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Opinion and Analysis: Media Watch | Venezuelan Media

The Washington Post Relies on False Statements when Criticizing Venezuela’s Chavez

Summary

Since the election of Hugo Chávez as President of Venezuela in 1999, the Washington Post’s editorial page has run 41 editorials, Op-Eds, Columns, and Letters containing substantive mention of Venezuela. Of these, 25 have been editorials written by the Post editorial board itself.

  • 15 of the editorials have been outright hostile to the government.
  • 3 presented a negatively biased view of Venezuela.
  • 7 were fair.

The last time the Post editorial board wrote an editorial that can be characterized as fair or balanced was July 2002.

The problem is not that the Washington Post editorial board is critical of Hugo Chávez—indeed, there is ample reason to question many of the administration’s policies. Rather, the problem is that the Post’s editorial board has failed to confine itself to the facts when criticizing the current government of Venezuela. Since 1998, the Post’s editors have at various times alleged that Hugo Chávez has:

  • Ruled in authoritarian manner
  • Attempted to destroy the private sector and establish state control over the economy
  • Muzzled the press
  • Taken political prisoners
  • Provoked a coup against himself
  • Ordered police to fire on unarmed demonstrators
  • Supported insurgents in Colombia
  • Imported Cubans to assist in the indoctrination of poor Venezuelans
  • Personally re-written the constitution in order to expand his own powers

These allegations are simply not true. In the future, when the Washington Post’s editorial board feels the need to weigh in on Venezuelan issues, its arguments would be much more convincing if they refrained from making false statements.

Support for The 2002 Coup

Perhaps the most significant example of the Washington Post editorial board’s biased view of event in Venezuela is their continuing support for the 2002 coup.

In an editorial on Sunday, 14 April 2002, the editorial board blamed Hugo Chávez for his own downfall—“the violation of democracy that led to the ouster of President Hugo Chavez Thursday night was initiated not by the army but by Mr. Chavez himself”—and offered support for the coup leaders, noting that their transition plan was “clearly intended to restore democracy,” despite its abolition of every one of Venezuela’s democratic institutions.

The Washington Post editorial board continues to maintain that the coup is the fault of Hugo Chávez. As recently as 13 December 2003, the editorial board insisted that Hugo Chávez “triggered an ultimately unsuccessful coup against himself by ordering police and the military to attack opposition demonstrations.”

It is worth pointing out that this analysis of the coup contradicts not only the reporting of almost every major U.S. newspaper, but also the Washington Post’s own reporting on the events of April 2002. In an April 14 article (“Acting Leader Of Venezuela Steps Down; Term Ends After One Day As Pro-Chavez Protests Grow”), the Post’s Andean correspondent Scott Wilson wrote:

According to active and retired members of the military and members of the new government, the decision to force Chavez from power was made six months ago by a group of dissident officers in the Venezuelan navy and air force. But what Venezuela's new government has characterized as a spontaneous popular uprising to depose an autocratic president was a far more organized effort, joining dissident members of the military with strikers at the state oil company and the leading business and labor groups.
[. . . ]
The new government includes many of the dissident officers, who understood the U.S. State Department's repeated statements of concern over the Chavez administration as a tacit endorsement of their plans remove him from office if the opportunity arose. That chance presented itself last week, and the dissident officers began to coordinate with the strike leaders. They used a group of retired military officers who have opposed Chavez since his election as a conduit.

"There had to be a justification for the armed forces to step in," said Fernando Ochoa, Venezuela's defense minister at the time of Chavez's coup attempt and a member of the retired officers group called the Institutional Military Front. "The officers shared this idea with civil society."

The same article by Scott Wilson also contradicts claims by the Washington Post editorial board that Hugo Chávez ordered police to fire on unarmed demonstrators and presided over a bloodbath:

At about that time, shots rang out on the smoke-filled streets around the presidential palace where protesters were in a skirmish with police and National Guard troops. Along with the dead, more than 100 people were wounded in gunfire that some witnesses have said appeared to be an exchange, rather than one-way firing on the crowd by security forces and Chavez supporters.

Vilification of the Venezuelan Government

Virtually every time the Washington Post editorial board has addressed the situation in Venezuela, they have made hostile statements about the current government. Even articles that can be characterized as balanced condemn the government in harsh terms. Examples of the Post’s unwarranted vilification include:

“Eye on Mr. Chávez” 13 December 2003

False Allegations of Authoritarianism

The Post accuses Chávez of being “quasi-authoritarian” and asserts, “No one doubts that Mr. Chavez is capable of violence.” Facts contradict these accusations:

  • Hugo Chávez has been elected twice, first by 56 percent of the electorate and the second time by 60 percent of voters.
  • In 1998, Chávez called a referendum on whether or not to convene a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution. 92 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of convening a Constituent Assembly.
  • Venezuelans then elected a Constituent Assembly that wrote a new constitution. After the popularly elected Assembly drafted a new constitution, another plebiscite was held on whether or not to adopt the proposed document.
  • All of these elections were ruled to be legitimate by international monitoring organizations.
  • Even now, Chávez’s opponents control 48 percent of the seats in Venezuela’s congress.
  • The press in Venezuela is overwhelmingly anti-Chávez. Harsh criticisms of the government appear in newspapers, on the radio, and on television on a daily basis.
  • Opponents of Hugo Chávez regularly hold huge street demonstrations, apparently without fear of reprisal.
  • The respected Venezuelan human rights organization PROVEA notes that, since Chávez took office in 1998, the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators has declined steadily.

Indeed, the very fact that foes of Hugo Chávez organized a massive drive to gather signatures on a recall petition disproves claims that Chávez is a quasi-authoritarian prone to use violence. Would an authoritarian allow such a democratic exercise to be carried out unhindered? Both the OAS and the Carter Center have issued statements saying that the signature drive was carried out without interference from Mr. Chávez. If the Venezuelan president is truly the violent authoritarian the Post claims, this would not be the case.

False Statement about the Press Freedom in Venezuela

The December 13 editorial accused Chávez of having “trampled on the . . . independent media.”

First, it is inaccurate to characterize Venezuela’s media as “independent.” It is certainly independent of the government. But every major television station, every major radio station, and most major newspapers frankly declare their opposition to the Chávez administration. The role of the media in the April 11, 2002 coup has been well documented. Human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized the private media for their lack of objectivity and explicit partisan agenda. Given this overt partisanship, it is unclear in what sense the Washington Post’s editorial board considers the Venezuelan media to be “independent.”

Regardless, while Chávez has often criticized Venezuelan private media, human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly confirmed that the controversial president has never repressed the opposition press. Indeed, when Chávez supporters have attacked and harassed employees of the private media, the president has called on them to stop. This is in sharp contrast to other Latin American governments. For example, deposed Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada closed several major television stations and newspapers when they called for his resignation. Ecuadorian President Lucio Gutierrez has attempted to strengthen libel laws and impose licensing requirements that would infringe on press freedoms. In Colombia, as recently as December 6, 2003, a newspaper columnist was jailed for insulting public officials. Chile’s excessively strong libel laws have made Chilean newspapers hesitant to publicize allegations of human rights abuses by General Augusto Pinochet’s government, for fear of a libel suit by the former dictator and his supporters.

It is fair to say that Chávez’s relationship with the private—but by no means independent—media has been acrimonious, but to say he has trampled on the independent media is simply wrong. Indeed, Chávez has shown remarkable restraint given that the press in Venezuela has abandoned the norms of modern journalism by becoming openly partisan and even deceiving the public about important issues—for example, accusing the government of high-profile killings.

Repeating Dubious Allegations of Cuban Indoctrination as Fact

The Dec. 13 editorial also asserted that “Opposition media report that thousands of Cubans have entered the country in recent months and are busy organizing the president's strongholds.”

The opposition frequently alleges that Cuban doctors in Venezuela are indoctrinating poor Venezuelans and building dangerous pro-Chávez organizations; however, as journalists from international media outlets invariably note, there is no evidence to support such allegations. Reporters from major newspapers, including the Miami Herald, the BBC, the St. Petersburg Times, and the Washington Post have extensively investigated the Cuban Doctors program, and found no indication that the doctors are indoctrinating poor Venezuelans or training some sinister Chavista army. If the Washington Post’s editors do in fact have evidence that the Cubans are engaged in political activities, they should make that evidence available to the public, as well as to their own Caracas correspondent.

Problematic Analysis of the Venezuelan Economy

The Dec. 13 editorial goes on to say that Venezuelans are desperate to recall Chávez “before he can do any more damage to the country” and later says that “over the past five years [Chávez] has triggered an implosion of the Venezuelan economy.” There are many valid criticisms of Chávez’s economic policies, but to say that he has single-handedly destroyed Venezuela’s economy is simply false. Venezuela’s economy has been in decline since the late 1970s. During the mid-1990s, when Chávez’s opponents held power in Venezuela, the country had the highest inflation in the western hemisphere and was wracked by a massive banking crisis, which the government badly mismanaged. While the most radical of Chávez’s opponents regularly accuse him of destroying the economy, such accusations are not supported by fact.

Indeed, the single most damaging event for the Venezuelan economy was the 64-day oil strike and business lock-out staged by the opposition in early 2003 in hopes of unseating Mr. Chávez. Because of the stoppage, the Venezuelan economy contracted a shocking 18.5 percent in the first half of 2003. In some ways, it would be more accurate to say that the opposition has “triggered the implosion of the Venezuela economy.”

Misunderstanding of the Electoral Process

Discussing the possible recall of Hugo Chávez, the Dec. 13 editorial says, “The main obstacle, predictably, is Mr. Chavez.”

It is unclear why the Washington Post’s editors believe Chávez should not work against the recall. It would be ridiculous to expect Hugo Chávez not to campaign against his own recall. No one expected California Governor Gray Davis to simply accept the recall challenge against him. Politicians in democratic political systems are expected to compete, not to simply yield to any potential challenger.

Ignoring Evidence of Fraud

According to the editorial, “He accused the petition-gatherers of "megafraud," though he produced no evidence.”

Hugo Chávez has offered various pieces of evidence--notably audiotapes and eyewitness testimony-- to back up his allegations of opposition electoral fraud. The editors of the Washington Post may find this evidence unconvincing, but to say that Chávez has presented “no evidence” is simply false and merits a written correction.

“Let Venezuela Vote” 31 August 2003

QUOTE:

“For years Venezuelans have debated whether President Hugo Chavez is prepared to impose his quasi-socialist "Bolivarian revolution" on the country by force or will respect the country's increasingly fragile democratic rules.”

COMMENT:

This is an extremely inaccurate characterization of Hugo Chavez’s economic policies and political ideology. To cite only one example, the Chavez administration has reversed years of Venezuelan policy by completely opening the natural gas sector to private investment and awarding concessions to American corporations. A very aggressive program of low interest loans for small and medium-size businesses hardly fits the definition of "socialism" that the Post refers to. Chavez may play baseball with Fidel Castro, but rather than fitting Castro’s version of socialism, his policies can better be defied as social democratic.

QUOTE:

“The real danger is that the president, who once attempted a military coup, will block the vote by fraud or force. Already he claims, without evidence, that the petition signatures are falsified.”

COMMENT:

During the last four and a half years, President Chavez and his government have used only peaceful, constitutional means to pursue their goals. Chavez opponents, on the other hand, have repeatedly tried to overthrow the government by illegal and even violent methods. The recent past suggests that there is little danger Chavez will use force against his opponents, but a good chance that they will resort to violence with little or no provocation.

QUOTE:

“Violence against opposition supporters, including shootings and bombings, has happened before and could return.”

COMMENT:

Absolutely no evidence has ever been found to link Hugo Chávez to violence against members of the opposition.

“A Vote on Mr. Chavez” 12 June 2003

QUOTE:

“Mr. Chavez, in turn, continues to behave as if he has no intention of giving up his attempt to push through a quasi-totalitarian, quasi-socialist "revolution," regardless of what his people may want.”

COMMENT:

Again, it is unclear what evidence the Washington Post editorial board had to support their claim that Chávez is a “quasi-authoritarian.”

It is also unclear on what basis the Washington Post editorial board characterizes Hugo Chávez’s political program as “quasi-socialist.” As an April 22, 2002 Los Angeles Times article (“Rapid Fire Coup Caught Chávez Foes off Guard” by Hector Tobar, Patrick J. McDonnell, and Paul Richter) noted:

Despite a rhetoric that borrowed heavily from Marxist ideology, Chavez did not nationalize any businesses, or do much to better the lot of the overwhelming number of Venezuelans who are poor. When the country slid into a recession last year, Chavez slashed government spending, following the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund.

QUOTE:

“Not surprisingly, Mr. Chavez is throwing up obstacles. He recently suggested that referendums on a number of mayors and provincial governors would have to be held first, and he has refused to agree on the composition of an electoral commission that must supervise the referendum.”

COMMENT:

This seems to suggest that it is improper for an elected official to oppose his own removal from office. More importantly, the claim that Hugo Chávez held up the appointment of a new CNE in the summer of 2003 is simply untrue. The process was held up because the various parties that make up the opposition could not agree on who should represent the opposition on the CNE.

QUOTE:

“Mr. Chavez already has placed a stranglehold on Venezuela's supply of foreign currency, which he is using to choke off imports by the private sector. Gunmen opened fire on a recent opposition rally.”

COMMENT:

The statement that “Gunmen opened fire at a recent opposition rally” is a non-sequeteur. Placing it directly after the claim that Chávez is manipulating the sale of foreign exchange is clearly intended to imply that Chávez himself is responsible for the violence. Six months later, absolutely no evidence has been found to link Chávez or his supporters to the shootings. If the Post’s editorial board has such evidence, they should make it public.

“Meddle With Mr. Chavez” 2 March 2003

QUOTE:

“Mr. Chavez, who was elected president after promising a socialist revolution for Venezuela's poor majority, might talk about confiscating property, supporting leftist guerrillas in neighboring Colombia or admiring Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein, but in practice he mostly remained within democratic boundaries.”

COMMENT:

The Venezuelan opposition and right-wing groups in the United States have frequently alleged that Hugo Chávez has supported the Colombian guerrillas; however, no evidence has ever been found to support such claims. Contrary to what this editorial suggested, he has NEVER made a statement voicing support for the FARC or the ELN.

QUOTE:

“Having survived a strike by his opposition, Mr. Chavez has proclaimed 2003 the "year of the offensive"; so far he has taken steps to bring the economy under state control, eliminate independent media and decapitate the opposition. One of the strike's three top leaders has been arrested, while another has gone into hiding. Even more disturbing have been the unexplained murder of three dissident soldiers and an anti-Chavez protester and the explosion of bombs outside the Colombian and Spanish embassies. Government officials have denied responsibility, but these acts, too, followed Mr. Chavez's words: his labeling of dissident officers as "traitors" and his attacks on Colombia and Spain for ‘meddling.’”

COMMENTS:

It is unclear what actions the Post’s editorial board is referring to. Chávez has done little to bring the economy under state control. Indeed, he has employed joint ventures to expand the participation of multinational corporations like CheveronTexaco in the exploitation of Venezuela’s oil and gas resources. While the government imposed foreign exchange controls during the strike, those controls hardly suggest a drive to “bring the economy under state control.”

As mentioned above, the claim the Chávez has tried to “eliminate the independent media” is totally without foundation. One only need visit Venezuela and turn on the television to see the broad press freedom that exists in Venezuela. As recently as May 2003, Human Rights Watch affirmed that:

There are few obvious limits on free expression in Venezuela. The country's print and audiovisual media operate without restrictions. Most are strongly opposed to President Chávez and express their criticism in unequivocal and often strident terms. No journalists are in prison for exercising their profession, and there have been few criminal prosecutions or successful civil suits against journalists in recent years.

While pro-Chávez lawmakers have proposed controversial new media regulations, those regulations have never come close to being approved, and have been the subject of vigorous and open debate both inside and outside of Venezuela.

The argument that the arrest of strike leaders constitutes an attempt to “decapitate the opposition” is equally baseless. The strike in Venezuela was found by the courts to be illegal. Such a labor action would have been found illegal in the U.S., first because its leaders were making political demands unrelated to salary, benefits, or working conditions, and second, because in the United States, federal workers do not have the right to strike. Thus, to characterize the arrest of individuals who led an illegal strike that cost the Venezuelan economy billions of dollars as political repression is patently unfair.

Furthermore, the Post’s suggestion that Chávez was behind the bombing was totally unfounded. No evidence EVER came to like tying the government to the 2003 embassy bombings.

QUOTE:

“Mr. Chavez appears to have tired of his half-baked populism; now he seems prepared to destroy what remains of civil society and the private sector. He placed strict controls on foreign currency and has vowed to take away the licenses of private television stations that supported the opposition. He fired 16,000 employees of Venezuela's state oil company -- the country's economic lifeline -- and moved to bring an institution long known for its professionalism under his personal control. Independent economists are forecasting a catastrophic drop in Venezuela's economic output this year; some foresee the virtual disappearance of the private sector. That would bring Venezuela far closer to Cuba, which maybe shouldn't be a surprise: Mr. Castro, who is Mr. Chavez's closest ally, reportedly has dispatched thousands of officials to Venezuela.”

COMMENT:

These allegations are serious, and totally without merit. No policy undertaken by the Chávez administration could be characterized as an attempt to destroy civil society or the private sector.

Chávez did not threaten to take away the licenses of television stations that supported the opposition—he threatened to take away the licenses of stations that VIOLATED THE LAW, which is very different.

The employees fired from PDVSA were dismissed because the participated in an illegal strike that cost the national economy billions of dollars and pitched the country into the deepest recession in its history. As mentioned above, employees who embarked on a similar course of action in the United States would be treated if anything more harshly than the striking PDVSA workers.

QUOTE:

“But Mr. Chavez knows he would very likely lose a fair vote, and he will likely do everything possible to prevent it. That's why it is essential that the Bush administration join with the "group of friends" to insist that Mr. Chavez release his political prisoners, stop his revolutionary "offensive" and commit to a decisive vote. It may be democracy's last chance.”

COMMENT:

This statement is particularly outrageous. Exactly what political prisoners is the Washington Post’s editorial board referring to? In March 2003, the U.S. State Department’s annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices stated categorically that in Venezuela, “There were no reports of political prisoners.”

“Rescue Venezuela” 29 November 2002

QUOTE:

“Mr. Chavez, a muddled socialist whose closest political ally is Fidel Castro, was himself democratically elected in 1999; he then used a series of referendums and new elections to rewrite the constitution and extend his term until 2007, even as he wrecked Venezuela's economy and antagonized the military and middle class.”

COMMENT:

It is extremely inaccurate to characterize the 1999 constitutional reform process as a re-write by Hugo Chávez.

  • The decision to convene a constituent assembly was made by a plebiscite in which 92 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of the Constituent Assembly.
  • The constituent assembly that wrote the new constitution was democratically elected.
  • After the constituent assembly wrote a draft constitution, a plebiscite was held on whether to adopt the proposed document. 71 percent voted to adopt the new constitution.

While some of these elections were plagued by technical problems, international observers declared that the results of all three were valid and had not been significantly affected by the technical problems. If the Washington Post’s editorial board has evidence that Hugo Chávez somehow manipulated three successive elections and then tricked experienced international into validating the results, then that evidence should be made public. Otherwise, the Post should refrain from making such harsh allegations.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that Venezuela’s new constitution is widely viewed as one of the more progressive in the world. In a 2000 report on the new document, Amnesty International stated, “The 1999 Constitution is an important and significant step forward in terms of human rights.”

“Venezuela's Danger” 11 July 2002

QUOTE:

“The more fundamental problem is that Mr. Chavez's opponents, like the president himself, are not willing to restrict themselves to constitutional and nonviolent means for seeking change.”

COMMENT:

It is unclear on what basis the Washington Post’s editorial board bases its statement that the president is not willing to restrict himself to constitutional and nonviolent means for seeking change. Since the mid-1990s, Hugo Chávez and the various parties and social movements that support him have made every change using peaceful and constitutional means. This is in sharp contrast to the opposition.

QUOTE:

“Channeling dissent into legal avenues, however, will require concessions from Mr. Chavez. After winning an election three years ago, the president set out to concentrate power in his own hands, pushing a series of constitutional referendums and special elections that extended his term in office until 2007. Mr. Chavez ended up trapping himself and the country: His senseless and destructive mix of populist policies has made him intolerable to Venezuela's middle class and business leaders, while his prolonged term has driven the opposition to embrace nondemocratic solutions.”

COMMENT:

It is truly bizarre for the Post to blame Hugo Chávez for the undemocratic actions of the opposition. Even if one takes issue with the constitutional reforms implemented in Venezuela in the late 1990s, they do not justify a military coup or any other extra-constitutional removal of a democratically elected president from office.

To recap, it is simply inaccurate of the Post editorial board to characterize the 1999 constitutional reform process as ploy by Hugo Chávez to extend his term in office and expand the powers of the Executive. Amnesty International’s above-mentioned 2000 report, entitled “Venezuela: Protecting Human Rights; the Task is Not Yet Over,” makes it clear that in many respects, the constitution ratified in 1999 is a significant improvement over it’s predecessor.

“Venezuela's Downward Spiral” 8 December 2001

QUOTE:

“In recent weeks Mr. Chavez imposed some 50 new laws by decree, including measures that drastically raised the royalties imposed on foreign oil companies and threatened large farmers with land confiscations.”

COMMENT:

This portrayal of the Chávez administration’s land reform policies borders on inaccurate. When Chávez took office, the largest 3 percent of farmers held roughly 77 percent of Venezuela’s arable land. Under Chávez’s administration, more than 400,000 poor families have received land. Few would disagree that Chávez’s f land reform initiatives are long overdue in Venezuela.


“Looking South” 16 February 2001

QUOTE:

“Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, has embarked on a course of populist adventurism that could lead his country, an OPEC nation, into serious conflict with its neighbors or with the United States.”

COMMENT:

The claim that Chávez is some kind of regional menace is simply not supported by the facts. At the 2004 Summit of the Americas, the presidents of Brazil, Nicaragua, and Argentina met with Chávez and denounced efforts by the Bush administration to discourage such meetings. As the Post has reported, the current government of Venezuela supplies oil on favorable terms to many of its Caribbean and Central American neighbors, including Haiti, Nicaragua, Jamaica, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic. Is this likely to provoke conflict?

“The Next Fidel Castro” 2 November 2000

QUOTE:

“he has flirted with the leftist opposition in Bolivia and with Colombia's drug-peddling guerrillas. Meanwhile he has used oil to buy influence in Central America and the Caribbean, recently signing a deal to supply 12 countries there with cheap energy. . .

“But Mr. Chavez has now been sounding off against the United States for two years. It would be foolish to assume he won't make trouble where he can; one nightmare scenario has him recognizing the legitimacy of a secessionist state declared by the Colombian rebels.”

COMMENT:

Again, the Post’s claim that Hugo Chávez has “flirted” with Colombian guerrillas is utterly without merit. Chávez met with FARC leaders only at the request of Colombian President Andres Pastrana, who asked Chávez to push the rebels to accept Pastrana’s peace plan. Venezuela has strictly declared neutrality with respect to Colombia’s civil war, and has taken steps to seal its border with Colombia, a very difficult task. Indeed, various Venezuelan officials have repeatedly called on Colombia to INCREASE the number of troops posted on the border.

“Latin Democracy's Decay” 3 June 2000

QUOTE:

“Venezuela, ruled by an authoritarian-minded ex-military officer, is struggling to organize a national election.”

COMMENT:

The Post’s editorial board constantly accuses Hugo Chávez of being “authoritarian-minded” without offering any concrete proof. Venezuela’s checks and balances do not function perfectly, but neither do those in many other Latin American countries.

QUOTE:

“In some places, such as Venezuela and Peru, the public is so fed up with corruption and disorganization that many are willing to submit to an authoritarian or populist leader.”

COMMENT:

The Washington Post has repeatedly compared Hugo Chávez to Alberto Fujimori. Whereas Fujimori abolished Peru’s democratic institutions shortly after taking office, Chávez has adhered to democratic norms since being elected.

“The Venezuelan Lesson” 8 September 1999

QUOTE:

“This time Mr. Chavez is organizing a more modern, democratic coup. His allies in a newly elected constituent assembly recently seized the powers of Venezuela's Congress and declared a "judicial emergency" allowing them to dismiss judges. There is hope that they may soon relent, but the episode has exposed Mr. Chavez's autocratic side. In a radio address Mr. Chavez proclaimed, ‘Order has arrived in Venezuela.’”

COMMENT:

As discussed above, the constitutional reform process was carried out through democratic means. While it was perhaps regrettable that so much power was concentrated in the hands of the constituent assembly, the fact that Hugo Chávez or his supporters in that body did not take advantage of the situation and abuse that power should demonstrate just how questionable the Post’s incessant allegations of authoritarianism are.

QUOTE:

“The Peruvian experience suggests that America and other countries in the region should try to restrain Mr. Chavez.”

COMMENT:

Again, the basis for the parallel between Alberto Fujimori and Hugo Chávez is unclear.

Conclusion

The Washington Post’s editorials have repeatedly contained statements that directly contradict the facts, as established by:

  • The Washington Post’s own reporting
  • The reporting of other U.S. newspapers (New York Times, LA Times, the AP, etc.)
  • Respected human rights monitoring organizations (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the U.S. State Department).
  • Statements by U.S., Colombian, and Venezuelan officials
  • Widely available documentary and video evidence

This issue is not the Washington Post’s frequent criticism of the government of Venezuela. Rather, the issue is one of facts. In the future, it would be appropriate for the Post’s editorials to undergo basic fact checking. Not only would this measure help to maintain the newspaper’s high standards, it would also make the editorial board’s arguments much more compelling.

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