Professional Anti-Latin-American Spinmeisters

New Bolivian President Evo Morales (right) and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez wave from the Quemado Presidential Palace balcony in La Paz. (Photo: Rodrigo Buendia / AFP-Getty Images)

Every day, the Italian press hosts false and tendentious statements against progressive Latin-American governments. Is it just coincidental or is a delegitimation campaign brewing against what Donald Rumsfeld has termed the "Latin-American Axis of Evil?"

It is almost an appeal: at we try to stay on top of it and refute the false and tendentious allegations made daily against progressive Latin-American governments: today [Jan. 28] by Emma Bonino — member of the European Parliament — who in the Corriere della Sera stated that "in Venezuela there do not exist democratic institutions"[1]; yesterday, on GR3, the neocon Daniel Pipes equated former Chilean president Salvador Allende to Adolf Hitler; the day before, the abstruse theory that Bolivian President Evo Morales is a racist was attributed to the novelist Mario Vargas Llosa; the previous week, machinations to directly portray Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as an anti-Semite[2] circled the globe. Amidst all this, Michelle Bachelet's election as president in Chile is magnified as news (her coalition is at its fourth consecutive mandate) and Evo Morales' election goes almost unmentioned (a reversal in all senses). Italy's La Repubblica frets over the fate of Ernesto (Che) Guevara's assassins: "to prosecute them would be counterproductive," and former Italian prime minister Massimo d'Alema, the same person who defended former Argentine president Fernando de la Rúa when the latter ordered the police to fire on the crowd in Buenos Aires, launches accusations against Argentine President Néstor Kirchner or Hugo Chavez. But perhaps the cherry on the sundae of this year's commencement is that offered by the weekly l'Espresso.

The historical weekly magazine of the progressive Italian left, in its 19th of January 2006 issue, commissioned the opening article of a special on Latin America to one Moisés Naïm, introducing him SOLELY as editor of the United States-based periodical Foreign Policy. The reader would have liked to know why an Italian weekly would commission an important article on Latin America not from an Italian journalist specializing in Latin American affairs, nor from a Latin American. Very well: even if l'Espresso's readers were not apprised of this, not only is Naïm not an "Unitedstatesian," but dressed up as director of the prestigious (sic!) magazine Foreign Policy, the fact Naïm is not just any Latin American is concealed (hidden from the reader).

Naïm was Minister of Industry in Venezuela in the 90's during the time of the most savage privatizations, when rivers of laundered money would end up in the fiscal paradises of the Bahamas, when the great majority of Venezuelans was impoverished as never before in its history, when the government would massacre thousands of persons during the Caracazo (from 2,000 to 10,000 dead in but one day in 1992). Neither l'Espresso nor Naïm feel any compunction to explain that Naïm himself is not a neutral observer, but a member of that corrupt political class swept away by the Bolivarian Revolution. It is as though l'Espresso had commissioned from Gen. Augusto Pinochet an article on Allende, from former Argentine president Carlos Saúl Menem an article on Kirchner, or from former Brazilian president Fernando Collor de Mello an article on Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, conveniently forgetting to explain who were Pinochet, Menem or Collor de Mello and thus passing them off as neutral observers.

L'Espresso therefore passes off as political analysis insults such as "Chavez, a dangerous populist buffoon" (perhaps because always written without nuance) making the selfsame reader believe they are the product of a prestigious, neutral observer, and not that of a rancorous exponent of one of the most corrupt political classes in history. Is l'Espresso's editorial board so naïve as to not understand that this is a rather bad way to do journalism?

All of these events took place in these first few days of 2006, and how many escaped us or vanished, such as the pearl published in the Woman supplement of La Repubblica, signed by Alessandro Oppes, which, under the title "Chavez as seen by his neighbors," interviews only from afar, and exclusively, particularly venomous and scarcely lucid members of the opposition.

Is a decided and systematic approach afoot that seeks to alienate Western public opinion from the lot of progressive Latin American governments, portraying them as unpredictable, authoritarian, dangerous, and undemocratic, in order tomorrow to be able to carry out Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's threat against "the Latin American Axis of Evil to be defeated?"[3]

A work of denunciation and information that goes well beyond the possibilities of this site is therefore necessary and urgent if we do not want to find ourselves with a manufactured public opinion in the not far-fetched case that the current defamation campaigns should morph into something worse. Statements like "we don't like Kirchner," "Morales is a racist," "in Venezuela there do not exist democratic institutions," cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged, without ever bothering to explain with competence and propriety the substance of such grave statements. That is what is happening. It is a drop of daily disinformational bile that is poisoning the informational wells in an anti-Latin-American direction. It's the same daily drop of poison that spread lies about Salvador Allende in order to make people believe that the coup d'état sought by the United States was the best solution to put an end to a chaos that did not exist, or in the event it did exist, had been created from whole cloth.


  1. Emma Bonino said this ignoring the fact that 80 percent of the Venezuelan media is in the hands of the minority opposition: this amounts to all but the state-run public television station, a handful of radio stations and the newly formed Telesur.

  2. Attempts to portray Hugo Chavez as an anti-Semite have been loudly belied and denounced by Venezuela's own Jewish community.

  3. On Thursday, Feb. 2, while speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Rumsfeld compared Chavez to Hitler when he said, "We've got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money. He's a person who was elected legally, just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally, and then consolidated power, and now is, of course, working closely with Fidel Castro and Mr. [Evo] Morales and others. It concerns me."

    This came on the heels of the expulsion of U.S. Naval Attaché John Correa, after it was discovered he had engaged in espionage activities from the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela.

*The second footnote in this article was corrected to remove a reference to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in the United States from the statement.

Gennaro Carotenuto is a contributor to the Uruguayan weekly Brecha and a visiting professor at the University of the Republic in Uruguay. He is a member of the Italian Order of Journalists, and a professor of Contemporary History and Latin American History at the University of Macerata in Italy.

Originally published Jan. 28, 2006. Translated from the Italian by Flávio Américo dos Reis.