Monday, September 29, 2008

'Millions' of UKChildren live in poverty

Maps- Left All UK -Top Right Birmingham and surrounding Area -Bottom Right London

Children in Low income Families

Red over 50%

Dark Pink 40 to 49 %

Light Pink under 40%

'Millions' of UK young in poverty

Millions of children in the UK are living in, or on the brink of, poverty, a report claims.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty says 5.5 million children are in families that are classed as "struggling" - 98% of children in some areas.

The campaign classes households as being in poverty if they are living on under £10 per person per day.

A government spokeswoman said it had lifted 600,000 children out of poverty and was committed to the cause.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty is a coalition of more than 130 organisations including Barnardo's, Unicef and the NSPCC.

According to its research, there are 4,634,000 children in England living in low income families, 297,000 in Wales, 428,000 in Scotland and 198,000 in Northern Ireland.

It says 174 of the 646 parliamentary constituencies in Britain have 50% or more of their child population in, or close to, the poverty line.

The parliamentary constituency with the highest number of children in or close to poverty is Birmingham Ladywood, with 81% (28,420 individuals).

Campaign director Hilary Fisher said the figures were "absolutely shocking".

She said: "There are currently 3,900,000 children in the UK that are classed as actually living in poverty, which impacts on every aspect of a child's life.

"A child in poverty is 10 times more likely to die in infancy, and five times more likely to die in an accident.

"Adults who lived in poverty as a child are 50 times more likely to develop a restrictive illness such diabetes or bronchitis."

Ms Fisher said some families could not afford school uniforms, and chose schools for their children based on uniform cost - which was "not acceptable".

She said: "The government has lifted 600,000 children out of poverty, but 100,000 have gone back for each of the last two years.

"If the government does not allocate £3bn in tax credits and benefits in the next budget, then their plans to reduce child poverty will fail."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said the government was committed to the cause.

She said: "We have lifted 600,000 children out of poverty, we are introducing free nursery education for all two, three and four year olds and have seen an increase in educational outcomes at all ages."

She said local authorities and other service providers had to help it raise family incomes, encourage people to apply for tax credit and benefits and help parents work.

She said the latter was known to be one of the best ways for families to get out of poverty

Donald Hirsch, author of several reports on child poverty, said a single-wage couple with two children would stop getting Working Tax Credit when they were on £18,500 a year - leaving them just above the poverty line.

He said: "The official government measure of poverty is families below 60% of median income before housing costs, so families with this composition on Working Tax Credit will be close to the poverty line."

The report's figures are made up from Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit data, and have been calculated by the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion.

Another area with high child poverty is Bethnal Green and Bow, which has 79% (23,450) of its children in low income families.

The constituency of Bradford West has 75% (24,900) of children in or near poverty, while Nottingham East has 68% (12,360).

Government pledge

An estimated 98% of children living in two zones in Glasgow Baillieston - Central Easterhouse and North Barlarnark and Easterhouse South - are either in poverty or in working families that are "struggling to get by".

And there are 58% of children in Swansea East (10,470) in families of this description.

The constituencies with the lowest levels of families in, or near, poverty are Buckingham and Sheffield Hallam, both with 17%.

At last week's Labour Party conference, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said child poverty "demeans Britain" and repeated his party's pledge to halve child poverty by 2010, and ultimately to end it.

During his speech he said: "The measures we have taken this year alone will help lift 250,000 children out of poverty.

"The economic times are tough - of course that makes things harder - but we are in this for the long haul. The complete elimination of child poverty by 2020."

Harry Potter author JK Rowling recently donated £1m to the Labour Party, saying she was motivated by Labour's record on child poverty.

But shadow work and pensions secretary Chris Grayling said the figures "underline the vast social divide" within cities.

'Broken Britain'

He added: "There are examples of wards within cities where hardly any children live in poverty but sitting alongside these wards are others where virtually every family lives below the poverty line.

"This just goes to show the extent to which Britain is truly broken."

The Scottish government said it was helping low-income families with a council tax freeze, abolishing prescription charges and piloting free school meals.

"However, the limited nature of devolved powers restricts our ability to act," a spokesman said.

"We need significant extra investment by the UK government."

The report's results are for the period of August 2006, except for ward or zone breakdowns, which are for August 2005.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty will stage a rally in London's Trafalgar Square on Saturday 4 October called Keep The Promise, where it will call on Gordon Brown to keep Labour's promises on child poverty.

Mapping child poverty

Millions of children in the UK are living in or on the brink of poverty, according to a report from the Campaign to End Child Poverty.

The umbrella organisation, which includes Barnardo’s, UNICEF, Save The Children and the TUC, has released data for every parliamentary constituency in the UK.

It found that in Birmingham's Ladywood constituency, 81% of children were living in low income families - the highest proportion in the UK.

Low income means families where no-one is working more than 16 hours a week or where the family is receiving the full amount of Working Tax Credit.

The campaigners say this is not a direct measure of exactly how many children are in poverty, but is a good indicator of which areas have the highest child poverty levels.

Ivorians tried for mass poisoning

Ivorians tried for mass poisoning

Contaminated earth collected into giant bags
Much of the chemical waste still remains in Abidjan

Twelve people have gone on trial in Ivory Coast accused of dumping toxic waste blamed for 17 deaths and led 100,000 to seek medical treatment.

Some 500 tons of chemical waste from the oil industry were dumped two years ago in the biggest city, Abidjan.

Those on trial include the head of a local company, Tommy, that signed the deal to treat the waste with the Dutch multinational, Trafigura.

They are accused of charges including poisoning and complicity to poison.

Also on trial are a number of port and customs officials.

The BBC's John James reports from Abidjan that families of the victims are happy the trial has begun, but there is anger that no-one from Trafigura is in court - nor some of the more senior government and port officials accused of turning a blind eye.

Soon after the waste was dumped, people began complaining of breathing problems and rashes.

In an earlier out of court settlement, Trafigura agreed to pay the Ivorian government about $200m (£108m) in one of the largest payments of its kind.

The company never admitted liability, saying the payment was made out of sympathy for Ivorian people.

It also disputes whether the chemical slops were the cause of the large number of medical complaints.

The firm says it contracted Tommy to handle the waste in good faith.

Two years on, much of the waste remains where it was dumped and people still complain of illnesses and abnormal births linked to the waste, our correspondent says.

The trial is expected to last at least two weeks.

Zip It, Soldier!

Zip It, Soldier!

News: What happens to Iraq veterans who speak out against the war?

September 29, 2008

On the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, in March 2007, Marines Adam Kokesh and Cloy Richards joined a group of other Iraq Veterans Against the War in a mock combat patrol in Washington, DC. Wearing fatigues, a uniquely powerful symbol at a war protest, they pretended to arrest fellow protesters, throwing them to the ground, zip tying them, and leading them away. Other IVAW members passed out fliers explaining the guerrilla theater and noting that it wasn't sanctioned by the military.

Not long after, the two Marines, both of whom had served tours in Iraq, were notified that they were under investigation for potential violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The code mandates that soldiers who wear uniforms at political events may be penalized with an "other than honorable" discharge, one step above a dishonorable discharge; they can lose health benefits and be forced to repay grants, including GI bill assistance.

The probe came even though technically, Kokesh and Richards weren't bound by the UCMJ at the time of the protest: They were part of the Individual Ready Reserves, a group of soldiers who've left active duty but still have time remaining on their eight-year military contracts. IRR status is mostly unpaid, and legally civilian.

Kokesh promptly fired off an email to his deputy commander, refusing to cooperate with an investigation he viewed as "political harassment." He wrote, "I am deeply offended by the attempt to keep me under the thumb of the organization to which I pledged my life and served so devotedly." The commander responded that Kokesh was being recommended for discharge; Kokesh, in turn, demanded a public hearing. At the hearing, in June 2007, with throngs of supporters and media standing outside the Marine Corps Mobilization Command in Kansas City, a panel of officers imposed a general discharge—the military equivalent of a C-minus report card, but with benefits intact.

For Richards, events unfolded differently. He had too much at stake to fight, having been recently diagnosed with 80 percent combat disability: He had sustained a brain injury during a mortar attack, was on the waiting list for knee surgery after an accident involving a cannon, and had attempted suicide multiple times due to severe PTSD. Upon learning of the investigation, he stopped wearing his uniform at protests.

The number of vocally anti-war soldiers appears to be growing. The IVAW alone signs up 12 to 15 new members each week; one-third of their 1,300 members have joined since February. Appeal for Redress, an online petition to end the war, has gathered more than 2,200 soldiers' signatures since late 2006. "You take an average group of soldiers and ask them, 'Is the war worth it?' and you get close to a majority saying it is not really necessary or viable," says David Cortright, author of Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War, who has been touring and speaking at bases. "The anti-war sentiments are much more pervasive now in Iraq."

As a result, soldiers say, the military is increasingly trying to silence them with formal threats as well as less official intimidation techniques: At their own discretion, commanders can enact "non-judicial punishments," such as imposing a diet of bread and water, enforcing longer work hours, and requiring intensive physical activity like hauling sandbags back and forth or running for hours in full gear.

"There has definitely been an uptick in complaints," according to Mike Lebowitz, Kokesh's lawyer and a National Guard officer, who receives up to five emails per week from soldiers or their families seeking legal advice related to anti-war activities. He specializes in military free speech. "The military is infamous for punishing people for expressing political beliefs," he says. "The intimidation or threat of ramifications to soldiers is very pronounced."

In the heyday of the GI protest movement during the Vietnam War, draftees might have been thrilled to be threatened with a discharge; a popular underground cartoon depicted a soldier refusing to fight, with the caption, "What are you going to do, fire me?" In today's volunteer force, many enlistees are career soldiers who can be fiercely protective of their benefits, pensions, and wages—which, advocates say, makes them more vulnerable to intimidation.

Even some historically conservative veterans' organizations say limits on speech have gone too far. "I may disagree with [these soldiers'] message, but I will always defend their right to say it," says VFW head Gary Kurpius. In the Kokesh case, he says it's clear that the military is "trying to hush up and punish" the reservist, via "a form of first-amendment-rights suppression."

To be sure, when they enlist, soldiers knowingly forfeit some of the freedoms they enjoyed as citizens. The military is required to maintain political neutrality; political activity is allowed only when soldiers are off duty and out of uniform, and if they make it clear they are not speaking on behalf of the military. But enforcement of these rules, soldiers say, is haphazard, with charges such as "disloyalty, contempt, and unbecoming behavior" applied disproportionately for anti-war activities. (The UCMJ's Article 134 gives the brass a great deal of leeway, allowing punishment for any activity that "threatens good order and discipline" or brings "discredit upon the armed forces.")

In February, the Pentagon reissued its official directive regarding soldiers' political activities, as is common during election years, with a few additional restrictions. Soldiers, it said, can write letters to the editor, but they can't participate in organized letter-writing campaigns; nor can they display political signs larger than bumper stickers on their cars. While on duty or in uniform, they can't use "contemptuous words" when describing high-ranking government officials or participate in partisan campaigns. Most notably, the rules for the first time apply to National Guard and Reserve soldiers, who are being deployed at unprecedented levels.

"It's hard to explain how much the military has control over your entire life," says Sargeant Selena Coppa, a career Army soldier and single mom. She faced retaliation starting in 2007 after criticizing the war to fellow soldiers and at an IVAW protest. The Army launched an inquiry, but she was never formally charged. "The investigation was seamless and easy," says Coppa. "It was the informal retaliation that was severe." According to Coppa, one superior officer threatened to have her committed to Walter Reed's psych ward. He also claimed he'd provide her ex-husband, against whom she had a restraining order, with her address. Fearing reprisal, Coppa didn't report the threats, which means there is no paper trail of the incident. But, she says gravely, "It is not unreasonable for a soldier to not want to speak out against the war."

Army spokesperson Lt. Colonel Anne Edgecomb says her office is unaware of instances of informal retaliation and states that such behavior "would undermine good order and discipline" among the ranks. But, she adds, "If someone is unwilling to operate within the prescribed limitations, he or she should not join in the first place." Aside from appearing before a discharge review board, there are few avenues for recourse in disciplinary matters. Filing a report with the Pentagon's inspector general's office leads to an investigation involving unit command, which many believe will instigate more harassment. According to Lebowitz, "The public won't hear about 95 percent of these cases because soldiers just want to quietly resolve them and move on, with as few repercussions as possible."

Under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act soldiers may take their grievances to Congress, but that involves risks as well. The Appeal for Redress site explains in great detail that soldiers who sign are protected by the Whistleblower statute. Even so, founder Jonathan Hutto says many are still too scared to sign. Seemingly with good reason: After signing the appeal last year, Air Force Sargeant Tassi McKee was suspended from her work assignment, stripped of her security clearance, and interrogated by superiors. Her complaint to the IG earned her back her military assignment, but her reputation among superiors remained tarnished.

Since his hearing, Kokesh, who now studies political management at George Washington University's graduate school, has received scores of emails from soldiers and veterans thanking him for speaking up. He testified before Congress last May about his experience and has participated in numerous IVAW events—in uniform. Even Richards, inspired by Kokesh, has found a way to keep protesting, but through poetry, and much farther from the limelight.

Bailout Voted Down


Some of the Very people who are asking for bailouts control the Federal Reserve.

Well it they had a brain in their heads they would do like John F Kennedy did. At the risk of loosing their lives that is but they can't kill all of them can they? Putting control in the American peoples hands as apposed to the private sector who could care less about who goes down and how many. The private sector ( the very ones asking for bailouts now) caused the Great Depression on purpose and now the American people are suppose to bail them out?


Shocking defeat for econ bailout

By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - In a stunning vote that shocked the capital and worldwide markets, the House on Monday defeated a $700 billion emergency rescue for the nation's financial system, ignoring urgent warnings from President Bush and congressional leaders of both parties that the economy could nosedive without it. The Dow Jones industrials plunged nearly 800 points, the most ever for a single day.

Democratic and Republican leaders alike pledged to try again, though the Democrats said GOP lawmakers needed to provide more votes. Bush huddled with his economic advisers about a next step. The House was to reconvene on Thursday instead of adjourning for the year as planned.

Stocks began falling even before the 228-205 vote to reject the bill was officially announced on the House floor. The 777-point decline for the day surpassed the 684-point drop on the first trading day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson looked grim afterward, if not shaken. "We need to work as quickly as possible," he said. "We need to get something done." He went on: "We need to put something back together that works." Looking to inject a note of confidence into a day of high anxiety, he offered: "Our banking system has been holding up very well, considering all of the pressures."

In the House chamber, as a digital screen recorded a cascade of "no" votes against the bailout, Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley of New York shouted news of the falling stocks. "Six hundred points!" he yelled, jabbing his thumb downward.

Bush and a host of leading congressional figures had implored the lawmakers to pass the legislation despite loud protest from their constituents back home. Not enough members were willing to take the political risk just five weeks before an election.

More than two-thirds of Republicans and 40 percent of Democrats opposed the bill. In all, 65 Republicans joined 140 Democrats in voting "yes," while 133 Republicans and 95 Democrats voted "no."

The overriding question for congressional leaders was what to do next. Congress has been trying to adjourn so that its members can go out and campaign for the election that is just five weeks away.

"The legislation may have failed; the crisis is still with us," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a news conference after the defeat.

"What happened today cannot stand," Pelosi said. "We must move forward, and I hope that the markets will take that message."

At the White House, Bush said, "I'm disappointed in the vote. ... We've put forth a plan that was big because we've got a big problem." He pledged to keep pressing for a measure that Congress would pass.

Republicans blamed Pelosi's scathing speech near the close of the debate — which attacked Bush's economic policies and a "right-wing ideology of anything goes, no supervision, no discipline, no regulation" of financial markets — for the vote's failure.

"We could have gotten there today had it not been for the partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House," Minority Leader John Boehner said. Pelosi's words, the Ohio Republican said, "poisoned our conference, caused a number of members that we thought we could get, to go south."

Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the whip, estimated that Pelosi's speech changed the minds of a dozen Republicans who might otherwise have supported the plan.

That was a remarkable accusation by Republicans against Republicans, said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee: "Because somebody hurt their feelings, they decided to punish the country."

The presidential candidates kept close track — from afar.

In Colorado, Democrat Barack Obama said, "Democrats, Republicans, step up to the plate, get it done."

Republican John McCain spoke with Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke before leaving OhioIowa, a spokeswoman said. for a campaign stop in

The legislation the administration promoted would have allowed the government to buy bad mortgages and other rotten assets held by troubled banks and financial institutions. Getting those debts off their books should bolster those companies' balance sheets, making them more inclined to lend and easing one of the biggest choke points in the credit crisis. If the plan worked, the thinking went, it would help lift a major weight off the national economy that is already sputtering.

Monday's action had been preceded by unusually aggressive White House lobbying, and Fratto said that Bush had been making calls to lawmakers until shortly before the vote.

Bush and his economic advisers, as well as congressional leaders in both parties had argued the plan was vital to insulating ordinary Americans from the effects of Wall Street's bad bets. The version that was up for vote Monday was the product of marathon closed-door negotiations on Capitol Hill over the weekend.

"We're all worried about losing our jobs," Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., declared in an impassioned speech in support of the bill before the vote. "Most of us say, 'I want this thing to pass, but I want you to vote for it — not me.'"

Said Boehner, after the vote: "Americans are angry, and so are my colleagues. They don't want to have to vote for a bill like this. But I have concerns about what this means for the American people, what it means for our economy, and what it means for people's jobs. I think that we need to renew our efforts to find a solution that Congress can support."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Muslim Children Gassed at Dayton Mosque After "Obsession" DVD Hits Ohio

Muslim Children Gassed at Dayton Mosque After "Obsession" DVD Hits Ohio

September 28, 2008

On Friday, September 26, the end of a week in which thousands of copies of Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West -- the fear-mongering, anti-Muslim documentary being distributed by the millions in swing states via DVDs inserted in major newspapers and through the U.S. mail -- were distributed by mail in Ohio, a "chemical irritant" was sprayed through a window of the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton, where 300 people were gathered for a Ramadan prayer service. The room that the chemical was sprayed into was the room where babies and children were being kept while their mothers were engaged in prayers. This, apparently, is what the scare tactic political campaigning of John McCain's supporters has led to -- Americans perpetrating a terrorist attack against innocent children on American soil.

Chemical irritant empties Islamic Society of Greater Dayton's mosque

By Kyle Nagel

Staff Writer

September 27, 2008

DAYTON — Baboucarr Njie was preparing for his prayer session Friday night, Sept. 26, when he heard children in the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton coughing. Soon, Njie himself was overcome with fits of coughing and, like the rest of those in the building, headed for the doors.

"I would stay outside for a minute, then go back in, there were a lot of kids," Njie said. "My throat is still itchy, I need to get some milk."

Njie was one of several affected when a suspected chemical irritant was sprayed into the mosque at 26 Josie St., bringing Dayton police, fire and hazardous material personnel to the building at 9:48 p.m.

Someone "sprayed an irritant into the mosque," Dayton fire District Chief Vince Wiley said, noting that fire investigators believe it was a hand-held spray can.

According to fire dispatch communications, a child reported seeing two men with a white can spraying something into a window. That child was brought to the supervising firefighter at the scene.

Wiley would not discuss that report, but said the investigation has been turned over to police. Police were not commenting.

The 300 or so inside were celebrating the last 10 days of Ramadan with dinner and a prayer session, but the prayer session was interrupted so those suffering from tearing, coughing and shortness of breath could receive treatment.

Wiley said an adult and juvenile were taken to area hospitals and others had their eyes or faces washed on the scene. He did not know how many people were treated at the scene.

Ismail Gula, ISGD secretary, said people were praying during the weekly service when some in the audience began to cough and experience breathing troubles, then left the building. Once outside, several of them called 911, Gula said.

Tarek Sabagh, a member of the ISGD board, wasn't present when the incident occurred.

He said his daughter called and told him to stay away because of the possibility of remaining fumes. Sabagh arrived shortly after and watched from the mosque's steps as members were allowed back inside about 11 p.m. to collect belongings.

"It's very disturbing," Sabagh said. "Something like this has never happened before."

Sabagh said members moved to a Beavercreek school to finish their prayer session as police continued to investigate.

"I don't know if people will have the feeling of trust to come back tomorrow or next week or next month," Sabagh said. "I don't know how people will feel."

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. During the month, Muslims fast (do not eat) from sunrise to sunset. In the evening and in the morning before the sun comes up, they eat small meals. During this month, they take extra time for family, inner reflection, and spiritual growth.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-7389 or

Pro-McCain Group Dumping 28 Million Terror Scare DVDs in Swing States

(UPDATE 9/13 - 70 newspapers in swing states have been paid to distribute Obsession this weekend and next, which means not all the DVDs have been delivered yet. Check the list at the end of this post to see if your newspaper is one of them, and let them know how you feel about their participation in this shameless propaganda campaign.)

This week, 28 million copies of a right-wing, terror propaganda DVD are being mailed and bundled in newspaper deliveries to voters in swing states. The 60-minute DVDs, titled Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West, are landing on doorsteps in a campaign coinciding with the 7th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Funding is coming from a New York-based group called the Clarion Fund, a shadowy outfit whose financial backers are unclear.

The program was originally shown on Fox News in the days leading up to the 2006 mid-term elections, and far right-wing activist David Horowitz toured the country screening the film on college campuses during 2007. Mainstream religious groups have called Obsession biased and divisive. It cuts between scenes of Nazi rallies and footage of Muslim children being encouraged to become suicide bombers.

Talking heads in the film include infamous anti-Muslim, self-proclaimed "islamophobes" like Daniel Pipes and Walid Shoebat. In 2001, Pipes claimed the "presence" and "enfranchisement" of Muslims in the U.S. presented "true dangers to American Jews." Shoebat is an evangelical Christian who falsely claims to be a former Muslim terrorist. Last year, Shoebat told the Missouri Springfield News-Leader, "Islam is not the religion of God - Islam is the devil."

As detailed in an OffTheBus report on HuffPo two days ago, the DVDs were distributed last weekend in national editions of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal within selected swing states. These included Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia.

Sally Lopez of Lemoyne, PA displays a copy of the DVD that came in the mail.

Here in North Carolina, another battleground state that John McCain must win to reach 270 electoral votes, 160,000 copies of the DVD are to be distributed tomorrow by the state's leading newspaper.

The Raleigh News & Observer reported yesterday on its Under The Dome politics blog that the paper is preparing to bundle copies of the DVD with this Saturday's newspapers. Jim McClure, vice president of display advertising for the N&O, said the "ultimate decision" to distribute the DVDs had been made by publisher Orage Quarles, and compared the propaganda to harmless household samples.

"'Obviously, we have distributed other product samples, whether it's cereal or toothpaste,' he said. He declined to say how much the agency paid."

The News & Observer recently announced deep buyouts and layoffs for its employees. It is owned by the struggling McClatchy news chain, which is slashing newsroom jobs and pages at the papers it owns around the country. Advertising revenues have plummeted during the ongoing economic downturn, and it appears the N&O is now auctioning off its journalistic integrity to the highest bidder.

The paper's announcement touched off immediate criticism from angry subscribers:

"A box of cereal? Toothpaste? Does a box of cereal or a tube of toothpaste encourage me to look with hatred and suspicion on my law abiding neighbors who have a different religion than mine? Does cereal and toothpaste lead to pogroms, religious harassment, fear and intimidation? The trailer for this video is about hate, pure and simple, and shows the video has only one goal -- to instill fear and hatred of neighbor against neighbor.

If I receive this DVD in my paper, that day, after 22 years of receiving the N&O, will be the last day of my subscription.

Please, please reconsider this decision!"

Although supposedly a 501 c(3) non-profit, this week the Clarion Fund's website featured an article supporting John McCain. Yesterday, the Patriot-News in PA reported on the DVDs showing up in Pennsylvania, and noted:

"On Wednesday, though, there was an article on the group's new Web site,, that backed Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The article discusses both candidates and concludes: "McCain's policies seek to confront radical Islamic extremism and terrorism and roll it back while [Barack] Obama's, although intending to do the same, could in fact make the situation facing the West even worse."

According to Clarion Fund director of communications Gregory Ross, the article "crossed the line" and would be removed.

Where else exactly are these DVDs landing, and who's funding the Clarion Fund?

If you'd like to give News & Observer executives a piece of your mind, executive editor John Drescher can be reached at (919) 829-4515, or Or ask for publisher Orage Quarles at the paper's main phone number, (919) 829-4500.

(UPDATE 9/13 - Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher has more details. And here's a state-by-state list of most of the 70 newspapers in swing states that have agreed to deliver this garbage to their subscribers:

Colorado - Boulder Daily Camera, Centennial Citizen, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post, Fort Collins Coloradoan, Greeley Tribune

Iowa - Daily Nonpareil, Des Moines Register, Iowa City Press Citizen, Quad City Times, Sioux City Journal

Indiana - South Bend Tribune

Florida - Daily Commercial, Florida Times-Union, Ft. Lauderdale El Sentinel, Ft. Myers News Press, Miami Herald, Ocala Star Banner, Orlando Sun Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Tampa Tribune, Tallahassee Democrat, St. Petersburg Times, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Michigan - Detroit Free-Press, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Lansing State Journal

Missouri - Springfield News-Leader

Nevada - Las Vegas Review-Journal/Sun, Nevada Appeal, Reno Gazette-Journal

New Hampshire - Portsmouth Herald News, Union Leader

New Mexico - Clovis News Journal, Hobbs News-Sun, Rio Rancho Observer

Ohio - Canton Repository, Columbus Dispatch, Dayton Daily News, Middletown Journal, Morning Journal, Toledo Blade, Youngstown Vindicator

North Carolina - Charlotte Observer, Raleigh News & Observer

Pennsylvania - Bucks Co. Courier Times, Erie Times-News, Morning Call, Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Reading Eagle, The Patriot-News

Virginia - Sun-Gazette, Virginian-Pilot

Wisconsin - Green Bay Press-Gazette, Janesville Gazette, Journal Times, La Crosse Tribune, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

(UPDATE 9/15 - The American Muslim website has posted a lengthy list of "Resources for Responding to Obsession DVD Mass Distribution," and a detailed look at organizations and individuals involved in the production, promotion and distribution of the film - "Who is behind Relentless, Obsession and The Third Jihad?"

The progressive Jewish group has a thorough report on the Clarion Fund's background and role in pushing these hate DVDs. Highlights include the film's past ties to the Republican Jewish Coalition, Clarion's rent-an-address location, its incorporator, New York attorney Eli Greenberg, spokesman Gregory Ross' implausible denial that the Fund also paid to distribute Obsession at both the Democratic and Republican conventions, and Ross' statement that the Clarion Fund will not disclose its donors' names.

Obsession at the conventions.

However, one detail in this report seems mistaken, that "because it was established only recently, the Clarion Fund has not yet filed its first required disclosure (Form 990) with the IRS." According to the New York Secretary of State's website, the Clarion Fund was incorporated nearly two years ago, on December 28, 2006. So where are their Form 990's? Hello, IRS?)

Erik Ose is a veteran of Democratic campaigns in North Carolina and blogs at The Latest Outrage.

I would call this a HATE CRIME in the making.

Human Rights Watch in Venezuela

Human Rights Watch in Venezuela

Lies, Crimes and Cover-ups

By James Petras

Human Rights Watch, a US-based group claiming to be a non-governmental organization, but which is in fact funded by government-linked quasi-private foundations and a Congressional funded political propaganda organization, the National Endowment for Democracy, has issued a report “A Decade Under Chavez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela” (9/21/2008 The publication of the “Report” directed by Jose Miguel Vivanco and sub-director Daniel Walkinson led to their expulsion from Venezuela for repeated political-partisan intervention in the internal affairs of the country.

A close reading of the “Report” reveals an astonishing number of blatant falsifications and outright fabrications, glaring deletions of essential facts, deliberate omissions of key contextual and comparative considerations and especially a cover-up of systematic long-term, large-scale security threats to Venezuelan democracy posed by Washington.

We will proceed by providing some key background facts about HRW and Vivanco in order to highlight their role and relations to US imperial power. We will then comment on their methods, data collection and exposition. We will analyze each of HRW charges and finally proceed to evaluate their truth and propaganda value.

Background on Vivanco and HRW

Jose Miguel Vivanco served as a diplomatic functionary under the bloody Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet between 1986-1989, serving no less as the butcher’s rabid apologist before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. His behavior was particularly egregious during the regime’s brutal repression of a mass popular uprising in the squatter settlements of Santiago in 1986-1987. With the return of electoral politics (democracy) in Chile, Vivanco took off to Washington where he set up his own NGO, the Center for Justice and International Law, disguising his right-wing affinities and passing himself off as a ‘human rights’ advocate. In 1994 he was recruited by former US federal prosecutor, Kenneth Roth, to head up the ‘Americas Division’ of Human Rights Watch. HRW demonstrated a real capacity to provide a ‘human rights’ gloss to President Clinton’s policy of ‘humanitarian imperialism’. Roth promoted and supported Clinton’s two-month bombing, destruction and dismemberment of Yugoslavia. HRW covered up the ethnic cleansing of Serbs in Kosovo by the notorious Albanian terrorists and gangsters of the Kosovo Liberation Army and the unprecedented brutal transfer of over 200,000 ethnic Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia. HRW backed Clinton’s sanctions against Iraq leading to the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children. Nowhere did the word ‘genocide’ ever appear in reference to the US Administrations massive destruction of Iraq causing hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.

HRW supported the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan where Kenneth Roth advised the US generals on how to secure the colonial occupation by avoiding massive civilian deaths. In words and deeds, HRW has played an insidious role as backer and adviser of US imperial intervention, providing the humanitarian ideological cover while issuing harmless and inconsequential reports criticizing ‘ineffective’ excesses, which ‘undermine’ imperial dominance.

HRW most notorious intervention was its claim that Israel’s murderous destruction of the Palestinian city of Jenin was ‘not genocidal’ and thus provided the key argument for the US and Israeli blocking of a UN humanitarian mission and investigative report. As in all of its ‘research’ their report was deeply colored by selective interviews and observations which understated the brutality and killings of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli state – even while the fanatics who run the major pro-Israel organizations accused HRW of bias for even mentioning a single murdered Palestinian.


HRW currently makes a big play of its widespread interviews of a broad cross section of Venezuelan political and civic society government and opposition groups, as well as its consultation of most available documents. Yet the Report on Venezuela does not reflect anything of the sort. There is no careful, straightforward presentation of the government’s elaboration and justification for its actions, no academic critiques of the anti-democratic actions of anti-Chavez mass media; no discussion of the numerous journalists’ accounts which expose systematic US intervention. The Report simply records and reproduces uncritically the claims, arguments and charges of the principle publicists of the opposition while dismissing out of hand any documented counter-claims. In other words, Vivanco and company act as lawyers for the opposition rather than as serious and objective investigators pursuing a balanced and convincing evaluation of the status of democracy in Venezuela.

The political propaganda intent of Vivanco-HRW is evident in the timing of their ‘investigations’ and the publication of their propaganda screeds. Each and every previous HRW hostile ‘report’ has been publicized just prior to major conflicts threatening Venezuelan democratic institutions. In February 2002, barely two months before the US backed military coup against Chavez, HRW joined the chorus of coup planners in condemning the Chavez regimes for undermining the ‘separation of powers’ and calling for the intervention of the Organization of American States. After the coup was defeated through the actions of millions of Venezuelan citizens and loyalists military officers, HRW moved quickly to cover its tracks by denouncing the coup – but subsequently defended the media moguls, trade union bureaucrats and business elites who promoted the coup from prosecution, claiming the coup promoters were merely exercising their ‘human rights’. HRW provides a novel meaning to ‘human rights’ when it includes the right to violently overthrow a democratic government by a military coup d’etat.

Following the military coup in 2002 and the bosses’ lockout of 2003, HRW published a report condemning efforts to impose constitutional constraints on the mass media’s direct involvement in promoting violent actions by opposition groups or terrorists. President Chavez’ “Law for Social Responsibility in Radio and Television” provided greater constitutional guarantee for freedom of speech than most Western European capitalist democracies and was far less restrictive than the measures approved and implemented in Bush’s US Patriot Act, which HRW has never challenged, let alone mounted any campaign against.

Just prior to the political referenda in 2004 and 2007, HRW issued further propaganda broadsides which were almost identical in wording to the opposition (in fact HRW ‘Reports’ were widely published and circulated by all the leading opposition mass media). HRW defended the ‘right’ of the US National Endowment for Democracy to pour millions of dollars to fund opposition ‘NGO’s’, such as SUMATE, accusing the Chavez government of undermining ‘civil society’ organizations. Needless to say, similar activity in the US by an NGO on behalf of any foreign government (with the unique exception of Israel) would require the NGO to register as a foreign agent under very strict US Federal laws; failure to do so would lead to federal prosecution and a jail term of up to 5 years. Apparently, HRW’s self-promoted ‘credibility’ as an international ‘humanitarian’ organization protects it from being invidiously compared to an agent of imperialist propaganda.

HRW: Five Dimensional Propaganda

The HRW Report on Venezuela focuses on five areas of politics and society to make its case that democracy in Venezuela is being undermined by the Presidency of Hugo Chavez: political discrimination, the courts, the media, organized labor and civil society.

1.Political Discrimination

- The Report charges that the government has fired and blacklisted political opponents from some state agencies and from the national oil company.

- Citizen access to social programs is denied based on their political opinions.

- There is discrimination against media outlets, labor unions and civil society in response to legitimate criticism or political activity.

Between December 2002 and 2003, following the failure of the military coup of the previous April, the major business organizations, senior executives of the state oil company and sectors of the trade union bureaucracy organized a political lockout shutting down the oil industry, paralyzing production through sabotage of its computer-run operations and distribution outlets in a publicly stated effort to deny government revenues (80% of which come from oil exports) and overthrow the democratically elected government. After 3 months and over $20 billion dollars in lost revenues and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to machinery, with the aid of the majority of production workers and technicians, the bosses ‘lockout’ was defeated. Those officials and employees engaged in the political lockout and destruction of equipment and computers were fired. The government followed normal procedures backed by the majority of oil workers, who opposed the lockout, and dismissed the executives and their supporters in order to defend the national patrimony and social and investment programs from the self-declared enemies of an elected government. No sane, competent, constitutional lawyer, international human rights lawyer, UN commissioner or the International Court official considered the action of the Venezuelan government in this matter to constitute ‘political discrimination’. Even the US State Department, at that time, did not object to the firing of their allies engaged in economic sabotage. HRW, on the other hand, is more Pope than the Pope.

Nothing captures the ludicrous extremism of the HRW than its charge that citizens are denied access to social programs. Every international organization involved in assessing and developing large social programs, including UNESCO, the World Health Organization and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, have praised the extent and quality of the coverage of the social programs instituted by the Chavez government covering 60% of the population and almost 100% of the poor. Since approximately between 20-30% of the poor still vote for the opposition, it is clear that needy citizens critical of the government have equal access to social programs, including food subsidies, free health care and education. This social safety net is more inclusive than ever before in the history of Venezuela. In fact some of the poor suburbs of Caracas, like Catia, which voted down the 2007 referendum, are major recipients of large-scale, long-term social assistance programs.

Only scoundrels or the ill informed could be convinced of the HRW charge of discrimination against mass media outlets, labor unions and civil society groups. The opposition controls 95% of the newspapers, a majority of the television and radio outlets and frequencies, with the widest national circulation. The government has ‘broken’ the ruling class monopoly on information by funding two major TV stations and a growing number of community based radio stations.

There are more trade union members and greater trade union participation in enterprises, internal debates and free elections than ever before under previous regimes. Rival lists and intense competition for office between pro and anti-government lists are common in the trade unions confederation (UNT). The entire HRW ‘Report’ is based on complaints from the authoritarian CTV(Confederation of Venezuelan Workers/Confederacion de Trabajadores de Venezuela) bureaucrats who have lost most of their supporters and are discredited because of their role in supporting the bloody April 2002 coup. They are universally disdained; militant workers have not forgotten their corruption and gangster tactics when they collaborated with previous rightwing regimes and employers.

2. The Courts

HWR claims that President Chavez has “effectively neutralized the judiciary as an independent branch of government”. The claim that the judiciary was ‘independent’ is a new argument for HRW – because a decade earlier when Chavez’ 1999 constitution was approved by referendum, HRW decried the ‘venality, corruption and bias of the entire judicial system’. After years of releasing the leaders of the 2002 coup, postponing rulings and undermining positive legislation by elected legislative bodies and after revelations of high and lower court bribe taking, the Government finally implemented a series of democratically approved reforms, expanding and renewing the judicial system. The fact that the new court appointees do not follow the past practices of the opposition-appointed judges has evoked hysterical cries by HRW that the new reformed courts ‘threaten fundamental rights’. The most bizarre claim by HRM is that the Supreme Court did not ‘counter’ a 2007 constitutional reform package. In fact the Supreme Court approved the placing of constitutional reforms to a popular referendum in which the Chavez government was narrowly defeated. The Venezuelan Supreme Court subsequently respected the popular verdict – unlike US Supreme Court, which overturned the popular vote in the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections, a constitutional crime against the popular will, which Kenneth Roth, Vivanco and the rest of HRW have yet to condemn.

3. The Media

Every outside media specialist has been highly critical of the advocacy of violent action (leading up to the coup) and gross falsifications and libelous ‘reports’ (including racist epithets against Hugo Chavez) propagated by the ruling class-dominated mass media. A single opposition television network just had one of its many outlets suspended for openly backing the opposition military seizure of power, an action that any Western capitalist democracy would have taken in the wake of a violent uprising. HRW did not, has not and will not condemn the arrest of dozens of US and international journalists, some brutally beaten, covering the Republican and Democratic Presidential Conventions. Nothing even remotely resembling the extraordinary powers of ‘preventive detention’ of journalists by the US Homeland Security/local and state police forces exists in Venezuela. The wanton destruction of journalists’ cameras and tape recorders by the police at the US Republican Party Convention would be un-imaginable in Venezuela today. In contrast the only offense prosecuted in Venezuela against the media is the act of supporting and advocating violence aimed at overthrowing democratic institutions. Like all countries, Venezuela has laws dealing with libel and slander; these are far weaker than any comparable statutes in the countries upholding the tradition of the Magna Carta. HRW blatantly falsifies reality by claiming state control of the print media: All one needs to do is peruse any newsstand in Venezuela to see a multiplicity of lurid anti-government headlines, or tune into the radio or television stations and view news accounts that compete for the worst anti-Chavez propaganda found in the US Fox News or CNN.

4. Organized Labor

HRW claims that the Venezuelan government has violated ‘basic principles of freedom of association’ because it requires state oversight and certification of union elections and that by denying the right to bargain collectively to non-certified unions, it undermines workers’ rights to freely join the union of their choosing and to strike. Practically every government in the West has rules and regulations regarding oversight and certification of union elections, none more onerous than the US starting with the Taft-Hartley Act of the 1940’s and the ‘Right to Work’ Laws current in many states, which have reduced the percentage of unionized workers in the private sector to less than 3%. In contrast, during the Chavez Presidency, the number of unionized workers has more than doubled, in large part because new labor legislation and labor officials have reduced employer prerogatives to arbitrarily fire unionized workers. The only union officials who have been ‘decertified’ are those who were involved in the violent coup of April 2002 and the employers lockout intended to overthrow the government, suspend the constitution and undermine the very existence of free unions. Former Pinochet official Jose Miguel Vivanco delicately overlooks the gangsterism, thuggery and fraudulent election procedures, which ran rampant under the previous rightwing Venezuelan labor confederation, CTV. It was precisely to democratize voting procedures and to break the stranglehold of the old-guard trade union bosses that the government monitors oversaw union elections, many of which had multi-tendency candidates, unfettered debates and free voting for the first time.

I attended union meetings and interviewed high level CTV trade unions officials in 1970, 1976 and 1978 and found high levels of open vote buying, government and employer interference and co-optation, collaboration with the CIA-funded American Institute of Free Labor Development and large-scale pilfering of union pension funds, none of which was denounced by HRW. I attended the founding of the new Venezuelan union confederation, Union Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT) in 2003 and a subsequent national congress. I have witness a totally different unionism, a shift from government-run ‘corporate’ business unionism to independent social movement unionism with a decidedly class oriented approach. The UNT is a multi-tendency confederation in which diverse currents compete, with varying degrees of support and opposition to the Chavez Government. There are few impediments to strikes and there is a high degree of independent political action with no inhibition to workers resorting to strikes in order to demand the ouster of pro-employer labor officials.

For example, this year, steel workers in the Argentine-owned firm SIDOR, went on strike several times protesting private sector firings (HRW, of course never discussed private sector violations of workers rights). Because the Venezuelan Labor Minister tended to take the side of the employers, the steelworkers marched into a meeting where Chavez was speaking and demanded the dismissal of his Minister. After conferring with the workers’ leaders, Chavez fired the Labor Minister, expropriated the steel plant and accepted workers demands for trade union co-management. Never in Venezuelan labor history have workers exercised this degree of labor influence in nationalized plants. There is no doubt that there are government officials who would like to ‘integrate’ labor unions closer to the state; the new unionists do spend too much time in internal debates and internecine struggles instead of organizing the informal and temporary worker sectors. But one fact stands out: Unionized and non-unionized Venezuelan workers have experienced greater social welfare payments, rising living standards, greater job protection and greater free choice in union affiliation than any previous period in their history. It is ironic that Vivanco, who never raised a word against Pinochet’s anti-labor policies, an uncritical apologist of the AFL-CIO (the declining and least effective labor confederation in the industrialized West), should launch a full-scale attack on the fastest growing, independent and militant trade union movement in the Western hemisphere. Needless to say, Vivanco avoids any comparative analysis, least of all between Venezuelan and US labor over the spread of union organizing, internal democracy and labor representation in industry, social benefits and influence over government policy. Nor does HRW refer to the positive assessment by independent international labor organizations regarding union and labor advances under the Chavez Presidency.

5. Civil Society and HRW: The Mother of All Perversities

Jose Miguel Vivanco, who kept quiet during his years as a state functionary serving the Chilean dictator Pinochet, while thousands of protestors were beaten, jailed and even tortured and killed and courageous human rights groups were routinely assaulted, shamelessly claims that President Chavez has adopted “an aggressively adversarial approach to local rights advocates and civil society organization.”

President Chavez has actively promoted a multitude of independent, democratically elected community councils with over 3 million affiliated members, mostly from the poorest half of the population. He has devolved decision-making power to the councils, bypassing the party-dominated municipal and state officials, unlike previous regimes and US AID programs, which channeled funds through loyal local bosses and clients. Never has Venezuela witnessed more intense sustained organization, mobilization and activity of civil society movements. This cuts across the political spectrum, from pro-Chavez to pro-oligarch neighborhood, civic, working class and upper class groups. Nowhere in the world are US-funded groups, engaged in overt extra-parliamentary and even violent confrontations with elected officials, tolerated to the degree that they enjoy freedom of action as in Venezuela. In the US, foreign-funded organizations (with the exception of Israeli-funded groups) are required to register and refrain from engaging in electoral campaigning, let alone in efforts to destabilize legitimately constitutional government agencies. In contrast, Venezuela asked the minimum of foreign government-funded self-styled NGOs in requiring them to register their source of funding and comply with the rules of their constitution, that is, to stay out of virulent partisan political action. Today, as yesterday, all the ‘civil society’ organizations, including these funded by the US, which routinely attack the Chavez government, can operate freely, publish, assemble and demonstrate unimpeded. Their fundamental complaint, echoed by HRW, is that the Chavez government and its supporters criticize them: According to the new HRW definition of civil society freedom,the opposition has the right to attack the government - but not the other way around; some countries can register foreign-funded organizations - but not Venezuela; and some government can jail terrorists and coup-makers and identify and criticize their accomplices – but not Venezuela. The grotesque double-standard, practiced by Human Rights Watch, reveals their political allegiances: Blind to the vices of the US as it descends into a police state and equally blind to the virtues of a growing participatory democracy in Venezuela.

The ‘Report’ contains egregious omissions. It fails to mention that Venezuela, under President Chavez, has experienced twelve internationally supervised and approved elections, including several presidential, congressional and municipal elections, referenda and recall elections. These have been the cleanest elections in Venezuelan history and certainly with more honest vote counting than one would find in the US presidential contests.

The ‘Report’ fails to report on the serious security threats including the recording of phone conversations of active and retired high military officials planning to violently seize power and assassinate President Chavez. Under the extraordinary degree of tolerance in Venezuela, not a single constitutional right has been suspended. In the US, similar terrorist actions and plans would have led to a state of emergency and the probable pre-emptive mass incarceration of thousands of government critics and activists. HRW ignores and downplays security threats to Venezuelan democracy – whether it involves armed incursions from Colombian paramilitary groups allied with the pro-US Venezuelan opposition, the assassination of the chief federal prosecutor Danilo Anderson who was investigating the role of the opposition in the bloody coup of April 2002, the US-backed secessionist movement in the state of Zulia, the collusion of the mass media with violent student mobs in assaulting Chavez supporters on campus or the economic sabotage and panic caused by the private sector’s hoarding of essential food and other commodities in the lead-up to the 2007 referendum.

One of Vivanco’s most glaring omissions is the contrast between Venezuela’s open society approach to the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrant workers from Colombia and the US authoritarian practice of criminalizing its undocumented laborers. While the US Homeland Security and Immigration police have implemented arbitrary mass arrests, assaults and deportation of working heads of immigrant families – leaving their wives and children vulnerable to destitution, Chavez has awarded over a million undocumented Colombian immigrant workers and family members with residency papers and the opportunity for citizenship.

HRW has yet to protest Washington’s brutal denial of human rights to its Latin American and Asian immigrant workers in recent months. HRW did not issue a single protest when US-backed local oligarch politicians, local government officials and racist gangs in Bolivia went on a rampage and slaughtered three dozen unarmed Indian peasant workers. Vivanco’s squalid selective slandering of Venezuela is only exceeded by his systematic silence when there are abuses involving US collaboraters!


The Human Rights Watch Report on Venezuela is a crude propaganda document that, even in its own terms, lacks the minimum veneer of ‘balance’, which the more sophisticated ‘humanitarian’ imperialists have put out in the past. The omissions are monumental: No mention of President Chavez’ programs which have reduced poverty over the past decade from more than 60% to less than 30%; no recognition of the universal health system which has provided health care to 16 million Venezuelan citizens and residents who were previously denied even minimal access; and no acknowledgment of the subsidized state-run grocery stores which supply the needs of 60% of the population who can now purchase food at 40% of the private retail price.

HRW’s systematic failure to mention the advances experienced by the majority of Venezuelan citizens, while peddling outright lies about civic repression , is characteristic of this mouthpiece of Empire. Its gross distortion about labor rights makes this report a model for any high school or college class on political propaganda.

The widespread coverage and uncritical promotion and citation of the ‘Report’ (and the expulsion of its US-based authors for gross intervention on behalf of the opposition) by all the major newspapers from the New York Times, to Le Monde in France, the London Times, La Stampa in Italy and El Pais in Spain gives substance to the charge that the Report was meant to bolster the US effort to isolate Venezuela rather than pursue legitimate humanitarian goals in Venezuela.

The major purpose of the HRW ‘Report’ was to intervene in the forthcoming November municipal and state elections on the side of the far-right opposition. The ‘Report’ echoes verbatim the unfounded charges and hysterical claims of the candidates supported by the far right and the Bush Administration. HRW always manages to pick the right time to issue their propaganda bromides. Their reports mysteriously coincide with US intervention in electoral processes and destabilization campaigns. In Venezuela today the Report has become one of the most widely promoted propaganda documents of the leading rightist anti-Chavez candidates.

For the partisans of democracy, human rights and self-determination, every effort should be made to expose the insidious role of HRW and its Pinochetista propagandist, Vivanco, for what they are – publicists and promoters of US-backed clients who have given ‘human rights’ a dirty name.

Professor Petras latest book Zionism,Militarism And the Decline of U.S Power(clarity press Atlanta) - August 2008

Venezuela: Truth suffers in Human Rights Watch report

Venezuela Information Office
27 September 2008

On September 18, Human Rights Watch released a report titled “Venezuela: Rights Suffer Under Chavez”. The report contains biases and inaccuracies, and wrongly purports that human rights guarantees are lacking or not properly enforced in Venezuela.

In addition, while criticising Venezuela’s human rights in the political context, it fails to mention the many significant advances made by the government on other essential human rights, such as access to education, health care, nutritious food, clean water and housing. The following fact sheet was produced by the Washington DC-based Venezuela Information Office.


Myth: “Discrimination on political grounds has been a defining feature of the Chavez presidency.”

Fact: Human Rights Watch deems the 2002 coup against President Hugo Chavez’s elected government “the most dramatic setback” for human rights in Venezuela in the last decade, but criticises Chavez’s own public condemnations of the unconstitutional overthrow as examples of “political discrimination” against the opposition. On the contrary, President Chavez last year pardoned political opponents who backed a failed 2002 coup against his democratically elected government. “It’s a matter of turning the page”, Chavez said. “We want there to be a strong ideological and political debate — but in peace.” In this spirit, the government has often welcomed input from the opposition, for example, inviting the leaders of student protests to address the National Assembly.

Myth: The Chavez administration has an “open disregard for the principle of separation of powers — specifically an independent judiciary”.

Fact: Human Rights Watch wrote in an earlier report that “When President Chavez became president in 1999, he inherited a judiciary that had been plagued for years by influence-peddling, political interference, and, above all, corruption … In terms of public credibility, the system was bankrupt.” Under Chavez, though, Human Rights Watch admitted that access to justice in Venezuela was improved by the expansion of the court system. Also, the World Bank found that “the [judicial] reform effort has made significant progress — the STJ [Supreme Court] is more modern and efficient”. Testament to the strength of democratic institutions in Venezuela is the ability of the National Electoral Council to uphold decisions unfavourable to the executive, such as the “No” victory in the December 2007 referendum on constitutional reforms.

Myth: “[Chavez] has significantly shifted the balance of the mass media in the government’s favour … by stacking the deck against critical opposition outlets.”

Fact: As was true at the time of the 2002 coup against Chavez, Venezuela’s media is dominated by opposition voices. The “anti-government” media mentioned by Human Rights Watch still maintains the largest share of the nation’s public airwaves, and their frequently extreme criticisms of the government have included calling for the overthrow of elected leaders (as in 2002). There are no major pro-government newspapers in Venezuela. The new government-funded television and radio outlets, such as TVes, Venezuela’s first public broadcaster, and TeleSur — a regional network with support from multiple countries — have a much smaller reach than the private outlets. Furthermore, the government has never censored or “shut down” opposition media. The private channel RCTV faced a non-renewal of its broadcast license due to persistent legal violations including inciting political violence, but the station easily made the switch to cable.

Myth: The Chavez government “has sought to remake the country’s labour movement in ways that violate basic principles of freedom of association”.

Fact: The Chavez government has actively promoted the formation of labour unions and bargaining by organised labour, but has not co-opted this sector. The National Workers Union (UNT) was founded in April 2003 by workers supportive of government policies. In 2008, the government responded to an ongoing labour dispute between steel workers and the foreign-owned firm Sidor by intervening to negotiate a settlement, and when this was found to be impossible, the government reasserted state control over the Sidor plant in response to worker demands. The steel workers themselves were also allowed to purchase a share of the business themselves and thereby assert more control over the company.

Myth: The Chavez government has pursued an “aggressively adversarial approach to local rights advocates and civil society organisations”.

Fact:The Chavez administration has encouraged local leaders to create community councils that let localities identify and address their own problems — from garbage collection to school construction. The concept comes from the belief that local groups know what is lacking and know what they want for their communities. Community councils democratise local government and give people the funding and capacity to make decisions for themselves. Also subject to local decision-making are many of the social missions that are designed to help reduce poverty in the most marginalised areas of the country. Health clinics, educational centers, subsidised food markets and other initiatives rely on local volunteers and are accountable to these communities.


In conclusion, the Human Rights Watch report “Venezuela: Rights Suffer Under Chavez” provides an incomplete and biased account of Venezuela’s human rights record during the last decade.

It overstates the issue of political discrimination, accusing the Chavez government of targeting opponents, when in fact it has pardoned supporters of the coup and promoted open dialogue. The report is also wrong on the separation of powers and the media. The branches of government provide strong checks and balances, and institutions have improved since Chavez was first elected. No censorship of the media occurs and the opposition still dominates the airwaves. In terms of civil society, labour organisations and community groups enjoy more support from this administration than ever before.

Venezuela has a strong record on human rights. Many of the important guarantees set out in the 1999 constitution (Chavez was first elected in 1998) have indeed been enforced, particularly those relating to the fundamental needs of citizens, such as food, shelter, health care, access to education, employment, social security and the right to participation in cultural life.

Human Rights Watch details none of the impressive progress made in these areas. For example, the UN Development Programme has found that Venezuela has already achieved some of the Millennium Development Goals and is on track to complete the others by 2015. Notably, there has been a 54% drop in the number of households living in extreme poverty since 1998, and its overall poverty has fallen by 34%. Facts such as these provide a much more complete picture of the human rights situation in Venezuela.

[Visit for full sources for this fact sheet.]