Everybody knows that Islamic militants are training in the suburbs of Caracas, armed by megalomaniacal crypto-commie Hugo Chavez as part of his mission to undermine the U.S. empire.
And everbody knows that Chile is the clean, bright success story of Latin America, the next Silicon Valley, the voice of moderation. Why, I hear they are planning to shift the trajectory of the Nazca Plate north so that within a few months they can be attached physically as well as spiritually to the USA.
Tropes, frames, or in plain English, prejudices, resist evidence, and these two are no different. It’s instructive to compare how the world reacted to the cases of Jose Miguel Rojas Espinoza in Venezuela to that of Mohammed Saif Ur Rehman Khan in Chile.
Espinoza was a hapless self-proclaimed Islamic militant in Venezuela who tried to plant a couple small bombs near the U.S. embassy in Caracas in 2006. According to the court report, (fascinating Spanish reading), Espinoza went to put the first bomb in some bushes and asked his moto-taxi driver to hold the other bag and wait. The driver opened the bag and found a shoebox; he then opened that and saw a tube, a battery, an alarm clock and some wires. He threw the apparent bomb away and told a nearby security guard to watch out, that it was a bomb, and to call the cops. Espinoza and another militant who “instigated” the crime were convicted of terrorism. They are currently serving 10 years in a Venezuelan shithole penetentiary.
Khan is Pakistani hospitality student who was studying Spanish in Chile a month ago. Right after the May Day Times Square bomb attempt, the U.S. embassy in Santiago called Khan in to tell him why they were revoking a visa he had been given. (We still don’t know why they revoked the visa.) When he arrived, he told newspaper La Tercera yesterday, security guards sent him into a little room where he was told to take off some of his clothes, and was told via a translator that his passport had “smelled of chemicals.” The cops brought lots of mass media as they arrested him and made announcements that he had traces of explosives on his body and possessions, including his cell phone. The country’s foreign minister popped up on television in the morning and straight-up called the guy a terrorist.
But then what happened? The anchor on the TV network I was watching immediately said that Khan hadn’t been convicted and it was improper to call him a terrorist. The courts granted bail in a couple days. They reaffirmed their decision yesterday as the government tries to put together a case. The guy walks free in Chile, under the requirement that he check in with the cops every 15 days. La Tercera reports:
“At this point, prosecutors haven’t shown that the Pakistani youth has committed any terrorist acts in the country, and along with that, the penalty for possession of explosives is light, so the case may turn into a brief trial and a conditional suspension of the proceedings.”
While the Venezuelan case has become part of the trope of Venezuelan cooperation with terrorists, the Chilean one goes uncited in the right-wing blogs and State Department alerts. Yet it’s Venezuela that wallopped a couple guys with 10-year sentences. One of those convicted did nothing more than talk by e-mail with an attempted terrorist, while the other set a bomb in some bushes on a suburban street. The court itself called the bomb “low explosive,” and all agreed that its main goal was to get attention for a bunch of pro-Hezbollah pamphlets included in the box. In my ideal world, these guys would be put out for endless public ridicule, not the often-fatal conditions of a Venezuelan prison.
Meanwhile, there’s Khan. I have no idea if he did anything, or if the people using his hotel room prior to him were mining engineers, or what, but I bet you a luca that if he had been busted like that in the USA he’d now be in Bagram and no court would ever have heard his name.
Point being, if U.S. right-wingers want to find a government that follows their lead on terrorism, they should be holding up Hugo Chávez as an example. And if they really believe that terrorist suspects don’t deserve due process, their great enemy should be Sebastian Piñera. Go figure.