Sunday’s election in Venezuela saw Vice President (or “Hugo Chavez’s hand-picked successor,” as he’s known to many in the corporate media) Nicolas Maduro narrowly defeat opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.
And thus USA Today (4/16/13) gives readers a quick recap of the Chavez legacy:
Supporters of Capriles, 40, an athletic state governor, felt sure he would end Chávez’s left-wing Bolivarian Revolution, which has left Venezuela with high unemployment, soaring inflation, food shortages and falling petroleum production in a country with the world’s highest proven oil reserves. Its $30 billion fiscal deficit is equal to about 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
By that score, Venezuela must also have an especially ill-informed populace. If this is the objective record of the Chavez years, how on Earth did he win so many elections?
Perhaps because Venezuelans know a different reality. As noted by FAIR, poverty was cut in half from 2002-10; extreme poverty was even more dramatic. Access to healthcare and free education increased. As Mark Weisbrot argued in the Guardian, this record was a notable turnaround from the pre-Chavez years.
Unemployment is currently estimated to be 8 percent in Venezuela–but it was above 14 percent when Chavez took office in 1999. Inflation is estimated at 20.9 percent–but it peaked near 120 percent in 1996.
That’s not to say there aren’t significant problems in the country. But a news report that chooses to ignore this part of the Chavez legacy is a bit like saying Venezuelans have been fooled about the state of their own lives.