses innuendo to imply that the government is to blame for attacks on journalists", when the Venezuelan Government has failed to provide protection to over 250 reporters as requested by the Interamerican Human Rights Court, within treaties of which Venezuela is a signatory.


Finally, you question HRW from using a report by an "opposition blogger", calling him mentally unstable, for which you also have no evidence as no professional has ever declared him so, but you fail to question a single fact of the reference cited by HRW. You will find this very difficult to do, since that reference is a factual description of the Tascon/Chavez database and proof that the Electoral Board authorized the release of copies of all of the signatures to pro-Chavez Deputy Luis Tascon.

And I do find it remarkable that you use as evidence that some people have called for the violent overthrow of the Venezuelan Government presided by Hugo Chavez who supported two coup attempts, violent ones at that, and who actually led one of them which left over 200 Venezuelans dead in the streets, including children. An interesting double standard you all have in the defense of human rights, to say the least.


In the end you letter is a lousy attempt at discrediting HRW, which curiously defended Mr. Chavez in 2002 despite the deaths induced by the Venezuelan President against a peaceful march. Your letter fails precisely where you attempted to find fault with the HRW report, it lacks rigor, it is superficial and represents a terrible error for you to sign such a partisan document.

Meanwhile back in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez seeks his indefinite reelection despite a referendum denying it in 2007 and against the express prohibition by the Venezuelan Constitution (Title IX) to consider the same question twice in a single Constitutional period. Moreover, Hugo Chavez issued 26 Bills in July 2008 which contain provisions also rejected in the same referendum.


This is the wholesale violation of the democratic rights of the majority of Venezuelans who voted against such provisions in December 2007.

It has now been 10 years of the empty Chavez revolution. Venezuela has had revenues of over US$ 800 billion comparable to the rescue package for the US financial system. Despite this windfall, poverty numbers are barely improved, nutrition and health numbers are down, the Venezuelan hospital system is in shambles and crime has tripled under Chavez' watch. But the country certainly has a very modern arsenal of military weapons, and Chavez regularly threatens the opposition with the fact that his revolution "is armed", while corruption is so rampant that suitcases full of cash are flown in official Government flights and those caught red handed in the process describe how they made hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to their close relationship with Venezuelan Government officials under Chavez. And Hugo Chavez and his Government openly support the Colombian guerrillas.

Remarkably, there are still those like you "experts" that have barely probed the surface of what is going on in our beleaguered country that continue to defend the indefensible, continue to support an outlaw Government which lacks the support of Venezuelan academia and students, but you have failed to even ask yourself why this is.


Ironically, while you sit in the comforts of your offices supporting the Chavez revolution and working on your academic projects, your social science colleagues in Venezuela receive meager funding and the annual social sciences award has not been given in the last two years .

It is truly sad when in the name of academia a serious and very unique institution exclusively devoted to the defense of human rights is attacked for political purposes in such a cheap and superficial way. But it is even sadder and a shame, when the systematic and well organized violations of human rights by the Venezuelan Government presided by Hugo Chavez are ignored by those that claim to dream with and believe in the basic dignity and rights of all human beings.