Guest post by Frank Moraes
Ed. note : This is Frank’s fifth guest spot for us (in addition to live-blogging the debate with us last night). You can find his first, on the recent 60 Minutes interviews with Obama and Romney, here; his second, on European monetary policy and Spanish austerity, here; his third, on conservative desperation, here; and his fourth, on Romney’s Santa phony Santa routine, here.
As for this post, on Hugo Chavez’s re-election in Venezuela, I can’t say I’m in complete agreement with Frank. I’ve never much cared for Chavez, and I’ve got the posts to prove it (see this one, with links to others) — I’ve noted his use of “salami tactics” to acquire authoritarian power and referred to him as The Tyrant of Caracas. But I’m a fair-minded guy, and there’s certainly something to be said for the abject ignorance of the American media when it comes to Venezuela (as with so much else), and Frank makes a good case here.
Question: How many U.S. newspapers does it take to predict the Venezuelan presidential election?
Answer: Predict it wrong? All of them!
Maybe it’s just because I’m some godless socialist, but I think Hugo Chavez has been pretty good for Venezuela. There is no subject on which the mainstream media are more clearly biased. I get the impression we’re supposed to think that Chavez is some evil despot like Saddam Hussein or Charles Taylor. But to me, he seems like a democratic socialist.
I was most struck by this when Chavez tried to get a constitutional amendment to eliminate the presidential term limit. The U.S. media reported that the amendment was to make him “president for life.” Amazing. But then, when the amendment failed by a really small number of votes, Chavez was asked if he would contest the results. He replied that he wouldn’t because he didn’t want the constitution amended unless the country was really behind it. How did the media respond? He must have some evil socialist plot!
Contrast this to President Bush, who at that time had the 50%-plus-one vote strategy — the idea being that the narrowest of margins gave him a mandate to screw roughly half the nation. In this case, who seems like the statesman: Bush or Chavez? I realize that Bush doesn’t set the bar very high. But Bush is always treated with respect by the mainstream media. The same cannot be said about Chavez.
Before anyone starts yelling at me that Chavez did this or that: stop! I don’t doubt that Chavez is imperfect. I remember his infamous “Bush is Satan” speech at the U.N. But that is not what the U.S. media coverage of him is about. Chavez is a socialist. But that isn’t it either. He’s an advocate of the working class. But that isn’t it either. He’s nationalized industries and that has hurt profits for various corporations. Bingo!
Further, I really don’t want to hear from people who know Chavez only through U.S. media coverage. It is clearly biased. No pretense is made at objectivity. If anyone can send me even to typical he said / she said coverage of Chavez, I will be grateful. And surprised.
Under Chavez, poverty fell to 31.6 percent at the end of 2011 from about 50 percent when he first took office. Extreme poverty declined to 8.5 percent from about 20 percent over the same period. Venezuela has the lowest level of inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the United Nations.
But coming from Business Week, this is probably meant as an indictment.
Yes! Mark Weisbrot writing in The Guardian: “Why the US demonises Venezuela’s democracy.” The subtitle is, “Venezuela is about to hold impeccably free and fair elections. Yet the US treats it as a dictatorship.” Go read it. It’s good.
(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)