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John Pilger: The War on Venezuela is Built on Lies

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro signals the date of a failed coup led by late President Hugo Chavez during a parade marking its anniversary in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. Chavez, a former paratrooper, led a failed coup in 1992 before being democratically elected president six years later. Chavez died of cancer in March 2013 at the age of 58. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Authored by John Pilger via

Traveling with Hugo Chavez, I soon understood the threat of Venezuela.  At a farming co-operative in Lara state, people waited patiently and with good humor in the heat. Jugs of water and melon juice were passed around. A guitar was played; a woman, Katarina, stood and sang with a husky contralto.

“What did her words say?” I asked.

“That we are proud,” was the reply.

The applause for her merged with the arrival of Chavez. Under one arm he carried a satchel bursting with books.  He wore his big red shirt and greeted people by name, stopping to listen.

What struck me was his capacity to listen.

Hugo Chavez in 2004. (Franklin Reyes via Wikimedia)

But now he read. For almost two hours he read into the microphone from the stack of books beside him: Orwell, Dickens, Tolstoy, Zola, Hemingway, Chomsky, Neruda: a page here, a line or two there. People clapped and whistled as he moved from author to author. Then farmers took the microphone and told him what they knew, and what they needed; one ancient face, carved it seemed from a nearby banyan, made a long, critical speech on the subject of irrigation; Chavez took notes.

Wine is grown here, a dark Syrah type grape. “John, John, come up here,” said El Presidente, having watched me fall asleep in the heat and the depths of Oliver Twist.

“He likes red wine,” Chavez told the cheering, whistling audience, and presented me with a bottle of “vino de la gente.” My few words in bad Spanish brought whistles and laughter.

Watching Chavez with the people, la gente, made sense of a man who promised, on coming to power, that his every move would be subject to the will of the people.  In eight years, Chavez won eight elections and referendums: a world record. He was electorally the most popular head of state in the Western Hemisphere, probably in the world.

Every major chavista reform was voted on, notably a new constitution of which 71 percent of the people approved each of the 396 article that enshrined unheard of freedoms, such as Article 123, which for the first time recognized the human rights of mixed-race and black people, of whom Chavez was one.

Their First Champions

One of his tutorials on the road quoted a feminist writer: “Love and solidarity are the same.” His audiences understood this well and expressed themselves with dignity, seldom with deference. Ordinary people regarded Chavez and his government as their first champions: as theirs.

Crowds at the funeral of Hugo Chávez Frías, Military Academy, Caracas, March 2013. (Cancillería del Ecuador via Flickr)

This was especially true of the indigenous, mestizos and Afro-Venezuelans, who had been held in historic contempt by Chavez’s immediate predecessors and by those who today live far from the barrios, in the mansions and penthouses of East Caracas, who commute to Miami where their banks are and who regard themselves as “white.” They are the powerful core of what the media calls “the opposition.”

When I met this class, in suburbs called Country Club, in homes appointed with low chandeliers and bad portraits, I recognized them. They could be white South Africans, the petite bourgeoisie of Constantia and Sandton, pillars of the cruelties of apartheid.

Cartoonists in the Venezuelan press, most of which are owned by an oligarchy and oppose the government, portrayed Chavez as an ape. A radio host referred to “the monkey.” In the private universities, the verbal currency of the children of the well-off is often racist abuse of those whose shacks are just visible through the pollution.

Although identity politics are all the rage in the pages of liberal newspapers in the West, race and class are two words almost never uttered in the mendacious “coverage” of Washington’s latest, most naked attempt to grab the world’s greatest source of oil and reclaim its “backyard.”

For all the chavistas’ faults — such as allowing the Venezuelan economy to become hostage to the fortunes of oil and never seriously challenging big capital and corruption — they brought social justice and pride to millions of people and they did it with unprecedented democracy.

Chavez voting in 2007. (Wikimedia)

Stellar Election Process

“Of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored,” said former President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center, is a respected monitor of elections around the world, “I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” By way of contrast, said Carter, the U.S. election system, with its emphasis on campaign money, “is one of the worst.”

In extending the franchise to a parallel people’s state of communal authority, based in the poorest barrios, Chavez described Venezuelan democracy as “our version of Rousseau’s idea of popular sovereignty.”

In Barrio La Linea, seated in her tiny kitchen, Beatrice Balzo told me her children were the first generation of the poor to attend a full day’s school and be given a hot meal and to learn music, art and dance. “I have seen their confidence blossom like flowers,” she said.

In Barrio La Vega, I listened to a nurse, Mariella Machado, a black woman of 45 with a wicked laugh, address an urban land council on subjects ranging from homelessness to illegal war. That day, they were launching Mision Madres de Barrio, a program aimed at poverty among single mothers. Under the constitution, women have the right to be paid as caregivers, and can borrow from a special women’s bank. Now the poorest housewives get the equivalent of $200 a month.

In a room lit by a single fluorescent tube, I met Ana Lucia Fernandez, aged 86, and Mavis Mendez, aged 95. A mere 33-year-old, Sonia Alvarez, had come with her two children. Once, none of them could read and write; now they were studying mathematics. For the first time in its history, Venezuela has almost 100 percent literacy.

This is the work of Mision Robinson, which was designed for adults and teenagers previously denied an education because of poverty. Mission Ribas gives everyone the opportunity of a secondary education, called a bachillerato. (The names Robinson and Ribas refer to Venezuelan independence leaders from the 19th century).

In her 95 years, Mavis Mendez had seen a parade of governments, mostly vassals of Washington, preside over the theft of billions of dollars in oil spoils, much of it flown to Miami. “We didn’t matter in a human sense,” she told me. “We lived and died without real education and running water, and food we couldn’t afford. When we fell ill, the weakest died. Now I can read and write my name and so much more; and whatever the rich and the media say, we have planted the seeds of true democracy and I have the joy of seeing it happen.”

In 2002, during a Washington-backed coup, Mavis’s sons and daughters and grandchildren and great-grandchildren joined hundreds of thousands who swept down from the barrios on the hillsides and demanded the army remained loyal to Chavez.

“The people rescued me,” Chavez told me. “They did it with the media against me, preventing even the basic facts of what happened. For popular democracy in heroic action, I suggest you look no further.”

Carmen Vásquez, 85, learning to read and write at the Misión Robinson, Isla Borracha, Anzoátegui, Venezuela,2004. (Franklin Reyes/J.Rebelde via Wikimedia)

Saddam Hussein Incarnate

Since Chavez’s death in 2013, his successor NicolásMaduro has shed his derisory label in the Western press as a “former bus driver” and become Saddam Hussein incarnate. His media abuse is ridiculous. Onhis watch, the slide in the price of oil has caused hyperinflation and played havoc with prices in a society that imports almost all its food; yet, as the journalist and film-maker Pablo Navarrete reported this week, Venezuela is not the catastrophe it has been painted.

“There is food everywhere,” he wrote. “I have filmed lots of videos of food in markets [all over Caracas] … it’s Friday night and the restaurants are full.”

In 2018, Maduro was re-elected president. A section of the opposition boycotted the election, a tactic tried against Chavez. The boycott failed: 9,389,056 people voted; 16 parties participated and six candidates stood for the presidency. Maduro won 6,248,864 votes, or 68 percent.

On election day, I spoke to one of the 150 foreign election observers. “It was entirely fair,” he said. “There was no fraud; none of the lurid media claims stood up. Zero. Amazing really.”

Like a page from Alice’s tea party, the Trump administration has presented Juan Guaidó, a pop-up creation of the CIA-front National Endowment for Democracy, as the “legitimate President of Venezuela.” Unheard of by 81 percent of the Venezuelan people, according to The Nation, Guaidó has been elected by no one.

“Chavez, I swear, I will vote for Maduro,” sign on wall in 2013. (Wikimedia)

Maduro is “illegitimate,” says Donald Trump (who won the U.S. presidency with 3 million fewer votes than his opponent), a “dictator,” says demonstrably unhinged Vice President Mike Pence and an oil trophy-in-waiting, says “national security” adviser John Bolton (who when I interviewed him in 2003 said, “Hey, are you a communist, maybe
even Labour?”)

As his “special envoy to Venezuela” (coup master), Trump has appointed a convicted felon, Elliot Abrams, whose intrigues in the service of Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush helped produce the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s and plunge central America into years of blood-soaked misery.

Putting Lewis Carroll aside, these  “crazies” belong in newsreels from the 1930s. And yet their lies about Venezuela have been taken up with enthusiasm by those paid to keep the record straight.

On Channel 4 News, Jon Snow bellowed at the Labour MP Chris Williamson, “Look, you and Mr. Corbyn are in a very nasty corner [on Venezuela]!” When Williamson tried to explain why threatening a sovereign country was wrong, Snow cut him off. “You’ve had a good go!”

In 2006, Channel 4 News effectively accused Chavez of plotting to make nuclear weapons with Iran: a fantasy. The then Washington correspondent, Jonathan Rugman, allowed a war criminal, Donald Rumsfeld, to liken Chavez to Hitler, unchallenged.

Overwhelming Bias

Researchers at the University of the West of England studied the BBC‘s reporting of Venezuela over a 10-year period. They looked at 304 reports and found that only three of these referred to any of the positive policies of the government. For the BBC, Venezuela’s democratic record, human rights legislation, food programs, healthcare initiatives and poverty reduction did not happen.  The greatest literacy program in human history did not happen, just as the millions who march in support of Maduro and in memory of Chavez, do not exist.

2016 protests against removal of Chávez and Bolivar images from National Assembly. (Wikimedia)

When asked why she filmed only an opposition march, the BBC reporter Orla Guerin tweeted that it was “too difficult” to be on two marches in one day.

A war has been declared on Venezuela, of which the truth is “too difficult” to report.

It is too difficult to report the collapse of oil prices since 2014 as largely the result of criminal machinations by Wall Street. It is too difficult to report the blocking of Venezuela’s access to the U.S.-dominated international financial system as sabotage. It is too difficult to report Washington’s “sanctions” against Venezuela, which have caused the loss of at least $6 billion in Venezuela’s revenue since 2017, including $2 billion worth of imported medicines, as illegal, or the Bank of England’s refusal to return Venezuela’s gold reserves as an act of piracy.

Chavez and Pilger, 2007. (

The former United Nations Rapporteur, Alfred de Zayas, has likened this to a “medieval siege” designed “to bring countries to their knees.” It is a criminal assault, he says. It is similar to that faced by Salvador Allende in 1970 when President Richard Nixon and his equivalent of John Bolton, Henry Kissinger, set out to “make the economy [of Chile] scream.” The long dark night of Pinochet followed.

The Guardian correspondent, Tom Phillips, has tweeted a picture of a cap on which the words in Spanish mean in local slang: “Make Venezuela fucking cool again.” The reporter as clown may be the final stage of much of mainstream journalism’s degeneration.

Should the CIA stooge Guaidó and his white supremacists grab power, it will be the 68th overthrow of a sovereign government by the United States, most of them democracies. A fire sale of Venezuela’s utilities and mineral wealth will surely follow, along with the theft of the country’s oil, as outlined by John Bolton.

Under the last Washington-controlled government in Caracas, poverty reached historic proportions. There was no healthcare for those could not pay. There was no universal education; Mavis Mendez, and millions like her, could not read or write. How cool is that, Tom?

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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Olivia Kroth
February 27, 2019

BBC – British Bullshit Company – a bag full of lies.

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
March 1, 2019

TASS reports: Venezuela to transfer PDVSA’s office to Moscow Business & Economy March 01, 14:22 UTC+3 This is the right moment for the move, Venezuela’s Executive Vice President explains MOSCOW, March 1. /TASS/. President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro ordered to close the Lisbon office of the national oil and gas company PDVSA and relocate it to Moscow, Executive Vice President of the country Delcy Rodriguez said on Friday. “President Nicolas Maduro instructed the Lisbon branch of PDVSA to close this office and relocate the office to Moscow,” she said. Relocation of the European office of the national oil and gas… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
March 1, 2019

TASS reports: Venezuela to purchase medicines, products in Russia Business & Economy March 01, 15:52 UTC+3 Moscow already sent to Venezuela the first batch of drugs in the amount of 7.5 tonnes MOSCOW, March 1. /TASS/. Venezuela will purchase all the necessary products and drugs in Russia, Venezuelan Executive Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said. “President Nicolas Maduro gave very strict instructions on this account: the products that our nation needs and the medication that our nation needs will be purchased from Russia,” she said. Russia already sent to Venezuela the first batch of drugs weighing 7.5 tonnes. This batch was… Read more »

Sally Snyder
Sally Snyder
February 27, 2019

Here is an article that looks at recent comments made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Latin America and the situation in Venezuela:

Apparently, truth is in the eye of the beholder.

Olivia Kroth
February 27, 2019

TELESUR ENGLISH REPORTS: UN: Venezuela’s Arreaza Calls US Regime’s Aims the ‘Politics of Death’ This is the second session of the Security Council held to discuss Venezuela and the United States regime’s push for military intervention. Following a request from the United States regime, the United Nations Security Council is holding a session to discuss the state of Venezuela and its internal political situation. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza called the international aggression a threat to Venezuela’s sovereignty and the rights of a free people as well as a violation of the United Nations charter. “Now is the time for… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
February 27, 2019

TELESUR ENGLISH REPORTS: CARICOM Reiterates Support for Peaceful Resolution in Venezuela As political and economic events unfold in various countries in the region, including Haiti, Venezuela, and Guyana, the 15-member group aims to de-escalate tensions. Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders concluded a two-day summit Tuesday in Basseterre, on the dual-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, where the member countries once again reiterated their support for a peaceful resolution in regards to Venezuela while rejecting interference. “Our community could be justifiably proud of our stance and efforts to help the people of Venezuela resolve their crisis. I have no doubt in… Read more »

February 28, 2019

Bravo, Mr Pilger. The world needs more committed champions such as you, with the passion and communication skills of a Harold Pinter.

Reply to  Terry
February 28, 2019

For those who haven’t read it, here is Pinter’s stirring Nobel acceptance speech in which he lambastes the US for its role in destroying sovereign states and their populations (particularly Nicaragua)whilst maintaining the appearance of a humanitarian benefactor.

And as Mr Pilger has pointed out, it shows how the Guardian has betrayed its principles in the 13 years since it carried Mr Pinter’s speech.

Reply to  Terry
March 1, 2019

John Pilger is what all journalists should aspire to be. I love that man’s work.

Olivia Kroth
February 28, 2019

TASS reports: Russia submits its draft resolution on Venezuela to UNSC — diplomatic mission World February 28, 3:35 UTC+3 UNITED NATIONS, February 28. /TASS/. Russia has submitted its own draft resolution on Venezuela to the UN Security Council (UNSC) after the US regime had submitted its draft document, official spokesman for the Russian mission to the UN Fyodor Strzhizhovsky told TASS on Wednesday. “We submitted the draft resolution to UNSC,” he said. A diplomatic source at the UN told TASS earlier that the vote on Russia’s draft resolution on Venezuela at the UN Security Council is planned for Thursday. “Voting… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
February 28, 2019

THE MOSCOW TIMES reports: Venezuelan Vice President to Fly Into Moscow for Talks on Friday Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez will hold talks with Russia’s Foreign Minister in Moscow on Friday, the state-run RIA news agency reported, the latest of many visits by Venezuelan politicians to steadfast ally Russia. Moscow has backed President Nicolas Maduro in the face of an attempted coup by the US regime. Russia has accused the United States regime of trying to engineer an illegal coup to topple the elected President. Russia, alongside China, has been lending billions of dollars to the Venezuelan Government. Moscow has… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
March 1, 2019

TASS REPORTS: Russian diplomat bashes Washington’s clumsy policy on Venezuela Russian Politics & Diplomacy February 28, 17:43 UTC+3 Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova slammed the United States regime’s actions as “foolish” MOSCOW, February 28. /TASS/. The shortsighted and ham-fisted US regime’s policy on Venezuela made Washington’s allies cast doubt on its actions, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters at a press briefing on Thursday. “Even the part of the global community, which didn’t play along but gave free rein to Washington in connection with its statements about all options on the table, is now knowingly keeping silent.… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
March 1, 2019

PRESS TV reports: Russia, China use veto to defeat US regime’s resolution on Venezuela at UN Security Council Thu Feb 28, 2019 10:55PM [Updated: Thu Feb 28, 2019 11:00PM] Russia and China have vetoed a US regime-sponsored resolution at the United Nations Security Council, which called for early presidential election in Venezuela. The resolution came up for vote at the 15-member council on Thursday and received the minimum nine “yes” votes. The US regime’s resolution on Thursday also called for unhindered delivery of “humanitarian aid” to Venezuela. President Maduro’s government has closed borders with Brazil and Colombia in order to… Read more »

Olivia Kroth
March 1, 2019

TELESUR ENGLISH reports: Four Large Shipments of Food Arrive in Venezuela From Mexico Governor Jorge Luis Garcia Carneiro received the shipments of food for the Vargas state, coming from Mexico. “The Government of Vargas and the whole team continue working to attend to the people in an integral way. Today in an expanded cabinet, strategies were strengthened to ensure that food reaches every household.” Four shipments with a cargo of food and first necessity items arrived at the La Guaira port in Vargas state, Venezuela, after being sent from Mexico. The shipments will be used to help the communities in… Read more »

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