James Bloodworth, when he isn’t applauding Obama’s murderous drone attacks on Pakistan, occasionally takes time out to complain about leftists supporting the Venezuelan government. He claims that Venezuela has become a “nightmare” and that, despite elections that he appears to acknowledge are clean and transparent, Venezuelans are, nevertheless, “living under tyranny” because of the government’s “unwillingness to tolerate dissent”.
Bloodworth says that he supported the Chavista movement when a US backed coup violently ousted Hugo Chavez in 2002. “I have no trouble remembering which side I was on” he claims – very dubiously as I’ll explain.
Bloodworth doesn’t remember that Leopoldo Lopez was among the leaders of that coup. This video shows Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles (a state governor who ran against Maduro in April of 2013) supervising the illegal “arrest” of a Chavez government minister during the 2002 coup. Bloodworth objects to Lopez’s arrest for leading protests over the past few weeks that are clearly aimed at repeating what happened in 2002, but Bloodworth never considers an incredibly obvious point. Lopez would have been locked up for decades (if he were lucky) had he participated in the violent overthrow of the UK or US governments. If not for the Venezuelan government’s unusually high tolerance for dissent, Lopez and Capriles (his “moderate” ally) would never have been around to lead protests, much less hold public office as Capriles now does. One can only shudder at what their fate would have been in the USA after participating in a briefly successful coup. Chelsea Manning has been locked up for years and openly tortured simply for exposing human rights abuses and embarrassing the US government. Manning will not be leading violent protests or holding public office (even if she wanted to) any time soon.
Bloodworth also forgets (or more likely doesn’t know or care) that Human Rights Watch (HRW) utterly disgraced itself during the 2002 coup. He takes HRW assessments of Venezuela at face value but does not recall that during the 2002 coup HRW failed to denounce the coup, failed to call on other countries not to recognize the Carmona dictatorship, failed to invoke the OAS charter, and did not call for an investigation of US involvement. Thankfully, most governments in the region denounced the 2002 coup at once, exactly as HRW would have done had it not been penetrated by US State Department officials and other elites as Keane Bhatt recently noted.
Bloodworth’s effort to dismiss the Venezuelan government’s record on poverty alleviation is pitifully inept. He considers only the 2007-2011 period to argue that Venezuela’s record is unimpressive compared to Brazil, Uruguay and Peru. Does he not recall that Hugo Chavez first took office in 1999? Could somebody who claims to have opposed the 2002 coup be that ignorant? The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) found that from “1999 to 2010 Venezuela achieved the second highest rate of poverty reduction”. Extreme poverty fell by 70% during Hugo Chavez’s time in office. The 2002 coup and related efforts to overthrow the Chavez government severely disrupted progress for about 2 years or the economic gains might have been even better. Bloodworth might know this if he had actually opposed the 2002 coup as he claims he did.
Predictably, Bloodworth promotes the most cherished dogma of Venezuelan government opponents over the past 15 years: the myth of the voiceless opposition. The Carter Commission exploded this myth very effectively last year – without really trying to and in very polite language. It examined TV news media during crucial weeks of the April, 2013 Presidential election that pitted Henrique Capriles against Nicolas Maduro. It found a 57% to 34% edge in coverage for Maduro over Capriles by simply totaling minutes of coverage on the major networks. That finding alone refutes the myth of the voiceless opposition but it gets worse for people who peddle this myth. Three quarters of Capriles’ coverage was in the private news media which (the Carter Commission found) had nearly three times the audience share (72% to 24%) of the state news media where Maduro received most of his coverage.
Bloodworth has nothing to say about Maduro government opponents spreading falsified images of the protests through social media – a tactic they could rely on the private media to deploy on a massive scale in 2002. The most anti-democratic faction of the opposition claims that media coverage of their protests is now inadequate and that is enough for Bloodworth to completely agree. Similarly, one of the sources Bloodworth uncritically cites about Venezuela’s economy is Moisés Naím, one of the architects of the brutal austerity polices of the early 1990s that ultimately led to the Caracazo uprisings in which up to 3000 people were murdered by Venezuela’s security forces. Does Bloodworth not know this about Naím, or just not care?
In order to claim that violent deaths are more numerous in Venezuela than Iraq, Bloodworth ignores peer reviewed scientific studies (published in 2006, 2008 and 2013) showing that anywhere from one half to only one twelfth of violent deaths are captured in Iraq by standard data collection methods. He also appears oblivious to scholarly research suggesting that Venezuela’s murder rate may have been falling since 2008.
Perhaps worst of all, Bloodworth completely ignores the decisive defeat the opposition received in December’s municipal elections which the opposition worked very hard to frame as a referendum on Maduro’s government. The results were easy to understand if one looks beyond the reactionary talking points about Venezuela’s economy that Bloodworth mindlessly parrots. The economy has not gone into recession since Maduro was elected despite the spike in inflation. Moreover inflation is not a direct measure of living standards. Many of the poorest countries in the world have very low levels of inflation (Mali, Rwanda, Chad among others).
Additionally, despite serious economic problems in 2013 poverty fell from 21.6 to 19.6%, extreme poverty from 6.3 to 5.5%, unemployment from 5.9% to 5.6%
It is not really foreign supporters of Maduro’s government whom Bloodworth attempts to dismiss, it is the majority of Venezuelan voters.