<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Chávez Beats Forero (Again)

One Year After Venezuela's Counter-Coup, a Winner and a Loser Duel


By Luis Gómez
Narco News Andean Bureau Chief

April 15, 2003

CARACAS, VENEZUELA: On the morning of April 11, last week, at the beginning of his public workday, President Hugo Chávez Frías (“Chávez,” as the people say with affection), gave a press conference for the international media. For four-and-a-half hours, he offered a literal crash course in economic history, explained the context of the failed coup d’etat begun on April 11, 2002, and responded to eight questions offered by almost 100 journalists who gathered in the Ayacucho Salon of Miraflores Palace (the press room of the “White House” of Venezuela).

This correspondent found not just the pleasant surprise of getting to know an honest, simple, and intelligent Latin American politician… He also could observe another personality, well known in the pages of Narco News, up close: the “special correspondent” of the New York Times, Juan Forero. Yes, the same Juan Forero who, in 2001, got caught allowing U.S. Embassy officials to monitor his interviews with mercenary pilots… the same Juan Forero who lied to you last April saying “Chávez resigned”… and the same Juan Forero who was caught, last December, penning an identical story as a reporter for the LA Times…. Yes… that guy.

Today’s report, kind readers, is thus about the press conference by Chávez, and it is also a portrait of an upper caste commercial reporter.

Let’s go first to the democratically elected president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela:

“We would like on this special day for all Venezuela, and also for some parts of the world, to give you all some time… to exchange questions and answers and opinions. And the thing is that we will never forget – personally, I will never forget – the role that the international press played during those days a year ago…

“The role that a courageous and valiant group of international journalists and correspondents, who nobody could accuse of being Chavistas, or of having any commitment to the government of Venezuela, was simply to comply with the obligation of journalists… with an ethical commitment to inform, simply, of what happened, so that the world would know… and an idea closer to reality of the happenings that shook us here in Venezuela a year ago today…”

A correspondent for Iranian TV, Mehvdi, commented to your correspondent: “A year ago, we reported the news about the coup and how the people rose up to put their president back in office… By coincidence, the ANSA news agency sent a wire throughout the world that said ‘according to Iranian television.’” And he laughed, content, with the Argentine accent of one who had done the right thing – spoken the truth – he’s proud and happy to see that, in spite of the efforts of the pro-coup commercial media, today, in Miraflores Palace, the man who the people elected as president is still in his seat.

And meanwhile, what about Juan Forero, the New York Timesman here today? He’s distracted, because maybe, a year ago, well, he didn’t do his job so well… Or maybe he did what he was told… during those days a year ago that he became the “Minister of Propaganda for an illegal coup d’etat that almost turned the clock of democracy back thirty years in our América,” as our publisher Al Giordano described him in a report titled Three Days that Shook the Media.

Respect for History

“This morning, I spoke to one of my daughters. She was remembering how she had to maneuver in order to communicate with Havana, and only through Havana, with the help and understanding of Fidel Castro, a good friend and compañero, the world heard a different version than that of the media-fed funeral that was being broadcast from here…

“That’s why my first public activity today is so important for us.”

Chávez, beginning at this moment, dedicated himself to salute various Authentic Journalists from Latin America, offering recognition to some as friends of many years, who have shown solidarity with the cause of the Venezuelan people. And next, the Venezuelan president said that “April 11th was the product of a thousand days.”

“We can say, without this being a cause of frustration, that Venezuela lost the 20th Century,” Chávez continued. Remembering that, already, in 1896, this wealthy nation drilled petroleum, and that a peasant farmer then said, “it seems like the devil’s excrement.” At the same time, he recalled that Arturo Uslar Pietri, the greatest Venezuelan writer of the second half of the last century, said, when he was a government minister in 1940: “We have to plant petroleum,” noting that wealth that is poorly administered can turn into smoke, as occurred in Venezuela when the dominant classes controlled political power, robbing the people of its rights, and its opportunity to create a true democracy.”

Thus, on this issue, Chávez demonstrated a vast understanding of this history for almost two hours in which he also recalled some brilliant moments, such as the leadership of General Zamora on behalf of peasant farmers and some of the honest presidents who had served this country… And while he did explain the history, Juan Forero – about whom the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) of the United States is making a documentary – coughed and moved his right leg uncomfortably, complaining of the president’s discourse to his cameraperson, Cassandra Hermann (“This is a big piece of shit,” he said, referring to Chávez’s words)…. Also with Hermann, were Angel González, Doug Hamilton and producer Brian Ellsworth of the PBS “Frontline” program, and David Rabin from National Public Radio, whose job, it seemed, was to follow Forero in all he said and did.

“Chimbo” Journalists

While recounting the decisive events of last April 11th, Chávez said that “in 2001 they convinced themselves that the bug was a bug (which is to say, invincible) and they began a conspiracy… they started planning. For them, the path of conspiracy, of a coup, of fascism… brought an alliance among the most powerful forces in Venezuela, and with grand international connections.”

He also recalled the man who is called “Pedro Carmona, the brief one,” the famous Dicator-for-a-Day who abolished the Constitution, disolved the Supreme Court and the National congress. And he told about the hierarchs of the Catholic church who went to visit the president while he was under arrest to ask him “in the name of God” to resign his post. But in the final analysis the circumstances of the failed coup d’etat a year ago, Chávez did not leave out the fact that “inside this confluence of sectors, the powerful groups… the big lies…,” a formula was designed that he referred to as M plus M plus M = Coup. M-squared, to mention the “muertos,” or deaths, of last April 11th (“it didn’t matter to them how many”), plus the Military officials who disowned the authority of the president, and another “M… the first M, standing for the March (the president’s supposed ‘resignation’)…” would equal a “Coup, the fall of the government.”

“That was the plan. And they went about complying with it through big lies… We won’t forget the declarations of a youth who worked for a global television chain (referring to CNN), Otto Nuestadt, who was a witness to those who would mount that grand farce to blame the deaths on Chávez. And to justify with those lies a coup and the death of Chávez, because Chávez had to die.

“It was only the rapid action by military members and the popular pressure that saved my life, but I was condemned to die on the night of April 12th, I would not have awakened alive on the 13th… Otto said that they invited him to a meeting on the 11th, at midday… that the march would come… There hadn’t yet been a single shot fired. However, there was a group of military officials here in Caracas awaiting the microwave signal of a TV station in order to broadcast live to the country to disown the government… the microwave signal never arrived, and this youth (I don’t think he is a journalist, but he works for this TV chain) said that what occurred to him, in this situation, was to say to the military officials, “Well, why don’t you show me what you are going to say to the country so that everything goes well?”

The military officials accepted Nuestadt’s proposal. They stood in front of the camera and began to speak while the man from CNN videotaped them. “Two hours before the first shot was fired, impressive, as they had planned the deaths, they were seen practicing their announcement of the deaths. They said: “The president of the Council of Authorities, Mr. Hugo Chávez Frías, has betrayed the people, he is massacring the people with sharpshooters (they knew there would be snipers). At this moment there are six dead (they already had the numbers) and dozens of wounded… and it is worth it today to remember the people who died… the majority of them here, in front of the palace… they were defenders of the government…”

Thus, Otto Nuestadt, writing some of the most pathetic and hard pages in this history of contemporary journalism, won the qualifaction of “chimbo journalist” by Hugo Chávez, pacotilla journalist. And speaking of chimbo journalists, the emulator of Hearst, by the name of Juan Forero, was moving around Salon Ayacucho uncomfortably. Behind his intellectual glasses it could be observed that the man from the New York Times could not stand the discourse. Of course, Forero wore military pants: Could it be because we are at war and he has chosen his side in the battle?

“Nine” Questions… or more

As I mentioned above, kind readers, Chávez only took eight questions from we international journalists who were assembled to hear him during these four-and-a-half hours. Among the questions, we can mention that they included that of the distribution of land to Venezuelan peasant farmers, the future of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the well known “group of friendly countries” that is trying to mediate… but for you, and just for you, kind readers, we give you the exchange that occurred in Salon Ayacucho between Juan Forero and Hugo Chávez.

When it came time for the third question, in accord with the prior lottery for the press conference, it was not the PBS cameraman’s turn. But it was their star, Juan Forero, who approached the microphone. When he said he was from the New York Times, Chávez looked puzzled and asked if he was not from PBS. “From both,” Forero answered, “PBS is the public television station in the United States.”

At this moment, Hugo Chavez asked, with evident and pleasant irony: “Ah, do you broadcast from Iraq?”

“No,” responded Forero.

“Noooo? You didn’t have the chance?” Chávez insisted.

“Soon, very soon,” responded Forero hastily, while the journalists laughed at him.

Here, Mehdvi, the fun Iranian, couldn’t stop laughing at Juan Forero either… not for what he said so uncomfortably, but, rather, for the sharp ability of Chávez to provoke him.

“They didn’t give you teh chance there,” Chávez pressed.

“No… well, a pair of questions,” said Forero. “First I would like to ask you: A year ago 19 people died in the City Center… esteee… the position… I would like to ask you… apparently the investigation, well, has not moved forward, there is a possibility it has been stalled… I don’t know, I would like to ask, I don’t know… How do you see it? Why has there not been a clear investigation in the past year?”

The second question was: “The economy here is going to fall by 17 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund… and there are other economists who say more or less the same…”

Pardon the new interruption, kind readers, but, do you get it? Beyond the doubts about Forero, the question about the economy was tendentious, he’s already stating it as a concrete fact: The International Monetary Fund says that the Venezuelan economy is going to fall 17 percentage points this year, and Forero accepts it, he tosses it to Chávez inventing an inexistent reality… but let’s continue…

“How much does the Fund give us?” Chávez asked, smiling.

“What?” replied Forero.

“How much does the Fund give us?”

“They say 17 percent.”

“They always have such nice predictions for us here.” And with that, the President of Venezuela gives a class in management, of how to manage a journalist who provokes him… this bug is invincible… and he makes all of us laugh at the buffoon asking the question.

“But the question I ask is this,” Forero insists. “Now the opposition, I believe, sees the fall of the economy as part of a new strategy, and they now say that the economy will be the final blow for this government. How do you see it? What are you going to do to try and maintain this economy and improve it?”

And President Chávez, not intimidated by these two questions, doesn’t fall into the trap. And he begins to explain that the deaths of those days did not only include 19 people, but, rather, more than 40. “And of course an investigation was begun. The prosecutor appointed special prosecutors for all those case. What the Executive Branch can do is supply evidence” And not just his office (Chávez responded in a televised interview for eight hours to members of the National Congress about the events of April 2002), the president of the Venezuelan people responded also that the police and even the military intelligence agency had participated in the judicial investigation.

“Now, I would not say that there has not been a process of investigation. Here it is. I can’t draw conclusions from a process that is not directly part of the executive branch’s responsibility,” he clarified with classic Chávez parsimony. “Ole!” Mehdvi says, at my side, a little too loudly, because the members of the PBS film crew realized that, by the end of the press conference, there is more than one Authentic Journalist around them, and various laughing at Forero.

Chávez continúes: “But, yes, I can say to you, for example, in trying to find reasons for the sad reality, that there have not been convicts sentenced with respect to those crimes, that one night a prosecutor came here, one of the many prosecutors assigned to investigate the deaths and crimes of those days.” And he tells of the frustration by that judicial branch official, as the Judicial branch in Venezuela still needs many reforms, “because there are people who are judges who don’t deserve to be.”

Later he criticized the 17 percent figure of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), remembering that among other things it was this international organization that was among the first to recognize “Pedro Carmona, the brief one,” during his one-day government, in addition to offering the necessary economic support for his government… “That is the International Monetary Fund,” Chávez affirmed.

And about the IMF, the President of Venezuela only has doubts: “Because theirs are formulas poisoned by neoliberal fundamentalism.” He recognizes that there are severe economic problems in this country, but he doesn’t hesitate to mention the principal causes: the lockouts realized by businesses, the sabotage against the state petroleum company, and others… which is why they have had to plan a Bolivarian Agenda to reactivate the economy, to promote growth and augment the stock of international reserves that have grown from 10 billion dollars to almost 17 billion, after the forced closure of the petroleum industry during almost two months last year.

Finally, Hugo Chávez concluded his duel with the “special envoy” of the New York Times and the new PBS star, saying: “For these reasons, in 2002, we had a Happy New Year. We didn’t have a cent, but it was a happy year…”

The “Report” of April 12, 2002

Could Forero have bad memories from April 2002? Does he hate the Venezuelan popular movement and the truth? Did he receive “orders” from any particular official U.S. institution about what he had to write in the New York Times? Who knows? Maybe someday the truth will come out. But let’s take a look at what PBS’ latest star published on Saturday, April 12, of this year, this week, in the NY Times…

“The economy is expected to shrink by as much as 20 percent this year, the nation remains sharply divided and his opponents are still trying to force him from office. But a year after he survived a coup, President Hugo Chávez is as strong as ever.”

Hey! Don Juan Forero! Didn’t the IMF predict a 17 percent fall in the economy? That’s what you said to Chávez during the press conference. Now it is 20 percent? I hope that a journalist of your caliber can calculate what the difference of three-percent would mean in terms of hunger and poverty for the Venezuelan people. At least you clarified, a few paragraphs later, that it could be considered a theory in development citing some “economists” as sources. Which ones? Opposition members? Eric Ekvall? Because the first paragraph leaves no doubts: Juan Forero says the economy is going to fall 20 percent, there it is.

And now that we are speaking of “sources” of information: Forero says in his recent “report” that, “One polling firm, Consultores 21, recently found that if the elections were held now, Mr. Chávez would receive only 34 percent of the vote and that 54 percent of Venezuelans would vote for an opposition leader, though who that could be is far from clear.”

Ay, ay ay… What can we do with this? Because the journalist for the New York Times and PBS forgot to mention that Consultores 21 is the property of the coup-monger and opposition member Gustavo Cisneros, the most important media owner in Venezuela, whose own name has been floated as an opposition presidential candidate. Thus, the poll could have been made in a very “partial” manner, as is the habit of the info-capitalists of this country. Did it also seem irrelevant that the most popular opposition candidate, in this poll, only received 15 percent, less than half as many votes as Chávez?

Forero’s “report” also says that Chávez sympathizers are being rewarded with land titles… It’s made to seem that they receive this not because people have the right to the title of the place where they live, as happens all over the world, but because they are supposedly Chávez supporters. Forero also forgets to say that the poor, the large majority of whom are Chávez’s base of support, don’t have the means to become legal owners of their homes and lands, like the plantation owners and businessmen of the opposition.

There is now, yes, a great change in Forero’s words, because Forero now says that President Hugo Chávez was democratically elected and that he remains in power. This contrasts with what Forero said a year ago, and even last December, which can be summed up as “the sky is falling!”

Kind readers: What do you think of this “journalist”?

In the end, Venezuela is still in the middle of a tremendous crisis, whose effects will still be felt in five years. This fiesta of solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution does not depend on the material realm, although when it appears in the presence of a journalist like Juan Forero, the value of the happiness of the Venezuelan people is even greater than the prevocational and dishonest abilities of those who serve the Commercial Media. The Community Media, meanwhile, keeps on fighting to report the more accurate truth, and this is a story that, here, we will continue to tell.

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