Commentary Is Free – But Facts Are Sacred


POLITICAL COMMENTATORS tell us a great deal about themselves when they turn their gaze away from home, and towards events unfolding overseas. Domestic politics inevitably presents a rather muddied picture. There is so much happening: so many players – all with competing agendas – that achieving clarity is extremely difficult. With events overseas, however, there is much less in the way of clutter. The issues seem so clear, and the players so compelling, that the temptation to apply only the brightest primary colours to one’s analytical canvas is very hard to resist. Muted palettes are best reserved for the politics of one’s own homeland.

The commentary currently being offered up to New Zealand readers on the crisis playing-out in Venezuela strongly confirms these observations. And nowhere is the tendency to apply the brightest colours with the broadest brushstrokes more in evidence than in the commentaries of Liam Hehir.

Hehir is a conservative writer: vehemently and unrelentingly hostile to all things socialist. Hardly surprising, then, that Venezuela and its United Socialist Party government extract from him the most unequivocal political judgements.

As far as Hehir is concerned, the President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, is a “dictator”, and the election which returned him to power was corruptly “rigged”. What a contrast with the self-proclaimed “Interim President” of Venezuela, Juan Guaido. Described by Hehir as “social-democratic”, this telegenic young man is said to have acted heroically and in complete accordance with his country’s constitution. Hehir is equally certain that the United States has played no dishonourable part in these events. Its only sin: placing itself at the side of the heroic Señor Guaido and the oppressed Venezuelan masses.

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Unfortunately for Hehir, none of the above is true.

President Maduro was re-elected in an election certified by international observers as both free and fair. This is hardly surprising, since Venezuela has one of the most tamper-proof electoral systems in the world. That Maduro’s right-wing opponents, young Mr Guaido among them, opted to boycott the last presidential election in no way invalidates them. Rather, it confirms the opposition parties’ profound political demoralisation, after seeing their candidates soundly defeated in every presidential election since 1999.

Nor is it even remotely true to say that Guaido acted in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution. Article 233, the constitutional provision cited by Hehir and the American government (from which Hehir appears to source all his information) was written to cover the situation in which the President Elect either resigns, is incapacitated, or dies prior to being sworn into office, and there is no formally acknowledged Vice-President available to take his/her place. These are the only circumstances in which the National Assembly is empowered to appoint an Interim President.

Given that Venezuela’s president was officially declared elected and formally sworn into office – along with his vice-president – on 10 January 2019, there is absolutely no legal justification for Guaido’s actions. This is confirmed by Alfred de Zayas, an American lawyer, writer, historian, expert in the field of human rights and international law and retired high-ranking United Nations official, who tweeted on 6 February: “Article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution is inapplicable and cannot be twisted into legitimizing Guaido’s self-proclamation as interim President. A coup is a coup.”

Nor is it even remotely true that Guaido is some sort of benign social-democrat poised to resurrect his country’s mixed, if currently broken, economy. The real Juan Guaido is a far-right activist who has engaged in violent protests against the Venezuelan Government for the past five years. The party he belongs to, Popular Will, scorns the democratic process – preferring direct and highly aggressive action in the streets. Notwithstanding (or, perhaps,because of) this insurrectionary methodology, Popular Will enjoys the fulsome support of the US national security apparatus. (That Popular Will was permitted  to affiliate itself to the “Socialist International”, of whose youth wing our very own Jacinda Ardern was once the president, speaks volumes about the authenticity of the SI’s allegiance to social-democracy – let alone socialism!)

All of this information (and much, much more) is readily available on the Internet. That Hehir has consistently declined to adequately test his bald right-wing assertions about Venezuela; that he relies, instead, on the propaganda pouring out of the United States government and its news media “assets”; tells us a great deal about his approach to political journalism.

On the subject of Venezuela, at least, he seems content to pack as much “fake news” around his ideological prejudices as possible, confident that his position on the crisis, by conforming to the “accepted” position of the USA and its allies, is most unlikely to blow back upon him in any kind of “career-limiting” way.

It is, of course, much more difficult to get away with this sort of “journalism” domestically. New Zealand is just too small for Hehir’s lurid misrepresentations of Venezuelan politics to be replicated in his commentaries on Kiwi current affairs.

A truly sobering question remains, however: If political conditions in this country deteriorated to the point where journalists were not only permitted, but encouraged, to pack fake news around their own and their publishers’ prejudices, would Liam Hehir’s commitment to telling the truth about what is happening in New Zealand be as strong as his commitment to telling the truth about what is happening in Venezuela?



  1. All over Latin America the left can be proud of its efforts to rest control of Latin America away from foreign powers and more recently American control of South America. Right now there’s a bit of regression but the vast majority of Latin Americans are wise to the United States of America. The main conclusion though is that failing South American governments pretty much destroy themselves through corruption and incompetence, that’s a big step backwards but there’s a bases to go on with reforms.

    The fact that there hasn’t been a military coup in Venezuela thus far is a testament to Latin America resting control from foreign powers. There is no foreign bases in Latin America. If Americans actually fessed up about there middling in Venezuela then they would have to admit to the bitter drugs wars that they have created and this is totally isolating America making any attempt by America to dominate Venezuela as just a feeble attempt by a fading empire.

    • ” . . . the vast majority of Latin Americans are wise to the United States of America”. Hmm. Then why so many — these “caravans” of people — currently attempting to enter the USA?

      • A few are, Tom. But you’re seeing about 0.0000000000001% of the South American population trying to get to the US. Hardly a vote of no-confidence in their homelands. And where they have escaped from are regions decimated and turned into hell-holes by US-supported right wing death squads. Wouldn’t you want to get away from such areas?

        • And where they have escaped from are regions decimated and turned into hell-holes by US-supported right wing death squads. Wouldn’t you want to get away from such areas?

          It’d be better to deal with the death squads and the RWNJs that have taken power rather than going to another nation and expecting them to take you in no questions asked.

          Of course, when a nation does that the US tends to invade and put in place more RWNJ dictators.

          • Heh, Ninjas.

            American thieves are getting so desperate that they’re using any one who just happens to come along. Military coups are just so unpopular it makes me think this is a slight deviation but the broader context is the vast majority of Latin America won’t tolerate western installed sock puppets.

        • Just to be pedantic, a ten-trillionth of a per cent (your number) is less than 1 person, even including the entire human population. Sorry, I’m a bit of a mathematician (but don’t overstate your case).

      • As I said, The United States of America and its motley crew of liars, con-artists and imbeciles staffing the halls of power since Regan, can not solve the refugee crises in America with out “admitting” that the drugs war was manufactured.

  2. The opposition has had a two thirds majority in the Venezuelan Congress since 2015. It was set aside entirely by the Supreme Court. Then a Constituent Assembly to re-write a constitution Chavezsaid could last forever. In order to prevent an election loss. Not that I know, just read this in Gwynne Dyer’s articles. A solid truth-sayer as far as I know. Since he thinks the human species is fucked by climate change — very little chance for us. Since I fundamentally hate the professional middle-class optimists on this. All just the same CV haywire since they took over.

  3. Hehir seems to be getting under your skin a bit Chris. I don’t think you should let him.
    He is only following most of the western MSM on Venezuela.
    However the situation there seems to have reached a stalemate. Paul Craig Roberts who posts on The Information Clearinghouse thinks that Maduro should arrest Guido .( my spell check rejects “Maduro” but is quite happy with “Guido”! Is that dodgy or what?) for sedition . Maduro seems to be prudent enough to see that this would be just the excuse Abrams is hopping for to launch a full-blown US “civil” war against his country.
    The US has been having a disappointing time of their regime change operations lately. The Teleban looks like it will eventually prevail in Afghanistan ; Assad in Syria, Rouhani in Iran and I think Maduro in Venezuela. He has the support of the military, most of the population at least in comparison to the previously unknown Guido, Russia and China.
    The chorus of western leaders supporting the attempted coup are as disingenuous in claiming legal justification for it as they are foolish. They are all going to look silly when it all fizzles out, China and Russia help Venezuela dispose of her oil reasonably , and the internal economy gets straitened out . Isolationism is the inevitable trend for countries around the world as the US abuses the responsibility the world has allowed them in facilitating international trade and interdependency.
    Russia is gaining international influence and the US is horrified by it. But they are gaining that influence through diplomacy and common decency in their dealings with the rest of the world and their approach to international problems. The US reactions to counter this influence are the main source of Russia’s advance. The comparison at the moment is stark.
    D J S

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