Hugo Chavez Keeps Showering the Poor

If I had a nickel for every newspaper article that included language like this about Venezuela, I’d have… a whole lot of nickels, I guess. From Sunday’s Washington Post (2/24/13):

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (Photo: Bernardo Londoy)

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (Photo: Bernardo Londoy)

Using his considerable charisma, Chavez was able to win unconditional support from the poverty-stricken masses as he hollowed out or attacked institutions ranging from the courts to the press.

That permitted him to forge a more direct, personal connection with his followers. With billions of petro dollars under his control, he solidified Chavismo’s reach by doling out jobs to supporters and showering the poor with gifts.

So the poor “unconditionally” support Chavez for attacking the press, and he “showers” them with “gifts.”

There’s a lot to be unpacked in this summary of Chavismo by reporters Juan Forero and Emilia Diaz-Struck. One could point out, for instance, that the private media in Venezuela were instrumental in fomenting the coup that briefly removed Chavez from power (something that he evidently holds against them!).

But it seems like their real problem with Chavez is that he gives away stuff. What do they mean by that?

Venezuela has a state-owned oil company, PDVSA. Under Chavez’s rule, the company must put more money into social programs like healthcare and education. The government has also taken a harder line with foreign-owned private companies doing business in the country. And when he took office, Chavez pushed other OPEC nations to limit production in order to increase the price of oil.

These are policies one might find disagreeable; but in the Chavez years, as best we can tell, these decisions have been enormously beneficial to the public that owns these public resources. But when corporate media write about these policies, they can barely disguise their real feelings–as if the natural order of things would mean that private companies managed the oil industry and captured the profits.

But how likely are you to read a story in a newspaper like the Washington Post about how private oil companies are “showering” themselves with profits gained at the public’s expense?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.