30 June 2010

Open letter to Larry Rohter re Oliver Stone

Dear Larry,

Your article about Hugo Chavez's latest propaganda film by Oliver Stone & co. has so nailed it, that a chorus of apologists -paid and otherwise- of the Venezuelan Supreme Leader, are foaming at the mouth, and have come out of their barracks to 'dispute' your views. Expect further 'clarifications' from Noam Chomsky et academics for totalitarianism, and, from the people in this list. Be confident that as soon as some 'evidence of US imperialism' is presented to Venezuela's elected and appointed authorities, the very Eva Golinger will publish yet another point by point 'rebuttal' in her officially funded Correo del Orinoco. Maybe even Ken Livingstone will write something for the Morning Star. That will, in chavista land, settle the score and forever discredit you and the New York Times. They'll write thousands of words, but will never address the points every sensible person and institution is raising about Chavez galloping fascism.

As a Venezuelan following the politics of my country, much before the Stones, Weisbrots, and Wilperts of this world knew the existence of Pequeña Venecia, I can only say a big thanks for taking these harmful imbeciles to task. Mind you these are the kind of people who are yet to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the association of a democratically elected president, Chavez that is, with the leaders of America's longest and most brutal dictatorship. They are, as a matter of fact, infatuated with Fidel Castro. These fundamentalists have gone so far into the deep end, that no report containing even the slightest hint of criticism is credible, or indeed acceptable. For some people believe in god, others in Allah: this lot believes blindly in whatever Chavez tells them to.

So kudos on a job well done. Next time you speak to Stone, Ali, Weisbrot, etc., do ask them who funded the film, and the trips around LatAm, and the visits to Venezuela, and the promotional tours, and the websites where they publish their bullshit. Ask them about their credentials, their relationship with the government of Venezuela, in fact ask whether they would be willing to demonstrate that they are not on the take by showing their tax returns. I am confident they'll carry on accusing you, rather than proving you wrong.

With best wishes,
Alek Boyd

26 June 2010

New York Times exposes Gregory Wilpert & Hugo Chavez propaganda

There was a time, not long ago, when bloggers such as your truly were frantically exposing the turpitude, the sheer corruption, the conflict of interests, and the galloping fascism of chavismo: a cult based on an untenable premise, which has it that its supreme leader, Hugo Chavez, is absolutely infallible. To chavistas, the Venezuelan caudillo can do no wrong. Simple. He is, in fact, beyond criticism, embodiment of some saintly figure.

However, rational people from around the world, are, at last, waking up to the reality of our maligned country. These days it is a known and accepted fact that Hugo's regime exerts wholesale and systematic violations of civil, political and human rights. Similarly, nearly all of the world's most reputed multilateral institutions -such as the UN, the EU, the Inter American Court of Human Rights, the International Labour Organization, INTERPOL, etc.- have strongly condemned the abuses that take place on a recurring basis in Venezuela.

Within chavismo though, this is but exemplification of a conspiracy of universal proportions against Hugo Chavez. While such simplistic explanation suffices chavista minds, everyone else has noticed that there's something rotten in Chavezland. Take for instance this article published by The New York Times "Oliver Stone’s Latin America", about the latest chavista attempt at presenting Hugo Chavez as a misunderstood saviour of the downtrodden -conveniently brushing aside any hint of criticism. Considering the film's script writers it's little wonder why it won't become Hollywood's next blockbuster: in 2005, I ridiculed Tariq Ali's sheer ignorance on Venezuela during a BBC debate, and this is unlikely to have changed as he continues to drink from the same 'fountain of truth'; as per Mark Weisbrot I guess other bloggers, and respected economists,  have exposed his false views vis-a-vis Hugo Chavez. Moreover, word in Washington is that Weisbrot got more than $100,000 from the Chavez regime for his contribution to Stone's docu-drama.

This article comes after a BBC interview, in which little Hugo found himself in the awkward position of actually having to field some uncomfortable questions made by Stephen Sackur. As I have argued elsewhere, there's no need to continue blogging about Hugo Chavez's latest derangement, for nowadays the world's media is doing a stellar job at it.

The bit in the article that caught my attention though, was this:
Instead Mr. Stone relies heavily on the account of Gregory Wilpert, who witnessed some of the exchange of gunfire and is described as an American academic. But Mr. Wilpert is also the husband of Mr. Chávez’s consul-general in New York, Carol Delgado, and a longtime editor and president of the board of a Web site, Venezuelanalysis.com, set up with donations from the Venezuelan government, affiliations that Mr. Stone does not disclose.
For years I have been following the activities of Gregory Wilpert, arguing that he was nothing more than a paid propagandist, for I was convinced that, unless some benefit was derived, no one with a right mind would risk reputation defending Chavez so passionately, as Wilpert has done. Then I found out that the site he edits was registered and set up by Chavez's Consul in San Francisco, and it was further revealed to me that Wilpert was married to a chavista: Chavez's Consul in New York. I got to admit, some fanatics, Wilpert included, did write to me to say that my expose of Wilpert's connections meant nothing. I guess now that it has been printed in the New York Times I can feel vindicated.

20 June 2010

Guadalupe Llori and justice in Ecuador

Early in 2008 I started working for the Human Rights Foundation (no longer there). One of the first assignments I got was to investigate the human rights situation in Bolivia and Ecuador, a couple of countries that had fallen under the chavista formula of using democratic tools to destroy the very tenets, such as rule of law and due process, that sustain democracy. The first report I was in charge of producing, about Bolivia's intention of granting constitutional legitimacy to an indigenous justice system called 'communal justice', caused no small amount of controversy. Bolivia officials quickly reacted to our report, in which it was stated:
"The constitution proposed by the Morales government contains glaring contradictions. For instance, it explicitly establishes that rulings from communal judges are not subject to judicial review and that such rulings are binding for all. At the same time, it provides for a Plurinational Tribunal that can hear and resolve conflicts of competence between ordinary and communal justice jurisdictions. The Plurinational Tribunal cannot revise rulings or sentences, but it can determine whether particular rulings or sentences were issued by the proper legal authorities (ordinary or communal judges). The Bolivian government..., is proposing discriminatory legislation that would deny Bolivia’s “indigenous” and “peasant” communities access to ordinary justice and would force them to seek redress only before communal judges. This legislation would also prevent Bolivia’s ordinary legal system from revising or overturning decisions and sentences issued by communal judges. As far as the proposed law is concerned, communal justice verdicts may not be appealed."
With the passing of time, I have been proved right in many of Latin America's political issues, and alas, in this instance, it is no different.

Then, investigating human rights conditions in Ecuador, I found out the fascinating tale of Guadalupe Llori: a democratically elected governor of the Ecuadorian province of Orellana, who had been illegally arrested after Ecuador's President Rafael Correa accused her of being a terrorist. Her crime was to have said in front of cameras of a local TV station (TV Amazonas) that President Correa was a lout. Her statement came on the aftermath of use of excessive force during a military assault ordered by Correa to break protests in Orellana province, where most of Ecuador's oil is produced. Given that Guadalupe Llori was the governor of that province, and the fact that she was squarely behind its citizen's legitimate right to protest, President Correa thought appropriate to level unsubstantiated accusations against her, have her illegally arrested, while stripped of her democratically elected position as governor.

When I found out how the whole affair had taken place, with plenty of evidence of brutality against Guadalupe's father, niece, and other young relatives, let alone herself, I remember quite vividly having thought "this is one of only two women holding such office in the whole American continent (the other being Sarah Palin). How come no international human rights NGO has made a stench out of this? How come no one has heard about the abuses and violations on this woman?" It was clear to me that we had to take the case, and, as if I needed any further confirmation, it was even clearer that the human rights NGO establishment was far from objective, dividing human rights violations along a left and right divide, exposing the latter being primary objective of nearly all work done in the field. Mind, there was this woman politician, lefty, indigenous, former ally of Rafael Correa, being completely ignored by those who claim to defend rights of women, indigenous, and oppressed people.

We launched an international campaign for her liberation, that took place after many months of illegal detention, during which she was abused, both physically and psychologically. Once the case was just too evident to ignore, Amnesty International even copied verbatim of a letter we had sent to President Correa, demanding immediate release and dropping of all charges. However, I was the only representative of an international human rights NGO to have visited twice Guadalupe in El Inca prison in Quito.

Fortunately, Guadalupe Llori accepted an invitation to speak about her case during the last Oslo Freedom Forum. Hear her words about justice in Ecuador, a harrowing account that many in the left-dominated human rights world should pay attention to.