Sunday, December 02, 2007

The other side of Chavez

By Libby

The good citizens of Venezuela are going to the polls today to decide whether the proposed changes to their constitution should be made. According to Daniel at this blog, who which appears to side with the opposition is anti-Chavez, turnout appears to be low.

I have no idea how that will impact the tally and to forestall the usual storm of criticism whenever I so much as mention Hugo's name, I'm not taking a position either way on the outcome. My main interest is in how the media coverage of this story had unfolded. My inbox has been filling up with alternative analysis on the situation and I'm merely going to pass them on, unremarked, in the interests of giving the opposing view a fair hearing.

Gregory Wilpert at has a good piece that includes this observation.
While there are negative or not-so-good aspects of the reform, which for the most part involve giving the president some more powers, the Venezuelan president, even after the reform, is still does not have as much institutional power as the U.S. president. On the other hand, in the process of focusing on the centralizing aspects of the reform, most observers willfully miss the ways in which the positive aspects of the upcoming reform have the potential to make Venezuelan political life more in tune with the interests of the country's mostly poor majority.
Dan Feder, whom I know personally and trust to be a fair observer, busts the myths perpetrated by the main stream media including links to the legacy media he critiques.

Hugh O'Shaughnessy at the New Statesman notes the UN Economic Commission for Latin America issued a report that states in part: "Thanks to rapid GDP growth and the ongoing implementation of broad social programmes, in 2006 alone the poverty rate was lowered from 37.1% to 30.2% and the indigence [extreme poverty] rate from 15.9% to 9.9%." Venezuela was, the UN said, well on the way to reaching its first Millennium Development Goal."

Michael Fox at looks at the tactics of the opposition and finds a two page anti-Chavez spread in the local media "was actually placed by the Cámara de Industriales del estado Carabobo (The Carabobo State Chamber of Industry). "
The CIEC is a 71 year-old organization, headquartered in the Carabobo state capital of Valencia, which groups together more than 250 businesses in the region. Among those are dozens of subsidiaries which compose literally a who's who list of some of the largest and most powerful US corporations, including (among others): Ford, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, Bridgestone Firestone, Goodyear, Alcoa, Shell, Pfizer, Dupont, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Novartis, Unilever, Heinz, Johnson & Johnson, Citibank, Colgate Palmolive, DHL and Owens Illinois.
Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. writes in the New Statesman.
There are other amendments that are more controversial, most of them added not by Chavez but by the National Assembly (Chavez cannot veto amendments added by the Assembly; these have to go to the voters). [...]

In any case, the voters will decide, with a far stronger opposition media than exists in the United States proselytising against the government. Venezuelans have not lost civil liberties the way people in the U.S. (or even the UK) have in recent years, and ordinary citizens continue to have more say in their government, and share more in its oil wealth, than ever before. It is doubtful that the referendum will reverse these changes, regardless of the outcome.
And finally, I would send you to Charles Hardy, a former Catholic missionary who has lived in Venezuela for decades and whom I also know personally. I can't speak for the quality of his analysis, but I can tell you unequivocally that he's an extraordinarily honest man.

As I said in a previous post, I have not been following Venezuelan politics closely for some time now. I have no interest in either defending or demonizing Chavez. But I don't think the full story has been told in the US by a long shot. As Weisbrot put it.
That's because the mainstream media generally abandons quaint notions of balance and objectivity when reporting on Venezuela. Curiously, this often extends to left-of-centre newspapers not known to slavishly follow the Bush administration's lead when reporting on other oil states where regime change is either sought, Iran, or in process, Iraq.
I share his bemusement. I'm also puzzled by how many progressive thinkers I know that accept the mainstream narrative with so little skepticism. All I know for certain myself, is that I trust Charles and Dan's objectivity a whole lot more than the word of a partisan hack like Juan Forero, who makes his living dining at the trough of the oligarchs.

No comments: