Wrong Numbers

Distorting Venezuela’s record on poverty

One charge that U.S. media have hurled at Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez—that poverty has worsened under his administration—seems tailored to alienate the populist leader from his natural supporters. Isn’t Chávez a leftist? Aren’t his policies pro-poor? progressives may wonder. What about all that oil wealth? Is this really true? No, it’s not. But that doesn’t stop the media from printing misinformation about poverty in Venezuela. It isn’t that opinion writers and editorial editors used false statistics or made errors in their calculations—in most cases, they used the Venezuelan government’s own statistics, as many editorials pointed out. Instead, they used old […]


Mark Weisbrot on Venezuela's Chavez referendum, Jonathan Rintels on digital broadcasting

Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez resoundingly defeated a referendum aimed at recalling him from office this past week. But will that change U.S. media's consistent portrayal of Chavez as an unpopular dictator? We'll hear from Venezuela-watcher Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Also on the show: Broadcasters and cable companies are fighting over what should be done with the airwaves, or spectrum, freed up by the changeover to digital technology. Who's missing from the discussion? Well, everybody else. We'll talk with Jonathan Rintels of the Center for Creative Voices in Media […]


Spotlighting (Some) Venezuela Killings

Deaths during pro-Chavez protests don't interest New York Times

If you followed mainstream U.S. news coverage of the recent coup in Venezuela, you probably know that people were killed during the April 11 demonstrations against President Hugo Chavez. You also heard those killings cited as a justification for removing Chavez from office. But if you relied on the New York Times for news, you might have missed the fact that even more people were killed on the coup regime's watch—during the pro-Chavez protests that led to Chavez's April 14 return to power. The Associated Press (4/14/02) reported 40 confirmed deaths over the course of the coup, with 16 of […]


U.S. Papers Hail Venezuelan Coup as Pro-Democracy Move

When elements of the Venezuelan military forced President Hugo Chávez from office in April, the editorial boards of several major U.S. newspapers, following the U.S. government's lead, greeted the news with enthusiasm. In an April 13 editorial, the New York Times triumphantly declared that Chávez's "resignation" meant that "Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator." Conspicuously avoiding the word "coup," the Times explained that Chávez "stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader." Calling Chávez "a ruinous demagogue," the Times offered numerous criticisms of his policies and urged speedy new elections, […]


New York Times Changes Take on Colombian Death Squads

Extra! Update April 2004

In January, the already bleak human rights situation in Colombia was reported to be in a state of "alarming degradation," according to United Nations human rights observers (Associated Press, 1/20/01). A joint report from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Washington Office on Latin America ("Colombia Human Rights Certification II," 1/01) found that "political violence has marked­ly increased" since the first installment of the U.S.'s $1.3 billion Plan Colombia aid package was dispersed in August. There were 26 massacres in the first half of January alone, claiming the lives of perhaps 170 people (Associated Press, 1/20/01). The killings were […]


Our Man in Bolivia

AP correspondent resigns amid major conflicts

The Associated Press' long-time Bolivia correspondent, Peter McFarren, resigned late last year after his extensive involvement in Bolivian politics was revealed. What is still unclear, however, is why AP allowed someone with so many conflicts of interest to be a correspondent in the first place. The Internet-based Narco News Bulletin (10/6/00) was the first to reveal that McFarren personally lobbied the Bolivian legislature in September 2000 on behalf of a corporate water project. Some of the profits from the Bolivian Hydro-Resources Corporation’s $78 million project would go to a foundation created and presided over by McFarren. Narco News called McFarren, […]


On Guatemala, 'The Press Has Blood on Its Hands'

An interview with Allan Nairn

Allan Nairn--Photo Credit: Democracy Now!

More than 200,000 Guatemalan civilians were killed or disap­peared during 36 years of civil war ending in 1996, according to a report from the Guatemalan Historical Clarification Commission released in February. The nine-volume, 3,500-page report found that U.S. assistance was a key factor in human rights violations during the armed conflict. Yet Guatemala's human rights ordeal has been almost invisible in U.S. press coverage. FAIR'S CounterSpin (3/4/99) talked about press coverage of the report and of Guatemala with Allan Nairn, who reported extensively from that country in the early 1980s—a period, according to the report, when the Guatemalan government was […]


'Noriega Offered His Usual Damp, Limp Handshake to Bush's Firm Grip'

For sheer propaganda, high marks go to Newsweek's Noriega cover story (1/15/90), featuring excerpts from a book about Noriega by Wall Street Journal reporter Frederick Kempe. The book and its author were much touted by the media during the invasion. Some highlights: HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ELLIOTT ABRAMS. "By the summer of 1985, the State Department's new assistant secretary of state for Latin American affairs, Elliott Abrams, began to believe that Noriega's help for the Contras was overestimated and his general harm to democracy and human rights was underestimated. Abrams had come out of State's human rights office...." Abrams hardly "came […]