Letter to The Guardian in response to a biased article

We publish here a letter by Darrall Cozens of the National Steering Committee of HOV Britain. The letter was sent to The Guardian newspaper in response to a biased article published just before the elections on Sunday.

Dear Editor,

Having been a "Guardian Reader" for the past 45 years, I have always been impressed by the balance and objectivity of the paper's articles. When it comes to Venezuela, however, the Guardian's view of the world is cast to one side. Rory Carroll's article (Saturday, Nov 22nd) on the November 23rd elections is typical of this and is not the first of many such articles about President Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution.

In a 17-paragraph article, six are devoted to quoting the opposition with such statements as "opposition polls suggest….opposition leaders said….Carlos Ocariz, opposition candidate for…opposition has complained….has alleged …. I voted for him before but " and so on. Three paragraphs suggest possibilities in relation to the election outcome; "If losses are minimal"…."Polls suggest" and then modalities…. "could lose"…. "Chavez may lose."  Only two paragraphs are favourable to Chavez by quoting him and a pro Chavez supporter and one other states that Chavez's support is over 50% because of "free health clinics" and "subsidised grocery stores" but then states "others are fed up". There remain two paragraphs that are factual; "government revenues (are) tumbling" and "If Chavez does well…he must be doing something right" quoting Steve Ellner, a political scientist.

Even when Carroll makes a half-hearted attempt to present something as factual, Chavez is demonised by such statements as his "self-styled socialist revolution" (Para 1), "the forceful president" (P2), "Chavez's ambitions….socialist state" (P3), the election is an "existential battle" (P4) and if Chavez wins he will push for the abolition of presidential "term limits". When Chavez stood in the presidential elections in December 2006, he stated openly to the electorate that a vote for him would be a vote for socialist change, and he received a 68% vote, the highest in any presidential election in the history of Venezuela. Such are Chavez's "ambitions"!

One would be blind and deaf to suggest that all is well with the process of social and political change under way in Venezuela. There is inflation due to increases in demand from rising incomes amongst the poorer sections of society but a fall in the production of goods to buy due to economic sabotage, yet even the Venezuelan American Chamber of Commerce admitted that even after allowing for inflation the standards of living of the bottom 59% of the population increased by 130% between 2004 and 2007.

Except mentioning free health clinics and subsidised grocery stores Carroll fails to inform the reader of the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution in terms of free education for all from the cradle to the grave, the abolition of illiteracy, house building, job creation, access to health (from 21.5% of the population in 1997 to 95% in 2007) and the massive reduction in poverty levels.

We do not look at Venezuela blindly but we recognise the massive gains the have been made as well as the tasks of the revolution that remain undone.  Unlike the Guardian, however, we attempt to inform the debate about Chavez and let the readers of our publications and the participants in our meetings nationally and internationally discuss the issues openly and honestly so that their opinions develop from facts, not biased reporting.

Darrall Cozens

National Steering Committee, Hands off Venezuela Campaign

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