An open letter to Peter Kent

Dear Mr. Kent:

On your recent official trip to Venezuela, in the name of Canada, you made some remarks that embarrass us as a country, and disgust me as a Canadian. They are as follows:

“Canada is concerned over the Venezuelan government’s recent suspension of broadcasting of [three] television stations and the death of two students in protests related to this action. These events are further evidence of a shrinking democratic space in Venezuela.”

Mr. Kent, Canada is NOT “concerned” about the Venezuelan government’s legitimate actions regarding broadcasters in violation of its laws. And for that reason, Canada would appreciate you not rudely fobbing off your personal views as those of an entire nation when you are the guest of a foreign leader. You were the guest of President Chávez, were you not? And if you were not there as his guest, whose guest were you? Were you in fact a guest of the putschist opposition, and was that the reason you didn’t show your face there for very long–or present it to the president himself, at Miraflores Palace?

The reason I ask is because you made those uncalled-for remarks in your official capacity as a minister of state. Just as you made the following remarks in your official capacity on the shameful occasion of the military coup against the president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya:

“Canada condemns the coup d’état that took place over the weekend in Honduras, and calls on all parties to show restraint and to seek a peaceful resolution to the present political crisis, which respects democratic norms and the rule of law, including the Honduran Constitution.

“Democratic governance is a central pillar of Canada’s enhanced engagement in the Americas, and we are seriously concerned by what has transpired in Honduras.”

Now, that’s all very right and proper. No one could fault you for saying that. But when that legitimately elected leader attempted to return to his country, from which he was unceremoniously ousted, and regain his rightful seat, you said:

“We urge restraint. We view his initial and subsequent attempts to re-enter the country as very unhelpful to the situation.”

What a strange thing to say! Somewhere between the coup and the attempt at return, your sense of what constitutes an American democracy underwent a rather odd shift. You went from being against the coup to being, in effect, for it. Why else would you oppose an elected leader’s efforts to regain what is rightfully his, and restore his country to normality?

It’s nonsensical and incongruent remarks like these that make me seriously question your credentials as a diplomat and a democrat, Mr. Kent. And they also make me question your moral right to pronounce on the situation in Venezuela. Especially when you do it in the name of Canada.

You see, I don’t think Venezuela happens to be suffering from a “shrinking” of its “democratic spaces” at all. I can understand Spanish, and I have been following the RCTV situation (as farcical as it is), along with the rest of the Venezuelan media situation. And I don’t see a “shrinking” at all; in fact, I see quite the opposite. The media in Venezuela are still overwhelmingly in corporate hands. Public and alternative media are still a minority there, albeit a vibrant and growing one, and increasingly popular with ordinary Venezuelans. That’s an expansion of democratic spaces, not a “shrinking”!

But then, you are a fine one to talk, sir, are you not? After all, you made your official remarks in the name of a minority government, at a time when Parliament has been prorogued out of a very antidemocratic combination of sheer spite and irresponsibility. Canada’s democratic space has been closed off altogether under the watch of your party, Mr. Kent. Where is your moral authority to say anything about the media situation in Venezuela?

Ah, but I suppose you may be speaking in your capacity as a former broadcaster. I vaguely recall that you used to work for CanWest Global, a private media conglomerate, before you entered politics. I can well imagine that the arch-conservative CanWest Global corporate editorial line, which you also represented for a time in an official capacity, would have colored your outlook on non-conservative, non-corporatist governance somewhat.

Still, that doesn’t excuse your remarks, which were supercilious, ignorant, and totally inaccurate. And it doesn’t excuse what you said in response to Venezuelan ambassador Roy Chaderton, after he quite rightly rebuked you for your disrespect before the OAS. Far from being the “rhetoric of desperation”, as you called them, Mr. Chaderton’s remarks were based entirely on fact. And if you, Mr. Kent, were worth your salt as a journalist, you would appreciate that. After all, journalism is supposed to be about reporting facts, not opinions-disguised-as-facts.

It is awfully hard for a former reporter to be bested at his own game by a diplomat from South America, is it not, Mr. Kent?

But of course, I forget to whom I am writing. CanWest’s stock in trade has been opinions-disguised-as-facts for so long that of course, as an old loyalist to the company line, you would have difficulty distinguishing the one from the other. Poor judgment is a known occupational hazard at CanWest Global; it may be why that once prosperous corporation is now teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

Still, ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it. And ignorance of the real situation in Venezuela is no excuse for sticking both feet in your mouth. As long as you work in an official capacity, representing all of Canada–or claiming to–you are obliged to seek the fullest picture of the situation abroad, and not rely on the narrow viewpoints of a corporatist few as you have done. Our parliament is not the CanWest news desk. Our nation is not a corporation.

Mr. Kent, you are an ignorant man; you may be an ignorant man as a matter of profession. Certainly you are a partisan of the arch-corporatist party of ignorance. But we Canadians are not an ignorant people, nor are we corporatists. We are well aware of how much our democratic spaces have shrunk under the reign of your party, just as we are aware of how much the overall quality journalism has declined in Canada thanks in no small part to CanWest’s hard-right editorial line.

Your ignorant remarks embarrass us all before the world.

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8 Responses to An open letter to Peter Kent

  1. me and tu mama tambien says:

    why don’t you take a trip down to Venezuela before you embarrass yourself further?
    Chavez is not the champion of the poor you think he is. But hey, I would be very surprised that you would put yuppie comforts before you seeing with your own eyes the reality of what you call yourself an expert of.

  2. Look, you Washingtonian phony, why don’t you go fuck your own mother and leave mine out of your sick fantasies? Do you think I can’t run an IP check and see that you’re not actually FROM Venezuela? Dumbass.

  3. me and tu mama tambien says:

    I would be a phony if I called myself a revolutionary, freedom fighter, and yet sat comfortable blogging from my first world home, never having set foot in Venezuela. Heck I bet you have never even had coca tea, played a soccer game with a rag ball, or even know how to salsa.
    Do us a favor a do obey what is written in so many walls of our barrios and villas: Gringa go home, and stay away. You know nothing about the realities LatAm, nothing about the history, and all you do is spew hate, racism, and defend people who are doing absolutely nothing positive for them other than stoke their egos and grow their bank accounts. Piden pan y tu les das mas circo. Dios nos salve…and please don’t forget your lithium pills.

  4. All right, dude, you got me–I haven’t done any of those things, because I don’t have the money to fucking travel! But I bet you haven’t done them, either–because you have enough money to live in pricey Washington (how ya likin’ all the snow, eh? There’s none right now where I live!) You got away from all that misery you’re moaning about, which your kind imposed on the others long before Chávez was even heard of and would keep them in if it could. You chose the Amurrican Way of Life, eh? Bully for you! Hope your next coronary is worth it. And I do hope you can afford the insurance to fix it. It’s a pre-existing condition, as is your insanity, and last I looked, private insurers were stickly about all that. “Freedom” isn’t free, yadda yadda. If you were Canadian, you might at least get free healthcare…I pity you.
    But if I could afford to move to Venezuela, I would. It’s a beautiful place by all HONEST accounts, run-down barrios and all. It’s changing for the better; only a blind fool couldn’t see that. The people, other than the escualidos, look all right to me. (Oh hell, they look better than all right. Chavista guys are gorgeous!) And I know I’d be welcome there, contrary to your bullshit. Last I checked, they weren’t killing Canadians for being (mostly) white and foreign or unable to dance salsa, so you can spare me that dumbshit “racist” twaddle. I’m not afraid to go there, I’d love to. I just wish I had the dinero.
    Anyway, the First World ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. It used to be better up here before the corporatists took over everything, privatized what used to be public, jacked the prices, pulled the wool over people’s eyes, and called that “freedom”. I’d rather live in a place that’s going the opposite way. Venezuela is heading for what Canada used to be. Right now, democratically speaking, they are in WAY better shape than we are. The Venezuelan parliament wasn’t prorogued, last time I looked!
    One more thing: if you’re gonna go around calling us Canucks “gringos”, you should bear in mind that the more enlightened of your US countrymen stick OUR flag on their backpacks when they travel in LatAm, so no one mistakes them for gringo imperialists. Or at least they used to. They’re probably rethinking that now, thanks to Peter Kent. His stupidity is gonna cost us all. Do you care about that? Hell, NO. You’re so obsessed with trying to topple a democratically elected, popular leader that you’ll resort to any lie, or when that fails, any insult. You don’t give a tinker’s damn for democracy, when it comes right down to it. You don’t care about anybody but your own whiny-ass self.
    I notice you haven’t tackled any of the points I actually made in my open letter. Something tells me you’re not about to try. So do me a big favor and just fuck off, ‘kay? I don’t like trying to have a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent. This is MY blog, not your toilet. Baseball rules still apply here. Third strike gets you deleted and banned or–what’s that word you escualidos tried to lob at Chavecito to such lead-balloon effect? PONCHAO! That’s it…

  5. Jim Hadstate says:

    Feel better now, ‘Bina? Don’t hide your feelings, tell us what you really think.
    In all seriousness, as one who HAS lived in Latin America, just a stone’s throw from Venezuela, metaphorically speaking, “me and tu mama tambien” just shrieks and stinks rabbiblanco. He is one of those over-privileged assholes whose parents, grandparents and all other ancestors, used slaves, robbed and raped the resources of the country and deposited it all in a Swiss bank account.
    I can see why he is a bit testy now. With Switzerland’s decision to forgo its secret gnome banker, secret vault bank account status rather than being exiled from the global monetary system, the new openness there has to be making him nervous. Now people will be able to begin tracing the money that was stolen from the indigenous people of Latin America and reparations can be ordered. Much like the post-Holocaust Jews have been able to get back some their money stolen by the Nazi’s. Not all can be found, but then, like the Nazis, what can be may help some, but can never wipe out the collective memories of the horrors committed by “me y tu mama tambien.” But then, the rabbiblancos and the Nazi’s have a great deal in common.
    Crawl back into the sewer asshole!

  6. Jim, thanks for that. I knew I could count on you to be a voice of sanity around here…
    And yeah, I’m still laughing with disbelief that this asswipe could call me racist. Against whom? My fellow whitey-whites? Jeeeeezus. I don’t know what they’re smoking in DC, where I traced his IP to, but I hope I never get an accidental snootful. Best thing to do is just stay the hell out of Crazytown!

  7. Sofia Ramirez says:

    *Please distribute widely*
    People in Toronto, Montreal and Caracas, Venezuela will be demonstrating in support of the democratic people’s movement in Venezuela and exposing the hypocrisy of the Harper Conservatives who are waging war in Afghanistan while avoiding public accountability at home.
    Conservative Minister for the Americas Peter Kent has publicly criticized Venezuela as ‘undemocratic’ for applying its laws to TV and radio broadcasters. Kent and his fellow Harper Conservatives shouldn’t speak about democracy at the same time as closing our parliament for months to avoid being investigated for complicity in handing over detainees to torture in Afghanistan.
    Thursday, February 25th @ 5pm
    365 Bloor St. East (at Sherbourne)
    In front of Venezuelan Consulate
    For more information see/contact:
    Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/event.php?eid=319821343005&ref=nf
    Latin American Solidarity Network (LASN): cca_toronto@hotmail.com
    Barrio Nuevo: barrionuevo.canada@gmail.com

  8. Thanks, Sofia…just blogged it on my front page.

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