Ingrid Betancourt thanks Hugo Chavez

Sometimes you hear a stray sentence on the news that makes you realize you have been lied to.

As Ingrid Betancourt emerged after six-and-a-half years – sunken and shriveled 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. How can this moment of dissonance be explained?

The reason is crude: crude oil. 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.

But Western governments cannot simply say: "We want the oil, our corporations need the profits, so let's smash the elected leaders standing in our way." They know ordinary Americans and Europeans would gag.

So they had to invent lies. First they announced Chavez was a dictator. This ignored that he came to power in a totally free and open election, the Venezuelan press remains uncensored and in total opposition to him. When that tactic failed, the oil industry and the politicians they lubricate shifted strategy. They announced that Chavez was a supporter of Terrorism, [citing a laptop found at a] Farc training camp. A few hours later, they had already rummaged through the 39.5 million pages of Microsoft Word documents it contained to find cast-iron "proof" that Chavez was backing the Farc.

Ingrid's sister, Astrid Betancourt, says it is plainly fake.

[Excerpt of article by Johann Hari, The Independent]

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