Friday, September 22, 2006

What Hugo didn't tell at the U.N.

Hugo's Big Lies.
What Tyrant didn't tell U.N.
By Thor Halvorssen

September 21, 2006.- JUST a few days before his rant at the United Nations yesterday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave a speech in Caracas playing up the most obscene 9/11 conspiracy theory - that the attacks were planned by the Bush administration as a pretext for war. Yes, on Sept. 12, Chavez said, "Maybe it was even the imperialist North American power that planned and drove this terrorist attack against its own people and the citizens of the world to justify the aggressions immediately following against Iraq, Iran and threats against all of us, against Venezuela as well."
This guy is really, really big on "the Big Lie."
Yesterday's fire-breathing speech - carried live by dozens of world TV broadcasters - was nonstop hate, aimed at the United States, President Bush, Israel and the United Nations itself, along with Western democracy and economic liberalism. Calling "world dictator" George Bush the "devil" over and over again, he discussed everything from CIA plots to assassinate him to how he - along with Cuba, Iran and the non-aligned countries - will save the world from imperialist doom. Chavez has said the United States is "afraid of truth, is afraid of independent voices," yet Chavez has suffocated all dissent in his own backyard. Beyond rewriting the Constitution to bolster his legal power, he's passed a law banning "the use of language deemed to be insulting to the President of the Republic."
Human Rights Indeed, any expression of dissent, public or in private, against any public official is punishable with prison. Francisco Usón - a former minister in Chavez's own Cabinet - recently drew a six-year jail term for expressing an opinion on television. Carlos Ortega - the president of Venezuela's AFL-CIO-affiliated federation of workers - got a 16-year sentence for instigating a legal strike despite protests by the International Labor Organization of this unspeakable violation of human rights. (Ortega escaped from prison last month.) Chavez claimed yesterday that the United States protects terrorism while his own government is "fully committed to combating terrorism and violence." In fact, Chavez has demonstrably protected and armed the FARC terrorists of next-door Colombia. (He's also presided during the greatest crime wave in Venezuelan history, with a death toll exponentially larger than any previous government's.)
Chavez denounced capitalism as the generator of "mere poverty." Yet, thanks to a capitalist oil boom, he has profited from the richest Venezuelan government in history - but squandered its wealth on a new Venezuelan oligarchy of petro-millionaires masquerading as government officials. Meanwhile, misery and malnutrition are at a historic high. Chavez railed against Western-style democracy. Yet it was western style democracy that brought him into power (after his own armed coup failed) and may remove him in the end. This is why he does everything he can to hollow and weaken democratic institutions. He has frequently praised the "participatory" models of Libya, North Korea and Cuba as ideal forms of government - countries where rulers, accountable to no one, torture, imprison and murder their opponents.
As for his references to peace and world understanding, well: The Venezuelan leader has increased military spending to $10 billion a year, dwarfing all social programs, education and health budgets - and vastly above the nation's previous arms spending. He's bought 100,000 automatic assault rifles, 53 Mi-35 assault helicopters and several supersonic fighter-bombers from Russia, as well as transport planes, patrol boats and speedboats from Spain. He has also signed an agreement with Russia to build Latin American's first-ever Kalashnikov factory.
The worst may be his roars about the threat of imperialism - for, in Latin America, Hugo Chavez is the face of modern imperialism. Chavez's grants to Fidel Castro alone are larger than all United States aid packages in the Americas. He helped get coca-grower Evo Morales elected president of Bolivia. He is putting Venezuelan oil cash behind Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. His neighbors resent it: Voters in Peru and Mexico recently rejected Chavez-backed candidates (Ollanta Humalla and Andres Lopez Obrador) in good part because of the Chavez taint.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton dismissed Chavez's thundering rhetoric yesterday as cartoonish. Other leaders have referred to him as a buffoon and a joke. But, like Korea's much-ridiculed Kim Jong Il, Chavez poses a deadly threat not only to his own nation but to the peace and security of the region. He has signed more than 80 international agreements with Iran, stating repeatedly that if international action is taken to prevent Iran from developing nuclear capacity, Venezuela will attack the United States. His own "hypothetical" nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Chavez was brandishing a book by MIT professor Noam Chomsky yesterday. He's plainly taken one of Chomsky's maxims to heart: "If you repeat it loudly enough, it will become the truth."
Thor Halvorssen is president of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation

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