A pretty boy with an ugly history

Awww, aren’t boy crushes just so darn cute?

Just a pity that Steve Huntley’s hagiography of the CIA’s latest little plaster saint is all holus-bolus, unquestioning bullshit. Here’s the real poop on Leopoldo Lopez, the not gutsy, but gusty (as in full of wind) mayor of Chacao. First, from George Ciccariello-Maher at Counterpunch:

In response to the Venezuelan governments non-renewal of RCTV’s broadcasting license, a concession which expired on May 27th at midnight, a new student movement emerged that has since grabbed headlines domestically and internationally. Thousands took to the streets, some marching peacefully and some squaring off against the police with rocks and bullets, all in the name of “freedom of expression.” But it’s worth asking: who are “the students,” and what do they represent? In recent days, it has become clear that these student mobilizations have been, in fact, largely directed and supported by sectors of the opposition, all in an effort to provoke, in Chávez’s own words, a “soft coup” against the revolutionary government. The opposition’s strategy vis-à-vis this student movement has consisted of two fundamental elements, both of which could only be executed mediatically. But now, after being revealed and discredited, that strategy is rapidly disintegrating.

Firstly, opposition parties made a clear decision to stay out of the spotlight, emphasizing the “independent” and “spontaneous” nature of the student protests. Beyond anything else, this gesture proves the degree to which the opposition has been discredited, garnering a reverse Midas touch through years of poor decisionmaking and supporting coups. From the beginning, the government was arguing that opposition politicians were behind the student mobilizations, and so when government-run channel 8 covered one of the early student demonstrations in Plaza Brion in Chacaito, the headline read “opposition demonstration disguised as a student demonstration.”

This claim was perhaps justified by the appearance at the demonstration of Leopoldo López, mayor of opposition stronghold Chacao, formerly of far-right party Primero Justicia, which he more recently abandoned in favor of Manuel Rosales’ nominally social democratic Un Nuevo Tiempo. Opposition news channel Globovisión countered with the thoroughly unconvincing claim that López, 36 years old and an established politician, was a “youth leader.” López himself wouldn’t help the situation when at a press conference he “accidentally” called for the students to employ “non-peaceful” tactics (he later claimed that he had meant to call for “non-violent” forms of protest).

Wow. 36 years old and STILL a student? How does he manage that on top of his busy mayoral schedule (which, according to Huntley’s barf-inducing account, includes parading around with a bevy of bodyguards perpetually on the lookout for nasty-wasty Chavista assassins, who he says are out to kill him–a big fat lie, BTW)? And isn’t it kind of a conflict of interest to be both a municipal leader AND a “student” leader? At the very least, doesn’t it put the dirty lie to the claim that the students demonstrating against Chavez just did it all off their own bats, with no urging from any opposition leaders?

Oh…and how about that call for “non-peaceful” protests? Yes, he really said that:

“I’ve always called for NON-peaceful protests”.

Paging Dr. Freud, your rich, dissociated patient’s slip is showing! (Apologies for the poor quality of the sound, but at least they have it written down on screen. You can turn the sound off if you like.)

Now, for a truer picture of the man in action:

Leopoldo Lopez, fine upstanding mayor, violating public order with impunity

Who’s that pretty boy with the ugly gasmask? Why, that’s just li’l ol’ fine, upstanding Leopoldo the Mayor. As you can see, he has no problem violating public order and participating in violent attempts to overthrow the president as he participates in a guarimba (that’s Venezuelan for “treasonous fascist riot”). Oh, excuse me–that should read “protesting peacefully against an evil authoritarian tyrant”. My mistake!

And if you still think someone so pretty couldn’t possibly be sinister, read what Eva Golinger recently uncovered beneath Leo’s freshly scrubbed, buffed and polished exterior:

The last public reports of USAID point out that in August 2007, they organised a conference with 50 mayors from all the country to cover the issue of “decentralisation” and the “popular networks”. This issue seems very much like the project that Leopoldo Lopez, opposition mayor of Chacao, is currently promoting. The USAID program in Venezuela promises to continue in its efforts to “strengthen civil society and political parties”, “promote decentralisation and municipal councils” and “train human rights defenders”. The US Congress has already approved $3.6 million for this office in Venezuela for the year 2007-8, which indicated that this subversion will continue increasing and threatening the Bolivarian revolution.

That sounds sweet and innocent, but it isn’t. Imagine if Venezuela did something similar in the US, actively financing and training “civil society” groups to overthrow George Bush. Wouldn’t there be a huge outcry at this effort to undermine democracy? (Oh wait, bad analogy. Bush is unelected and unpopular. Unlike Chavez.)

And why should Lopez be so concerned about Chavecito’s communal councils that he’d accept US funding to help him undermine that initiative in radical, decentralized local democracy? Well, let Juan Forero of the Washington Post explain it:

Leopoldo López, the mayor of the affluent Chacao district of Caracas, said he and others are concerned that the councils are designed to usurp funding and political power from the municipalities, the few remaining entities on the political map where the opposition remains active. He notes that as part of a constitutional reform the president is planning, government specialists have sought to eliminate as many as 200 of the country’s 335 municipalities. The focus on community councils could speed that process, he said.

“They want to ensure one government, where the central government controls local government,” López said. “They want to eliminate the middle ground, the governorships, the mayors.”

Gee, that would mean his own once-secure seat is in trouble. Never mind the hogjaw twaddle about how this decentralization is actually an attempt at greater centralization; that’s just deflection of attention away from his own obvious shortcomings. After all, not everyone in affluent Chacao is terribly pleased with his performance; he is accountable for addressing the problem of crime and violence there, and he hasn’t been doing his job all that well. How embarrassing is it when your own security cameras catch your own partisans vandalizing and rioting? Plus, he has a record of participating in a certain antidemocratic coup–perhaps you remember it?–in 2002. (Which kind of stands to reason; a mayor who actively participates in and encourages public disorder, can’t very well be expected to uphold its opposite.)

Mind you, if you asked him about that little crime-and-violence problem, he’d probably point the finger at Chavecito. Most opposition politicos do. Very few of them point to the mayors who actually control the police, because that would mean pointing the finger back at their own, and reminding everyone why these clowns, even in coalition, can’t get halfway close to winning a federal election.

And in the final analysis, that is the only place where they should attempt to take him on. Not in these riots thinly disguised as protests.

And certainly not using the gullible, infatuated flunkies of the US media as catspaws.

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