Tightening the screws in Venezuela

Venezuelans lining up for groceries

Ever since this website got underway, we’ve been following the inexorable economic decline of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela under the rule of Hugo Chávez’s hapless yet ruthless protégé and successor, Nicolás Maduro. We’ve seen how Maduro’s stubborn devotion to socialist policies has led to shortages in basic goods and even – in a country that’s one of the world’s largest oil producers – to an inability to provide Venezuelan motorists with enough gasoline to keep their cars and trucks going.

Political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez

A year ago, the Venezuelan electorate dealt chavismo a huge blow by electing a National Assembly dominated by opponents of the Maduro regime. The vote was viewed as a potential game changer. Observers assumed there would be major changes in the offing. For example, it was widely believed that Maduro’s most high-profile political prisoner, the folk hero Leopoldo López, would soon be free.

Donald Trump, Liliana Tintori, Mike Pence, and Marco Rubio at the White House on February 15

Well, López is still behind bars. (His wife, Liliana Tintori, met  with President Trump in February, after which Trump called for Lopez’s immediate release.) And not much else has changed, either. At least not for the positive. On the contrary, Maduro has flexed his muscles more aggressively than ever – limiting the authority of the National Assembly, stepping up arrests of opposition leaders, imprisoning people without trial, canceling elections, violently crushing protests, closing down CNN en Español, and barring the New York Times’s Caracas correspondent from the country. In late March, according to the Times, “the United States, Canada and a dozen of Latin America’s largest nations called for Mr. Maduro to recognize the National Assembly’s powers, a rare joint statement that reflected deep impatience with his government.”

A Venezuelan protester holds up a flag bearing the slogan: “No dictatorship”

Alas, Maduro, instead of responding to this statement by developing a newfound respect for the National Assembly, did precisely the opposite. On March 29, Venezuela’s Supreme Court, which is dominated by Maduro loyalists, essentially dissolved the National Assembly and said that henceforth it, the Court, would be exercising legislative powers in its stead. In one fell swoop, this outrageous action effectively removed from the scene the major challenge to Maduro’s authority. As the Times noted, “In taking power from the National Assembly, the ruling removed what most consider to be the only remaining counterbalance to the president’s growing power in the country.”

Julio Borges protesting the Court’s action

Of course, there’s a word for this sort of thing: coup. Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, did not hesitate to call it precisely that. The U.S., Mexico, and Colombia all officially denounced the Supreme Court’s action; Peru cut off diplomatic relations with Venezuela. Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly, denounced the Court’s ruling as “garbage,” stating: “They have kidnapped the Constitution, they have kidnapped our rights, they have kidnapped our liberty.”

Nicolas Maduro

The Miami Herald quoted Peter Schechter, director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, as saying that Venezuela should henceforth be treated as a “pariah state.” Stated Schechter: “If there was any doubt before, there should no longer be one: Venezuela is a dictatorship.” The Times echoed this view, noting that the Venezuelan government, which until recently had been described by many as “an authoritarian regime,” was now widely viewed as “an outright dictatorship.”

To anyone familiar with the dreadful, depressing history of institutionalized socialism, none of this should be terribly surprising. The implementation of socialist ideology inevitably leads, sooner or later, to economic crisis, food shortages, and the suppression of human rights; and this combination of disasters, in turn, almost invariably causes the tyrants in charge not to reverse their catastrophic policies but to tighten the screws and intensify their grasp on power.

Briefly put: this can’t end well.

Adeste fideles

(FILES) In this 04 September1999 file photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro discusses his request to the president of the International Olympic Committee in Havana for an investigation into the treatment of certain Cuban atheletes. Castro said the communist nation is not afraid of dialogue with the United States -- and not interested in continued confrontation with its powerful neighbor. The comments came as a group of US lawmakers visited Cuba this weekend to try to end nearly half a century of mutual distrust and amid reports that President Barack Obama was planning to ease economic sanctions on the island, including travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans. "We're not afraid to talk with the United States. We also don't need confrontation to exist, like some fools like to think," Castro, 82, said in an article on the Cubadebate website on April 5, 2009. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE /FILES (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images) Original Filename: Was672139.jpg

Yesterday we lamented the New York Times‘s nauseating Castro obit. Unsurprisingly, the Times wasn’t the only newspaper to praise the old thug. While the Washington Post, in the headline of its obituary, honestly – and admirably – labeled Fidel a “dictator,” a slew of other mainstream media honored him with the title of “president” (Bloomberg, Daily Mail) or “leader” (CNN, PBS, Daily Mirror). The BBC went with “icon.” And while U.S. President-elect Donald Trump frankly called Castro a “brutal dictator,” other eminent figures around the world queued up to ooze praise. A quick round-up:

NA-TRUDEAU-EDBOARD5 The editorial board met with Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau on April 5, 2013. CARLOS OSORIO/TORONTO STAR
Justin Trudeau

Jill Stein. The Green Party presidential candidate tweeted: “Fidel Castro was a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire. Presente!”

Justin Trudeau. Applauding Castro’s “love for the Cuban people,” Canada’s PM said that the tyrant’s demise caused him “deep sorrow,” noted that his father (late PM Pierre Trudeau) “was very proud to call [Castro] a friend,” and mourned “the loss of this remarkable leader.”

juncker_2140199b-618x387
Jean-Claude Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker. The EU Commission president tweeted: “With the death of #FidelCastro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many.”

George Galloway. The former British MP tweeted: “You were the greatest man I ever met Comandante Fidel. You were the man of the century.”

Michael D. Higgins. Ireland’s president gushed that “equality and poverty are much less pronounced in Cuba than in surrounding nations” and that Castro stood not only for “freedom for his people but for all of the oppressed and excluded peoples on the planet.”

June 26-27, 1984, Havana, Cuba --- Jesse Jackson smokes Cuban cigars with Fidel Castro during a controversial visit to Havana in June 1984. Jackson, a candidate for President of the United States, caused a stir in the U.S. government and press by visiting with the Communist leader. --- Image by © Jacques M. Chenet/CORBIS
Jesse Jackson with Castro, 1984

Jesse Jackson. The veteran shakedown artist cheered  Castro the “freedom fighter,” “poor people’s hero,” and “liberator.”

Jimmy Carter. The retired peanut farmer wrote: “Rosalynn and I share our sympathies with the Castro family and the Cuban people….We remember fondly our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country.”

ban-ki-moon
Ban Ki-Moon

Ban Ki-Moon. The UN honcho professed to be “saddened” by the death of Castro, whom he credited with “advances…in the fields of education, literacy and health” and touted as “a strong voice for social justice.”

Jeremy Corbyn. The head of the British Labour Party hailed Castro as a “champion of social justice.”

MANDATORY CREDIT People in Miami celebrate the death of Cuba's Fidel Castro in front of Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana, early Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. Within half an hour of the Cuban government’s official announcement that former President Fidel Castro had died, Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, at age 90, Miami’s Little Havana teemed with life - and cheers. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP)
Celebrating in Miami

Obscene, all of it. Any reader who is tempted to believe these plaudits need only watch TV coverage of the exultant celebrations by Cuban exiles in the streets of Miami. In those crowds are people who have firsthand knowledge of Castro’s evil. Many of them, because of Castro, have experienced cruelty, brutality, and suffering beyond description. Castro robbed their freedom, their homes, their land. And, in many cases, imprisoned, tortured, or executed their fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters.

arenas
Reynaldo Arenas

If viewing those videos isn’t enough to make the truth sink in, read one or more of the better-informed obits, such as this one in the Independent and this one in the Miami Herald. Or buy the haunting, masterly memoir Before Night Falls by Reynaldo Arenas. No man or woman of conscience can peruse these writings and emerge with the belief that Castro was anything but one of the great totalitarian monsters of the last century, or that his passing is anything but a welcome end to a nightmarish chapter of human history.

Eulogizing Fidel

fidel-castro-obituary-slide-p9cb-superjumbo-v6When Fidel Castro first came on the scene more than half a century ago, the New York Times famously disgraced itself by serving as his chief PR tool. When he died a few hours ago, the Times again brought shame upon itself with a jaw-droppingly fawning obituary headlined “Fidel Castro, Cuban Leader who Defied U.S., Dies at 90.”

Let’s make this clear: Castro wasn’t a “leader”; he was a totalitarian dictator. But the Times, alas, has plainly never gotten over its schoolgirl crush on him. The first paragraphs of its obit, which carried the byline of Anthony DePalma, were studded with the kind of words customarily used to eulogize heroes and saints. Castro was a “fiery apostle of revolution.” He was “a towering international figure.” He was a man who “dominated his country with strength and symbolism from the day he triumphantly entered Havana on Jan. 8, 1959, and completed his overthrow of Fulgencio Batista by delivering his first major speech in the capital before tens of thousands of admirers at the vanquished dictator’s military headquarters.”

castro-obit-slide-1fkf-superjumbo
The Times’s caption: “Mr. Castro with Mr. Guevara in Havana in January 1959.”

DePalma’s account of the events of that day fifty-seven years ago was nothing less than nauseating – useful stoogery at its purest:

A spotlight shone on him as he swaggered and spoke with passion until dawn. Finally, white doves were released to signal Cuba’s new peace. When one landed on Mr. Castro, perching on a shoulder, the crowd erupted, chanting “Fidel! Fidel!” To the war-weary Cubans gathered there and those watching on television, it was an electrifying sign that their young, bearded guerrilla leader was destined to be their savior.

Accompanying all this laudatory prose were photographs (we’ve reproduced them here) that seemed to have been selected with the objective of showing Fidel at his most glamorous, rugged,  and heroic.

00castro-fidel-adv-obit-slide-2po9-superjumbo
The Times’s caption: “Mr. Castro with other rebel leaders at a secret base in June 1957 including Che Guevara, the guerrillas’ physician, second from left, and Mr. Castro’s brother Raúl, kneeling in the foreground.”

To be sure, DePalma went on, after his first dozen or so (long) paragraphs, to acknowledge the negative aspects of Castro’s rule. But these obligatory doses of truth about what was, in fact, a thoroughly monstrous regime were brief, grudging, and muted. Every mention of something less than admirable, moreover, was paired with yet more sickening – and baseless – words of praise. For example: “His legacy in Cuba and elsewhere has been a mixed record of social progress and abject poverty, of racial equality and political persecution.” Social progress? Racial equality? Utter hogwash. For the zillionth time, furthermore, the Times served up the ubiquitous, ridiculous lie that Cuba, under Castro, has undergone astounding strides in education and health care. 

322122-anthony-depalma-couvert-sommet-ameriques
Anthony DePalma

It’s not really surprising to see the Times serving up nonsense like this. It is rather unexpected to see Anthony DePalma signing his name to it. DePalma who left the Times in 2008, and presumably filed a draft of this obit some time before that  is the author of  The Man Who Invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba and Herbert L. Matthews of The New York Times, in which he doesn’t pull any punches about Castro being a bloodthirsty tyrant – and about the key role the Times played in making him an international icon. One wonders how much editorial tweaking DePalma’s piece has undergone since he first filed it.    

castro-timeline-superjumbo
The Times’s caption: “Mr. Castro, speaking on July 26, 2003, lived to rule a country where the overwhelming majority of people had never known any other leader.”

Once upon a time, people referred to the New York Times – with a straight face – as “the newspaper of record.” Now, that phrase is increasingly likely to be uttered with a smirk. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Times‘s publisher and executive editor felt compelled to express public regret – sort of – for its appallingly slanted coverage of the recent U.S. presidential election and to promise “to report America and the world honestly.” But this obit oozes dishonesty – an eagerness to whitewash Communism and lionize dictators that, unfortunately, seems to be written into the Times‘s DNA. DePalma’s article should go down in the record books as a classic in useful stoogery.

UPDATE, November 30: The Times has actually posted a whole feature about the history of its Castro op-ed. It turns out, indeed, that many hands other than DePalma’s were involved.

Happy birthday, Fidel!

FILE - In this July 26, 2006 file photo, Cuba's President Fidel Castro pauses as addresses a crowd of Latin American students gathered in Pedernales, in Holguin province, Cuba, for the anniversary of the attack on the Moncada barracks. As Fidel Castro gets ready to celebrate his 90th birthday on Aug. 13, 2016, many Cubans today openly describe themselves as capitalists, and say time has proven that Castro’s economic ideas do not work. (AP Photo/ Javier Galeano, File)
Fidel Castro, in a photo accompanying the Atlantic Monthly’s report on his 90th birthday

When Fidel Castro turned 90 on August 13, some of the leading news organs in the English-speaking world took the opportunity to commemorate the occasion. How? By recalling his decades of tyranny, torture, and terror? Nope. Mostly, they chose to portray Fidel as “the great survivor” – which, as it happens, was the title of Will Grant‘s piece for BBC News, for which Grant journeyed to Fidel’s hometown to collect cozy stories about the Great Man’s childhood.

JLA-Castro-2-830
This heroic image accompanied the New Yorker’s 90th birthday tribute

It was dismaying, but hardly surprising, to witness the readiness of one major news organization after another to whitewash Fidel’s brutality and to pretend that he’s actually accomplished anything positive for his freedom-deprived people. Take CBS News, whose Portia Siegelbaum provided us with the adorable information that Fidel spends most of his birthdays “sharing a cake with young children.” Cuban TV, she noted, had recently been broadcasting “a massive class in Cuban history” every night; it seemed not to have occurred to her that this offering by the state-run media might be less history than propaganda.

Siegelbaum also told us that “most Cubans feel Fidel Castro has earned the right to celebrate reaching 90.” What was her evidence for this claim? She didn’t say. How do you perform a scientific survey of such questions in a country where the people risk being imprisoned and tortured if they whisper a single word in criticism of their leaders? (One thing’s for sure: very few of the 1.5 million Cubans who’ve fled their island prison to live in the U.S. feel the nonagenarian dictator “has earned the right to celebrate reaching 90.” Not to mention the opinions of the long-dead victims of Che’s firing squads and those who perished in Fidel’s prisons.)

fidel-castro-and-che-guevara-by-nytimes-photo
Fidel with Che Guevara, in a photograph for the New York Times – his revolution’s #1 international propaganda tool

Concluding her piece, in what was apparently meant as some sort of affectionate salute to Fidel’s enduring influence, Siegelbaum actually called him “the man who for more than five decades set the political discourse on what life should be like on the largest of the Caribbean islands.”

Um, yeah, Portia – that’s called dictatorship.

Then there was Jon Lee Anderson‘s Fidel piece for the New Yorker, in which the word dictator appeared exactly twice – not to label Fidel, but to describe, first, the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo and, second, Fidel’s predecessor, Fulgencio Batista. Anderson summed up the purported highlights of Fidel’s rule – the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the hundreds of alleged CIA attempts to kill Fidel – but there was no mention of the soul-crushing, economy-destroying Communist system itself, or of Fidel’s mass incarceration, torture, and murder of thousands of his own subjects.

castroguardian
The Guardian, in illustrating its Fidel-turns-90 piece, went with this touching shot

Calling Fidel an “elder statesman” in “the twilight of his life,” Anderson reflected that the ongoing changes in Cuba “must be deeply poignant” for the old man, accepted with credulity the claim that Fidel’s chief concerns nowadays are with “the risks posed by arms proliferation, global warming, and food scarcities,” and stated, in a sentimental concluding flourish, that Fidel, at the most recent Party Congress, “reaffirmed his faith in Communism, in the future of Cuba, and the legacy that he believed Cuba’s Communists had forged.” As if this “legacy” were anything other than pure, unadulterated evil.

CNN’s Patrick Oppmann made one of the most curious choices of all, putting front and center the hundreds of supposed murder attempts that Fidel supposedly survived over the decades. Fidel, Oppmann wrote, “has lived much of his long life in the spotlight – and much of it in the crosshairs – surviving a half century of assassination plots.” (It seemed highly likely that the authors of several of these birthday pieces were working from the same official Havana press release.) No mention, naturally, of the number of people Fidel managed to bump off during that half century. Oppmann cited Fidel’s “reputation as a cheater of death” – never mind, again, his longtime career as a dealer of death.

castro1Instead of acknowledging, moreover, that the overwhelming majority of those who wanted Fidel dead were freedom-loving Cubans, many of whom had been tortured by Castro’s henchmen and forced to flee their beloved homeland, Oppmann painted Fidel as the victim in a struggle against (who else?) the Mob: “Few had as much reason to want Castro dead as the American mafia.”

In short, a shameful showing by the Western media. But of course we should have expected that the 90th birthday of Cuba’s vile old despot would bring the useful hack-journalist stooges crawling out of their ratholes. 

Those krazy Kirchner krooks

DYN15, BUENOS AIRES 04/09/06, EL SECRETARIO DE OBRAS PUBLICAS, JOSE LOPEZ DURANTE LA 1(TM) SESION PLENARIA DEL XV CONGRESO INTERNACIONAL "LOS LIMITES DE LA RESPONSABILIDAD SOCIAL DE LA EMPRESA", ESTA MA-ANA EN LA FACULTAD DE CIENCIAS ECONOMICAS DE LA UNIVERSIDAD DE BUENOS AIRES (UBA).FOTO:DYN/LUCIANO THIEBERGER.
José Francisco López

Okay, this one is kind of funny. But first you need to know who José Francisco López is.

Who is he? He’s a civil engineer and a longtime member of the sleazy Kirchner circle in Argentina. In 1991, when Nestor Kirchner became governor of the state of Santa Cruz, he put López on the administrative board of the state’s roads authority. Later he named López to executive positions in other state agencies. When Kirchner was elected president in 2003, he took López with him to Buenos Aires, appointing him to serve as the federal Minister of Public Works. As such, López was the “right-hand man” of the notorious Julio de Vido, the Minister of Federal Planning.

jflopez2
De Vido, Cristina Kirchner, and López

In this position, which López retained under the presidency of Kirchner’s wife, Cristina, he wielded enormous power, had control of massive amounts of money, and was (along with de Vido) an object of widespread suspicion. Both were accused of a range of corrupt acts, such as pressuring construction firms for bribes and kickbacks and using federally funded construction projects to reward friends or punish enemies. One of de Vido’s and López’s associates, Ricardo Jaime, was eventually arrested, tried, and imprisoned for stealing evidence.

jflopez4
Wads of cash in the trunk of López’s car

Which brings us to what happened this past June 14. On that day, in a district of Buenos Aires known as General Rodriguez, López was arrested while in possession of approximately $7 million dollars in cash in a range of denominations, including U.S. dollars, euros, and yen. The money was distributed among six large plastic bags, a suitcase, and the trunk of López’s car. In addition, López had on him an unidentified amount of jewelry, a receipt from a Beijing bank, and several high-end watches, including Rolexes and Omegas.

Oh, and he was packing a gun.

jflopez3
After his arrest, López was fitted out with a helmet and bulletproof vest for his protection

There’s more. According to reports, López tried to hide the bags of money at a convent called Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima; it was, in fact, the resident nuns who fingered him, phoning the cops and reporting that (no kidding) some man was throwing plastic bags over their convent wall. When officers arrived at the scene, the ever-intrepid López tried to hide in the convent, where he endeavored in vain to persuade the nuns, who were obviously no fools, that he’d brought all that dough to donate it to them and that the police were trying to steal it.

nun
A still from The Sound of Music. Just in case you don’t know what a nun looks like.

It was unclear from news reports whether López also claimed to have intended to give the nuns the jewelry and watches.

In any event, the nuns didn’t buy it. When the cops turned up, López offered them bribes. That didn’t work, either.

Anyway, so it goes in Argentina in these immediate post-Kirchner days. Another day, another name added to the long roster of Kirchner functionaries being investigated for money-laundering –Néstor and Cristina’s favorite indoor sport.

George Galloway’s accounting methods

George Galloway arrives for the funeral of former Labour cabinet minister Tony Benn at St Margaret's Church, Westminster, central London.
Wide boy

In a 2005 article, the late, great Christopher Hitchens called George Galloway “a type well known in the Labour movement. Prolier than thou, and ostentatiously radical, but a bit too fond of the cigars and limos and always looking a bit odd in a suit that was slightly too expensive. By turns aggressive and unctuous, either at your feet or at your throat; a bit of a backslapper, nothing’s too good for the working class: what the English call a ‘wide boy.’” As Hitchens neatly put it, Galloway “has stayed just on the right side of many inquiries into his character and his accounting methods.”

You can say that again. When Galloway hasn’t been busy praising dictators or slandering lovers of freedom, he’s spent a lot of time participating in shady international money transfers, some of which involved fattening his own pockets, and some of which involved passing cash and merchandise on to terrorists and tyrants.

Christopher Hitchens, polemicist and frequent radio and TV commentator, debates with George Galloway, a member of the British parliament, in Baruch College in New York September 14, 2005. Galloway kicked off a tour for his new book "Mr. Galloway Goes To Washington, The Brit Who Set Congress Straight About Iraq" in Boston. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Christopher Hitchens

From 1983 to 1987, he ran a charity called War On Want. During his tenure, questions were raised about the organization’s less than transparent financial picture. Accused of having used the charity’s dough to “liv[e] the high life in dirt-poor countries,” as Hitchens put it, Galloway was forced to resign and to pay back a relatively small sum in “contested expenses.” There are those who believe that in this case, as in many others, the true dimensions of Galloway’s perfidy were covered up.

In 1998 he founded the Mariam Appeal, which purportedly aimed to provide medical help to people in Iraq. Galloway raked in huge sums from sheiks in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, among others. Again, questions were raised about his personal use of the organization’s funds. The group was investigated several times by the U.K.’s Charity Commission, which chided Galloway for not registering it as a charity and not reporting on its finances as required by law. When the commission asked to see the Mariam Appeal’s books, they turned out to have been shipped off to Amman and Baghdad, far from prying British eyes. The whole thing looked extremely fishy, but once again Galloway got off with a slap on the wrist. The Mariam Appeal shut down in 2003.

zureikat
Faraz Zureikat

One of the Mariam Appeal’s big donors was Fawaz Zureikat, a Jordanian businessman whom Galloway eventually put in charge of the operation. In 2005, Zureikat became a focus of a U.S. Senate subcommittee’s investigation into Saddam Hussein’s abuses of the U.N. Oil-for-Food program, under which Saddam’s government, despite trade sanctions, had been allowed to sell oil to buy food and medicine. Galloway became a focus, too. Documents were reportedly uncovered showing that he, his then wife (Amineh Abu-Zayyad), and his campaign organization had all received shares of the illicit profits from Iraqi oil sales.

George Galloway - Elections...George Galloway with his wife Amineh after voting at Streatham in the in Local Goverment elections,London Mayoral election and European Parliamentary Elections. ... George Galloway - Elections ... 10-06-2004 ... LONDON ... UK ... PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Photo credit should read: Michael Stephens/PA Archive. Unique Reference No. 1968245 ...
George Galloway and wife #2, Amineh Abu-Zayyad

Galloway admitted that some of the money made illegitimately through the exploitation of the U.N. Program had ended up in the coffers of the Mariam Appeal, but insisted that he hadn’t personally profited. So did his wife. (By the way, Galloway has been married four times and divorced thrice; his last three wives have been Muslims, whom he married in Islamic ceremonies.) Although the subcommittee sent reports detailing evidence of corruption on the part of both M. and Mme. Galloway to the U.S. Justice Department, to law officials in New York and the District of Columbia, to the ethics office of the British Parliament, and to the U.K.’s Charity Commission, no action was taken by any of these bodies.

George Galloway returns to his property on Ambleside Avenue, Stretham, with his new wife, Putri Gayatri Pertiwi. (please confirm Identity) 2/4/12
George Galloway and wife #4, Putri Gayatri Pertiwi

To be sure, he hasn’t just taken cash from hooligans – he’s distributed it, too. When he took part in the 2009 Viva Palestina convoy, he transported a substantial amount of illicit cash and merchandise which he handed over to the Hamas rulers of Gaza. He denied having done this, even though video footage showed him presenting bags of cash to these creeps.

We’ve noted earlier that both Galloway and his wife (this would be wife #4, Putri Gayatri Pertiwi) are on the payroll of Putin’s English-language TV station. Galloway is also a paid employee of Iran’s state-owned TV station, Press TV, and of the pro-Hezbollah TV station Al Mayadeen. You’ve got to hand it to him. When in modern times has a member of any national legislature in the Western world had fingers that were at once so sticky and so filthy?

Galloway’s heroes

epa02375994 British PM George Galloway poses with a gift he received during his reception at the Arab Cultural Center in the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, Syria, 05 October 2010. Galloway leads the Gaza-bound Viva Palestina 5 aid convoy that arrived in Damascus on 02 October from Turkey. The convoy includes 143 trucks loaded with medical and humanitarian aids and 370 Arab and foreign activists. Galloway said he is determined to go on with his aid convoy to Palestinians under Israeli siege despite the Egyptian authorities' decision to ban his entry to Egypt. EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
George Galloway

Recently, columnist Nick Cohen noted that the folks on the left who used to come to the defense of George Galloway have gone silent, having finally realized, apparently, just how loathsome a creature they were associating with. The same, it might be added, has been true of the defenders of Hugo Chávez: with a few exceptions, those who exulted over Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution in its first years have stopped doing so, having seen the increasingly tragic consequences of chavista socialism.

It’s no surprise that Galloway himself was an early booster of chavismo – and that, long after it declined from a chic cause into an embarrassment for the international left, he continued to eulogize it.

chavez7
Hugo Chávez

Back in 2007, Galloway lauded Chávez in the Guardian, sounding for all the world like John Reed celebrating the birth of the USSR:

The atmosphere in Caracas is fervid. The vast shanty towns draping the hillside around the cosmopolitan centre bustle with workers’ cooperatives, trade union meetings, marches and debates. The $18bn fund for social welfare set up by Chávez is already bearing fruit. Education, food distribution and primary healthcare programmes now cover the majority for the first time. Queues form outside medical centres filled with thousands of Cuban doctors dispensing care to a population whose health was of no value to those who sat atop Venezuela’s immense wealth in the past.

Galloway rejected out of hand the “mendacious propaganda that Chávez is a dictator and human rights abuser.”

gallowaycastro
Galloway with Fidel Castro

In 2012, he actually spent two weeks in Venezuela campaigning for Hugo’s re-election; the next year, when Hugo shuffled off this mortal coil, Galloway was quick to mourn the caudillo’s death, calling it “a body blow for the poor and the oppressed,” praising his friend for having “transformed Venezuela by the force of his will,” and calling him “a veritable Spartacus” who “rallied an army of not slaves, but those despised by the oligarchy.” He celebrated Chávez for standing up to Israel and to “North American hegemony.” By this point, it was clear to every pair of eyes unblinkered by ideology that Chávez’s only accomplishment had been to destroy his country’s economy – along with its liberties and human rights. But Galloway never let real-world conditions get in the way of his uncritical admiration for absolutism and contempt for freedom.

What about Castro? Check this out. Of all the people you’ve met in your lifetime, who’s had the most positive impact on you?” an interviewer once asked Galloway. His reply: “Fidel Castro. Fidel Castro is the greatest man I’ve ever met by several miles….The most inspiring, the most charismatic, the most wise, and the most tireless of all the people I’ve ever met. He’s my real hero.”

And let’s not forget Putin. Since 2013, both Galloway and his wife have been on the payroll of the Kremlin’s RT television network. In the first half of that year alone (while still a member of the British Parliament, mind you), he earned £25,600 – about $37,000 – for going on RT from time to time to trash his own country and extol Putin. The Russian president has certainly gotten his money’s worth out of employing Galloway. In his appearances on RT, the wily Scotsman has consistently defended Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, arguing that Russia “has every right, indeed, obligation, to act in defense of its compatriots, its citizens, its economic and military assets which it has on the territory of the Ukraine by agreement and by treaty.” He’s called  the U.S. approach to the Kremlin actions “ludicrous” and counseled the EU not to “poke the bear with a stick.” And, in the ultimate act of moral degeneracy, he’s smeared patriotic, democracy-loving Ukrainians who oppose Russian intrusion in their affairs as “terrorists,” “ultra-nationalists,” and “Nazis.” There’s no low to which he won’t go.