Dear Ms Gittens,
Approximately two weeks ago, you facilitated the staging of a conference at Hilton Barbados by the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) — a United States-dominated association of media corporations and media owners. And, as was to be expected, IAPA utilized its Barbadian-based conference to unleash a negative propaganda attack against the democratically elected socialist government of Venezuela — the administration of President Nicholas Maduro.
Furthermore, in the aftermath of the said conference, your newspaper has published a number of articles and at least one editorial that have promoted the views and opinions of a group of right-wing Barbadian-based critics of the Venezuelan government, and that have also attacked the efforts made by the Friends Of Venezuela Solidarity Committee Of Barbados to give principled solidarity and support to the government and people of Venezuela.
As you are well aware, the Friends Of Venezuela Solidarity Committee staged an alternative international panel discussion at the nearby Radisson Aquatica hotel (the former Grand Barbados) as a counter to the IAPA conference. This Friends Of Venezuela panel did not only include local speakers, such as Anthony Gabby Carter, Dr Tennyson Joseph, Mr Trevor Prescod MP, and myself, but also such eminent Venezuelans as Luis Britto Garcia (widely regarded as Venezuela’s most important writer and intellectual), Roberto Montoya (president of the Romulo Gallegos Foundation’s Centre For Latin American Studies), Roberto Malaver (professor of the Central University of Venezuela’s School of Journalism), and Erica Ortega Sanoja (anchor of the state-owned television network known as Venezolana de Television).
But I am sure that readers of your newspaper know absolutely nothing about the views expressed at the Friends Of Venezuela panel discussion by this formidable quartet of Venezuelan academics and journalists, for the simple reason that your newspaper neglected to publish anything whatsoever that these four eminent Venezuelans had to say!
Instead, your newspaper contented itself with publishing the anti-government views of a small group of Venezuelans who live in Barbados, and who claim that they get their news about what is going on in Venezuela from “social media”. Apparently, as far as your newspaper is concerned, the views of this substantially anonymous group who do not live in Venezuela, and whose source of information is the most untrustworthy imaginable, carries more weight than the views of highly respected public citizens of Venezuela who actually live in Venezuela.
(And incidentally, the Wikileaks organization has released copies of confidential cables that emanated from the US Embassy in Venezuela which establish that a number of Venezuelan opposition activists have received special training in the United States in the techniques to be applied in using social media to destabilize and bring down the government of Venezuela.)
I must say, however, that this behaviour does not surprise me. Your newspaper, after all, is a member of IAPA; you, Ms Gittens, are a member of the executive committee of IAPA; and IAPA is a United States-dominated organization that has always promoted the views and agenda of the capitalist establishment of America.
Indeed, IAPA and its “army” of some 1,400 media corporations and owners, has a long history of attacking socialist or left of centre governments that are not considered to be “friendly” to the United States. Some of its previous victims have been the administrations of President Salvador Allende of Chile, Prime Minister Michael Manley of Jamaica, President Fidel Castro of Cuba, President Evo Morales of Bolivia, and President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, among many others.
Surely, you must be aware, Ms Gittens, that when, in April 2002, the capitalist elite of Venezuela and their hand-picked traitors in the Venezuelan military, staged a coup and removed the democratically elected President Hugo Chavez from power (and ordered his execution), that the then president of IAPA, Mr Robert Cox, issued a Press release endorsing the coup. Just imagine — the president of IAPA endorsed coup leaders whose very first actions upon taking power were to abolish the National Parliament, the Supreme Court and all other major democratic institutions.
So, we don’t really expect anything different from IAPA in its dealings with the equally socialist administration of President Nicholas Maduro. Indeed, as you must be aware, for some months now IAPA’s member newspapers have been waging a campaign of psychological warfare against the Government of Venezuela.
Surely you must know that three Latin American newspaper conglomerates — all members of IAPA — have made a pact to publish at least one full page of generally negative news about Venezuela every day in each one of their 82 affiliated newspapers. These media conglomerates are Groupo de Diarios de Las Americas (GDA), Associasion de Editres de Diarios y Medios Informativos (ANDIARIOS), and Grupo Periodicos Asociados Latinoamericanos (PAL).
The small, but wealthy, extreme right wing Opposition forces in Venezuela have decided upon a strategy of violent street protest actions as a methodology for subverting the democratically elected government of President Maduro, and are depending upon the right-wing mass media to give the people of the Caribbean, Latin America and indeed the world the impression that these isolated violent protests are a mass phenomenon sweeping through the entire nation. The only name for this strategy is “psychological warfare”, and it thrives on ignorance or lack of accurate information.
The truth is that of the 335 townships or municipalities that exist in Venezuela, these protests have only manifested themselves in 19 of these townships or municipalities — all of them being opposition strongholds, governed by opposition mayors who control the municipal police force, and who accommodate the violent protests.
Surely, Ms Gittens, you will agree that 19 out of 335 hardly constitutes a mass phenomenon. But even that figure of 19 is misleading, for that was when the protests were at their peak — they subsequently dwindled to nine municipalities, then to six, and finally to two.
This is the truth about Venezuela. Our Barbadian Cultural Ambassador Anthony Gabby Carter recently returned to Barbados from a visit to Venezuela, and this is the on-the-ground reality that he described at the Friends Of Venezuela panel discussion. Why doesn’t your newspaper do an in-depth interview with Gabby about his experiences in Venezuela?
But the media in Barbados should not really have to depend on the reporting of the Mighty Gabby, nor indeed on the reporting of CNN, BBC, Fox News or any other biased Western media conglomerate! Venezuela, after all, is a sister Caribbean territory and is only a one-hour airline flight from Barbados.
I therefore want to end this open letter by challenging you, Ms Gittens, to send a senior and respected newspaper reporter and a cameraman or woman to Venezuela, to observe for themselves the reality on the ground in Venezuela, and to come back to Barbados and give an objective report to the Barbadian people.
If you accept and respond positively to this challenge, you will demonstrate that even though your newspaper is a member of IAPA, it still has a commitment to fact and objectivity.
(David Comissiong, an attorney-at-law, is president of the Clement Payne Movement.)