Just when you thought CBC's disrespectful and biased reporting of Venezuela on the occasion of the death on March 5 of President Hugo Chavez couldn’t get worse, it did.
All week on CBC Radio One, the network has been promoting a story on its Saturday morning newsmagazine Day Six arguing that Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution he led has fraudulently appropriated the political legacy of Simon Bolivar, the legendary leader of the anti-colonial struggle in Latin America of the late 1700s and early 1880s.
The source of the network's claim is a resident of France claiming to be a descendant of the Bolivar family. His name is Thor Halversson. He runs something called the 'Human Rights Foundation,' with an office in New York City and whose chairman is the Russian Garry Kasparov, the renowned former world chess champion and a political figure in Russia for many years now.
Day Six host Brent Bambury began his story by explaining that President Chavez's body will be embalmed and displayed "like Lenin's and Mao Tse Tung's." He went on to assert that the president claimed to have an "almost mystical" relation to the country's founding father, Bolivar.
Bambury pushes the theme of "mysticism" and Simon Bolivar with his first guest, journalist and author John Lee Anderson. The latter provides a brief and not uninformed commentary. It's not clear if he is aware of Day Six's apparent agenda.
The host concludes the short interview by asking if President Chavez went "too far" in the symbolism of Bolivar and was becoming "disconnected from reality." He presses Anderson to agree that Chavez will be revered by future generations of Venezuelans as a "saint."
Bambury then talks to Halversson, who says Simon Bolivar's -- "his ancestor's" -- legacy has been co-opted by President Chavez and the government and political movement he led. His description of present-day Venezuela is something out of cuckoo-land. He says that "most Venezuelans live on less than $1 per day" (making it a country poorer than Haiti!)
Venezuela's military, says Halversson, is "in the control of drug kingpins." President Chavez leaves the country in "a crisis of incalculable proportions."
It turns out that the "serious" side of the broadcast is almost as crazy. Bambury refers listeners to John Lee Anderson's latest New Yorker article, appearing in the January 28, 2013 print issue. Anderson writes in it, "After decades of neglect, poverty, corruption, and social upheaval, Caracas has deteriorated beyond all measure."
Anderson's 13-page article is titled, "Slumlord: What has Hugo Chávez wrought in Venezuela?" About half of it is about the "Tower of David" office complex begun during one of the corrupt, pro-imperialist governments preceding the successive presidencies of President Chavez beginning in 1998. The article seizes upon the fact the complex has been left uncompleted under Chavez and has become the home of a squatter community.
Day Six neglects to inform its followers that the Anderson article received a sharp rebuke from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. Jim Naureckas of FAIR penned a rejoinder to Anderson on Jan. 25, 2013 in which he says that the Anderson story, "reads almost like a parody of corporate media coverage of an official enemy state."
Naureckas headlined his rejoinder, "Why Do Poor People Living in an Abandoned Skyscraper So Outrage the New Yorker?" (presumably referring to the magazine and not to Anderson).
"Weirdly, Anderson seems to feel genuine moral outrage at the fact that people have turned a useless ruin into a home."
"You'd be shocked to learn after reading the New Yorker piece that Venezuelans have done quite well economically under Chavez's administration, with per capita income rising 58 per cent since 1999. And as average income has risen, Venezuelan wealth has become markedly more equally distributed (Extra!, 12/12), so the gains for the poor have been even greater." (FAIR Blog, 12/13/12)
To make this bizarre story just a little more bizarre, although the Day Six website and the broadcast refer listeners to the Anderson article, it sits behind a New Yorker paywall and cannot be freely read.
Now, you would think researchers and editors at the CBC would pay attention to material published on FAIR and, in the interest of "fairness", if not good journalism, inform its listeners and readers of what it has to say. Why would it even broadcast such a poppycock story in the first place?
Alas, it turns out this story was de rigeur on CBC Radio this past week. As It Happens' story on March 5 consisted of an interview with a Venzuelan right-winger railing against what his country has become. The Current assembled a panel on March 6 of which two of three were right wingers and little time was available for the third panelist. Its website page on the story features a photo of a bald Hugo Chavez while he was undergoing treatment for cancer and introduced its story with this zinger: "In a country dominated by a cult of personality where information is not free…"
As It Happens made up for its misstep two days later with an interview with Tariq Ali. But host Carol Off couldn't resist arguing with him, saying Chavez "repressed his opposition and put people in jail without trials…" and suggesting he squandered the country's oil revenues by failing to build "infrastructure." Off gratuitously acknowledged the gains in social standing of the majority of Venezuela’s population but lamented that he did not do more "for those who didn't support him."
People who are concerned about political, economic and social conditions in post-earthquake Haiti will easily recognize in this Venezuela comic opera the same CBC misinformation network that has abandoned any consistent and in-depth coverage of that country (the occasional foray by As It Happens notwithstanding).
Roger Annis is a retired aerospace worker in Vancouver. He is a contributor to rabble.ca and maintains a blog focusing on news from Haiti.
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