The Venezuelan Elections and The Irish Times

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This article is a response to an Irish Times editorial published on the 3rd of Oct. Apologies to Robert who sent it on the 4th for only publishing it now. It’s appropriate though, seeing as Chavez has won the election to be reminded of what the Irish Times thinks of the current and ongoing Venezuelan President.

The October 3rd Irish Times editorial on the Venezuelan elections is just one more in a long series of unbalanced pieces, critical of President Hugo Chavez. Unfortunately, as well being full of unsubstantiated accusations, it is also inaccurate.

In the first paragraph the author describes the economy of Venezuela as “creaking,inefficient nationalised, Soviet-like with corruption and authoritarianism”. With economic growth of 5.6% in the first quarter of 2012 and expected to be at 5% overall for the year, that’s some “creak”. The charge of corruption is not substantiated by any proof or attempt at same. Would the IT use the same standards when reporting on Irish politicians?

So far, the major corruption item in the lead up to the election is a video which has emerged of a top campaign aide of Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski covertly accepting 40,000 bolivars (US $9,300) and offering to set up a meeting between Capriles and an unknown businessman.

In the next paragraph “A frailer Chavez” is contrasted with the “energetic pragmatic young state governor Henrique Capriles”.This is the same man who was part of an attack on the Cuban embassy in Baruta, in which the ambassador was trapped, during the attempted coup in 2002. He was also mayor of Baruta when the police force and coup backers arrested the democratically elected Minister of the Interior.

In the following paragraph it’s stated that Capriles has made the rampant violence in the country with one of the highest murder and kidnapping rates in the world a central issue. Unfortunately the state of which he was governor happened, during his time in office, to be the state with the worst record for these crimes.

Adding to his problems is an internal document leaked to the Venezuelan press revealing Capriles economic policy. The document by the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD),  an alliance of opposition parties, states that should it’s candidate (Capriles) win the presidential elections, it plans the deregulation of banks, opening up the economy to private investment and the reduction of state funding for public services and communal council projects. We in Ireland have first hand knowledge of this sort of programme and where it leads.

The article states that “the Barrio Adentro programme that saw the creation of thousands of free public clinics in poor neighbourhoods, is in trouble”, again an unsubstantiated claim.

I searched the IT in vain for any articles on the coup against the democratically elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya in 2009. This country has now joined Colombia at the top of the Latin American league for human rights abuses. My search did, however find a number of articles on the wonderous business advances in Honduras made by Denis O’Brien’s Digicell group.

The editorial ends with the now long disproven lie about Chavez’s association with the Colombian rebels. Then the word “regime” is used in connection with countries such as Iran and Belarus. I’ve never seen this word used in the IT to describe those in charge of the occupation of Palestinian lands. Finally, Brazil’s former president Lula and his economic model is mentioned. Capriles, also tried to enlist Lula’s name in his own campaign. Unfortunately for Capriles, Lula would have nothing to do with him and endorsed Hugo Chavez.

We all know that opinion polls can get things wrong and we don’t know for certain who is going to win this election but I question the source of the IT’s affirmation that this is going to be a close race. The results of 11 polls, all show Chavez having a lead. Some of these are opposition polls and some are showing the lead as high as 10%. Could the IT make public the source of or reasoning for making this statement?

The whole piece seems to rely on hearsay and personal prejudices, which are not the hallmarks of
good journalism. It even seems to be at odds with the IT’s own Latin American correspondent, Tom Hennigan, who in his column on the previous day had been unable to find any trace of food shortages. Maybe the writer should pay more attention to the articles in his own paper.

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3 Responses

  1. William Wall

    October 8, 2012 1:16 pm

    A brilliant riposte, Robert. I would like to see the Irish Times act like a proper newspaper and stand up its arguments or withdraw them. I doubt very much that this will happen. What passes for journalism there is more properly described as churnalism – the recycling of press releases and ring-arounds to their favourites in industry and business. We are badly served by our print and broadcast media in Ireland. Fortunately, we have ILR and a handful of other sources to turn to.

  2. Robert Navan

    October 8, 2012 10:24 pm

    Thanks William. I agree with you about the Irish Left Review. The only pity is, that it doesn’t come in a print version. Then I would have something worth reading over breakfast. I think the real story about the Venezuelan elections is, the almost universal touting in the Wesern media, of it as a close contest and even claims that Capriles was ahead at various times. Thi,s in spite of every reputable poll showing the opposite. Are we looking at bad journalism or a campaign? Many months ago the Venezuelan government was expressing fears about the opposition not accepting the election result and these kind of media articles would certainly help their case. Fortunately the government and some alternative media outlets flagged these concerns so well, that it seems that it couldn’t work as a tactic.

  3. Siusaidh

    October 9, 2012 1:02 am

    Brazilian analyst Pepe Escobar a few days ago described Hugo Chavez as the most demonized national leader in the world. Which is saying a hell of a lot. Here in Canada, even the ‘liberal’ CBC never deviates from blatantly unbalanced reports. On the Right, the insults of Chavez – hoping for his death from cancer, etc. – are truly disgusting. All this for daring to not bow down to the only superpower and to run a version of capitalism – not socialism, capitalism – which lifts people out of extreme poverty and reduces the illiteracy rate to nearly zero. Such is the fascistic mindset which dominates the countries of ‘the West’ today.