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Piñera Praises Chávez at CELAC Summit

Media Influences Public Opinion on Venezuela But Not So Much Governments

By Mark Weisbrot | CEPR Americas Blog | January 29, 2013

In writing about the media’s ongoing hate-fest for Hugo Chávez, I pointed out that the major media’s reporting had been effective, in that it has convinced most consumers of the Western media – especially in the Western Hemisphere and Europe – that Venezuela suffers from a dictatorship that has ruined the country.

But there is an important sense in which it has failed.  Of course it has failed to convince Venezuelans that they would be better off under a neoliberal regime, and that is one reason why Chávez and his party have won 13 of 14 elections and referenda since he was first elected in 1998.  Perhaps of equal importance, it has also failed to persuade other governments that President Chávez is motivated by some kind of irrational hatred of the U.S. – as the media generally reports it.  Most foreign ministries have some research capacity, and although they are influenced by major media, at the higher levels they have better information and make their own evaluations.

That is why Chávez has been able to play a significant role in the growing independence and regional integration of Latin America, despite his vilification in the media, and years of effort by the U.S. government to isolate Venezuela from its neighbors.  For example, the governments that decided to form the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) – a new hemispheric organization including all countries other than the U.S. and Canada – don’t care whether the media dismisses it as “Chavez’s project.” When Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay decided to admit Venezuela as a full member of the trading bloc Mercosur, they didn’t care what the media in any of their respective countries would say about it.

Of course the left governments of Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay and others have been quite sympathetic to Chávez and see him as a very important ally.  But the region has changed so much in the last 10 or 15 years that it is not only the left governments who appreciate him.  Here is what one of the only remaining right-wing presidents in South America, Sebastián Piñera of Chile, said on Sunday about Chávez, in Santiago:

I want to acknowledge a President who is not with us today, but whose vision, tenacity and strength has had a profound impact on the creation of the CELAC.  I refer to President Hugo Chávez, the father of this regional group that welcomes all nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, 33 in all, and which excludes only two countries on the continent: the United States and Canada.  We are all hoping for you to win this battle, perhaps the toughest battle of your life, which you are doing with the same strength and courage as always, and that you regain your health and that you can return in full capacity as President of Venezuela.

Back in 2006, the New York Times ran a front-page news article with a large-type headline: “Seeking United Latin America, Chávez is a Divider.”  The thesis was being pushed by the Bush State Department, and was echoed by the anti- Chávez sources cited in the article.

How completely wrong they turned out to be.

January 30, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Piñera Praises Chávez at CELAC Summit

Chilean congress approves tax reform to provide funds for education

Relief for Piñera

MercoPress – September 5th 2012

Chile’s Congress approved on Tuesday major changes in tax laws aimed to provide funds for an overhaul of the nation’s protest-hit schools, handing unpopular President Sebastian Piñera a welcome victory a month from municipal elections.

The approval comes ahead of municipal elections in October The approval comes ahead of municipal elections in October

The tax overhaul driven by Piñera’s conservative coalition will increase state revenue by some 1 billion dollars per year – about 0.4% of GDP in the world’s biggest copper producer.

Businesses in Chile will face a higher tax rate of 20% and fewer loopholes to evade them, though the tax rate remains well below Latin America’s average rate of 25.06% in 2011, according to accountancy firm KPMG.

Hefty tax cuts planned for the wealthiest were removed from the bill after months of jostling in Congress. Tax rates for lower income earners drop on a sliding scale.

Billionaire Piñera, rated the most unpopular leader since the return of democracy in 1990, unveiled the proposed reform in April in response to massive student-led protests demanding free education and greater equality.

While Chile has long been held up as an economic model in Latin America, it was rated the most unequal country of the 34-member-state Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD.

The reform is not expected to calm student protests for free and improved education.

The approval of the tax lands right before local elections on Oct. 28, which will give an indication of how the right and the left – both struggling with low approval ratings – could fare in the 2013 presidential race.

The reform could give his conservative bloc a small boost in next year’s presidential election, when leftist former President Michelle Bachelet is widely expected to try to stage a comeback.

“This is undoubtedly going to help the right more than Michelle Bachelet,” said Ricardo Israel, professor of law and political science at the Universidad Autonoma de Chile. “The right is taking away a flagship part of Michelle Bachelet’s campaign … she’s going to have to move even more to the left.”

September 5, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Comments Off on Chilean congress approves tax reform to provide funds for education