(I know the second man hugging Chávez is Iran's President Ahmed Ahmadinejad, I just wanted to put a picture of another of Chavez's friends in the world, someone different from Mugabe or Ghadaffi or Syria's president or Castro)
This 29 August we could read in The Guardian a letter written by Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of one of the richest cities in the world.
You can read the letter here.
Here I simply address several of his statements:
"The idea that this country is a dictatorship is ridiculous – probably some of those assiduously promoting it have difficulty in keeping a straight face."
Mr Livingstone basically asserts that because he could see from his hotel TV set the critical Globovisión on cable and he could check we have some newspapers that are critical of Chavez.
The little things he does not know:
- Most people in Venezuela DO NOT HAVE cable TV and cannot watch Globovisión.
- Caracas plus Maracaibo plus Valencia are not all of Venezuela. M
- Less than 25% of Venezuelans have Internet access.
- El Universal and El Nacional are newspapers that have always been bought by a minority in a country where those who read, read so very little.
Mr Livingstone does not tell you that a lot of high officials in the Chávez regime openly threatened people who signed the petition for the referendum for Chávez. Those officials said whoever signed against Chavez would be sacked. He does not say how Chávez announced the finger prints of those who signed against him would pass to history.
Mr Livingstone does not say Chávez has declared many times that if the opposition wins, there would be war.
Mr Livingstone claims Chávez showed how good a democrat he can be by admitting his obvious defeat last December. The former mayor does not mention Chávez said the opposition's victory was a "shitty shitty shitty victory" and that he would not change anything in his proposal and he would push for it later, even if it was rejected by most people (he has already passed several laws via special powers that were part of the points rejected in the referendum).
Mr Livingstone does not explain why the Venezuelan National Electoral Council has not declared what happened with 10% of the votes in last December's referendum, that the National Electoral Council should have published the final results many months ago and that it has not done so even if the numbers they provided in the first report simply DO NOT ADD UP.
Mr Livingstone does not explain why Chávez does not allow critical journalists or channels close to him.
Mr Livingstone does not explain the real meaning of Socialism, Fatherland or Death.
Mr Livingstone does not explain the pathetic Personality Cult we have in Venezuela, where the state spends millions in thousands and thousands of billboards glorifying Chávez as a successor of Bolívar, as the new great hero.
Mr Livingstone shamelessly says illiteracy has been eliminated to "UNESCO levels". That is not right at all. UNESCO never confirmed Chavez's assertions. As you can read in The Economist, this is a big, big fib. Venezuela's literacy rate in 1998 was around 93% and growing. After some years, Chávez claimed it had been reduced to 0%, something not even Germany has managed to do and definitely not the UK. As that was not credible, Chavez and his cronies mentioned other numbers..."well, we have brought literacy to something in the ninety%". Hello? What is difference from 93% in 1997? And then they have had to concede hundreds of thousands of the people who registered for the Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela cannot read or write. Mr Livingstone does not say either that now Venezuela has pulled out of open evaluation tests of education levels, as those promoted by UNESCO. He does not say Venezuela is one of the few countries in Latin America that do not take part in the PISA programme.
Mr Livingstone talks about the old rich, but he does not talk about the Boliburgueses, about the Kaufmans and the Antonini Wilsons, about the ministers who claim this is a true socialist government while wearing the most expensive clothes.
Mr Livingstone claims Chávez has introduced a "new free healthcare system", when he does not know the state of public hospitals (already free before Chávez).
Mr Livingstone mentions crime very briefly, but he does not mention the murder rate in Venezuela has increased over 300% since 1998, more than in any other country in Latin America, including Mexico. He does not mention either the 8 ministers of Justice Venezuela has had since 1999 have lied month after month about the murder rates, that they have claimed the murder rate is down because they compare one isolated weekend to another or one region during a couple of days suitable for their pseudo-statistical analysis. He does not want to say Venezuela's government stopped sending the number of murders in 2003 to United Nation's Office on Drugs and Crime when it became too clear crime was out of control in Venezuela.
Mr Livingstone does not explain exactly what has been achieved with the money poor Venezuela invested in one of the richest cities in the world.
Mr Livingstone tries to make Britons believe most of the opposition are evil rich people who dislike the poor. That is like saying most Britons who do not like Mr Livingstone are neo-Nazis and as proof he chooses some fringe neo-Nazi group.
What kind of tactic is that? If some Venezuelan were to tell Britons everybody who is not with Mr Livingstone/Cameron/Blair/you-name-him or her is a Nazi or that he is just some kind of selfish monster, I think Britons would be very angry and feel that Venezuelan does not know what respect and honesty are.
Shame on you, Mr Livingstone.