Media Revolution

Sunday, December 29, 2002


I have found very little insightful coverage of the Venezuelan situation. What is really going on? The mainstream media says that a nationwide “general strike” has halted the economy. It began December 2nd, and has now succeeded in shutting down the important oil sector. For instance, the Washington Post reports here today that the oil-rice Venezuela is now ironically importing gasoline from Brazil.

But check this out: I was listening to an NPR story about a week before Christmas, before the oil sector had been shut down. A correspondent in Caracas was being interviewed. As usual, there was hardly any elucidation about what sectors are striking and who is supporting Chavez. As with most coverage in the U.S. on the Venezuela situation, the casual listener could be lead to believe that this is a movement by the general populace against an incompitent president. But there was one kicker comment: When asked what the prospects were of the oil industry being shut down, the NPR correspondent said that “it depends on whether the managers convince the other workers to join the strike.” Here the key issue of class slips out, but only as a peep.

Chavez is a populist president supported by the poor. Venezuela is a country which, like many Latin American nations, has significant income inequality. There clearly is strong opposition to Chavez, but there are also masses of fervent supporters.

So... the oil industry was shut down. Did the workers join in the strike? To me, this remains unclear. If they did, I am curious why. There are indications that they did not. Two independent media sources call what is going on as being not a strike, but a lock out.
LINK is one. Their site is reported from Venezuela, but I find it confusing to navigate. Narconews has been the most critical. Here, in his "Chronology of the Strike that Wasn't", Narconews founder Al Giordano says that a general strike didn’t happen and that it all has been played up by shoddy reporting by the media. I’m going to quote from this article:

The “strike” never happened. There was conflict. There were marches. There was even eco-terrorism. Some events worth reporting did happen, but they were not reported honestly by the Pinocchios of the Commercial Media.


What did happen cannot honestly be called a “strike” (or a “general strike,” or a “national strike”) or anything like it. The events of December have been no more or less than the same group of people – mainly from the upper classes – marching around obediently for Commercial Media led spectacles, that have been marching around for the past year. The size of their protests has not increased since those of a year ago. [...] They have every right to play-act and discover their “inner spoiled brat.” But they are not, by any reasonable definition, having a “national strike.”


There was, this month, one sector of oil company executives that claimed they were on “strike,” but who in fact have spent this month actively working to lock-out rank-and-file employees and, according to their own public statements, to facilitate the sabotage, including eco-terrorism, of oil facilities.


The average annual salary of these 22 “strike” leaders is $426,000 U.S. dollars a year; almost 100 times the per capita income of the average Venezuelan citizen of $4,760 dollars per year. In the Venezuelan economy, $426,000 gives somebody more buying power than people who make millions of dollars a year in the United States.


In recent weeks, they locked out the workers, and installed their own men at key strategic points where sabotage has been committed to facilities under their watch.

The “opposition” complains about graffiti on the wall of a Commercial TV station and calls it “vandalism” or “violence.” These guys, meanwhile, have presided over the destruction of pumps, pipelines, tankers and other ships, trucks, and other key points in the flow of oil from the ground to the consumer, including to the United States.

If they had tried anything like this inside the United States, we would see the White House calling them terrorists, locking them up in Guantanamo Bay, and suing them for the millions of dollars of losses that they have caused. Some of the members of the “oil-igarchy” have made public statements that some oil supplies have been contaminated, and some facilities have been booby-trapped to cause environmental disaster if they are re-started.

Between the oil drilling facility and the gas pump there are many stops along the road. Shut down or sabotage one of those points, and you shut down the entire pipeline. That has certainly happened at various points. But to hear the U.S. and British press correspondents, the language of distortion always uses these events to claim that there is somehow universal compliance with the strike at every point in the pipeline. That is not the case, nor has it been the case at any point during December 2002.

That article has a chronology of events, and again it is available HERE.

Again, NPR, Reuters, and the AP wire convey the notion that there is this general strike because Chavez is harming the country. The Bushies push this view, too. But what is Chavez doing that is so bad? Does it compare to the harm caused to the nation by the disruption of oil flow plus the abrogation of constitution? (The constitution allows for a referrendum on Chavez's performance in August 2003 but the opposition can't wait.) I really don't see any description in our main stream press which says WHAT the opposition is opposed to. I don't see it here in this Reuters article. In sixteen articles on Venezuela at the Washington Post sight, I found one that gave genuinely useful details about why the opposition is mad at Chavez. [Unfortunately I lost it during a blogspot page-refresh accident. I took too long to post my post and it disappeared. I also lost a link to an AP article about a Peruvian shaman who chugged the hallucinogenic drug Ayahuasca and spoke about Chavez' political future. Oh, the quips I forgo.]

See also this press release from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

If there is to be a solution to Venezuela's present crisis of governance, it must come as a result of conformity with the constitution, not one imposed from the street or as a result of armed confrontation. There are any number of scenarios that pose a grave danger to Venezuela's organic institutions, but a solution that doesn't follow a constitutional script undermines its prospect for peace and stability and the continuance of the nation’s traditional political civility.