My latest response to a crappy Tribune column can be found below (the original offense can be found here):
Steve Chapman’s December 25 column (“2003 saw freedom’s plodding advance”) reeks of myopia, ignorance, and arrogance. By focusing on the broad, highly subjective concept of “freedom,” and by offering little in the way of accurate or quantifiable evidence, Chapman attempts to cast most of Earth’s population as backward savages who yet dream of frolicking in the rivers of democratic milk and honey that flow so freely here in the civilized U.S.
Chapman’s apparent ignorance of foreign affairs (and of his own freedom-loving country’s involvement in said affairs) is demonstrated in the following passage referring to “the leftist policies of President Hugo Chávez. His opponents got 3.4 million signatures on petitions demanding a referendum to recall him from office, which could lead to a vote next year.” Since Mr. Chapman is blissfully unaware, I shall educate him. There are roughly 20 million people in Venezuela, so even if only half are of voting age, then 3.4 million hardly constitutes a majority. Furthermore, the “opposition” referred to above is led by the same interests who attempted to illegally overthrow Chávez in a failed 2002 coup attempt. This attempt was openly and publicly supported by the Bush administration, which then turned around and blamed Chávez for the country’s subsequent economic woes, which were largely the cause of a two-month-long general strike engineered by that same opposition. Notably, the Bush administration never spoke against the strike or its leaders.
Accompanying Mr. Chapman’s column are several photos, including one of Cuban President Fidel Castro and President Chávez sharing a friendly, photo-op embrace. The caption lumps Castro and Chávez together as leaders who “still thumb their noses at democratically elected governments.” In the 1998 Venezuelan presidential election, Chávez was swept into office with nearly 80 percent of the popular vote (this despite concerted efforts of the two traditional opposition parties, whose wealthy and upper-middle-class constituents controlled the major media in Venezuela). Compare that to the occupant of the White House in D.C., who received over 500,000 fewer votes than the “loser” of the 2000 U.S. election. Since being installed in office thanks to a dubiously executed electoral process in his brother’s governed state of Florida, George W. Bush and his administration have consistently been openly hostile to the Chávez government, and have openly supported its opposition. Why? Venezuela is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, and the third-largest supplier to the U.S. The nationalized oil companies of Venezuela were long run as kleptocracies for the benefit of a minority of Venezuela’s citizens, and for the benefit of foreign oil buyers. Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of Venezuelans languished in abject poverty while their country’s precious export was drained from under them.
Hugo Chávez was swept into office on promises of reforming the oil companies, and in allowing the majority of the population to begin reaping the benefits of a national resource that had previously been reserved for a select few. These are the “leftist policies” that earned the derision of Steve Chapman, and it is the fear that these fundamentally democratic economic ideals might cost U.S. oil companies a few more bucks per barrel that has earned the outright hostility of the oil-friendly Bush administration. If Steve Chapman is truly interested in accelerating the pace of freedom’s advance, perhaps he should start by taking an honest look at his own government’s role in assailing democracy in the name of corporate profit margins.