Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research has written a good post over at Alternet. He points out that Chavez has repeatedly voiced opposition to the FARC’s armed struggle against the Colombian government.
Washington’s foreign policy establishment – and much of the U.S. media — was taken by surprise this week when President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela stated that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) should lay down their arms and unconditionally release all of their hostages. The FARC is a guerrilla group that has been fighting to overthrow the Colombian government for more than four decades.Chávez’s announcement should not have come as a surprise, because he had already said the same things several months ago.
On January 13, for example, Chávez said: “I do not agree with the armed struggle, and that is one of the things that I want to talk to Marulanda (the head of the FARC who died last March) about.” Chávez also stated his opposition to kidnapping, and has made numerous public appeals for the FARC to release their hostages.
Chávez had also explained previously that the armed struggle was not necessary because left movements could now come to power through elections, something that was often difficult or impossible in the past because of political repression.
How does the US press and power establishment take this news?
The surprise in U.S. policy and media circles is a result of a misconception of Chávez’s recent role in Colombia’s conflict. A comparison: former President Jimmy Carter has recently called upon the United States to negotiate with Hamas – dismissed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and its allies in Israel and Europe. Carter is not an advocate of Hamas nor of armed struggle. He has met with Hamas and called for negotiations because he is trying to promote a peace settlement.The same has been true for Hugo Chávez in the Colombian conflict. This is how Chávez’s role has been seen by the families of the FARC’s hostages (including U.S. military contractors), Colombian anti-violence activists, the governments of Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia and almost every other state in the region, and also in Europe. None of these people (including FARC kidnapping victims) or governments are admirers of the FARC. They have strongly supported Chávez’s efforts, including but not limited to his success this year in gaining freedom for six hostages that were held by the FARC.
But for Washington and its right-wing allies in Colombia, Chávez and the FARC have become comrades in arms. The media has honed in on about two or three positive statements uttered by Chávez about the FARC (out of thousands of hours of his speeches) to describe Chávez as a “staunch FARC supporter” (Time Magazine, June 9).
Yesterday the Associated Press reported, falsely, that Chávez had five months ago been “urging world leaders to back their [the FARC’s] armed struggle.”The U.S. State Department has even said it would consider placing Venezuela on its short list of “state sponsors of terrorism.” This is unlikely in an election year, since Venezuela is our fifth largest oil supplier and the Republicans are already getting enough political headaches from gasoline at $4.00 a gallon.
For at least six years the Bush Administration has tried to make it look like Chávez and his government have been arming, funding, and otherwise supporting the FARC.
The inability of our press to report objectively on Venezuelan issues continues to astound me. Perhaps the time will come when the corporate media can report things as they really are without serving as a tool of the powerful who desire a certain outcome… in this case, a government in Venezuela that will be obedient to any trade agreements that resemble the old Multilateral Agreement on Investments. Until then, we can expect to see the demonization of Chavez despite the overwhelming support he has from his electorate.