By Johann Hari
07/07/08 “The Independent”
You have been told that the Venezuelan President supports the Farc thugs
Sometimes you hear a stray sentence on the news that makes you realise you have been lied to. Deliberately lied to; systematically lied to; lied to for a purpose. If you listened closely over the past few days, you could have heard one such sentence passing in the night-time of news.
As Ingrid Betancourt emerged after six-and-a-half years – sunken and shrivelled but radiant with courage – one of the first people she thanked was Hugo Chavez. What? If you follow the news coverage, you have been told that the Venezuelan President supports the Farc thugs who have been holding her hostage. He paid them $300m to keep killing and to buy uranium for a dirty bomb, in a rare break from dismantling democracy at home and dealing drugs. So how can this moment of dissonance be explained?
Yes: you have been lied to – about one of the most exciting and original experiments in economic redistribution and direct democracy anywhere on earth. And the reason is crude: crude oil. The ability of democracy and freedom to spread to poor countries may depend on whether we can unscramble these propaganda fictions.
Venezuela sits on one of the biggest pools of oil left anywhere. If you find yourself in this position, the rich governments of the world – the US and EU – ask one thing of you: pump the petrol and the profits our way, using our corporations. If you do that, we will whisk you up the Mall in a golden carriage, no matter what. The “King” of Saudi Arabia oversees a torturing tyranny where half the population – women – are placed under house arrest, and jihadis are pumped out by the dozen to attack us. It doesn’t matter. He gives us the oil, so we hold his hand and whisper sweet crude-nothings in his ear.
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