While the U.S. and much of the West have rightly been focused on the threat from radical Islam, and wary of its primary media outlet, Al Jazeera, another part of the world has become a major trouble spot. And it, too, now has its own network. Venezuela, and its new network, Telesur, began broadcasting on July 24. Think of it as a Latin American Al Jazeera, being run by radical leftists.
The new network has drawn the attention of the U.S. Congress, which passed a bill in July calling for the U.S. to transmit radio and TV broadcasts into Venezuela to insure “accurate news.” The Senate is yet to take up the bill. An Associated Press story quotes the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, as saying that the U.S. would not be interfering with Telesur’s signal. He said that the Congressional action will respond to Telesur “only if the messages are anti-American.” He said it won’t be like the situation with Cuba, where the U.S. transmits Radio Marti broadcasts into Cuba, critical of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Castro is a close friend and ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Ch?vez, who was arrested back in 1992 for his role in a bloody coup attempt, and granted a pardon two years later. He then launched a political career and in 1998 was elected president on a platform of Marxist rhetoric. He made a lot of promises to the poor people of Venezuela, who comprised a majority, but official figures show the poverty rate has gone up under his rule.
With his election in hand and overwhelming popularity, Chavez drafted a new constitution and went about the business of consolidating his power, eliminating most checks and balances that a democracy thrives on. Chavez inherited the largest oil reserves in Latin American, and Venezuela remains the third largest supplier of oil to the U.S. There have been efforts to remove Ch?vez from power, both through referenda and what many call a coup in 2002. But he has survived it all, and his grip on power is now near absolute. Some experts believe his last election in August 2004 was tainted by fraud, but he had former President Jimmy Carter there to say he believed the election was fair.
Ch?vez has aligned himself with Castro, taking over where the Soviet Union left off. In an article for National Review magazine last April titled “Latin America’s Terrible Two,” Otto Reich, the former assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere and a member of the National Security Council under the current President Bush, stated that in exchange for billions of dollars, “Castro has provided an estimated 20,000 or more ‘teachers’ (read: indoctrinators), intelligence agents, and military advisers to turn Venezuela into another Cuba. Ch?vez has also provided safe haven to Colombia’s Communist terrorist groups such as the FARC, thus undermining one of the most democratic and successful leaders in the region, President Alvaro Uribe.”
Ch?vez has funded other radical leaders as well. He has called the U.S. “the world’s most evil regime,” and threatened to cut off oil exports. According to Reich, in a recent visit from the president of Iran, Mohammed Khatami, to Venezuela, “Ch?vez publicly defended Iran’s right to develop nuclear power and said that if the U.S. used military power to stop Iran, Venezuela would cut off oil deliveries to the U.S.”
In addition, Ch?vez is engaged in a huge military build-up, buying and planning to buy sophisticated weapons from Russia, including 50 Mig-29s, 40 attack helicopters, and 100,000 advanced AK-47s. Ch?vez was the first Western leader to visit Saddam Hussein in Iraq, in 2000, since the end of the first Gulf War. He is also reported to have supported al-Qaeda and Hezbollah members in Venezuela.
In short, Venezuela has become a threat to its neighbors, and an enemy to the U.S. And this brings us back to Telesur. On its board is the great American actor, Danny Glover, who also happens to be a supporter of many far-left causes. His name is being used in the headline of an AP story to assure us that Telesur “won’t demonize U.S.”
Amy Goodman, another reliable leftist with her Pacifica program Democracy Now, recently interviewed some of the principals of the new network. She noted that Venezuela, which owns 51% of the new network, has put up 70% of the financing. The rest comes from Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay. Goodman interviewed Eva Golinger, who she introduced as a New York-based attorney who has worked for Venezuela and is working “to obtain more information on the connection between the U.S. government and anti- Ch?vez opposition in Venezuela.” It is her left-wing view that there has been an all-out war against Ch?vez by the private media companies in Venezuela, who largely present a U.S.-oriented view of the world, and that Telesur will help to balance that.
Golinger believes that “the U.S. government?already has a monopoly on information not just in Venezuela, in all of Latin America and also in the United States, in terms of what perspective people should be seeing, what type of public opinion there should be about what’s taking place in countries like Venezuela?”
That’s nonsense, of course. What Golinger refers to as a monopoly is the exact opposite-private corporations providing information that people want and use. Ch?vez is the one trying to crowd out these voices and impose a monopoly of his own.