Andrew Bolt's 'column of shame' on Venezuela

July 21, 2017
An Australia-Venezuela solidarity network demonstration in support of the Venezuelan government, in Sydney in 2013.

Infamous right-wing ideologue Andrew Bolt penned a "column of shame" about Venezuela in the Murdoch media on July 13. The column is a clear example of what might be dubbed "Bolt's Law": anything he writes is the opposite of the truth unless proved otherwise.

Bolt's diatribe refers to a 2007 letter of invitation to then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to visit Australia, sponsored by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network and signed by dozens of politicians, trade union officials and community leaders.

What a pity Chavez was not able to visit Australia before his death in 2013. He could have spoken to the Australian people about his "Socialism of the 21st Century" project, a progressive alternative to the disastrous neoliberal policies our government is pursuing — and which the right-wing opposition would like to impose on Venezuela, if they get back into power.

Bolt wrote: "Ten years ago a tribe of Australia's snowfield socialists wrote a grovelling invitation to the chief thug who has turned Venezuela into the hell you now see on your TV screens.

"Remember this disgusting letter as you watch the latest reports on people dying from starvation or lack of medicines in a South American nation that should be rich, having the biggest proven oil reserves in the world.

"Remember this shameful letter as you think of the more than 400 political prisoners now rotting in the Venezuelan regime's jails and the more than 90 people killed since April at demonstrations demanding democracy."

Is Bolt referring to socialist former President Chavez, who was democratically elected by a clear majority of the Venezuelan people five times between 1998 and 2012; who was briefly overthrown by a cabal of real "thugs" backed by the US in 2002, before being reinstated by a popular uprising of the people with the rank-and-file of the army? Chavez was replaced after his death by Nicolas Maduro, who is trying to continue his legacy, and was also democratically elected as president in 2013?

Perhaps Bolt is referring to the problems facing the Venezuelan people, mostly due to the hoarding and economic boycott by Venezuela's big-business oligarchs. They are using hired thugs and assassins — including many reactionary paramilitaries from across the border in Colombia — to murder Chavistas by burning them alive and setting fire to warehouses full of food, while they secretly hoard stocks of medicines and other essential goods.

Perhaps Bolt's "400 political prisoners" refers to the leaders of the right-wing Venezuelan opposition who have been convicted of incitement to violence; or maybe to the fascist thugs who have been arrested for attacking social missions, government offices and military barracks, as part of the "democratic opposition" lauded in the international mainstream media by the likes of Andrew Bolt.

In fact, of the "more than 90 people killed since April", a minority have died due to police or military actions, while most have died as a result of violent attacks by right-wing, pro-opposition thugs. 

Bolt quotes former United Nations Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights Enrique ter Horst as saying: "A small group of no more than 150 mafia-like figures (mostly military) ... have hijacked the country's democracy, robbed it blind and created a devastating humanitarian crisis".

What Bolt fails to mention is that ter Horst is a pro-opposition Venezuelan, who served the various right-wing governments of Venezuela during the period leading up to the massacre of thousands of poor people who rose up in the barrios against neoliberal attacks in 1989 — the uprising called the Caracazo.

It is good to see that Bolt is obviously a close reader of Green Left Weekly. He quoted former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown, using exactly the same extracts from the 2008 federal Hansard that Green Left used in criticising Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson for his speech supporting the right-wing opposition in Venezuela.

Finally, Bolt warned that the example of Venezuela could be looming over Australia too: "What has happened in Venezuela should be taught in our schools as one more example of how socialism ruins countries".

Teaching the truth about the Venezuelan Revolution, the enormous gains made by the poor majority in the past 20 years and the facts of the economic and political war launched against Venezuela by the right-wing opposition, backed by the US, the international mainstream media and Western politicians, would be a wonderful addition to Australia's educational curriculum.

Bolt concluded: "The spirit of Chavez has visited us, after all. The snowfield socialists will be pleased, but a reckoning awaits us too."

We can only hope so. If Australia were to go down the "Socialism of the 21st Century" road, we would see a much more egalitarian society, ruled by the 99%, not the 1%.

We can only wish the "spirit of Chavez" will really visit us. Our country and its people would be much better for it.

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