Media appeal from departing Venezuela Ambassador

by Linda Rutherford
Guyana Chronicle
September 8, 2000

OUTGOING Venezuelan Ambassador, Mr Hector Azocar, feels the media ought to be more responsible in their reportage, particularly when handling sensitive issues like the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy.

Blaming both the local and Venezuelan media for blowing the border problem out of proportion, Azocar, who leaves for Caracas tomorrow, said Wednesday that if there was any tension during the times when the issue happened to flare up, it was in the media rather than at the diplomatic level.

"I would take this opportunity to say that the role of the media is to educate; to try to present all aspects of a relation in a very balanced way", he said.

Careful to assert that he was not attacking the media, he reiterated: "What I am saying is that the role of the media in both countries is to educate people; to highlight not only the negatives or the differences between two countries, but the positive aspects as well".

He contends that often when the media are making dire pronouncements, government officials are working quietly on the sidelines and maintaining a steady flow of communication.

"That is something that cannot stop", he said, meaning keeping the line of communications open between two opposing factions.

"It happens all over the world; that is the purpose of having diplomats", he said.

Conceding that matters of sovereignty were very sensitive and that there was no easy way of handling them, Azocar said yet at the same time one needs to be cognisant of the fact that misleading information can sow seeds of bitterness amongst the populace.

"You have to be very conscious that sometimes when you mislead with some information, you can also plant some bitterness in people and that shouldn't be," he said.

What we have to do whether as a government, media practitioner, intellectual or artist, he said, is to try to be more close and friendly rather than exacerbate our differences.

Asked how it felt to be at a public function when scorn was being heaped on Venezuela, Azocar said he was not aware that anything derogatory has ever been said in his presence either about himself or his country.

"I think that even when people were thinking the situation was very bad and I attended official functions, I never felt any type of harassment or offensive language against my country or myself," he said.

While he has no qualms about speaking out if someone were to make a comment he felt was offensive about his country, he said that at the same time it should also be recognised that people are entitled to their opinions.

"You have to respect the opinion of the people; we are living in a democratic society. This is not a problem that can be solved by singing", he said, referring to Dave Martin's `Not a Blade of Grass' which can often be heard being belted out whenever tension happens to flare on what is now popularly referred to as `the Western Border'.

Neither can it be solved by street protests, he said, but at the diplomatic table between the relevant authorities.

As to the song, `Not a Blade of Grass', Azocar said he rather likes it, since he not only regards it as the cultural expression of an artist, but the things Martin sings about are features common also to Venezuela.

And to crown it all, he is also a fan of the `Trade Winds' of which Martin, a Guyanese, is the lead singer.

"I myself have all the collection of the group and I like listening to them."

Azocar will be spending some time in Caracas before taking up his new appointment as ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago.

He is to be succeeded by Mr Jean-Francois Pulvenis who is due to take office next month

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