Media and Venezuela
The meeting of the Inter-American Press Association on Barbadian soil, with a clearly discernible anti-Venezuela position, should encourage caution among the Caribbean media against being unwittingly used by the hegemonic imperialist powers which have a vested interest in overthrowing the duly elected government of a friendly Latin American neighbour which has done much to assist the Caribbean in a challenging economic environment.
Given Barbados’ commitment to a policy of “friends of all and satellites of none”, only official naiveté would facilitate the presence of some of the leading anti-government personalities in Venezuela to engage in further propagandist attacks against that country. Such lapses in foreign relations can only be explained as the failure of the Caribbean to understand the new tactics of imperialism, mixed with our historical willingness to allow our perspectives to be defined for us.
In recent times, imperialism can no longer use the absence of democratic elections as a device to delegitimise undesirable regimes. Today, liberal ideals are being selectively used to subvert countries deemed undesirable to the imperialist hegemony. Given the Caribbean’s strong commitment to democratic norms, we have uncritically accepted Western hostility towards Venezuela and we remain blissfully oblivious to the selective manner in which liberal principles are applied.
Thus, for example, a liberal institution like the International Criminal Court is being used not to persecute all war criminals, but to discredit persons deemed undesirable by the United States. Similarly, we are currently witnessing this selective application of liberal principles in the ongoing Crimean self-determination issue between Russia and the Ukraine. Ironically, as the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines has indicated, the popular referendum by the people of the Crimea on their future Russia is denounced by the West, whilst it was accepted for granting recognition to Kosovo, and for rejecting Argentinian claims in the Maldives.
Most shockingly, the United States will include Cuba on a list of countries supporting international terrorism, while it has provided immunity to Posada Carriles, who was implicated in the Cubana Airways bombing over Barbados.
All of these developments hold important implications for the question of the role of the Caribbean media in its treatment of the events in Venezuela. A revolt of the rich, who are unhappy with the people-centred policies of the Chavez and Madura governments, is not properly analysed by our local media. Despite Venezuela’s proud record of democratic elections in the last 12 years, perhaps prouder than the United States itself, our media slavishly repeats the use of the word “dictatorship” to describe the Venezuelan government.
Given this selective opportunistic application of liberal ideals, our media has a social responsibility to exercise discernment, to engage in deep analysis, and to resist the urge of slavishly reprinting and repeating Western versions of events and passing it off as “news”. A mature media must not be a puppet of imperialism.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, specializing in regional affairs. Email [email protected]