Nov 01 2006

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 […]

Nov 01 2006

Imperial Projection

Fearing Chávez’s carrot, ignoring Bush’s stick

The horror with which U.S. television personalities and newspaper columnists have responded to the Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s skewering of George W. Bush at the United Nations is just the latest in a long series of media portrayals of Chávez as a destabilizing force in the hemisphere. While op-ed pages scarcely mention the Bush administration’s continued interference in the internal affairs of Latin American countries, they regularly proffer unsubstantiated claims of meddling by Chávez, failing to recognize the hypocrisy of their selective indignation. Ironically, the op-ed pages’ accusations of international meddling by the Chávez government are often inconsistent with the […]

Nov 01 2006

Corrupt Data

Taking on the claim that Chávez is on the take

Accusing Latin American politicians of corruption is one of the most common ways to discredit them. President Hugo Chávez himself came into office accusing the entire political class in Venezuela of corruption, which made him very popular with many voters, who were tired of seeing their country slipping into poverty despite its enormous oil wealth. It should thus come as no surprise, now that Chávez has been in office for nearly eight years, that Chávez’s opponents at home and abroad should use this charge against him. A recent Newsweek article (7/31/06), for example, stated that Chávez has “fanned the same […]

Aug 20 2004

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 […]

Jul 01 2002

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 […]

Jun 01 2002

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, […]

Apr 01 2001

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 […]

Feb 01 2001

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, […]