Challenging the rule of Chávez

Regarding Francisco José Moreno's Jan. 22 opinion piece "Venezuela's opposition ignores the Constitution": The author's characterization of the opposition's actions and demands as unconstitutional and geared toward the return to power of the oligarchy is false. To make a constitutional argument, the Constitution should be consulted.

Yet the author fails to note that Article 71 allows for a nonbinding, consultative referendum on matters of national significance; ignores Article 233, which allows the president to resign and then outlines the transitional process; and disregards Articles 333 and 350, which require Venezuelan citizens to act against and disavow any regime that tramples on democratic values and encroaches on human rights.

National Guard troops have begun to raid private businesses, commandeering their products and means of transportation. The government is now actively planning to revoke the licenses of four major television stations. Any peaceful opposition march is met by Chavistas carrying sticks, stones, slingshots, Molotov cocktails, and firearms. Mr. Moreno claims that Chávez wants to "work within the legal structure," yet the president has systematically violated the rule of law for the past four years.
Eduardo Suarez
Pompano Beach, Fla.

In response to "Venezuela's opposition ignores the Constitution": So truthful, so objective, a beautiful piece of true investigative journalism. I'm not only delighted because of its content, but because it gives me the opportunity to offer you a trade. I trade you your beloved Hugo Chávez for President Bush, whom I admire and respect. I think it's a fair trade. They were both democratically elected, and the fact that Hugo Chávez later decided to turn Castro-Communist dictator shouldn't bother you. If you accept the trade, I would like to offer some suggestions for when Mr. Chávez takes office as the 44th president of the US.

Please, when Chávez is in power, refrain from raising the Star-Spangled Banner. Don't dare show pride in your flag. If you do, you will not be considered a patriot, but a terrorist and traitor, and the military police will fire at you with M-16 rifles.

In order to be on good terms with President Chávez, you must please him in every way. Don't write anything he doesn't like, or he will put you in jail. Instead, hire a writer from a prestigious newspaper to write nice things about Chávez, downplay any strikes against him; blame the American oil industry; and lead the world to believe all American citizens are happy, that protesters are terrorists, that all private enterprise is evil. If you can do that, I assure you President Chávez will be most generous.
Rogelio Carrillo Penso
Caracas, Venezuela

The consequences of propaganda

In her Jan. 9 opinion column, "Unintended consequences of war," Helena Cobban points out that military force has provoked rebellions rather than quell them and galvanized various movements to intensify ethnic cleansing. Another unintended consequence of war is the loss of integrity and truth- seeking on both sides. Through propaganda, people on both sides of a conflict are conditioned to view themselves as being better than they are. Propaganda twists the truth, distorts actual facts, and creates falsehoods. These ethnocentric views dehumanize the enemy and portray one's side as being blameless and noble. Perhaps it is necessary for soldiers on both sides to believe these distortions to be able to kill other human beings. But, the soldiers could not carry on a war without the backing of civilians.
James Murphy
New York

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