We gave Rohter an enormous amount of factual information to back up the main points of the film. He not only ignored the main points of the film, but in the quotes he selected for the article, he picked only quotes that were not fact related that could be used to illustrate what he considered the director’s and co-author’s bias. This is not ethical journalism; in fact it is questionable whether it is journalism at all.
For example, Rohter was presented with detailed and documentary evidence of the United States’ involvement in the 2002 coup. (see http://southoftheborderdoc.com/2002-venezuela-coup) This was a major point in the film, and was backed up in the film by testimony from then Washington Post foreign editor Scott Wilson, who covered the coup from Caracas. In our conversations with Rohter, he simply dismissed all of this evidence out of hand, and nothing about it appears in the article.
Rohter should have disclosed his own conflict of interest in this review. The film criticizes the New York Timesfor its editorial board’s endorsement of the military coup of April 11, 2002 against the democratically elected government of Venezuela, which was embarrassing to the Times. Moreover, Rohter himself wrote an article on April 12 that went even further than the Times‘ endorsement of the coup:
“Neither the overthrow of Mr. Chavez, a former army colonel, nor of Mr. Mahuad two years ago can be classified as a conventional Latin American military coup. The armed forces did not actually take power on Thursday. It was the ousted president’s supporters who appear to have been responsible for deaths that numbered barely 12 rather than hundreds or thousands, and political rights and guarantees were restored rather than suspended.” – Larry Rohter, New York Times, April 12, 2002
These allegations that the coup was not a coup – not only by Rohter – prompted a rebuttal by Rohter’s colleague at the New York Times, Tim Weiner, who wrote a Sunday Week in Review piece two days later entitled “A Coup By Any Other Name.” (New York Times, April 14, 2002)
Unlike the NYT editorial board, which issued a grudging retraction of their pro-coup stance a few days later (included in our film), Rohter seems to have clung to the right-wing fantasies about the coup. It is not surprising that someone who supports the military overthrow of a democratically elected government would not like a documentary like this one, which celebrates the triumphs of electoral democracy in South America over the last decade…
In feature films about John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon andGeorge W. Bush, Oliver Stone gave free rein to his imagination and was often criticized for doing so. Now, in “South of the Border,”which opened on Friday, he has turned to Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s controversial populist president, and his reformist allies in South America…
Tariq Ali, the British-Pakistani historian and commentator who helped write the screenplay, added: “It’s hardly a secret that we support the other side. It’s an opinionated documentary.”
Watch the film at the British Library from 21 July-3 August. More information about screenings coming soon.
Verso recommends the following titles:
Tariq Ali’s examination of the Latin American revolution against US hegemony, based on his first-hand experience of Venezuela and meetings with Hugo Chávez. He also discusses Fidel Castro, President of Bolivia Evo Morales and President of Ecuador Rafael Correa. The book makes a perfect complement to Stone’s film.
The President of Venezuela introduces this short collection of writings by the revolutionary Simon Bolivar – Chávez’s main influence for what he calls his Bolivarian Revolution.
The renowned writer, film maker and activist introduces key writings by Fidel Castro.