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Letter to the Editor: Criticism of columnist askew

Dear Editors,

In the following page:

You reprint Larry Birns's demonstrably false accusations against me.

I'd be grateful if, in the interests of truth and in fairness to your
readers, you would post my reply to Mr. Birns's letter. My reply was
published in the Washington Times on January 29, 2003.

Sincerely, Thor Halvorssen – Philadelphia USA.

Criticism of columnist askew

I am writing in response to the Sunday letter from Larry Birns of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs ("Compromised view on Venezuela?") regarding my column about the pro-Hugo Chavez bias in the American media ("Venezuela through a tilted lens?" Commentary, Jan. 22).

Mr. Birns inaccurately writes that I was a government official — "Venezuela's controversial drug czar in the early 1990s" — although I was a student at the time. Mr. Birns has mistaken me for my father, who was "controversial" because he brought about the lawful impeachment of the Venezuelan president by supplying evidence of corruption.

For this and for his tireless efforts at combating illegal money laundering, my father was imprisoned and tortured in Venezuela on trumped up charges that were subsequently dismissed. All of those involved in this injustice were subsequently imprisoned.

This is all part of the public record, and it is unthinkable that Mr. Birns failed to come across the truth about my father's case (which, if anything, would make my father an unimpeachable source had he written the column).

At best, Mr. Birns reveals that he is a sloppy researcher. At worst, he knew the truth and deliberately tried to muddy the issue with personal attacks in order to shift the focus away from the issue at hand: the lack of truth in reports about what occurs in Venezuela.

Mr. Birns says I "savaged" professional journalists for their biased reporting from Venezuela, and he follows up by ad hominem attacks against me, including that old standby, "mean-spirited." Yet it is revealing that Mr. Birns does not provide a single factual inaccuracy in my exposure of the errors in the American media coverage of Venezuela.

I fairly and correctly exposed a handful of examples of the brazen bias demonstrated by the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Associated Press, which have consistently betrayed journalistic objectivity in their coverage of what is occurring in Venezuela under the regime of Mr. Chavez.

Mr. Birns disagrees with my characterization of his organization as a Chavez cheerleader and apologist. He congratulates himself for being balanced because he has called Mr. Chavez "arrogant," "confrontational," "authoritarian," "acerbic" and "inflexible." In light of actual events, such characterizations are meager fare, indeed.

No Venezuelan government has had such a large revenue stream in history, yet the Venezuelan economy is set to contract a staggering 40 percent this quarter. Beyond bringing about the most dramatic destruction of wealth and jobs ever as a result of stratospheric levels of corruption and collectivist central planning, Mr. Chavez supplies weapons and funding to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) drug-trafficking guerrilla terrorists in Colombia.

He considers the dictators of Cuba, Libya, Iran and Iraq as his partners, and he has praised Saddam Hussein as his "brother." Mr. Chavez has publicly described the U.S. military response to Osama bin Laden as "terrorism," claiming he saw no difference between the invasion of Afghanistan and the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Mr. Chavez has illegally organized militia gangs to protect his revolution. He has obliterated the separation of powers in Venezuela and has repeatedly warned that he plans to rule until 2021. Just last week, Mr. Chavez's secret police was exposed for torturing, under his orders, a 24-year-old student for his political views. Not one word of these facts can be found in Mr. Birns' reports to the U.S. Congress.

In five years, Mr. Birns' organization has heaped praise on Mr. Chavez but deigned to supply a total of five negative adjectives to describe him. This does not amount to balance. It does expose his unashamed support for Mr. Chavez's criminal regime, and it underlines why he and his group are not credible sources.


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