The Anti-Venezuela Election Campaign

Venezuela's election is not until September, but the international campaign to delegitimise the government has already begun

Venezuela has an election for its
national assembly in September, and the campaign has begun in earnest. I
am referring to the international campaign. This is carried out largely
through the international media, although some will spill over into the
Venezuelan media. It involves many public officials, especially in the
US. The goal will be to generate as much bad press as possible about
Venezuela, to discredit the government, and to delegitimise the
September elections - in case the opposition should choose to boycott,
as they did in the last legislative elections, or refuse to recognise
the results if they lose.

There's no need for conspiracy, since
the principal actors all know what to do. Occasionally some will be
off-message due to lack of co-ordination. A fascinating example of this
occurred last week when Senator John McCain tried to get General Doug
Fraser of the US Southern Command to back his accusations that Venezuela
supports terrorist activities. Testifying before the Senate armed
services committee on March 11, General Fraser contradicted McCain:

"We
have continued to watch very closely ... We have not seen any connections
specifically that I can verify that there has been a direct
government-to-terrorist connection."

Oops! Apparently
Fraser didn't get the memo that the Obama team, not just McCain, is in
full campaign mode against Venezuela. The next day, he issued a statement
recanting his testimony
:

"Assistant Secretary
Valenzuela [the state department's top Latin America official] and I
spoke this morning on the topic of linkages between the government of
Venezuela and the Farc. There is zero daylight between our two positions
and we are in complete agreement.

"There is indeed clear and
documented historical and ongoing evidence of the linkages between the
government of Venezuela and the Farc ... we are in direct alignment with
our partners at the state department and the intelligence community."

Well
it's good to know that the United States still has civilian
control over the military, at least in the western hemisphere. On the
other hand, it would be even better if the truth counted for anything in
these Congressional hearings or in Washington foreign policy circles
generally. The general's awkward and seemingly forced reversal went
unnoticed by the media.

The "documented and historical and ongoing
evidence" mentioned by General Fraser refers to material alleged
to come from laptops
and hard drives allegedly
found
by the Colombian military in a cross-border raid into Ecuador
in 2008. Never mind that this is the same military that has been found
to have killed hundreds of innocent teenagers and dressed
them up in guerrilla clothing
. These laptops and hard drives will
continue to be tapped for previously undisclosed "evidence", which will
then be deployed in the campaign against the Venezuelan government. We
will be asked to assume that the "captured documents" are authentic, and
most of the media will do so.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton's attacks on
Venezuela during her trip
to South America
were one of the opening salvos of this campaign.
Most of what will follow is predictable. There will be hate-filled
editorials in the major newspapers, led by the neocon editorial board of
the Washington Post (aka Fox on 15th Street). Chavez will be accused of
repressing the media, even though most of the Venezuelan media - as
measured by audience - is still controlled by the opposition. In fact,
the media in Venezuela is still far more in opposition to the government
than is our own media in the United States, or for that matter in most
of the world. But the international press will be trying to convey the
image that Venezuela is Burma or North Korea.

In Washington DC,
if I try to broadcast on an FM radio frequency without a legal broadcast
licence, I will be shut down. When this happens in Venezuela, it is
reported as censorship. No one here will bother to look at the
legalities or the details, least of all the pundits and editorial
writers, or even many of the reporters.

The Venezuelan economy was
in recession in 2009, but will likely begin to grow again this year.
The business press will ignore the economic growth and hype the
inflation, as they have done for the past six years, when the country's
record economic growth cut the poverty rate by half and extreme
poverty by 70%
(which was also ignored). Resolutions will be
introduced into the US Congress condemning Venezuela for whatever.

The
US government will continue to pour millions of dollars into Venezuela
through USAid, and will refuse to disclose the recipients. This is the
non-covert part of their funding for the campaign inside Venezuela.

The
only part of this story that is not predictable is what the ultimate
result of the international campaign will be. In Venezuela's last
legislative elections of 2005, the opposition boycotted the national
elections, with at least tacit support from the Bush administration. In
an attempt to delegitimise the government, they gave up winning probably
at least 30% of the legislature.

At the time, most of the media -
and also the Organisation of American States - rejected the idea that
the election was illegitimate simply because the opposition boycotted.
But that was under the Bush administration, which had lost some
credibility on Venezuela due to its support for the 2002 coup, and for
other reasons. It could be different under an Obama administration.

That
is why it is so ominous to see this administration mounting an
unprovoked, transparently obvious campaign to delegitimise the
Venezuelan government prior to a national election. This looks like a
signal to the opposition: "We will support you if you decide to return
to an insurrectionary strategy," either before or after the election.

The
US state department is playing an ugly and dangerous game.