Southern Media Follow the Lead of the North with Regard to Venezuela

At almost a week before the presidential recall referendum, the principal media outlets of Mercosur have begun to adapt and adjust, to the campaign of the Venezuelan opposition.

In a revealing journalistic incident, on 5 August, the Argentine newspaper The Nation headlined its political page with an extensive report on Venezuela edited by its correspondents in Washington.  The article, regarding the Referendum against President Chávez, took as its central argument: win or lose, Chavismo will be the cause of an escalation of violence in Venezuela that will have continental repercussions. 

The newspaper states that Washington and the pan-American community fear that the “Bolivarian Revolution” will be exported. The article reproduces three international surveys, known in Venezuela, that give Chávez an 11 to 25 point advantage in the referendum. But it concludes: “Nothing is determined.” The opinion of the report is that there will be violence caused by Chavismo in the government. It reiterates the warning, made in the tone of an inevitable prison sentence, by the Washington based Council on Hemispheric Affairs: “The opposition will resort to violence if loses.”

Seeking the lost opinion

Because of the importance given to this report and the extensive influence this newspaper has on the public opinion of the Argentina, the article was reproduced and commented on by numerous broadcasters and on several opinion programs.  Records for the media-monitoring agency, MediaData, show that the article was reproduced in 74 morning and 43 midday newscasts, and on 9 network and cable evening news programs; all of them merely echoing the opinion of the original article on Chavismo and Venezuela.

With its assessment of the Recall Referendum, this second- largest Argentine newspaper joined the international opposition campaign to de-legitimize the results of August 15.  This media strategy began as soon as it was evident that Chávez would win the Referendum.  The Nation is a sister of the newspaper El Nacional of Caracas, both belonging to the Network of American Dailies.  In Argentina, it has strong commercial ties to Grupo Planeta, of Madrid, which sells their editorial products.  Gustavo Cisneros joined this family at the beginning of the year with the purchase of 49% of Grupo Planeta. In honor of this occasion, Editorial Planeta published a biographical book called “Global Businessman”.

The Nation of Argentina has a broad influence on the public opinion of the middle class in a society where Chavismo has gained massive sympathy within the poor sectors since the failed coup attempt of April, 2002. Large mass movements such as the piqueteros “hard” and “soft”, the major workers unions such as the General Confederation of Workers (CGT) and the Argentine Worker’s Central (CTA), along with neighborhood assemblies, nationalist parties, cultural organizations and even President Néstor Kirchner, are all in favor of the continuance of the presidential mandate of Hugo Chávez.

What does the media want?

The objective of The Nation’s coverage of the Venezuelan Referendum is to exploit their broad audience’s fear by insisting on the danger of violence represented by the Bolivarian government. Win or lose. At almost a week before the presidential recall referendum, the principal media outlets of Mercosur have begun to adapt and adjust, to the campaign of the Venezuelan opposition. O Globo and Folha, of Brazil, The Mercury, of Santiago de Chile, The Observer, of Montevideo and ABC Colo, of Asuncion, Paraguay, all fall in line behind CNN. On August 3, 2004, the English versions of CNN presented an extensive report on the Venezuelan political process centering on two themes: the possibility to oust Chávez through a referendum and the danger of an escalation in violence.  This was reproduced and adapted for consumption in Latin America and Spain by CNN in Spanish.  This is how the matrix functions. If we review the editorials, opinion articles and journalistic reports of these correspondents and analysts in regards to the Referendum in Venezuela, we find a blatant coincidence among what is said and what is wanted.  All wager on the loss of Chávez August 15.  But as they know that it will be difficult, and so they rely on violence and chaos to justify an international intervention.