The New Smear Against Chávez


WASHINGTON AND its faithful lackeys in the media have launched a new offensive against Hugo Chávez and the government of Venezuela. The recent "discovery" of a laptop computer that allegedly belonged to the FARC guerrilla group has ignited another media-generated scandal, creating a whole new round of accusations against the Chávez government, but without any evidence to support them.

 

Those who have followed events in Venezuela in recent years shouldn’t be surprised by this. Every few months, a new controversy is ignited by the media regarding Venezuela‘s socialist president, Hugo Chávez; each time with plenty of distortions, baseless accusations and outright falsehoods.

 

Late last year, the media "show" centered on a proposed reform to the Venezuelan constitution. The mainstream media repeated endlessly that the constitutional reform would make Chávez "president for life" and would "turn Venezuela into a dictatorship."

 

In reality, the reform simply proposed the removal of presidential term limits–something that has also been in the works in neighboring Colombia, where it has gotten absolutely zero criticism from the mainstream media. The reason? Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is Washington‘s closest ally in the region.

 

In early 2007, the media generated yet another controversy based on complete fabrications, this time about freedom of expression and media censorship in Venezuela. After President Chávez announced the decision not to renew a broadcast license of one of Venezuela’s major TV stations (a legal right afforded to the president), a media scandal erupted claiming that there was no "freedom of expression" in Venezuela, and for months on end, the media repeated the false claim that Chávez had "shut down" a major media outlet and was "censoring the media" because of its anti-government stance.

 

But the reality is that no TV station was ever closed down, and to this day, the same TV station continues to broadcast its virulently anti-Chávez message across the country by cable and satellite TV.

 

In fact, much of the media in Venezuela continues to be extremely anti-Chávez, including nearly all of the major newspapers and several radio and TV stations, leaving the claims about freedom of expression in Venezuela to be completely baseless. Venezuela has a diversity of media outlets and a range of political debate that one could only dream of having in the United States.

 

So it should come as no surprise that Washington and its unofficial spokesmen at the media are at it again, this time accusing Hugo Chávez of having ties to the Colombian guerrilla organization FARC. And they claim that the computer recently "uncovered" from a guerrilla camp has the evidence to prove it.

 

This "proof," Washington claims, is enough to put Venezuela on their list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move that would significantly change relations between the countries and could involve economic sanctions against Venezuela. But, once again, the allegations are full of complete distortions and baseless claims.

 

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THIS LATEST attack on Venezuela has centered on information found on laptop computers that were allegedly uncovered from a FARC guerrilla camp in Ecuador after the Colombian military made an illegal cross-border bombing of the camp, an attack that was widely condemned in Latin America, but which Washington supported.

 

The illegal military assault resulted in the killing of a top FARC official along with more than 20 other people, including several university students from Mexico. Hours after the attack, Colombia announced it had "found" a laptop computer at the camp belonging to the FARC, and that it contained information linking the Venezuelan government to the FARC guerrilla organization (allegations that Washington has long made, but has never supported with any evidence).

 

The allegations raised some immediate doubts. First, how likely is it that a laptop computer could survive a bombing attack that killed nearly everyone in the camp? And second, if it did survive, how could the Colombian government have gone through the literally thousands of files on the computer in a matter of hours to find information implicating Hugo Chávez?

 

But notwithstanding these questions, there is not even any way to prove that the computers were actually found at the guerrilla camp, or that the files contained on the computer are authentic, and weren’t just put there by the Colombian government.

 

After all, how easy would it have been for the Colombian government to simply load whatever files they wanted onto the computer, or simply prepare the computer ahead of time and claim that it was found it at the FARC camp? As Venezuela expert Eva Golinger said, "How easy it is to just write a document in Word on some computer and say it was written by someone else!"

 

For this reason, the Colombian government invited the International Police (Interpol) to analyze the data and validate the information found on the computers. But contrary to the claims of the Colombian government and the international media, Interpol did nothing of the sort. The Interpol examination was limited to determining one thing: whether or not the computer files were manipulated after March 1, the date the Colombian military bombed the FARC camp and supposedly gained possession of the evidence.

 

When Interpol’s report stated that there was no evidence the files were manipulated, Colombia and Washington immediately jumped on this as validation for their claims. The international media faithfully echoed the official line. "FARC Computer Files Are Authentic," said one headline from the Washington Post. "Venezuela Offered Aid to Colombian Rebels," read another. And the next day, the BBC confidently stated, "Colombia did not fake Farc files."

 

But even Interpol’s own report reveals that they have no way of verifying this. Many of the files found on the computer were dated in the future, in 2009 and 2010, throwing out the reliability that any of the dates on the computer are accurate, and suggesting that the dates had been altered.

 

In addition, Interpol’s own report also says that they have no way of validating where the computers came from, or the source of any information found on the computers. "The verification of the eight seized FARC computer exhibits by Interpol does not imply the validation of the accuracy of the user files, the validation of any country’s interpretation of the user files or the validation of the source of the user files," the Interpol report clearly states on page 9.

 

So in other words, there is no way of knowing if the computers or any of the files contained on the computers are authentic, or if the Colombian government just made the whole thing up and planted the evidence.

 

In spite of all this, Washington and the international media are treating the findings as irrefutable proof that Hugo Chávez has ties to the FARC guerrilla organization, and are accusing the Venezuelan government of supporting acts of "international terrorism." Some in Washington are even calling for Venezuela to be added to the U.S. State Department’s list of "State Sponsors of Terrorism" along with Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan and Syria, which could mean economic sanctions against Venezuela.

 

Many analysts believe that the Bush administration will not go through with this, however, given that Chávez has repeatedly threatened to stop the supply of oil to the United States in the event of any aggressions toward Venezuela.

 

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PERHAPS THE most ironic part of this latest attack on Venezuela is the fact that it is the United States, not Venezuela, that supports terrorism in Colombia.

 

Washington sends hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Colombian government every year in addition to military equipment and personnel. In 2007, total aid to Colombia reached the astronomical level of $756 million, all of which goes to the Colombian government, and the Colombian military. Ironically, the largest perpetrators of violence and killing in Colombia are the Colombian military and the right-wing paramilitary groups connected to the government, not the FARC guerrillas.

 

Human rights organizations that routinely document human rights violations in Colombia have repeatedly shown over the years that the paramilitary groups are responsible for the majority of the killings of civilians.

 

For example, the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ) reported last year that during President Uribe’s first term in office (2002-2006), the paramilitaries were responsible for 61 percent of the deaths, the Colombian military accounted for 14 percent, while the various guerrilla groups were responsible for the remaining 25 percent.

 

And over the last two years, it continues to be revealed that many in the Uribe government, including some of the president’s closest allies, have maintained long ties to the right-wing paramilitary groups, those responsible for the largest portion of the killings in the country. As many as 33 lawmakers, and most recently, the president’s cousin Mario Uribe Escobar, have been indicted for colluding with the paramilitaries and are currently in jail awaiting trial.

 

It is becoming increasingly obvious that what is known as the "para-politcs" scandal is really more of a "para-Uribismo" scandal, as one Colombian senator has suggested–and that could explain why Uribe might want to divert attention away from his government and direct it toward Venezuela and the FARC.

 

Once again, Washington and its allies have launched a successful media campaign of slander against Venezuela and the Chávez government. And, once again, it is based on lies, distortions and baseless accusations.

 

But the hard truth is that Washington is supporting the side that is doing most of the killing in Colombia, with more money and weapons than the FARC could ever dream of having. And we don’t need to "find" a laptop in the jungle to prove it.

 

 

Chris Carlson writes for Venezuelanalysis.com Web site, a source in English for current news and analysis of Venezuela. Readers of Spanish should visit Aporrea.org.

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