Monday, January 14, 2008

Venezuela: Is Hugo Chavez Getting Bad Rap from U.S. Media?

To cite only the most recent of the literally thousands of examples of media bias against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, last week the bastion of liberal thinking, the NY Times, changed wording in a Rueters story from "pro-poor" to "self-styled socialist." The sentence that apparently offended NY Times editors was: "Chavez said it was important to reach out to Venezuela's middle class and other sectors of society often alienated by his pro-poor policies."

Is Hugo Chavez Getting Bad Rap from U.S. Media?

YES: It's absurd to call Venezuelan leader anti-U.S., dictatorial
MARK WEISBROT, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)

(The truly laughable "NO" response to this question can be found here).

If we read the newspapers and watch TV in the United States, we are told that President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is a "dictator," "authoritarian," "a threat to democracy" in his own country and the region, and "anti-U.S."

But leaders who try to empower poor people are generally vilified in the media and hated by those in power. Martin Luther King, Jr. now has a national holiday named after him, but when he was leading marches in the Chicago suburbs or denouncing the Vietnam War, the press treated him about as badly as they treat Chavez.

The idea that Venezuela under Chavez is authoritarian or dictatorial is absurd. Most of the press there opposes the government, more so than in the rest of the hemisphere -- including the United States.

Chavez and his allies have won 10 elections, the most important of which were all certified by international observers. Last month Chavez lost a referendum that would have abolished term limits on the presidency and ratified a move toward "21st-century socialism."

After losing by a razor-thin margin, Chavez not only immediately accepted the results but last Sunday announced a shift of policy in line with the electorate's wants. He said that the government would slow its efforts at political change and concentrate on solving some of the voters' top-priority problems, such as crime and public services.

Chavez's relations with the Bush administration and the rest of the hemisphere are also commonly misrepresented.

The standard media description of the U.S. role in the military coup that temporarily overthrew Chavez in 2002 is that the Bush administration gave it "tacit support." But "tacit support" is what the administration gave to the opposition oil strike in 2002-2003, which devastated the economy in another attempt to overthrow the Venezuelan government. In the April 2002 coup, the Bush administration actually funded opposition leaders involved in the coup, according to the U.S. State Department.

Rather than apologizing for supporting these attempts to overthrow and destabilize Venezuela's democratic government, the Bush administration went on to fund further opposition efforts, and continues to do so today -- including funding of the recent student movement in Venezuela, according to U.S. government documents.

Is it any wonder that Chavez does not have kind words to say about Bush?

Most of South America has left-of-center governments who understand that the Bush administration's hostility toward Venezuela is really about the U.S. losing illegitimate power over sovereign governments, in a region that Washington considers its "back yard."

Their leaders -- including President Lula da Silva of Brazil -- consistently defend Venezuela. In Venezuela, the economy (real GDP) has grown by 87 percent since the government got control over its national oil industry in early 2003; poverty has been cut by half.

Venezuelans have repeatedly elected Chavez for the same reasons Americans are voting for Barack Obama -- they see him as representing hope, and change, in a region that needs both.



Blogger Robert Rouse said...

GREAT POST! I'll make sure I use this on today's edition of the Blog World Report.

3:03 PM  
Blogger jsb said...

And Chavez has "great respect" for FARC. That ain't made up, he said it. The mask is fallen. You don't support the FARC, do you?

4:29 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

He's also said that he disagrees with FARC's tactics. He wants to change them away from violence and onto the political path. He claims he could convince them if given the chance by colombia. Colombia has committed itself to receiving billions from Washington to continue the war, so war will go on. FARC and ELN (with help from Cuba) seems to be positioning itself for a peace agreement, but Uribe must drop his arrogence.

9:26 AM  

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