Monday, August 03, 2009

Timerman's commitment to democracy

Perhaps you do not see Ambassador Timerman clearly while sitting in his lap. Or perhaps it was the free food. In any case, your aria in the service of the ambassador omitted details that might have helped the reader to form a more accurate picture of those with whom you courageously ate and drank in support of Honduran democracy.

The Argentine government so faithfully served by Timerman is led by a woman who made every effort to accept an $800,000 “contribution” from the leader of another country that was attempting to the influence the electoral outcome in her country. While accepting such funds might be within the cultural bounds for the Latin American left, it is illegal, and is generally considered a disqualifier for leaders who wave the democratic flag. Of course, the case could be made that an ambassador is meta-political, that he serves his country despite the bought-and-paid-for aspect of the national leader. Fair enough.

Fair enough, that is, until the ambassador goes political by defending the transparently dishonest economic data produced by Argentina’s INDEC, as Ambassador Timerman has done. A government that so vigorously and consistently attempts to hide the effects of its policies from the electorate must be seen as anti-democratic. When a putatively meta-political figure such as Ambassador Timerman goes out of his way to defend the government’s systematic lies – even after the electorate has so roundly rejected them – he must be seen as increasingly meta-democratic rather than meta-political. Surely, even you can see past a tray of canap├ęs, however well stacked, to notice his diminished stature as a democrat.

Of course, you might have been distracted by the presence of that other great democrat, Venezuelan ambassador, Alvarez. His employer is stands guilty – and proven so repeatedly -- for its active hostility toward free speech and democratic governance, both at home and abroad. Free speech advocates throughout the world have watched in outrage as the Venezuelan government has seized offending radio and TV stations, barred opposition expression, and as the head of that government has commandeered hundreds of broadcast hours per year to promote his “revolution”.

Neighboring nations that do not satisfy Venezuelan standards of socialist devotion have found that anti-democratic criminal gangs within their borders receive financial and military support from Venezuela.

Surely, if countries with records such as Venezuela’s are democratic champions, the concept of democracy is infinitely elastic.

Bernard McElhone

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