Chávez vs the United States: cash, corruption and shades of Cuba

Posted by irresponsibility

America has never met a democratically elected, left-leaning South American government it wasn’t eager to terminate with extreme prejudice. From the unfunny but laughable exploding cigars sent to Fidel Castro (one of more than 600 US assassination attempts against the Cuban leader) to US Special Forces-assisted civilian massacres in El Salvador to its ongoing, indefensible interference in Columbia – not to mention the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile to install vicious military dictator Augustine Pinochet – America has consistently and brutally sought to quell any South American democracy that didn’t fit in its pocket.

If it weren’t so tiresomely predictable it’d be almost amusing to watch the US awkwardly attempt to stitch up the latest in its long line of targets: Venezualan president Hugo Chávez. The headlines, of course, sound important and damning. Venezuelan Says Chávez Ordered Cover-Up of Suitcase of Cash booms the New York Times. In the UK the Guardian meekly follows suit with: Suitcase full of cash adds to Chávez corruption claims.

What unfolds beneath the 24-point headlines is an almost-but-not-quite ‘exploding cigar’ scenario. In brief, a Venezuelan-American (note that combination folks) businessman by the name of Guido Antonini touched down in Buenos Aires, Argentina just over a year ago. There, customs officials conveniently found $800K in cash in his suitcase. Though we’re not told how he “fled to Miami, where he collaborated with the FBI and said the money was clandestine funding for [Argentina’s now-president Christina] Kirchner’s election.” Funding which, an ongoing trial in the US alleges, was an illegal gift from Chávez to his fellow (nasty, sneaky, Red) leftie Kirchner.

For starters, I would love to know under which statute of international law such an alleged campaign contribution from the leader of one sovereign state to another would be illegal. My gut instinct is this is another case of America making things up as it goes along (“Geneva Convention? What Geneva Convention? Etc”)

Given the circumstances, however, that is a moot point. The whole thing shrieks “set up” to high heavens. The only thing missing here is a snap of a furtive “Guido Antonini” (god, what a spy-novel name!) skulking through the picturesque streets of Buenos Aires in a sharp trench coat and belted trilby. Possibly with an unfiltered cigarette dangling from his thin lips.

Think about it. How convenient he just happened to have a tidy suitcase full of a lovely round-number sum like $800,000 (if it were from Chávez it would be an insultingly paltry sum from one of the world’s most oil-rich nations, no?) What a happy chance that customs agents seized it. How remarkable Antonini escaped to the warm bosom of the FBI to cheerfully spill the beans on nasty Commie Chávez. Hollywood itself couldn’t write a better story. Unfortunately, it isn’t a movie script. It’s another mean-spirited end run around democracy by its self-styled defender.

And one so peculiarly crass and unbelievable that even the vile barkers running this particular anti-democratic side show have felt the need to egg up the pudding. So along with the vague nonsense about “corruption” (which has an interesting pot/kettle/black component for those of us who’ve kept an eye on the ongoing Halliburton-Iraq defence contract scandals) comes the news that “the [Venezualan] government expelled two senior members from Human Rights Watch, the New York-based advocacy group, hours after they presented a damning report of Chávez’s decade in power.”

Damning,eh? I’ll hold my fire till I read the HRW report that covers the past decade in the United States, which has seen the suspension of habeus corpus, wholesale illegal wire-tapping, routine use of torture and an outright refusal to adhere to the Geneva Convention, among other things. Let’s talk after that, shall we boys?


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