Chavez shuts down the media… and it’s about time. No censorship here.

Originally published 1/25/07:

Ah, a very good article by the ever more impressive Stephen Lendman.  Here he explains exactly why Chavez’s non-renewal of RCTV’s broadcasting license is not government censorship.

He says:

“If any part of the US media – corporate run, controlled or otherwise – reported the kind of strident anti-government propaganda intended to incite public hostility, violence and rebellion the way the Venezuelan dominant media do, they’d be subject to indictment on charges of sedition and possibly treason against the state – offenses far more serious than just the right to remain operating.  During the 2002 April aborted coup and later anti-Chavez insurrection in the form of a general strike and management-imposed oil industry lockout, the Venezuelan corporate media acted in league with the oligarch opposition coup-plotters trying to overthrow democratically elected Hugo Chavez and his government.”

He goes on explaining what the Media Oligarchy in Venezuela has been doing lately in their treasonous acts and shows that non-renewal of a broadcasting license is really the lowest possible punishment that could be dished out.

Remember Joseph Smith who shut down the Nauvoo Expositor and was perfectly within his legal rights to do so.  Chavez’s actions here are no less.


6 Responses to “Chavez shuts down the media… and it’s about time. No censorship here.”

  1. 1 Non-Arab Arab October 5, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Ummm…Joseph Smith may have been within his legal rights, but given that the incident ultimately triggered a chain of events that got him and his brother killed (any fatalism about “their time to go” aside), in retrospect it wasn’t a very wise thing to do. With Chavez, he may be within the law, but in a country where politics is so polarized and tumultuous, simply shutting down the other side is only going to polarize further.

    I am very much with populists in spirit, but man they do have a way of taking things to far and shooting themselves in the foot. Mugabe remains widely respect on many levels inside the country for example, but geez, look what he’s done to Zimbabwe.

    Or, it’s also like an Egyptian movie I saw idealizing Nasser. He steps into a council shortly after the revolution where the generals and allied politicians are debating whether to have democracy or one-man rule. Nasser is portrayed as a loving father who wisely stands up after all the debate and explains the virtues of dictatorship at a time like that (very Bush-like actually, only Nasser wasn’t a drooling brain-dead moron like Bush). Nasser ultimately got his butt whooped, drove the most economically dynamic elements out of Egypt (destroying much of the countries millenia-old ethnic diversity in the process), and sent the country on a downward spiral even lower than what the Brits and Royals had managed. Not to justify the old wealthy oligarchs or royals or deny that Nasser didn’t do a lot of good things for Egypt. But I long for the day when you can get a leader with populist impulses (care for the poor, standing up to destructive foreign powers, etc.) who also has some basic sense about economics and how to live with and heal deep political and socio-economic rifts in society.

    Chavez is increasingly diving off the deep end and when crude prices moderate for a sustained period (not even $10 oil, I think a dip to $50 oil would be enough when you look at the Venezuelan budget and the light-heavy crude spreads), I think he’s toast. He’s invested almost nothing in serious infrastructure, oil production is falling off a cliff meaning future generations’ government revenues are threatened, he’s drained the coffers of savings, he’s wrecked any sense of fiscal self-restraint or transparency. No he doesn’t appear by and large to have done that to enrich himself (based on what little I know about the country), he has spent the money on social programs to help the poor, but it’s economically unsustainable without extremely high oil prices. And oil prices as any market player in crude or products will tell you, are inherently and strongly cyclical. These prices won’t last forever and when they come off, where is Chavez then?

  2. 2 theradicalmormon October 5, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    I hear your concerns and see the trouble he is getting into by “shutting down” RCTV, but he hasn’t actually shut them down. They are still airing their provocative propaganda on cable TV. Besides being supportive of the coup, I suspect they were receiving funds from the US just as La Prensa was in Nicaragua during the 80’s.

    As far as Venezuelan economics go, I don’t know if he is as unwise as you think. I’m no economist of course, but it seems that oil would have to dip considerably below 50$ a barrel to hurt Venezuela. I think this because Venezuela actually has one of the largest heavy oil reserves in the world. Chavez earlier offered the US a permanent 50$ per barrel price in order to assure enough funds to take care of the costly heavy oil extraction process. Of course Bush refused. The cost of oil has not dipped below 50$ since that time (around a year ago if I remember correctly) and it doesn’t seem to be going down anytimes soon. Agreed though that oil is not a good long term crutch for an economy.

    Also, he has been investing in infrastructure, roads, transportation systems etc. I’ve been following this a little at the oilwars blog which has been documenting this sort of stuff very well. Thanks for commenting, your perspective is appreciated.

  3. 3 Non-Arab Arab October 6, 2007 at 1:19 am

    I’ll have to admit I’m not up on all the details of the RCTV stuff so I’ll defer to you, but on the oil I know a thing or two. Reserves are useless if you can’t produce them, and ever since they canned half of PDVSA’s employees (the most skilled ones) after the 2002 strike – again an action that one can understand on one level but nonetheless it hurt PDVSA more than anyone else – production has been steadily falling. They can’t get the rigs because they’ve nationalized the rigs and so now have neither the domestic staff nor the ability to get international market rate drilling contractors to come in and do the work. Natural gas production problems feed directly into heavy oil production as well, reducing electricity supplies to the Orinoco upgraders, reducing gas injection into conventional fields, etc. Bottom line, the countries production has been on a steady decline for years and years now and shows no signs of turning around. Like the Iraqis they make lots of claims about big production increases, but in the market none of the players are seeing the crude, in fact they’ve seen big declines in spot availabilities. Bottom line is they’re getting fewer barrels out and without sufficient investment or expertise (both of which remain badly starved in Venezuela), it’s going to get far worse before it gets better even if they were to reverse course today. Heavy crude is difficult stuff to produce and process, and having canned most of their native expertise in doing stuff, things aren’t looking well. Similarly on the refining side, I track it quite closely and every time I turn around another cat cracker is blowing up or another cargo of gasoline has turned out to be off-spec, or another unit restart has taken 5 months instead of 5 days. It’s a mess and is destroying their value added revenues from refining.

    As per the budget, I am relying in large measure on colleagues far smarter than me, most of whom are quite sympathetic to Chavez, who for years have been making the same warnings: current spending continues to skyrocket and at the first downturn in oil prices it will be unsustainable. The 5 year uptrend in crude prices has saved Chavez, but he doesn’t have any sustainable income when the prices go down. Crude may be $80 today, but when it goes to $50, that’s almost a 40% decline. How are Venezuelans gonna feel when their public sector salary has to be cut by 40% and their health services cut by 40% from the new higher levels they’ve gotten used to (and that just to maintain an ongoing budget deficit)? If not worse – if Chavez tries to go to the international debt markets to fund those deficits at that point, he’s gonna get a lot of cold stares based on how he’s behaved with foreign investors. He could have done a lot of what he’s done in a far more tactful way but with similar bottom lines and not created that problem. And inflation is already picking up a serious head of steam, a fact that inevitably hurts the poor. You don’t even want to know what things would look like if crude went to $30 or $20 again.

    Bottom line I’d say is that a smart populist would take windfall revenues such as those the past years have produced, spend a portion of it on income redistribution, but a much larger portion on creating sustainable future income. It’s like you or me – I get a million dollar windfall, I can go buy the big house on the hill then within a year discover I have no money to pay the property taxes, utility bills, groundskeeper, etc. But if I stick it in an annuity and get myself a payment of $50,000/year for life, I may not feel as rich as the guy with the house on the hill, but I am much better off in the long run. For Venezuela that partially has to mean proper investment in it’s oil industry and associated expertise, but they’ve also got to find non-energy, labor-intensive industries to promote so that the poor will have long-term income regardless of what oil prices do. That’s a wise use of economic rents from extractive industries. Don’t know enough about the country to say what those labor-intensive industries should be, but simply raising the salaries of government bureaucrats is definitely not the way to do that.

  4. 4 theradicalmormon October 6, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Sounds like a solid analysis Arab. However, I remember reading somewhere that the oil production numbers are not as bad as the Venezuelan opposition (which controls the vast majority of the media in Venezuela) would have us believe. I’ll try to find that source. On the other hand, you sound as if you have an sound knowledge of the industry, as if you work in the industry. I’d have to defer to you then on that sort of thing.

  5. 5 Non-Arab Arab October 7, 2007 at 1:39 am

    Opposition has long claimed very low numbers and government very high – though curiously the government “accidentally” released a set of stats once to the Joint Oil Data Initiative that were subsequently revised to their higher public claims a few months later. The JODI slip was a good clue to reality, but so are things like Central Bank oil revenue numbers and spot market soundings. Basically, I don’t think anybody takes either the opposition or government at face value, but there are overwhelming indicators that the numbers are far lower than the government claims and continuing to decline. Moreover, their refining, blending, and marketing problems are now causing preventable screwups as well where some of their worst quality crudes are backing up in storage unable to be sold, forcing otherwise unnecessary production shut-ins. Overall, not a good situation, especially given that heavy oil fields do not react nearly as well (i.e., long-term damage to fields is caused) by stops and starts in production.

    Again, my point is not that I’m against many populist motivations (aiding/raising up the poor, providing badly needed social services, narrowing wealth gaps, having non-servile foreign policies, etc.), I simply lament the fact that almost every populist regime seems to throw pragmatism out the window and allow stuff like this (the trashing of the country’s vital oil industry which is so necessary in Venezuela to accomplish those populist goals) to occur which damages the long-term ability to make the necessary changes and within the next political cycle could lead to yet another right-wing, oligarchic resurgence. I’d like to see a populist who can plan better for the long term. Dunno, is Lula that man? On the surface he sounds like it, but my knowledge of Brazil (other than energy) is even weaker than Venezuela.

  6. 6 theradicalmormon October 7, 2007 at 3:42 am

    Understood. I don’t know. My gut feeling tells me that Chavez is the best chance for a populist leader to succeed. Usually these types are cut down in their infancy by our under the covers imperialist policy as was Allende of Chile. Lula seems to be more of a neocentrist after taking office and though I also know little of him, my impression is not good so far. I like to follow Chavez, partly because of his standing up to the US and partly because of his socialist expirement.

    Interestingly, a recent poll in Venezuela asking what form of socio-economic policy the people desire down there, these were the results:

    Social Democracy 60%

    Socialism 24%

    Capitalism 4%

    Communism 1%

    Dont’ know 11%

    Seems like the majority of the people fall in between the two extremes and the opposition, most represented by the Capitalist camp don’t carry much weight.

    I hope that Chavez doesn’t squander his economic advantage totally, as you suggest he is on the path towards currently. I’d really like to see him succeed… probably as much as the Bush administration would like to see him fail.

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