Industrial Cracks

This blog is a glimpse into the mind of a history nerd sitting behind a laptop screen. Enjoy a series of ideas he hopes to be thought provoking.
I am quite proud of my Contemplations and Discussing Islam pages. Feel free to contact me anytime.
Iran offers condolences to Venezuelan government, nation over Chavez’s death
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has expressed the Islamic Republic’s deepest condolences to the Venezuelan government and people over the death of President Hugo Chavez.

Ahmadinejad said in a message to Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday, “I express my sympathy over the sad incident to the great nation of Venezuela, the respected family of Hugo Chavez and to all nations in the world.” 

“Indeed, he is a martyr [who lost his life] in the path of serving the Venezuelan people and preserving human and revolutionary values,” the Iranian president stated.

Chavez passed away at a military hospital in the capital, Caracas, on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer. 

Hours before his death, the Venezuelan vice president stated that someday there will be “scientific proof” that the socialist leader was infected with cancer by “imperialist” enemies. “We have no doubt that commander Chavez was attacked with this illness.” 

“The old enemies of our fatherland looked for a way to harm his health,” Maduro stated. 

The Iranian government has declared one day of national mourning for the death of the late Venezuelan leader. 

On February 18, the 58-year-old Chavez returned to Caracas from Cuba, where he had undergone cancer treatment. 

In late March 2012, Chavez began radiation treatment in Cuba after an operation in February 2012 that removed a second cancerous tumor from his pelvic region. Chavez’s first tumor was removed in June 2011, and then he received chemotherapy. 

Chavez became involved in revolutionary movements within the armed forces in 1977. 

Chavez won his first presidential election in 1998. He also won the presidential elections in 2000, 2006, and 2012. 

The Venezuelan leader founded the Bolivarian Revolution movement to establish popular democracy and economic independence and the equal distribution of wealth in Latin America. 

 I know Islam isn’t really a political entity in Venezuela.

But amongst the two theories of role of government, he followed closer to the Islamic view of role of government which dictates that a government is supposed to LEAD the people towards the better, not keep the people happy and fat as is the western model of governance.

I held him in great respect and admired what he did for his people.

Innalilahe Wainna Alihe Rajeoon

Chavez may be gone, but he will be immortalized in the revolution.

Venezuela's indigenous university - Features - Al Jazeera English


Tauca, Venezuela - Maracas Pemon has abundant space on his university campus - it is located across 5,000 acres of forestland in Venezuela’s southern Bolivar State.

He is one of 67 students who have classes in a thatched roundhouse, water sports in a river and, along with human rights and law, a curriculum that includes buffalo rearing.

Pemon is enrolled at Venezuela’s indigenous university - established to develop community leaders to safeguard lands, rights and ancient cultures.

Can we all just take a moment to just appreciate the truth of this happening? the World is not as bad a place as previously thought. Thank you commandante CHavez

A Return Visit to Venezuela's Barrio "23 de Enero"


Having been picked up from the front of Agua Salud train station, myself and two other members of the first Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Brigade to visit Venezuela were driven to our meeting place where we had arranged to meet Juan Contreras, a well-respected activist in Barrio 23 de Enero and leader of the Coordinadora Simon Bolivar.

Barrio 23 de Enero is a suburb with a population of close to 500,000 and a long history of militant struggle. The CSB acts as a coordinating organisation of the community. The three of us had been to this barrio several weeks earlier with a larger contingent of Australian brigadistas, but we felt we had to come back and talk in more depth with CSB activists about Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution.

We had driven a short distance when we approached a gate with a familiar abbreviation — PM (Metropolitan Police). Since many on the brigade had picked up first-hand experience of the problems with the police, I was a bit apprehensive as we parked next to two police officers on a motorcycle.

We saw Contreras and he immediately explained: “Today [August 22], is a historic day for the community of 23 de Enero, because for 25 years this building that belonged to the metropolitan police — a police force that for 25 years carried out repression against the community of 23 de Enero — is being taken back.

“From here they assassinated many people. They brought young people here, tortured them, hit them. But from today, there is a whole new project being pushed by the community — because from today out of this building will begin to function a community radio for 23 de Enero. This is one of main projects of the CSB.

“In addition, Mission Robinson will operate from these offices, the administrative part. It is the only one of the missions that doesn’t have a headquarters in the area.”

Mission Robinson was one of the social missions established by left-wing President Hugo Chavez’s government. It is aimed at tackling illiteracy. Across the country, Mission Robinson has already given close to 1.5 million people the ability to read and write.

Contreras explained that this gain was the result of a struggle that began last year to get the local council to hand over the offices. “We applied pressure, we talked with the local council to reach an agreement between the CSB, as an organ that represents the community, and the local council as an institution…

“The people exercised their rights that are established in the constitution, which says that the protagonists of this revolutionary process is the people and participation is important. We are only exercising our right to an opinion and to participate in how we build that future society that we all dream of, that other world that we all say is possible”.

Fed up with the delaying tactics of the police, that morning the community moved into the station and took it over.

Earlier that day, we had met with the Collective Alexis Vive (CAV), which is a young militants who, in homage to their comrade Alexis Gonzalez, assassinated in the very police station that was being taken over, became independent of the CSB and set up the CAV in the central zone of Barrio 23 de Enero.

The oldest member of the CAV is 30. Its members define themselves as Marxists-Leninists, but incorporate Bolivarian ideas into their ideology.

They invited us into a school. Before 2004, the school’s director was an anti-Chavista. However, they explained, by strengthening the community through its own organisation and with popular mobilisations, they forced him to resign. Now the school belongs to the community.

The school’s auditorium, food hall and toilets were in disrepair, but the CAV and the community “them fixed up”. The school is now used for forums, film nights and classes for Mission Robinson. It will now also be used by Mission Cultura — aimed at rescuing the real culture of the Venezuelan people.

We have found that stories like these are common across Venezuela, as its working people seek to create the “new socialism of the 21st century”.

Many of the schools and other education centres visited by the Australian brigadistas are now are spaces the community fought for, occupying and protesting against oppositionists in positions of authority, in order to reclaim communities’ right to participate in the humanist projects of Chavez’s Bolivarian government. Such struggles are part of daily life and the process of social transformation that is occurring in Venezuela.

Contreras told us that there are still big challenges ahead. “I believe there are many difficulties, and a barrio like this one — which has existed for 40 years — has many problems with drugs, unemployment. We aren’t magicians. We can’t solve in a few years all the problems that have accumulated over 40 years. But what is important is that seven years ago we found Hugo Chavez, a person who has a deep love for his people, who understands the problems of his people, who has a high social sensibility and wants to resolve all these problems. For that we are supporting this process.”

Contreras explained that the members of the CSB are also part of Mission Miranda, the national army reserves. “Many people inside and outside Venezuela have criticised this — that Chavez is constructing militias; that Chavez is arming the people… The reserves are no more than all the people passing through military service, to learn the arming and disarming of rifles, to pick up a specialisation within the armed forces, to have experience so that all the people are prepared to defend our nation’s sovereignty, independence and to defend our revolution.”

As we left, Contreras provided us with a message to send to Australia. “The people of Australia need to convert themselves into the spokespeople of what this process really is, and against the disinformation campaign, that campaign of lies from the US and the other countries on the side of the US. We can really say that what is being constructed here is a peaceful, democratic process. The people voted for Chavez. The people are happy with Chavez. We are constructing a revolution in peace, a pacific revolution, but the revolution is not unarmed. It has a people that every day is gaining more and more consciousness in the frontline of this battle, whose principal weapon is ideology and consciousness, but for this revolution we are willing to give up our last drop of blood.”

Federico Fuentes is a member of the Australian socialist youth organisation Resistance.

From Green Left Weekly, September 7, 2005.

findingpeacewithin: What do you have to say about what's currently happening in Syria?

It is a very sad situation. It always is a sad situation when one’s country is invaded by mercenaries. It isn’t a “new” game. Remember, whenever you hear of “masked gunmen” or “unknown thugs” it is usually mercenaries backed by the west. Examples of this are known throughout history.

In the 2002 coup against Chavez in Venezuela. What happened was that the bourgeoise of Venezuela held a rally, and changed its course to meet the rally of Chavez supporters, the military intervened to keep peace and keep the two parties from enacting violence. Suddenly, sniper fire came out of no where. Killing both, pro and anti Chavez supporters. The U.S and world media portrayed it as Chavez asking army to shoot its own people. They even showed Chavez supporters shooting at anti-Chavez protestors through a camera trick. In reality, what happened was that during the sniper fire, Chavez supporters who had guns (which is MANY people in venezuela) shot back at the general direction of the sniper fire, no where NEAR the anti-chavez protesters. On top of that, news reports started coming out like Chavez supporters and the Venezuelan army is using grenades, and machine guns as well. At the end of the day, more Chavez supporters were found dead, but that wasn’t reported. 

Now what happened after that incident, was that some members of the Venezuelan army defected and went to the side of the people and democracy, they took chavez hostage and flew him to a prison. He could have died. BUT a miracle happened. the poor, the disenfranchised, the people of the Barrios came out in support of Chavez. They surrounded the Miraflores (presidential palace) where the new govt. people had occupied and established their rule. After a whole day of this siege (many chavez supporters died in this one too) the new govt. people became scared and left and returned the power to Chavez.

NOW here is what happened afterwards, an investigation was launched. It was found out that the snipers had been hired by U.S. It was also found that the people who had established the new govt. had deep ties to Bush’s oil company (venezuela is an oil rich country so u can see where that was headed under the new govt.) The anti- Chavez protestors were the super high class of venezuelan society who had condos and houses in the U.S.A. Many of them escaped to their wealth in U.S and are still causing problems for the govt. of the people in Venezuela. 

Now, this was a happy ending! but it wasn’t that happy of an ending in other places throughout the cold war. It is an old practice of U.S.A. So why did i give you this example? because i want u to really just, replace Venezuela with Syria. Gunmen? check. Starting with snipers? check. reports of grenades? check. the Western media all over it? check. “unconfirmed reports” (which are all of ‘em)? check. Defaulters from the military forming opposition? check. Killing of Syrian soldiers(or pro-chavez activists)? check. 

the damn plot is too damn perfect to take with face value! The difference is that this time, it succeeded. This time, the U.S was smarter. It realized that the mistake made during 2002 was that the snipers etc etc were too brief, so the people were able to come out the next day. This time, they know that the violence needs to be continued until the will of the people is tired out so that they won’t even care about what is right and what is wrong and just want stability again. THEN, they will move in with the invasion. More than that, all the reports of these cities being attacked are unconfirmed and are being tweeted by people from the Saudis, EU, U.S, or Qatar.


here are some links regarding Syria from Voltaire network. i’ve posted some before too:



After Iran, Venezuela?


By Mike Whitney, Counterpunch

Naturally, Chavez’s progressive policies have raised a few eyebrows in Washington where his successes are seen as a threat to the established order. Corporate mandarins regard Chavez as a troublemaker and they’re doing whatever they can to get rid of him ASAP. This is why one never reads anything positive about Chavez or his accomplishments in the US media, because the corporate bosses hate him, as they do anyone who diverts money from the 1 percent at the top of the economic foodchain to the 99 percent at the bottom.

I think Iran’s turn came after Venezuela’s had already come in 2002 coup. But since the empire failed in enacting their foreign policy (regime change) in that country, they moved on and gave Venezuela a break. It isn’t hard to believe that they will come back to Venezuela. But there is only one problem i have with this article:

I don’t think there will ever be an “after Iran”. 

Why Latin America calls on philosophers

Barcelona, Spain - I just returned from the sixth International Forum of Philosophy in Maracaibo, Venezuela, where philosophers from four continents were invited to discuss “State, Revolution and the Construction of Hegemony”. The event was inaugurated by the vice-presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia, televised by several channels, and on the last day, a prize of $150,000 was awarded to the best book presented within the Libertador Award for Critical Thinking of 2011….

Watching “The Revolution will not be televised”…

…and falling in love with Hugo Chavez…again :P

Hugo Chávez orders seizure of British company's land for Venezuelan state

Venezuela's President Hugo ChavezHugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, said the government refused to pay compensation in dollars for the land it had seized. Photograph: Handout/REUTERS

Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, ‘has ordered the confiscation of 717,000 acres from a British company amid a disagreement over compensation for earlier seizures of ranchland from the firm.

Chávez announced the latest takeover after saying that Venezuela refuses to pay compensation in foreign currency to Agropecuaria Flora, a local subsidiary of Britain’s Vestey Group.

Chávez said the company had demanded the government pay it in dollars for the previous expropriation of tens of thousands of acres. But the government insists in paying in bolivars, Venezuela’s currency.

It is difficult for foreign companies operating in Venezuela to repatriate profits and other income in bolivars because of foreign currency controls in the South American country. Representatives of Agropecuaria Flora did not answer calls seeking comment.

Venezuela’s expropriation of farm and ranch lands began in earnest in 2005, with the government employing a 2001 law allowing it to seize lands deemed idle or not adequately used.

Some landowners have negotiated compensation, while others have mounted legal challenges with mixed results.

The government has also seized some ranches for which it alleges the owners did not hold legal title in the first place.

Owners of large farms and cattle ranches have criticized the takeovers, arguing that Chávez’s socialist-inspired policies have failed to boost agricultural production and made Venezuela increasingly dependent on imports of food from countries such as Brazil and Argentina.

^woot woot~! back healthy and continuing the Revolution already! 

Reflections of Fidel Castro

no description necessary, the title alone should make you go here and read these. Seriously, just go here and start reading. Scroll down and see what he says about Chavez, Evo, and Obama with special focus on U.N. It is in two parts but it covers alot of subjects including Palestine, Iran, N.Korea, Zionism etc etc. Seriously! if you are even remotely interested in the truth, you will go here. 

Beware of 'Al Chavezeera'

Nikolas Kozloff

If past diplomatic cables are any indication, the Obama White House may be interested in perpetuating the ongoing US propaganda war in Latin America. According to classified correspondence recently released by whistle-blowing outfit WikiLeaks, Washington saw Venezuela as an upstart power whose public relations campaign stood to interfere with important US messaging efforts. 

It’s no secret that the Bush administration was paranoid about media coverage which had been critical of its international foreign policy, yet as more and more cables have come to light, it is eye-opening to see just how far the State Department was willing to go in equating Middle Eastern media with newly formed South American news outlets.

What seems to have concerned US diplomats most was the possibility that Al Jazeera, whose coverage of the Iraq War had gotten under the skin of the Bush administration, might collaborate with the likes of Venezuela as well as other South American nations. Hardly popular within the Beltway elite, Al Jazeera had broadcast graphic pictures of dead and captured US soldiers during the Iraq War. 

When the network aired the footage, then Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused Al Jazeera of violating the Geneva conventions. Then, during an April 8, 2003, air raid and artillery barrage on Baghdad, US forces killed at least three journalists, including an Al Jazeera correspondent. According to one report, President Bush no less may have even suggested that Al Jazeera offices in Qatar be bombed during a meeting with then British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In light of such history, it’s not entirely surprising that diplomats would be alarmed by any growth of more independent and critical international media outlets. In an earlier Al Jazeera column, I detailed some of the US concern with left-leaning South American media, but new cables bring Washington’s fixation on the issue under more scrutiny. 

Conflating Al Jazeera and Telesur

In 2005, US officials went into overdrive in their media monitoring efforts, writing Washington that Hugo Chavez was “vigorously pushing” for the creation of a new South American news network named Telesur. US diplomats were concerned about such developments, and commented that, if Telesur proved to be successful, it might “promote Chavez’s ambitions for continental leadership” and even - horror of horrors - lead to “endogenous, (non-US) cultural development”. 

In a warning shot which threatened to undermine US-based media such as CNN, Chavez’s Minister of Information Andres Izarra announced that Al Jazeera would open an office in Caracas. The move seems to have alarmed the US embassy, which was seemingly concerned that the Middle Eastern network might collaborate with Telesur in future.   

In cloak and dagger fashion, US ambassador William Brownfield narrated how an anonymous “female journalist” representing Al Jazeera had “attended many government of Venezuela press conferences”. If that was not sufficient cause for concern, Brownfield added that the journalist in question had also participated in talk shows aired byVenezolana de Television, a state-owned TV station.

While researching my second book, I had the opportunity to interview Telesur's General Manager, Aram Aharonian, personally in Caracas, and asked him whether he was concerned that the Bush administration might react negatively to any Al Jazeera-Telesur collaboration [to see the more unexpurgated interview, which came out in my hometown paper Brooklyn Railclick here]. Aharonian dismissed any such preoccupations, remarking: “Look, we collaborate with Al Jazeera just as we do with Voice of America. A delegation from Voice of America came to our offices last month, and we came to an agreement to exchange news and images.”

To Brownfield and US diplomats, however, Al Jazeera and Telesur seem to have represented a common hostile front. Indeed, in his communication to Washington, Brownfield even conflated the two, remarking at one point that Telesurcould represent “the birth of al-Chavezeera,” or “Chavez’s own CNN.”  What is more, Al Jazeera could provide Telesurwith “provocative” film footage from the Middle East, which could then be dubbed into Spanish. Shortly thereafter, the Bush administration’s fears came to pass when Telesur began to broadcast in earnest.  Moreover, a year after Brownfield sent his cable to the State Department, Telesur announced an official content-sharing agreement with Al Jazeera. In Washington, Connie Mack, a right-wing Republican Congressman from Florida, remarked that the decision was designed to create a “global television network for terrorists”.

Concern over Cuban connection

For years, Washington has waged an anti-Castro propaganda war on Cuba through the likes of Radio Marti, and therefore not surprisingly the spectre of Cuban-Venezuelan media collaboration looms large in Brownfield’s cable. While the US ambassador noted that Telesur appeared to have “weak legs” for the time being, the diplomat worried that the network would spread pro-Venezuelan and even pro-Cuban ideas.

During my own interview with Aharonian, I asked the Telesur General Manager whether he thought the network would contribute to the end of Cuba’s isolation. “Cubans,” he remarked, have had “a very siege-like mentality, ie that everything that comes from the outside is bad, it’s necessary to defend ourselves, etc. The US has been trying to transmit its media to Cuba for forty years, and it has done it poorly - Radio Marti, for example.”

"We have a different approach," Aharonian added. "We see our presence in Cuba as an opportunity to get the Cuban people more informed about what is happening in Latin America and in the world. We now get three hours on prime time on Cuban television. In a certain sense, we have a captive audience as there’s not a lot of opportunities to change channels. For us, it’s a beneficial arrangement, and also for Cuba."

Perhaps, the possibility of greater Cuban-Venezuelan cultural exchange was exactly what bothered US officials. According to Brownfield, Aharonian was a radical Uruguayan exile who originally came to Caracas in the 1980s to open an office of the Cuban media outlet Prensa Latina. Asking around in Caracas for further information on Aharonian, the US embassy located an unnamed foreign correspondent who was all too happy to smear the reputation of a fellow colleague in the interests of furthering US intelligence. According to the reporter, Aharonian had “formal or informal ties” to Cuban spies. 

Assessing Telesur’s trajectory

Eager to dispel the notion that Telesur was tied to some kind of specific political agenda, Aharonian told me that the new network would not serve as the mouthpiece for any particular government, Venezuelan or otherwise. “I don’t think there’s any campaign against Bush or anything like that,” he remarked, adding that Telesur was not in favour of the Bush administration either. “Which is a different thing. We give opinions from both sides, which is different from the US media where you have only one side. The idea is to provide more alternative information. In Miami, by contrast, there’s a mentality that we must encourage ‘anti-Cuba’ media, but we at Telesur are providing a balanced public space. We can’t be against anyone.”

At another point in the interview, Aharonian declared that I was “starting from a false assumption”, in believing thatTelesur was “against the US”.  Though the network had been critical of Washington, Aharonian said, Telesur also provided independent coverage of many Latin American countries. When I pointed Aharonian’s attention to a photo on the wall showing him standing next to Chavez, the Uruguayan exile said that the Venezuelan president never called him and the authorities did not get involved in the station’s business or internal politics.

Such nuanced positions notwithstanding, it appears from WikiLeaks cables that the US embassy was not convinced by such utterances. The ideological tilt of Telesur was evident, diplomats remarked: “leftist, anti-American, and pro-Chavez”. Though the network’s programming was initially “insipid,” the Americans believed the station later demonstrated “qualitative improvement”. 

Chavez’s ‘dollar diplomacy’

So much improvement, apparently, that the US embassy saw fit to monitor the station’s finances. Aharonian, one diplomat noted, “is a notoriously slippery character and may not have told the whole truth when he announced their budget as 10 million dollars”. In yet other cables, US officials sought to estimate how much Chavez spent on propaganda more generally, noting that Caracas had signed a $1.2 million contract with lobbying firm Patton Boggs to help improve Venezuela’s image in the US. 

As Chavez began to spend lavishly on foreign aid, US diplomats grew even more concerned. In 2006, they noticed that Venezuela was beginning to “win friends and influence countries in the region and beyond”. In a detailed report, the Americans catalogued Chavez’s long list of foreign projects, including projected dollar amounts for a construction initiative in Cuba, an infrastructure loan to the Dominican Republic, and even financial aid to help build an airport on the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica. 

But the Americans didn’t stop there, honing in on any and all projects which stood to enhance Venezuela’s image, even Chavez’s financing of a samba school in Brazil - as well as scholarships for poor Bolivians, a loan for a hospital in Uruguay, food assistance to the impoverished African nation of Mauritania, and humanitarian aid to Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Personally, Brownfield worried that Chavez could divert some of Venezuela’s National Development Fund to support diplomatic initiatives without effective public scrutiny or oversight. 

US diplomats interest in media studies

To read diplomatic cables emanating from the US embassy in Caracas, one might think that their diplomats had turned into graduate students pursuing advanced degrees in Media Studies. In a testament to the rising importance of Venezuela on the political radar, US officials showed a surprising degree of interest in everything from TV to advertising to documentaries to electronic media and even to incendiary billboards and murals. 

The US embassy was particularly exorcised over state-owned Venezolana de Television, which aired a video clip depicting crowds queuing up in line to buy liquid fuel canisters during an opposition-led oil lockout. A voice intoned: “The opposition unleashed terrorism on the Venezuelan people and it led to hunger and unemployment. Thanks to the new PDVSA (state oil company), PDVSA is for all of us, all of us are PDVSA.” 

In addition to Venezolana de Television, the pro-government tabloid VEA ”took on Uncle Sam” and was wont to “lob darts” at the US ambassador “through the use of insulting caricatures or altered photos”.  In addition, bothVenezolana de Television and VEA put out “soft and friendly” ads featuring a woman “who, thanks to a government of Venezuela micro-credit loan, has established a successful weaving business”.

Documentary film, cyberspace and popular murals

Apparently concerned that poor women receiving money to pursue weaving might one day turn against the US, diplomats left no stone unturned in their wider media analysis, including documentary film. As someone who has participated in panel discussions following screenings of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, a film dealing with the 2002 coup directed at the Chavez government, I was particularly intrigued by US officials’ alarm over the documentary. 

In a cable, the Embassy noted with disappointment that the film had been catching on with major screenings being held “at several prestigious US universities, including Harvard, Stanford, and the University of California system, and most recently at the Lincoln Centre in New York”. Unfortunately, noted US diplomats, the mainstream media had not seen fit to question “the documentary’s veracity” and so the pro-Chavez documentary had started to attract a following.      

The US embassy worried about the internet, too. “The government of Venezuela,” noted one cable, “liberally uses cyberspace to spread its war on the oligarchy, neoliberalism, the United States government, and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas.”  I was personally intrigued to find that diplomats were concerned about such pro-Chavez websites as and, both of which I have written for at one time or another.

During a trip to Caracas in 2006, I was taken aback by incendiary pro-Chavez murals in Caracas, and apparently the US embassy was, too [to see some photos I took during my stay, click here].  Writing to Washington, diplomats took note of one billboard which bore the slogan: “Venezuela now belongs to all of us.” Yet another had shots of Chavez embracing an elderly woman, listening to a young girl sporting a red beret, and laughing along with a member of one of Venezuela’s indigenous tribes. 

The monitoring of popular imagery continued into the Obama era, with the US embassy cabling Washington in late 2009 in relation to a mural attacking Bush’s successor in Washington. In central Caracas, diplomats declared: “A prominently displayed, high-quality painted mural denigrating President Obama is currently on public display.” The mural in question depicted Obama’s face divided into two parts, “one half machine and the other half human”. Off to the left, a caption read: “Toy of the Empire. Easy to use, totally manipulatable,” while to the right, another read: “False Nobel Prize. 68 thousand Yankee soldiers in the Middle East. 680 billion dollars for the war.” 

The US embassy sent photos of the mural to Washington in an attachment, noting that the public art work “seems to have been professionally produced”. Diplomats added that they would submit a formal letter of protest to the local mayor and request that the mural be removed.

Monitoring everyone from celebrities to students        

Though certainly extensive, the embassy’s propaganda monitoring efforts were not limited to public art and cyberspace. In 2004, for example, the Americans grew concerned about US celebrities who had grown sympathetic toward Venezuela and Hugo Chavez, including actor Danny Glover and even boxing promoter Don King. Even worse, Venezuela had expanded its network of so-called “Bolivarian Circles” in the US, including Florida, New York, Washington DC, Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma, and California, and sympathisers had organised pro-Chavez rallies in such public spaces as Times Square.

The notion that US and Venezuelan leftists might make common cause was apparently not very agreeable to the American embassy. US diplomats related that the director of the Bolivarian Circle of Miami, Alvaro Sanchez, was seeking to recruit US university students to work for Chavez’s Barrio Adentro health programme. The embassy was so interested in Sanchez that it saw fit to pass along the activist’s personal email address, adding that the Miami native had sought out volunteer students to teach English in poor Venezuelan barrios. 

In 2006, I had the opportunity to speak to members of Venezuela’s innovative Women’s Bank or Banco de la Mujer, and in my second book I discussed the interesting story of the entity’s director, Nora Castaneda. From diplomatic correspondence, it seems I wasn’t the only one who had picked up on the novel institution: US officials noted that the bank had deployed women to the US to “to talk to audiences of the glories of the Bolivarian Revolution and to lambaste the US government’s hurtful neo-liberal policies that aim to enslave the populations of developing countries”.

US propaganda counter-offensive

In other ways, too, Chavez managed to show up the US in Latin America, for example through Venezuela’s promotion of international conferences. Through skillful and shrewd use of so-called Bolivarian People’s Congresses, Chavez was able “to spread his ideology and influence”. Diplomats suspected that the congresses provided a means for Chavez to come through with direct assistance for other impoverished Latin American nations.  

The embassy was apparently so concerned about Chavez’s growing profile at such venues that it saw fit to forward the names of individual indigenous representatives from Ecuador who attended the December 2004 Bolivarian Congress. “While anti-imperialism, ie anti-American sentiment, is often a hook with many indigenous leaders,” diplomats remarked, “Chavez also capitalises on racial or ethnic tensions. In countries like Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador he uses these tensions to encourage mass protests and demonstrations and to undermine shaky governments or weaken others from the left flank.”

By 2006, the US clearly saw the need for greater countermeasures to offset Chavez’s propaganda offensive. In a cable to Washington, Ambassador Brownfield endorsed the US Southern Command’s planned “partnership of the Americas” maritime surge into the Caribbean, to be led by aircraft carrier the USS George Washington.  Always the Machiavellian, Brownfield saw great PR value in the naval show of force. Specifically, the diplomat declared, “the deployment will help us to counter President Hugo Chavez’ courtship of Caribbean countries and his attempts to pit them against the United States”.

Brownfield believed that, by providing direct benefits to local people, the USS George Washington would provide a “stark contrast” to Chavez’s supposed failure to combat drug trafficking and promote economic development in the Caribbean region.  Brownfield planned to portray the carrier group deployment as a “routine US military and humanitarian outreach to the region” leading to economic benefits for local people at various ports of call. 

Always the wily diplomat, Brownfield hoped that Chavez would “take the bait”, deplore the US as imperialist, and thereby appear “at best silly and at worst clinically paranoid”. One of the more scheming US diplomats to emerge from WikiLeaks cables, Brownfield hoped that Chavez would “alienate himself if he publicly suggests participating countries are collaborating in the US military’s alleged machinations against him”. The ambassador added: “This is a win-win for us.”

Preoccupation over Telesur’s South American expansion

By 2007, one year after Brownfield sent his cable to Washington about the US naval deployment, US diplomats candidly admitted that they were in an all out propaganda war with Venezuela. In correspondence disclosed by Argentine paper Pagina/12, US diplomats spoke about the need to counteract media initiatives launched by Chavez, including Telesur, an outlet which served as the “main source to broadcast anti-US propaganda,” running “particularly slick” documentaries about CIA meddling in Latin America.

According to WikiLeaks cables, the Americans monitored Telesur General Manager Aharonian not just in Venezuela but in other countries farther afield. When Aharonian traveled to Chile to promote Telesur, US diplomats were on the case, noting that the Uruguayan radical had met with local government officials. The Americans even took note of Aharonian’s address to the Professional Journalists’ Association meeting in Vina del Mar, remarking that “the presentation included a 15-minute speech followed by a 15- minute promo-tape.” The US embassy in Santiago was apparently concerned that Telesur might form a partnership with Chile’s main cable TV operator, VTR, and diplomats later spoke with representatives of the local station in an effort to ascertain the feasibility of any deal.

Assessing WikiLeaks’ lasting Impact

In Depth

More from Nikolas Kozloff

 Quito cables: Exposing a pro-US line Argentina’s mercurial power couple WikiLeaks: Great power rivalry at the UN WikiLeaks and ‘US media war’ in South America Little idealism on post-Castro Cuba

Looking back on all the many cables dealing with everything from Telesur to Aharonian to incendiary public art work to Bolivarian Congresses, it is disheartening to note the condescending, supercilious and outright cynical attitude of US diplomats posted in Venezuela and indeed throughout Latin America. 

Yet, based on the past year of WikiLeaks’ revelations and the “cablegate scandal”, one might conclude that the public and media establishment will only take note of declassified information if it is linked to blatant illegalities. Perhaps we will have to wait, therefore, for a CIA leaker or other high level intelligence agencies to disclose more insidious deeds before we can get a wholesale debate about the course of US foreign policy.

That’s a pity, however. Though “cablegate” hasn’t revealed scandal at the same level as, say, the Iran-Contra affair or covert wars in Central America, the cables show the State Department as a deeply crass and troubling agency. Perhaps the lasting question, then, is whether the US public believes that devoting considerable diplomatic resources to monitoring the Latin American media and counteracting Chavez’s propaganda initiatives is constructive or even particularly moral.  

Sadly, for the time being, Americans seem passive and accepting of business as usual. Perhaps in the long run, however, they will start to demand reform at the State Department and a thorough revamping of US foreign policy - so as to reflect a more conciliatory and harmonious relationship with Latin America, as opposed to the patronising and sardonic posturing of diplomats such as Ambassador Brownfield.

Nikolas Kozloff is the author of Revolution: South America and the Rise of the New Left, and Hugo Chavez: Oil, Politics and the Challenge to the US.  Visit his web site,

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.