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Tim Myers: Local antics just like Venezuela?

Myers' Musings

Posted: October 27, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 27, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

Hugo Chavez, the effective yet democratically elected dictator of Venezuela, recently won an unprecedented third term in that nation, beating a strong opponent by a convincing margin of 54 percent to 46 percent.

Though somewhat lower than his past victories, longtime Chavez opponents at The Economist admitted that the only thing likely to remove Mr. Chavez from office was death from a mysterious cancer recently treated over the last 15 months in the shadows in Cuba.

During the run up to the elections a prominent opposition figure described them in the less than glowing terms of “free but not fair.” State media (Hugo Chavez systematically dismantled nearly all private media in the nation over the last seven years.) allowed the challenger only three minutes of airtime per day, while the incumbent president would drone on for up to three hours with state pronouncements.

Further, government leaders made it clear to state employees that they would access ballot results with obvious consequences for those that did not vote the Chavista line. Foreign coverage of campaign events revealed that government operatives informed people recently put on waiting lists for a government housing project that they would not obtain that house if Chavez did not achieve another term. With this type of stacked deck, any wonder the incumbent swept comfortably back to victory?

Now, vote-by-mail ballots dropped last week and I returned mine the next day, and, among other things, it contained a vote for Buck McKeon, who I promised personally I would always vote to re-elect solely on the basis of his difficult but critical vote on the TARP bailout bill in 2008. I also believe the incumbent congressman will easily defeat his relatively strong opponent, Dr. Lee Rogers, by about 55 percent to 45 percent, despite some recent local political setbacks, primarily the defeat of his wife, Patricia McKeon in the jungle primary for state Assembly.

But it troubles me that McKeon’s troops may engage in Chavista-type strategies to stack the deck for the congressman, even though, like President Chavez himself, he should win easily.

Consider recent events in local media. KHTS recently terminated news director Carol Rock and reporter Mark Archuleta. Mark Archuleta had penned several articles concerning the Congressman and his office, including a rather rough story on a Federal Election Commission fine imposed on the McKeon campaign and another story concerning alleged foot dragging by Congressman McKeon’s Armed Services Committee to convene hearings concerning allegations of sexual abuse and harassment with respect to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

Now, local social media immediately erupted with (unsubstantiated) allegations of retaliation from the McKeon camp a la Hugo Chavez. In other words, play nice with the incumbent, or customers (advertisers) friendly to the Congressman will suddenly pull their advertising.

Giving a nod to that same social media, station owner and general manager Carl Goldman responded quickly that the terminations resulted solely from brutal economics and the need to reduce staff costs at the station.

But then enter a story in Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call published on Oct. 19 by Warren Rojas. Mr. Rojas received information from Protect Our Defenders (“POD”), a military advocacy group petitioning for hearings on the Lackland matter, regarding a meeting with congressional staff.

In that meeting, POD personnel reported that a McKeon staffer waved a copy of an article by Mark Archuleta regarding the Lackland matter and containing information from POD stating that POD would be frozen out of further Lackland matters since they went “out of bounds” by talking about the matter to local media.

Now, one cannot draw a straight line from this article to the terminations of Rock and Archuleta. After all, if the story is 100 percent true the staffer found themselves upset about POD talking to local media and not the local media coverage itself.

But it leaves one to wonder if local folks who feel they must stay on the incumbent’s good side will take actions they think might please him a la Hugo Chavez.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident trained in accounting and law who crunches numbers (mainly) to analyze local issues.

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