The Times and Venezuela

First published: 19 May 2006

On 19 May The Times ran an article by Aleksander Boyd attacking the Mayor of London’s invitation to president Chávez of Venezuela to visit City Hall in London: ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner with Red Ken?’ This was part of The Times’ campaign against Chávez visting. Boyd writes on the website Readers may therefore be very interested to know the views of Boyd as these will aid them in judging the content of The Times’ campaign and who they chose to write on the issue.

In his editor’s note on his website, Boyd stated: ‘Yesterday I had a conversation with someone about Venezuela and its problems. Given the peculiar characteristics of our crisis, my interlocutor asked “what’s the solution then?” And I replied: “when elected politicians treat one as an animal, how on earth can be expected that one behaves like a gentleman? The solution in my view is clear and simple: violence.’

Boyd has also written: ‘the other question that daunts me is, how can democracy be protected from itself? What mechanisms has the layman to simply kick out of office pariahs such as Chávez? The answer is none, and since there is no democratic mechanisms in place, violence is the only recourse left.’

In addition to advocating violence Mr Boyd described the writer Tariq Ali as ‘that Paki journalist’. He has compared himself on his website to Genghis Khan, stating of Chávez and his supporters: ‘only barbaric practices will neutralise them, much the same way as Khan did. I wish I was him.’

Boyd was also invited by the leader of the Tory group on the London Assembly, Bob Neill, to meet with him in City Hall. An email (in Spanish) dated 12 May was circulated by Boyd stating: ‘I have just spoken to Andre Walker, who works as an assistant to Bob Neill, the Leader of the Conservative group in the London Assembly… Bob Neill is willing to meet in his office on Monday 15 May those Venezuelans living in this country who wish to communicate their view in relation to the Venezuelan situation and Chávez’s visit to City Hall. Those interested should confirm their attendance with Andre Walker.’

While Neill wanted to meet a person advocating violence and barbaric practices, he refused to meet president Chávez who, with his supporters, has won ten elections in eight years in Venezuela.

It may be remembered that Mrs Thatcher rushed to meet, and be photographed with, General Pinochet when he was detained in London for possible extradition. Pinochet indeed not only verbally advocated violence and barbaric practices against Chileans but carried them out on a large scale – murdering and torturing tens of thousands of fellow Chileans. The fact that the Conservatives meet and support people such as Pinochet and Boyd, while refusing to meet the democratically elected president of Venezuela, summarises their actual lack of commitment not only to social progress but to even the most elementary democratic rights.

That the left celebrates someone carrying out social progress and democracy such as Chávez, while the Tories celebrate the mass murderer and torturer Pinochet, and The Times provides a platform for those advocating violence and barbaric practices in Venezuela such as Boyd, very adequately present the differences in values between the left and the right of the political spectrum.