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Raffique Shah


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None so blind...

By Raffique Shah
March 26, 2019

I find it incomprehensible that supposedly-intelligent persons, many of whom have been around for as long as I have, and who ought to know the bloody history of American interventions in the politics of Latin American countries, routinely regurgitate the propaganda emanating from Washington by referring to Venezuela's besieged president Nicholas Maduro as an "evil dictator".

When such description comes from the mouths of the lying US president Donald Trump and his close associates, or from Venezuelans who oppose Maduro (and his predecessor Hugo Chavez), I understand that. They have to paint the man as a monster to rally support and political and economic ostracism that they hope will hasten his demise.

But you'd think intelligent persons they are seeking to convince will ask a simple question: where is the evidence of Maduro's evil, dictatorial designs? How many Venezuelans who have reportedly fled their country were gunned down in cold blood at the borders, either while exiting or re-entering the country? How many of the alleged majority (total population is 30 million) who politically oppose the "evil dictator" are rotting in dungeons or in sub-human conditions in concentration camps? How many children have died from starvation or even malnutrition, or diseases like cholera that are linked with destitution? How many have disappeared, presumed dead, murdered by Maduro's maniacal soldiers?

The answers to these pertinent questions, my friends, are blowing in the wind...outright lies or grossly exaggerated propaganda.

Which evil dictator who controls military forces as mighty as Venezuela's will allow opposition forces to assemble, protest, disrupt traffic in the capital city and not brutally strike back? In civilised France, comparatively fewer numbers of protestors are bombarded by the police with tear gas, water cannons and batons.

Which dictator, evil or benign, would allow a pretender to the presidency to parade publicly, and not have him arrested and charged with treason?

To those who use the term loosely and freely, I ask: tell me precisely what makes Maduro an evil dictator?

Oh, there is no doubt that the country's economy is in grave crisis, for which the government must shoulder the bulk of the blame. But I also have no doubt that ever since Chavez came to power, winning the presidential election in 1998, Washington has been working overtime to undermine Venezuela's oil-based economy which, like so many other countries', is linked with trading with the USA.

Maduro may be incompetent—I don't know. He is probably not well educated. And since the Chavez era, the government will have made some poor decisions with respect to the country's oil industry—again, I don't know for sure because of the devious minds at work in Washington. But many other governments and leaders fall in these categories, including successive governments here in Trinidad and Tobago. Do we brand our prime ministers "evil" for their mishandling of the economy? Dr Eric Williams was seen by many, including members of his own party, as being dictatorial. Was he also evil?

It is so easy for people to sit before television cameras, radio microphones or their computer keyboards writing newspaper columns (as I am doing now), and cast aspersions at public officials. It is even easier when the targets are in foreign jurisdictions: early in this article I dubbed Donald Trump a liar (a charge I can support).

Those who brand Maduro an evil dictator are parroting the Trump administration's characterisation of the Venezuelan president without considering that the US has a long history of creating such monsters in many Third World countries, but most of all in Latin America.

You want to talk about evil dictators? Talk about Anastasio Somoza and his family dynasty (two sons) that was installed in power in Nicaragua by the USA and ruled that country for 50 years. According to a biography, "...Anastasio was a cruel, crooked despot who was nevertheless supported by the US government because he was staunchly anti-communist..."

Talk about Chile's General Augosto Pinochet who murdered elected president Salvador Allende in a bloody coup in 1973. "...Over the course of almost 20 years, he ruled Chile with an iron fist, ordering the deaths of thousands of suspected leftists..."

Talk about General Jorge Videla who overthrew the elected government of Isabel Peron in Argentina in 1976. "...resulting with around 30,000 victims 'missing'...the coup and the following authoritarian regime were eagerly supported by the US government... Among the many human rights violations committed during the period were extrajudicial arrests, mass executions, torture, rape, disappearances of political prisoners and dissenters..."

Write about the military junta in El Salvador, fully backed by the USA, which, besides murdering thousands of citizens, committed one of the most heinous crimes (from The Guardian, UK). "...March 24 1980, a car stopped outside the Church of the Divine Providence. A lone gunman stepped out, unhurried. Resting his rifle on the car door, he aimed carefully down the aisle to where Archbishop, Oscar Romero, was saying mass. A single shot rang out. Romero staggered and fell. The blood pumped from his heart, soaking the little white disks of scattered host..."

Talk about the notorious Rafael Trujillo who ruled the Dominican Republic for 30 years, committing atrocities against his own people, massacring Haitian migrants by the thousands. Speaking with the BBC in 2011, one of the men who assassinated Trujillo in May 1961, said with pride: "I shot the cruelest dictator in the Americas."

Washington validated the notorious Duvalier duo, Francois "Papa Doc" and Jean-Claude "Baby Doc", who terrorised Haitians and plundered that poor country for 30 long years.

I can continue ad nauseam about evil dictators across the world who were manufactured by the USA. But why bother when commentators can beat up on Maduro like a Good Friday "bobolee"? There are none so blind as those who will not see...

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