On November 16, 2017, the Globe and Mail printed the article “Phone-tapping, fear and threats: Why an ex-Venezuelan judge is seeking refuge in Canada.” It was front page news, just shy of 1000 words, all carefully crafted to reinforce the most common and predictable lies and manipulations about Venezuela: government repression, political prisoners, food and medicine shortages, and human rights abuses. In this way, although the article claimed to be telling the story of Ralenis Tovar, a former judge in Caracas, it really wasn’t about her at all. Instead, it was another opportunity for the mainstream media to carry out its job of being a mouthpiece for the government of Canada. Another opportunity to attempt to convince people in Canada that the government of Canada’s attacks and illegal sanctions against the sovereign country of Venezuela are justified.
In the article, described as an “exclusive interview” by the Globe and Mail, Ms. Tovar makes multiple claims of “threats, stalking and a kidnapping attempt by members of the Maduro regime,” without offering any proof except for her own suspicions and paranoia, prefaced with words like “might be” and “is convinced”. It seems the Globe and Mail is hoping that that reader will just take these claims at face value because, it matched so well with the ongoing narrative that the democratically elected government of Venezuela and President Nicolas Maduro is a violent and repressive dictatorship. It goes right along with the words of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who said, “The crisis in Venezuela today poses a direct threat to international peace and security. Venezuela is an increasingly violent narco-state that threatens the region, the hemisphere, and the world.”
It is the Violent Right-Wing Opposition that Should be Feared
This Globe and Mail article has deliberately confused terrorist attacks and assaults by Venezuela’s U.S.-backed right-wing opposition with unsubstantiated claims of repression and violence by the government of Venezuela.
Ms. Tovar and her family left Venezuela at the end of July 2017, claiming that “her fear peaked in June when another judge involved in the sentencing of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was murdered.” The other judge that she is referring to is Nelson Moncada, who was robbed and murdered after being intercepted by a street barricade built by Venezuela’s violent right-wing opposition.
In fact, Nelson, who was only 37 years old when he was brutally murdered, is one of the over 125 people killed in Venezuela as a result of violent street riots organized by Venezuela’s violent opposition in the four months from April-July 2017. If indeed Ms. Tovar has anyone to be afraid of, it is not the government of Venezuela, as the article would like us to believe, but Venezuela’s violent right-wing opposition. However, Ms. Tovar is seeking refugee status in Canada, which means she is trying to place the blame squarely on the government of Nicolas Maduro.
“Political Prisoners” in Venezuela
Throughout the article the name “Leopaldo Lopez” appears seven times, only three times less than Ms. Tovar’s name. This is no coincidence. Leopaldo Lopez, who is currently under house arrest in Venezuela, is often mentioned by imperialist governments and Venezuela’s right-wing opposition alike, as the main example of “political repression” in Venezuela. His wife has even been given the ear of U.S. President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau. With all of this talk about Leopaldo Lopez, and claims that his arrest was based on political targeting, there is not a single mention of the fact that Mr. Lopez was tried and convicted of inciting violence and arson, among other crimes. Mr. Lopez’s connection to violent street riots in 2014, which killed 43 people, has been proven in a court of law. Ms. Trovar, who was a judge in Venezuela for 17 years, should be the first to know that. Instead she repeats, "I felt petrified because internally I knew what was the purpose of that warrant, which was to silence a political leader who was an obstacle for President Maduro.”
Leopaldo Lopez is a favorite of the U.S. government and their imperialist allies because he is their own creation. Coming from Venezuela’s capitalist class, Mr. Lopez was educated in the United States at a private high school, as well as the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. After graduating, he went on to become mayor in Chacao, the wealthiest municipality in Caracas. He also founded the right-wing political party “Primero Justicia,” using millions of dollars in funding from the United States government agencies, USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy.
An article by Roberto Lovato from Foreign Policy, also explains just how the campaign for his release from prison has received so much media attention, “helping to power Free Leopoldo in the United States is Republican Party operative Leonardo Alcivar, who ran communications strategies for the Romney campaign and the 2004 Republican National Convention […] No other element of the Venezuelan opposition has anything resembling the U.S. media operation that López has through Free Leopoldo.”
Government of Canada’s Attacks on Venezuela
On November 3, 2017 the government of Canada announced further sanctions against Venezuela, targeting 52 officials under the “Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act.” In the words of Chrystia Freeland, the Foreign Minister of Canada, “Canada is determined to protect human rights and combat corruption worldwide. Today’s announcement sends a clear message that Canada will take action against individuals who have profited from acts of significant corruption or who have been involved in gross violations of human rights.” Ms. Trovar’s story certainly attempts to bolster the government of Canada’s claims.
The article in the Globe and Mail also reinforces another interventionist policy of the government of Canada against Venezuela when it discusses Ms. Tovar’s “testimony” in front of the Organization of American States (OAS). The government of Canada has been promoting foreign intervention in Venezuela through the OAS, which is a regional body based in Washington, DC, consisting of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States and Canada.
The latest manifestation of these attacks on the sovereignty of Venezuela has been a push by imperialist governments to take Venezuela to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. This absurd charge is supported by the government of Canada through the voice of Professor Irwin Cotler, who represents Canada on a sham OAS panel that is conducting a so-called investigation into “crimes against humanity” in Venezuela. Mr. Cotler is a legal representative for Leopaldo Lopez, as well as a former Liberal politician who is clearly biased in his views on the government of Venezuela.
This isn’t the first time that Venezuela’s pro-U.S. opposition and their allies tried to bring the government of Venezuela to the ICC on the ridiculous claim of “crimes against humanity”. Following the 2002 US-backed coup d’état against President Hugo Chavez (which was over-turned by the people of Venezuela in less than 48 hours), right-wing perpetrators of the coup alleged that President Chavez was responsible for injuries and deaths caused by the coup, which they themselves carried out.
The Economic War on Venezuela
Although it is only one sentence, the Globe and Mail article is also sure to include another overplayed lie about Venezuela, “Meanwhile, the country is facing triple-digit inflation and desperate shortages of food and medicine.” That’s it, there is not a single word to back-up this loaded sentence, or to explain anything about the origins of shortages of medicine, food, and basic goods in Venezuela.
Since it began with the election of the Hugo Chavez in 1998, the Bolivarian revolutionary process has made tremendous gains for poor, working and oppressed people in Venezuela. In 2012, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognized Venezuela for reducing hunger and extreme poverty by greater than 50%. In 2015, Venezuela was once again given an award by the FAO for its work towards eliminating malnutrition, hunger and poverty in Venezuela.
These gains have been possible even though Venezuela’s capitalist class continues to control a majority of the production and distribution of food and basic goods in Venezuela. However, when the price of oil began to fall, and Venezuela’s income dropped, the capitalist class and Venezuela’s right-wing opposition seized the opportunity to sabotage Venezuela’s economy, at great cost to the people of Venezuela. Through hoarding, price gouging, smuggling and even the destruction of food and basic goods, the counter-revolutionaries have worked in tandem with the U.S. government to use the economy as a weapon to attempt to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro and the revolutionary Bolivarian government.
As just two examples of this economic war, in November 2017 Telesur TV reported that 7,000 metric tons of corn flour were allowed to rot in the state of Lara and video evidence was uncovered showing thousands of live chickens being buried alive in the state of Carabobo.
Sanctions imposed on the government of Venezuela by the United States have also had a significant impact on Venezuela’s ability to buy products, including medicine, on the world market. In September, President Nicolas Maduro explained, to the newly elected National Constituent Assembly, multiple instances when Venezuela was prepared to pay for shipments, but the companies were not able to accept their payments due to U.S. sanctions, including 300,000 doses of insulin which were held up for many days.
U.S./Canada Hands Off Venezuela!
The U.S. government and their imperialist allies are working with Venezuela’s violent opposition with the goal of overthrowing the government of Venezuela and reversing the gains made by the majority of the people of Venezuela with the Bolivarian Revolutionary process.
The Globe and Mail article and the lies and manipulations spread by Ms. Tovar about Venezuela are the fodder that the government of the United States and Canada uses to fuel their attacks on the sovereignty and self-determination of Venezuela.
As poor, working and oppressed people in Canada and the United States, we have the responsibility to challenge the imperialist rhetoric about Venezuela, and cry foul on the crocodile tears that they weep for so-called democracy and human rights. We must unite together to demand that imperialist governments end their meddling in the internal affairs of Venezuela. We must echo the calls of the people of Venezuela for an end to sanctions and threats.
Follow Alison Bodine on Twitter: @Alisoncolette
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