Political rhetoric vs real people and real life in Venezuela. Has the white house propaganda machine spun one tall tale too many? Views on the street from Caracas.
The White House
Last week U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice accused Hugo Chavez of “destroying” Venezuela both “economically, (and) politically.”
Speaking to the House of Foreign Affairs committee Rice said, “I believe there is an assault on democracy in Venezuela and I believe that there are significant human rights issues (there)”. She claimed Chavez was “really, really destroying his own country, economically, politically.” Rice’s comments were made to the House of Foreign Affairs Committee.
Last month, the recently nominated U.S. deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte called Chavez “a threat to Latin American democracies,” followed the next day by Bush’s expression of concern at the state of democracy in Venezuela. Last week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Western Hemispheric Affairs, Thomas Shannon, said that the relationship between the U.S. and Venezuela was “really poor.”
So how do the Venezuelan people themselves feel about all this? Freelance reporter Chad Heeter visited Caracas recently and asked Venezuelans to share their thoughts on Americans, the Iraq War, George Bush, Democracy and President Chavez.
Rice’s comments on the state of democracy in Venezuela are at odds with polls by the Chilean NGO Latinobarometro, which have repeatedly shown that a majority of Venezuelans are happy with their democracy. Moreover, they believe it is getting more democratic every year. According to a 2006 Latinobarometro poll, Venezuelans were second only to Uruguay in saying that they are satisfied with their democracy, with the percentage increasing throughout Chavez’s presidency, rising from 32% in 1998 to 57% in 2006. This compares to an average rating of 38% in the rest of the continent.