Latin America,  Media

Going “South of the Border” with Oliver Stone

Watching the trailer for Oliver Stone’s new documentary “South of the Border”— co-written with aging New Leftist Tariq Ali– many questions leap to mind: Why is Hugo Chavez riding a kids’ bicycle? Why did Stone insist on kicking a soccer ball with Evo Morales?

In addition to Chávez, Stone sought to flesh out several other South American leaders whose policies and personalities generally get scant media attention in the United States and Europe: Morales; Cristina Kirchner and her husband, Argentine former president Néstor Kirchner; Rafael Correa of Ecuador; Raúl Castro of Cuba; Fernando Lugo Méndez of Paraguay; and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil.

“The press in America, I think you’re aware, has divided the Latin continent into the ‘bad Left’ and the ‘good Left,’ ” Stone says. “They’ve now listed Correa as the bad Left, along with Morales and with Chávez. They call . . . Lula, the good Left. I don’t know what they make of Kirchner yet, because they go back and forth, but I think they’re turning against Kirchner more and more. You get this distinction, and I think it’s a false distinction.”

But here’s another question: why didn’t Stone feature one of Latin America’s most impressive leftwing leaders: Michelle Bachelet of Chile?

Bachelet, a former pediatrician, was a member of Chile’s Socialist Youth when Augusto Pinochet came to power in a 1973 coup. Her father, a general who supported the ousted socialist president Salvador Allende, was arrested, tortured and died in prison. In 1975 she and her mother were arrested by Pinochet’s secret police, taken to a detention center and tortured for 21 days. They later went into exile in Australia. Before her election in 2005, she said: “As the old joke goes, I have all the sins together. I am a woman, Socialist, separated and agnostic.”

I suspect her exclusion from Stone’s film is in large part due to her highly strained relationship with Stone’s hero Chavez. In 2007, for example, Bachelet said she asked Chavez to stay out of Chile’s affairs when he backed Bolivia’s demands for sea access through Chilean territory. Last March Chavez accused Bachelet of breaking Latin American unity by inviting Gordon Brown and Joe Biden– “Two representatives of empires!”– to a Progressive Summit of Latin American leaders.

Update: Meanwhile, the noose around the neck of free expression in Venezuela continues to tighten:

Venezuela will pull the plug on 29 more radio stations, a top official in President Hugo Chavez’s government said on Saturday, just weeks after dozens of other outlets were closed in a media clampdown.

Infrastructure Minister Diosdado Cabello closed 34 radio stations in July, saying the government was “democratizing” media ownership. Critics say the move limits freedom of expression and has taken critical voices off the airwaves.

The powerful Chavez ally has threatened to close over 100 stations in total, part of a long-term campaign against private media that the government says are biased against Chavez’s government.

“Another 29 will be gone before long,” he told thousands of Chavez supporters at a political rally, without giving details which stations would be closed or when.

Cabello also said he was launching a new legal case against Globovision, the country’s most prominent anti-government television network, accusing it of inciting a coup against Chavez.

(Hat tip: mesquito)