Letter writing campaign against biased coverage a success

Canadian supporters of Hands Off Venezuela wrote in protest to the National Post about their biased coverage of Venezuela. The large number of well informed and passionate letters they received forced them to print one response in yesterday's paper.

Thank you to everybody who wrote in protest to the National Post about their biased coverage of Venezuela. The large number of well informed and passionate letters they received forced them to print our response in today's paper. If they only got one or two letters I am sure they would have ignored them. Please keep a watchful eye in the media for similar distortions so we can repeat this success and do our part to set the record straight.

Printed letter from Hands Off VenezuelaPrinted letter from Hands Off Venezuela:

Don't criticize Hugo Chavez

National Post
Published: Monday, November 24, 2008

Re: My Future At Stake: Chavez Pulls Out All Stops As Support Erodes, Peter Goodspeed, Nov. 21.

Peter Goodspeed's article on the Venezuelan elections is a classic example of biased journalism.

Among the shopping list of allegations, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is accused of banning 300 opposition politicians from running. In fact, Chavez has not banned anybody and does not have the power to do so. For the first time in Venezuela, there is a law that is hitting hard against corrupt politicians.

Those politicians whose budgets fail the examination of the auditor-general are not allowed to stand for re-election. This has hit both pro-and anti-Chavez politicians.

The assumption that the proposal to remove term limits would enable Chavez to be "President-for-life" is also a distortion. Lack of term limits would no more make Chavez President-for-life than it makes Stephen Harper Prime-Minister-for-life.

Let us not forget that the so-called "democratic" Venezuelan opposition organized the 2002 coup, and the private media, which admitted to participation in that coup, carries out unending propaganda against the government.

The readers of the National Post would be far better served by fully rounded-out journalism rather than one-sided reportage.

Alex Grant, national co-ordinator, Hands Off Venezuela Canada.


Here is a selection of some of the letters submitted to the National Post:

Letter from Maria Páez Victor:
Sir: One wonders where Peter Goodspeed got his "information" to write such a erroneous and outright biased article on Presdient Chavez of Venezuela!
Fact: In order to combat corruption, a new law passed not by Chavez but by the parliaiment and enfoced by the Auditor General, electe3d officials whose budget are irregular are not allowed to run for re-elction - and a large number of those affected were Chávez supporters!
Fact: Chávez never proposed he be presdient for life, but elections -such as Canada has- in which there are no term limits but voters decide on politicians political life.
Fact: Privately owned media - and it is entirely virulently anti-Chavez- represent 90% of all media. Out of 4 TV stations, only one is government owned, and as for the radio, it is overwhelmingly private. Why did you not metion their 24 hour vicious campaign against the government?
Fact: Chávez has REPEATEDLY stated he will respect the voters decisions if the opposition wins positions, BUT THE OPPOSITION HAS NEVER STATED THIS.
For shame National Post - you may disagree with Chavez's politicies, which is your right, but why stoop to print lies? You do the Canadian public a great disservice.

Maria Páez Victor

Letter from Jay Hartling:

Peter Goodspeed's article, "My future at stake: Chavez" (November 21, 2008) is another tiresome tirade that ignores the facts and presents snippets of information without any context whatsoever.  What has happened to balanced journalism in Canada?  Some rather important information was lost in Goodspeed's translation:
1)      The law that "outlawed 300 opposition politicians" from running for office was not written nor approved by Chavez. It was made in the National Assembly in 2001 by opposition and government supporters alike, including the former political party of opposition Mayor Leopoldo López, Primero Justicia. The law enables administrative sanctions for a variety of corruption charges and allows politicians to finish their term in office.  Incidentally, roughly half of the politicians banned from running for office were pro-Chavez.
2)      Chavez' support remains constant. You contradict yourself by saying he continues to enjoy 56.9% support, and then say his support is eroding.  Your first statement is true – as recent polls confirm.
3)      And of course, there is the ridiculous accusation that eliminating presidential term limits would make Chavez "President for Life."  This would, of course, require the majority of voters to vote in his favour for the rest of his political career.  Canada has no term limits – why the double standard?
4)      The "State-controlled news media that … pump out at least three broadcasts a day" make up less than 20% of media outlets in the country.  The other 80% are controlled by the opposition, who have pulled out all the stops in disseminating a litany of lies and misinformation to try to bring down the government at all costs.
5)      The wiretapped conversations you refer to, as reported recently by a journalist on one of Venezuela's few neutral media outlets, revealed plans of the opposition to refuse to accept the results of the elections (unless, of course, they favour the opposition), the identification of pro-government media outlets and how to silence them, and instructions for making several types of home-made bombs.
No wonder Chavez feels like he has to fight for his life.  The National Post is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the outgoing and completely discredited Bush administration -- the same administration that can jointly claim responsibility for the 2002 coup against the democratically-elected government led by Chavez.  Canadians deserve better – please – feel free to criticize Chavez and his government's policies, but at least provide accurate information and some balance.
Jay Hartling
Halifax, NS

Speaking as a Canadian citizen working in Caracas, I was deeply concerned about Peter Goodspeed's November 21st article on the Venezuelan elections.  It worries me to know that such a distorted image of the political climate in this country is being presented as fact to the Canadian people.  The claim that Chavez has banned over 300 politicians from running is an outright lie, which bears the trademark opposition tendency to cast people found guilty by the broader democratic system as innocent victims of a reckless dictator.  The real story is that new anti-corruption measures prevent all candidates found guilty of illegal activity to run for reelection, which has affected both anti- and pro-Chavez politicians alike.  This claim also denies the strength of the Venezuelan democratic process, which was recently ranked by the polling firm Latinobarómetro as having the region's second highest rate of satisfaction with the functioning of their democracy.  Chavez did not ban anybody from political participation, nor does he or anyone have the power to do so, and if it did occur, you can be sure that the opposition would have taken to the streets.  This is just one example among many, making it clear that Goodspeed has relied entirely on opinion from within the hostile and anti-democratic opposition while ignoring to check his facts or provide sources for his information.

Spencer Bailey
Instituto Venezolano de Investigación de Prout
Prout Research Institute of Venezuela

This is in response to an article written by Peter Goodspeed on Nov. 21/08, entitled "My future at stake: Chavez".
This article is outrageous for several reasons. The author clearly did not do his background research before writing or, if he did, he clearly has an agenda. This is not journalism. The article is biased for many reasons.
I will bring to your attention the following key points:
1) The author wrote, "He has banned some 300 opposition politicians from running...". Chavez has never banned anyone from running in an election. This is categorically untrue.
If the author is referring to standards that must be met by the Office of the Auditor General that precluded some parties from running, it should be noted with utmost clarity, integrity, and 'fairness', that it was the Auditor General, not Chavez, and that many of the excluded parties were, in fact, pro-Chavez.
2) The author wrote, "He has threatened to put anyone who questions the victory of his own candidates into jail and vowed to put tanks into the streets of states that end up in the hands of opponents."
There is no evidence for this. Chavez cannot do this. In fact, under Chavez, and for the first time in history, the Judicial is independent.
3) The author wrote: "But Sunday's election will be an important test of Mr. Chavez's support a year after he was humiliated in a constitutional referendum that aimed to remove term limits on the presidency enabling him to become President-for-life."
Chavez has always stated that democracy shall rule and that he respects the peoples' choice. In fact, many of the people who voted against the removal of term limits are, and continue to be, ardent Chavez supporters. Furthermore, he has 'never' stated, nor signaled, that he would ever force his presidency in the face of regular democratic elections.
Furthermore, the simple fact that Chavez held a referendum undermines the author's clearly biased agenda to paint him as an undemocratic leader.
And, it must be noted with almost comical irony, that Canada does not have term limits (as is also the case in Britain and Australia).
4) The author wrote, "While the candidates of Mr. Chavez's United Socialist Party are plagued with accusations of inefficiency, corruption and cronyism..."
The key word being "accusations". If it already isn't clear that this article is grossly biased, the author's arrogant assumption that "accusations" are somehow valid is mystifying (also note that such accusations are made by the same opposition and media that organised the 2002 coup).
5) The author wrote, "He has threatened to take away the broadcast licences of any radio and television station that broadcasts election results ahead of the official results."
In fact, it is a violation of Venezuelan law for the media to release election results before all the votes are in. This has nothing to do with Chavez. This pertains solely to the rule of law - once again, an independent entity.

Melanie Love
MA Student
Communication & Culture
York University

To the Editor:
As a student of the unfolding situation in Venezuela, I must take issue with your article about Sunday's upcoming election. Your reporter Peter Goodspeed almost seems to consider himself a member of Venezuela's highly partisan opposition media. He should avail himself of more recent and reliable sources.
For example, a poll released on Tuesday by the Venezuelan firm Consultores 30.11 projects that the great majority of state governorships and mayoralties will be won by candidates of the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) in regional elections this Sunday, November 23rd. Close races are expected to ensue in only three states: Sucre, Carabobo, and Zulia. The poll finds that voting trends in the November 23rd elections closely resemble those present in the previous presidential election in December 2006, which President Chávez won with 62.84% support.
As well, a new survey published on November 14, 2008 by the respected Chilean polling firm Latinobarómetro finds that Venezuela has the region's highest rate of support for democracy as the best system of government, and the second highest rate of satisfaction with the actual functioning of democracy. Citizen satisfaction with democracy has risen by 14 percentage points since 1998, when President Chavez was elected for the first time.
According to the poll, Venezuela also has remarkable levels of support for democratic procedures such as voting, and also for democratic institutions including political parties, congress, and the judiciary.  This portrait brings a level of detailed factual analysis to the political realities of Venezuela that is rarely seen in the media, you included.  Perhaps your reporter could have accessed better and more recent information than an opposition poll conducted a month ago.
Private opposition news outlets, which are most of Venezuela's media,  suggest altogether different scenarios, emphasizing criticisms of the government. These sources, obviously quoted Mr. Goodspeed, say the opposition will win one third of state governorships and forecast so-called "power grabs" by President Chavez regardless of the outcome of the vote. These distortions can lead readers to believe that democracy in Venezuela is threatened. All international observers of previous elections say the opposite. While Chavez has fairly often used intemperate language, his response to to the narrowly lost referendum last year was to accept the democratic expression of the people, as I'm sure will be the case this time.

Yours sincerely.
David DePoe

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