The Canadian minister responsible for the Americas recently made a short stop in Venezuela. While there, Peter Kent took the opportunity to express the Canadian government’s concerns over the “shrinking democratic space” in Venezuela.
The Venezuelan government recently sanctioned three TV stations including RCTV, the network that played a key role in organizing the coup that briefly overthrew the Venezuelan government in 2002. The three TV stations refused to comply with Venezuela’s broadcasting laws and had their licenses temporarily suspended. The broadcasting laws in Venezuela are similar in scope to CRTC regulations in Canada; they establish standards for child and adult programming, prohibit racist, sexist or inflammatory content and incitement to violence, place limits on commercial advertising, and require stations to broadcast important government announcements. As recently as three weeks ago, RCTV had aired an interview with Noel Álavarez, the president of the bosses’ union FEDECAMARAS where Álvarez had called for another “military solution” to the political situation in Venezuela. Surely, the CRTC would have suspended any TV or radio station that sanctioned a “military solution” to the Stephen Harper government!
While passing through Venezuela Kent said, “Canada is concerned over the Venezuelan government’s recent suspension of broadcasting of [three] television stations and the death of two students in protests related to this action. These events are further evidence of a shrinking democratic space in Venezuela.”
Kent’s concerns could be laughable if it were not for the real threat that countries like the US and Canada pose to Venezuela. Many will remember that it was the same Peter Kent that was the most vocal supporter of the military coup d’etat that overthrew democratically-elected Mel Zelaya in Honduras this past June. The dictatorship that was installed in Honduras has killed scores of people. However, the Canadian government did not even cut off military aid to the Honduran dictatorship!
Kent made further accusations, claiming that President Hugo Chávez “has a history of concentrating power in the executive.” Kent’s hypocrisy knows no bounds! At the same time as he made this claim, Kent’s Conservative government has prorogued Parliament for the third time in as many years. Last year, the Conservatives suspended Parliament to prevent a Liberal-NDP coalition from coming to power. This year, the Tory government needed to suspend Parliament to prevent further details from coming out on how the Canadian mission in Afghanistan was responsible in the torture of innocent people there. In the past couple of weeks, tens of thousands of ordinary Canadians have come out to protest the shrinking democratic space in Canada. We can only imagine the outcry from Stephen Harper or Peter Kent if Chávez shut down the Venezuelan national assembly in the face of a non-confidence vote.
In terms of the media, where has the Tories’ indignation been in the selective barring of certain channels in Canada? The Canadian government has played a proactive role in preventing Al-Jazeera from gaining a license to broadcast in Canada. The current government is known for rarely giving open press conferences and for pre-selecting what questions can be asked by reporters.
Kent’s foray into Venezuela is yet another attempt by Canadian governments (both Liberal and Conservative) to undermine the Venezuelan Revolution and to demonize it internationally. The Canadian embassy in Caracas has been caught twice in recent years funnelling money to the Venezuelan opposition. Large Canadian corporations (such as Barrick Gold) have made it very clear that they are not pleased with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and are worried about the safety of their economic interests. As we detailed earlier, Canada played a very important role in the overthrow of President Zelaya in Honduras over the summer.
The revolutionary movements in Latin America, especially that in Venezuela, pose a serious threat to the interests of imperialism in the hemisphere. They also pose a threat to the interests of capitalists at home, too. The successes that are being won by ordinary workers and poor people in countries like Venezuela or Bolivia can serve as a real inspiration for Canadian and US workers. We know that the successful occupation of the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago was a direct result of successful workers’ occupations in Venezuela. For the bosses and their representatives in government, it is more important than ever to discredit and destroy the popular governments in Latin America.
It needs to be the duty of the workers’ movement in Canada to speak out against the lies of the Tory government and to point out the hypocrisy of people like Peter Kent. The struggles of the workers and poor in Latin America coincides with our own struggles in the North. The workers’ movement at home needs to join in the defence of the revolutionary struggles in Latin America, to ensure our own victories.