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A spirit of large-scale forward movement, of improvements of the quality of life and opportunities in the coming months and years, is the most pervasive feeling in Caracas today.

This feeling mirrors a continued focus on the betterment of life for a majority of Venezuelans. This optimism pervades daily life and is noticeable through increasing opportunities for education, health, and food for more than 70% of Venezuela’s citizens.

In Caracas, more than 20 daily newspapers testify to a robust and well-used freedom of the press, and most of the newspapers and commercial TV stations, in the hands of a small number of super-rich, are unalterably against the social changes being brought about by the Democratic government of Hugo Chavez. Some of the media, TV and newspapers, are carrying out an active disinformation campaign that includes never mentioning any of the positive changes occurring in Venezuela.

There is obvious improvement of life for a majority of Venezuelans at a time when most of the rest of the world is suffering large-scale unemployment and unchecked deterioration of the quality of life. Many others in the world are suffering under the neo-liberal economic model that results in wealth for the few and misery for most.

Yet, Venezuela has become a principal target for the Bush Administration’s constant and unfounded ire for crimes as not yet unknown, much like the weapons of mass destruction that became the reason to involve the US in a costly and bottomless war in Iraq.

The principal reason for targeting Venezuela seems to be, paradoxically, that the democratically elected Venezuelan President Chavez has been making gigantic strides in improving the quality of life for the 70% of the Venezuelans who have been hungry, uneducated, and illiterate for the past one hundred years, even as oil-rich Venezuela has had world-class oil reserves that have fueled the United States for the past one hundred years.

At the same time, the upper 30% of Venezuelan society has suffered no major economic or social dislocations and have not been targeted by Chavez for any repressive actions.

As a result of a steady barrage of unfounded insults, one Bush administration official, Roger Noriega, said of President Chavez, “Chavez must love the poor, he made so many of them,” and other verbal attacks against the democratic government in Venezuela for the past year, it seems likely that the same Bush administration will continue to take steps towards yet another Iraq-like war, this time in Venezuela. All that is missing is the incident or so-called reason to initiate such a war.

The recent designation by Bush, of Thomas Shannon as the new head of Latin American affairs for the State Department promises continued hostility towards Venezuela and other progressive nations, but with a different public face. In a recent article on Shannon, Andres Oppenheimer, in an opinion piece printed in Chile’s “El Mercurio” quotes un-named “well-placed sources in the Republic Party” as saying that “efforts to destroy Chavez will have a more moderate public tone while we pursue a more energetic policy against him. We will look critically at any lack of cooperation on the part of nations such as Argentina or Brazil with our efforts to curb regional menaces such as Chavez, but we will not engage in any public debates about these matters.”

A number of verbal assaults accuse Chavez and Venezuela of being a destabilizing force in the region. For example, Venezuela recently purchased a small number of 50-year old automatic rifles, AK-47’s, and defensive helicopters to help defend the border between Venezuela and Colombia. This region, densely forested with a nearly impenetrable jungle, is more than a thousand miles long and easily allows incursions into Venezuela from war-torn Colombia.

The AK-47 rifles that are being purchased are absolutely defensive weapons, and they were initially designed in 1947. They cannot be considered “dangerous.” They will be dangerous only to any outside groups that attempts to invade Venezuela. US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld criticized the Venezuelan purchase of AK-47’s and the other defensive weapons despite their relative insignificance compared to the five billion dollars of US military aid that Colombia has received in the past three years alone.

But truth and justice and balance have no role in what Bush has in mind as he and his destabilization specialists fashion conditions that will make it possible to bring a war of carnage upon the Venezuelan people in the coming months.

The ambiguous and mostly secret placement of US military “advisors,” some of them Special Forces, at the Venezuelan border just inside Colombia-Venezuela border, have been accompanied by unexplained deaths of many persons on the Venezuelan side. In the U.S., information about the stationing of US military near and at the Venezuelan border, where secret “ops” can be carried out in secret, is basically kept secret because it is part of the large-scale military role of the United States in Colombia.

It is a kind of “open secret” as the true objectives and use of the United States military “advisors” is not discussed by the media, often because it might compromise “national security.” Such activities prepare the conditions for initiating a war even before we, as a nation, are able to discuss the merits and rationale for such a war, a discussion that is vital to have before we go in. Anywhere.

Venezuela has had to defend itself from military incursions while making efforts to improve the quality of life, especially for those who remain hungry despite the Venezuelan oil wealth. Already one US-sponsored coup attempt, undertaken on April 11, 2002, resulted in the deaths of 19 Venezuelan citizens in Caracas, many at the hands of well-trained snipers that killed with one bullet to head. No culprits were ever found as the police force in Caracas was controlled at the time by the “opposition’ to Chavez. This coup attempt lasted 3 days and has created the widespread concern that the US will turn again to violence in its will to overcome democratic Venezuela.

The Chavez government, despite the attacks against it, has continued to make progress in terms of eradicating hunger, extending medical care to all, and insuring a growing and strong educational system.

Chavez and his supporters continue to take steps towards solving the problems facing the perpetually poor throughout Venezuela. In the field of education, illiteracy has been virtually eliminated as a result of a literacy campaign that has been initiated and supported by Chavez’s democratic government. Medical care has been madeavailable to the more than 70% of the people who had never seen a doctor. Cuban doctors, augmenting

Venezuelan doctors, have been effective even to the point of making house calls to the poor neighborhoods in the cities. One initiative, establishing food distribution stores that allow Venezuelans who cannot afford regular prices to purchase food at affordable prices, is used by 30% of the Venezuelans.

Media in Venezuela is vital to a robust and open democracy, and is also one of the main “points of the spear” held by the Venezuelan opposition at the heart of Venezuela’s democracy. Most Venezuelan media, especially the large newspapers and all of the commercial TV stations, have established and maintained an active and hostile attitude against the government, even to the point of broadcasting calls to “eliminate” the president from the face of the earth.

To say such a thing in the United States — the president should be eliminated — would, of course, bring immediate and appropriate sanctions, and immediate arrest, and so forth. In Venezuela, such calls for mayhem have been rationalized as “freedom of the press.” There is plenty of free press in Venezuela, but that does not include the freedom to call for the killing of the president, even if such calls are made using metaphors. The Pat Robertson incident this week, and the Bush administrations tacit support for his statements, it is his right in terms of ‘free speech,’ is in fact part of a Goebels-like campaign to promote a “big lie.” It is a fact that Chavez has been elected by his nation, and confirmed recently in his post by a democratic election overseen by international observers who declared the election free and fair.

Laws that govern the amount of freedom that the press and media have in Venezuela are identified as the “muzzling laws, censorship laws” but they are essentially the same laws that govern the media here in the United States.

An international meeting of Intellectuals and Artists was held in December 2004 in Caracas to consider how to defend humanitarian values and humanity itself from attacks by a world neo-liberal economic and communications monopoly. Commercial media, represented by CNN, AP newswire and other commercial media only provides news and information that serves the commercial and political interests of its owners. One suggestion made and formally adopted by the 300 plus attending the conference, was to create a separate, independent media channel in order to break the worldwide information blockade currently in place regarding Venezuela. This channel is in the process of becoming a reality and is now called TeleSUR.

TeleSUR is supported financially by Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Cuba and Venezuela. TeleSUR, which means “South TV,” is working under similar principles of openness and service to the community that led to, in the United States in the early 1970’s, the establishment of non-commercial broadcasting, networks PBS and NPR.

Despite the Bush administration’s claims that democracy is best carried out in the context of a diversity of media and many points of view, the Bush government has threatened media aggression against Venezuela if TeleSUR says anything critical of the United States government. The administration has backed up its threat by recently passing a bill through Congress that will provide for funding of an illegal attack on Venezuela’s domestic airwaves.

Specifically the US has threatened to illegally broadcast TV and radio programs into sovereign Venezuelan airspace. It will use broadcast stations mounted on a military espionage and media attack aircraft, a Lockheed C130e. This aircraft was used in the attack against Iraq and has been used previously in covert military actions around the world. This aircraft is capable of broadcasting radio and TV signals with programming shaped by the Pentagon and the White House.

Such broadcasts are illegal as national broadcast frequencies are ownedand controlled by each nation. International laws and conventions govern how frequencies are allocated, and the United States has no legal basis upon

which to attack Venezuela mediatically. It can initiate such broadcasts because, only because it is the biggest kid on the block, and it has the military force to do so. It is illegal to do this, and it will violate all international agreements governing broadcasting. Once again, the United States will defy, and therefore bring into question, rules that have been developed over the last 75 years.

Imagine what would happen to Venezuela if they made such broadcasts into Washington, DC, for example, from an airplane 20 miles off the coast of the United States and thirty thousand feet in the air by Venezuelan aircraft.

Despite these major positive changes brought about by the Chavez government for the majority of Venezuelans, the Bush administration continues to plan to destroy the Chavez government that was legitimately elected by more than 60% of the voters and ratified by a referendum last August, just one year ago. Democracy, it appears, is only good when it results in governments

that are good for the business interests that have elected Bush. Despite the appointment in the past few weeks of a new Bush “Latin American team,” Venezuelans and the World can expect a continuation of hostile words and hostile actions against Venezuela in the coming months.