Saturday, December 10, 2005

Like Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez has found his “useful idiots.” A recent full page ad placed in many newspapers, including the New York Times and The Washington Post, shows just how useful to Mr. Chavez is his collection of idiots.

The ad, which would have made Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels proud, proclaims, “How Venezuela is keeping the home fires burning in Massachusetts.” It goes on to say how Venezuela and Citgo “are reaching out with fuel assistance to help low-income Massachusetts residents stay warm and safe this winter.” How touching.

Everyone involved with this program or the ad, know it’s a propaganda stunt conceived by the Chavez government solely to embarrass the United States, and in particular, President George W. Bush. They know this, and yet they either strongly support the program, or design and run the ad. Why?

For the U.S. politicians involved, especially Rep. William Delahunt, Massachusetts Democrat, former Massachusetts Rep. Joseph Kennedy, and Democrat Jose Serrano of New York City, where Mr. Chavez is also “helping” the U.S. poor, it’s mostly about their own public relations needs and how this program will help them personally. Hugo Chavez uses them and they use Hugo Chavez. Politics at its worst.

As for those who placed the ad and the newspapers that ran it, their motivation can be explained just as easily. Money. Hugo Chavez is filthy in oil money. Why not take some of it off his soiled hands?

Messrs. Delahunt, Kennedy, Serrano and those involved in placing and running the ad need to ask themselves: Would they have done the same thing for the governments of Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Idi Amin or even Adolf Hitler? For Mr. Chavez shares much in common with these former dictators who killed and trampled human rights as a means to their own ends.

Speak with the Venezuelan media that Mr. Chavez has mostly silenced, or members of the opposition, and they will tell you of crimes of Mr. Chavez against his own people. From murder, to torture, to false imprisonment, to stealing the profits from the very oil he dangles as a carrot before the ignorant or greedy. Opposition leaders will also tell you that right after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Mr. Chavez gave at least $1 million to al Qaeda and that he harbors members of al Qaeda elements in his nation right now.

They will also tell you how Mr. Chavez arms tens of thousands in his citizen military groups. Why? To intimidate voters and to do his bidding if the Venezuelan military either disobeys his orders or tries to remove him from power.

Speak with members of the government of Colombia, and they will tell you Hugo Chavez is not only funding the guerrillas trying to overthrow their country but is exporting terrorism throughout Latin America, either directly with arms and military assistance or by bribing weak leaders with oil. Colombia sees Chavez as the greatest threat to peace and stability in the Western Hemisphere.

While Mr. Delahunt, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Serrano and others used by Hugo Chavez have strongly stated the program and the ads that trumpet it are not about politics or propaganda, let’s look at some words from that very ad. “Why are we doing this?,” the ad asks. “Because we’re not just any oil company. Citgo is a subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), the state oil company owned by — and responsible to — the people of Venezuela. Which is why PDVSA partners with the government of President Hugo Chavez to invest a portion of Citgo and PDVSA profits to support health, education, adult literacy and job training initiatives that help millions of Venezuelans. And why Venezuela is reaching out to other neighbors in South America and the Caribbean, strengthening the region with trade, social development and joint business ventures.”

If those words don’t meet and exceed every definition of propaganda, none do so. What has such self-serving rhetoric to do with heating poor people in Massachusetts or New York?

To further this propaganda campaign, and to expand his “Bolivarian Revolution” throughout the world, Mr. Chavez, with the help of his mentor, Fidel Castro, has created his very own continent-wide “news” network. It is called Telesur, and strikes fear into the hearts of those who cherish freedom in Latin America. Those who see it as a tool by Mr. Chavez to ultimately unite every Andean country under his socialist leadership, have already dubbed the network, “Chavez’s Al Jazeera.”

As “useful idiots” help Mr. Chavez spread his twisted message, the danger to the Western Hemisphere and the United States, grows. This collaboration with evil must stop.

Douglas MacKinnon is married to a Venezuelan and has often visited that country. He is former press secretary to former Sen. Bob Dole and a former White House and Pentagon official.

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