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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bloggers Stop Military Aircraft Sale to Chavez

Institute of World Politics
October 19th, 2006, 04:06

WASHINGTON: Bloggers have been credited with stopping the sale of European-made military aircraft to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

After Spain brokered the deal with Chavez last year, bloggers targeted the state-owned aircraft company, EADS-CASA, for violating the U.S. arms embargo against Venezuela. This week, online activists generated hundreds of letters and calls into key congressional offices to demand that EADS-CASA be disqualified from U.S. contracts. The effort followed questions that were raised about the deal by U.S. Senators in a letter to President Bush. Today, Spain announced that the sale was off.

"This is another example of the New Media's impact on international politics," says J. Michael Waller, Annenberg Professor of International Communication at the Institute of World Politics in Washington.

"Outside the blogosphere, this issue was off the radar screen. Bloggers publicized that EADS-CASA is lobbying Congress to buy its CN-235 and C-295 military planes while it was defying U.S. national security interests to sell the same planes to Chavez," according to Waller. His blog, Venezuelastan.com, reports on the issue.

Other blogs include Casacrash.com and the website SecureTheHomeland.org Alerting activists through ads on the conservative website TownHall.com, SecureTheHomeland allows users to send messages directly to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Ca.) and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R- Va.). The site also directs messages to Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who has been pushing the EADS-CASA deal. A former Shelby aide is an EADS lobbyist.

"EADS-CASA planes are part of a jobs program for Spain's ruling Socialist Workers Party," according to Waller. "Even if the company lost money on the Chavez sale, it could recoup the losses by selling the same planes to the Pentagon's Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) program. That effort failed once the bloggers alerted Congress about the double-dealing."

"Nobody in Washington wants to do business with Chavez," Waller said. "Now there's little sentiment for doing business with those who are modernizing his military. Lawmakers didn't have to say a thing to the company. The fact that they were alerted was enough," he said. "The guys who did the website that sent letters into Congress really made the difference."
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