A Roundup of Media Coverage Surrounding the Venezuelan Election

In the run up to the 7 October Venezuelan election, it was reported that President Hugo Chávez would face 'the toughest electoral challenge of his reign' (The Times)1, 'that [would] decide the fate of his socialist revolution and could rearrange the region's balance of power' (Financial Times).2 The election, then, is considered particularly significant. How did the UK media report the event?

By Josh Watts - News Unspun


Former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles and re-elected Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (Reuters)
Former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles and re-elected Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (Reuters)
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The Run-Up and Election Day

Young and Old

In The Observer, exactly one week before the election, we read how 'for the first time in any presidential election since Chávez came to power, the outcome is in doubt' as 'a nation decides whether the revolutionary red beret that has been the trademark of Chávez, 58, during his 14 years in power, will be replaced by the baseball cap of [opposition candidate Henrique] Capriles'.3 Before the election, Rory Carroll (who, as The Guardian’s former South America correspondent, was criticised for his journalism on the region4) offered a somewhat unflattering, arguably mocking profile of Chávez, whose life is a ‘great drama’ and who has ‘dominated Venezuela like a colossus’, ‘creat[ing] a state media empire that [has] promoted a personality cult’. Chávez ‘has proved a . . . disastrous manager’, Carroll writes. (The profile is near identical to a report by Carroll two days after the election (October 9), demonstrating the particular image of Chávez The Guardian and The Observer uniformly convey).5

One persistent theme throughout coverage has been Chávez’s health, as a juxtaposition is drawn between the ‘ageing’ Hugo Chávez and the ‘dynamic young Henrique Capriles’ (who ‘seems a genuinely intelligent and likeable character – and something of an Anglophile to boot’) as Jim Armitage described the candidates in The Independent.6The Observer article, mentioned above, was no exception: Chávez ‘is battling cancer and fighting for his political life’ whilst Capriles, a ‘telegenic young challenger from the right . . . is gaining ground’. ‘After a year of battling cancer, Chávez has been uncharacteristically subdued for much the campaign’, it is explained, ‘while Henrique Capriles has jetted back and forth across the country, drawing vast crowds wherever he goes’. Indeed, the righteous dedication of the candidates, and perhaps even their right to win, it seems, is signified by their individual activities on the campaign trail. The Sunday Times, on 7 October, election day, offered a stark contrast between one seemingly out-dated candidate, and another more modern, hip candidate. ‘Jumping onto the stage at rallies, singing songs and playing an electric guitar [Chávez] inspired an almost religious fervour among his supporters’. ‘With his good looks and an easy-going manner, Capriles has had no difficulty in winning over large crowds and is particularly popular among women. He has turned up at rallies on his motorbike and played basketball in the back streets with young supporters’.7 (The Independent reported that the ‘business-friendly law graduate’, Capriles, ‘typically visits three or four places a day, often joining in basketball games, highlighting his youth and energy’ [my emphasis]).8The Times’ reference to Capriles’ ‘good looks’ tellingly illustrates what counts in Western elections. Indeed, The Telegraph’s Philip Sherwell could barely contain his admiration for the ‘youthful’ Capriles who ‘is an enthusiastic amateur marathon runner and a workaholic who sleeps just four hours a night’, and whose ‘single’ status ‘only adds to his allure to female fans’; he ‘is mobbed, hugged and indeed often groped by adoring women at opposition rallies’.9 With all this in mind, and using such vanity to gauge results, we may conclude, as does The Economist, that ‘Mr Capriles deserves to win’.10 It needn’t be stressed that focus on the age and looks of the candidates results in failure to sufficiently scrutinise the proposed policies of the candidates. Nevertheless, The Times has the audacity to report uncritically upon one ‘conspiracy theory popular among his opponents . . . that Chávez’s illness [cancer, from which he claims to have recovered] might be a myth designed to distract the public’s attention from the country’s problems and to win sympathy. If so, it does not appear to be working’. This final sentence confirms that The Times is content with entertaining such a crass and offensive charge.

Ominous Outlines of Media Control

Another oft-repeated aspect is the discrepancy between the abilities of the two candidates to each wage an effective campaign, that is, the notion that the elections would be ‘free but to fair’, in the words of ‘opposition leaders’. The Economist for example, opened a leader on the elections with an eerie description of state power, describing what The Sunday Times called ‘Chávez’s blatant use of government largesse and manipulation of the media’.11 Whilst The Economist leader has been reviewed previously,12 the theme remains consistent. Writes Girish Gupta in The Sunday Times on election day, painting the president as some sort of gangster: ‘With media, oil money and mobs at his service, Chávez clearly has the advantage’, and ‘It is hard to imagine him meekly surrendering power’.13 These reports fail to note, however, the anti-Chávez slant of private media, which outweighs state media in the country.14

Attacks on Chávez

In a profile on Chávez, in its election day edition, The Sunday Times described how at his final presidential rally, Chávez - the ‘incumbent demagogue’ who ‘makes up policy on the hoof’ and is ‘renowned for his messianic speeches’ – ‘was in overdrive’. Yet the paper put ‘huge’ crowd attendance down to ‘free buses and free beer’. This is clearly a cheap smear which undoubtedly carries connotations offensive to supporters, with the possible intention of undermining the integrity of those voters.

Recognising that Chávez ‘has had a huge impact on a country that was run by a cosy elite before he exploded onto the political scene’ - ‘In the pre-Chávez decades Venezuela was a democracy but power alternated between two parties under a deal that had been struck in the 1950s’ - The Times acknowledged that ‘He has indisputably raised living standards for the poor and given access to healthcare and education to the masses, but he is also been accused of economic mismanagement and the misuse of Venezuela’s oil wealth’.15 This is typical of comments on Chávez. The ‘indisputable’ successes of the Bolivarian Revolution are mentioned - in sometimes contemptuous ways with reference to the ‘downtrodden masses’ (The Independent)16 and the application of oil wealth into social programmes – but are quickly followed by assessments of policy failures, which are awarded more attention, immediately undermining the significance of the acknowledged successes.17 In its report on the election, for example, The Times noted that ‘many regard Chávez as a hero for using more of the country’s oil wealth than his predecessors to help the masses’. This is undermined however by an earlier assertion that ‘he harangues his countrymen, often for hours on end, on subjects from agriculture to “Yankee imperialism”’. (Charges of ‘Yankee imperialism’ are dismissed in the profile, and indeed seemingly pass the reporter by, despite massive evidence to the contrary [see below]).

Rory Carroll wrote that ‘Chávez can boast genuine achievements’, but more succinctly slated the president: ‘Venezuela's revolution has no gulags, no torture chambers, but in wasted potential lies tragedy. Here was a sublimely gifted politician with empathy for the poor and the power of Croesus – and the result, fiasco’.18 In the Comment Matrix of its Saturday edition of 29 September, The Independent included a snippet of a Comment is Free article by Francisco Toro, published by The Guardian a couple days of before. Writes Toro: ‘Even supporters acknowledge Chávez’s experiment in 21st century socialism isn’t working’, commenting that ‘the government is kept afloat by a torrent of petrodollars’; oil being the ‘one’ thing that stops Venezuela’s economy ‘grind[ing] to a halt’.19 Undisclosed by both The Guardian and The Independent, however, is that Toro is a member of the ‘long-suffering’ opposition’ he lauds in the original article,20 and reassigned form his role as a New York Times correspondent due to a conflict of interest, stating in a resignation letter to the paper, that ‘Too much of my lifestyle is bound up with opposition activism at the moment, from participating in several NGOs, to organizing events and attending protest marches’ and that he didn’t think he ‘could muster the level of emotional detachment from the story that the New York Times demands’.21

Oil and ‘Yankee Imperialism’

In a Comment piece on of the 10th, in The Guardian,22 Seumas Milne offered a concise reason why Chávez poses such a threat to Western elites:

The transformation of Latin America is one of the decisive changes reshaping the global order. The tide of progressive change that has swept the region over the last decade has brought a string of elected socialist and social-democratic governments to office that have redistributed wealth and power, rejected western neoliberal orthodoxy, and challenged imperial domination.

Venezuela ‘has spearheaded the movement of radical change across Latin America’, while ‘the endlessly vilified Venezuelan leader [Chávez] has earned the enmity of the US and its camp followers, as well as the social and racial elites that have called the shots in Latin America for hundreds of years’. ‘In reality’, writes Milne, ‘the greatest threat to Venezuelan democracy came in the form of the abortive US-backed coup of 2002’. Though this piece appeared after the election it serves as a strong base point for another noteworthy feature of run-up coverage: the absence of comment on, or whitewashing of, the potentiality for foreign intervention.23 In a similar to vein to Milne’s article, Grace Livingstone has written that ‘Washington has always regarded with deep suspicion any attempts to redistribute wealth or mobilize the poor, and keeping reformists and revolutionaries out of office has been a persistent theme – one might say obsession – of US policy since the turn of the twentieth century’.24 Energy expert Michael T. Klare, pointed out in 2004 that the US then relied on imported oil for over half its total supply, and as ‘abundant petroleum has helped the U.S. economy and the U.S. military dominate the world’, thus ‘Oil makes this country [the United States] strong; dependency makes us weak’.25 This is, of course, a major concern to elites in Washington. Writes Klare:

only the Middle East and other regions that have long suffered from instability and civil unrest have sufficient untapped reserves to satisfy our (and the world’s) rising petroleum demand in the years ahead. Like it or not, for as long as we continue to rely on petroleum as a major source of energy, our security and our economic well-being will be tied to social and political developments in these unpredictable and often unfriendly producers.26

One – albeit passing - mention, to be fair, was The Economist, which, in typical fashion, described Chávez as one ‘who preaches radical socialism and rails against American imperialism’.27 To be clear, other papers were open in their recognition of the significance of the elections; they carry, in The Independent’s words, ‘huge geopolitical implications’, noting that Chávez has ‘sen[t] subsidized oil to Cuba and even str[uck] a deal with London mayor Ken Livingstone in 2007 to provide cheap fuel for London's buses’ whilst Capriles ‘has promised to focus Venezuela's petro-dollars on modernization at home, while also redrawing some of the country's biggest oil deals with Chinese and Russian firms, and distancing Caracas from Iran’.28 This certainly would ‘rearrange the region’s balance of power’ as the FT commented.29The Guardian was frank in its assessment: ‘Sunday's election is about who controls and distributes one of the world's biggest recoverable oil reserves’.30 The day after the election, it noted that ‘the vote will have an impact on the global economy, energy supplies and regional geopolitics’.31 Nevertheless, there is no mention of the possibility of foreign interference in the elections, given the critical ramifications that follow, despite well-known, all too familiar history of such actions by Western powers, in Venezuela in particular, the region as a whole, and the globe over.32 Indeed, as the country that holds the world’s largest oil reserves,33 and from which the United States buys 9.7 per cent of its oil,34 events in Venezuela are of paramount importance to the US (‘US corporations want access to markets, commodities and sometimes cheap labour, while the US state needs to secure key strategic assets such as oil’).35 The influential think tank the Council on Foreign Relations recently published a memorandum written by the former US ambassador to Venezuela, noting the significance of the country to the US, and outlining US reactions to the election, which included pressuring militaries of other Latin American nations to play a strong role in the nation’s internal affairs if violence were to arise following the election.36 Given the United States’ history in the region,37 it is clear that it is not beyond the US to ferment such violence and unrest itself, in order to create a situation which would necessitate the superpower to involve itself in the name of ‘stability’, ‘peace’, democracy’, and its own national and security interests.38 Comments on Chávez’s claims of ‘American’ or ‘Yankee’ imperialism are critical because their roots are not pursued – despite a solid historic basis for such claims – and thus the comments attributed to Chávez portray him as some sort of misled paranoiac. We might, on the contrary, consider the words of Simón Bolívar - after whom the Bolivarian revolution is named – who, in 1829, wrote how ‘the United States [seems] destined to plague and torment the continent in the name of freedom’.39

Dissenting Voices

On Wednesday 3 October, The Guardian published a Comment piece by Marc Weisbrot of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, who considered Venezuela to be ‘probably the most lied-about country in the world’, writing further that ‘In Washington, democracy has a simple definition: does a government do what the state department wants it to do?’40 The same day, the paper published two letters, by Diana Raby, a senior research fellow at the University of Liverpool, and Ian Clark, which criticised the paper’s coverage of the elections thus far. Raby argued that ‘Henrique Capriles' programme of privatisation, austerity and neoliberalism would return the country to the poverty and stagnation of the "lost decades" of the 1980s and 1990s’, adding: ‘powerful forces in Washington, London and the boardrooms of global corporations would relish a Capriles victory’, whilst Clark wrote that ‘There are, of course, problems in Venezuela, but a more balanced coverage would be most welcome’.41

This, however, was it for coverage that was not patently against Chávez. After votes were cast on 7 October, more voices critical of Chávez were found.

After the Election

Hugo Chávez won the election with 54.42 per cent of the vote, versus 44.97 per cent for the opposition, out of an historic 80.94 per cent voter turnout.42 The Monday papers reported on the election in a similar fashion to before, albeit subtler. The front page of The Guardian reported ‘Unease and AK47s on the streets as Venezuelans head to the polls’: ‘At the polling booths the mood was peaceful and, though partisan, fiercely democratic’, were voters turned out in their droves . . . to give their verdict on the rule of Hugo Chávez’.43

On Tuesday, the result was hot off the press, and the Financial Times was thoroughly displeased. Exclaiming that ‘Populism is unbound’, an editorial44 failed to find positives in the Bolivarian revolution. Noting that Chávez had ‘used the state’s formidable resources to gain advantage over opponents’, and filled ‘the airwaves and columns of state-run media’ with his ‘pugilistic persona’, it commented that thus ‘while the vote was free and went off peaceably, it was far from fair’. This followed the tradition of failing to point out the anti-Chávez slant of the private media, which dominates the country.45 Regardless, Chávez’s ‘triumph’, though ‘indisputable’, ‘is only partial’. Compliments of Chávez’s ‘reckless policies’ (as the FT describes them) where as follows:

Since coming to power in 1998, Venezuela’s firebrand president has done much to improve the lives of the poorest. The country ranks as one of the least unequal in terms of income distribution in Latin America. But it has come at great cost . . . Inefficiency and mismanagement undermine his achievements.

Whilst the ‘much’ improved was not explored, problems appeared tricky for the FT to pin down: ‘Mr Chávez has been driving Venezuela into a cul-de-sac’; ‘he has milked the revenues of the country’s vast oil reserves to fund questionable investments’; ‘Waste is commonplace’; ‘Private investment, already scarce, is on the run’, with those remaining businesses fearful of ‘an even more radical third term’. For these reasons, ‘Voters, while valuing his social policies, are awakening to the divisiveness and dangers of his reckless policies’. Consequently – and most importantly – ‘Mr Chávez won by fewer votes than in his previous campaigns. Almost half the electorate voted against him’. True, but nevertheless, Chávez did win the election with over half the electorate’s votes - the victory was, as the FT concedes, ‘indisputable’. (One wonders if the votes had been reversed and Capriles had won, whether it would be pointed out that ‘Almost half the electorate voted against him’). Regardless, it seems Chávez’s achievements do not matter. In fact, by listing all of these issues in the face of an ‘indisputable’ victory, and largely ignoring the successes, it seems as if the editorial itself seeks to ‘undermine [Chávez’s] achievements’.

As bitter as the article may seem, it in fact reflects the standard reportage and comment following the results. The Economist’s reaction, for example, was in the same vein as its pre-election coverage: with regards to Chávez, Venezuelans were, as the headline explained, ‘Stuck with him’, and it seems a popular mandate means little. The Economist’s attitude, for the record, is not new. In its The World in 2012, long before the election, it commented how ‘Remarkably, despite economic stagnation, inflation, shortages, rampant crime and corruption, Mr Chávez retains support of close to half the electorate’, again failing to point out exactly why Chávez retains such support.46 (The notion that Venezuelans are ‘stuck with’ Chávez, despite his electoral majority, smacks of colonial arrogance and signifies an assumption that certain groups of voters, in this instance, largely the Venezuelan poor, are incapable of governing themselves and managing their own affairs.47) Chávez experienced a ‘surprisingly comfortable re-election’ though ‘did far worse than in [the] 2006’ elections, and nevertheless ‘will not have long to revel in his victory’. It is not to be forgotten also, that the president ‘owes his political resilience above all to Venezuela’s continuing oil boom’.48 A leader in The Times49 commented that Chávez’s ‘victory is not the most heartening news for a world that winces at his anti-American tirades ... But it is worse news still for the people of Venezuela’ who ‘are slowly losing patience with Mr Chávez’, angry that the country is ‘tumbling towards ruin under their president’s profligacy’. Like The Economist, The Times appears to speak for all Venezuelans, despite the fact that a majority voted for Chávez’s re-election, and thus may not be ‘losing patience’ with him. The leader explained how Chávez ‘hijacked state television to serenade voters, and seduced them by handing out state-funded homes and pensions’. Again, there is no mention of the dominance of private media, and, again, spending money on an electorate who need it is considered an abomination, one to make the world ‘wince’. (The Independent also commented that Chávez received ‘heavy backing from state media and [benefited from] lavishly funded anti-poverty programmes’ which ‘cemented’ his ‘popularity among an underclass previously ignored’.)

In its report on the results, the Financial Times tacitly pinned the possible violence that some predicted – but that did not occur - squarely on supporters of Chávez, opening: ‘In the end, there was none of the violence that so many feared. But then the incumbent, Hugo Chávez’ – who ‘looked bloated and tired’ on the campaign trail – ‘comfortably won Venezuela’s presidential election’. By stating that violence did not occur seemingly because Chávez won the election, places blame for potential violence on Chávez supporters, who would, it seems is implied, have responded with violence to a different result. On the other hand, Capriles ‘ceded defeat gracefully’.50 ‘The [election] result will disappointment Washington, which has long had a troubled relationship with Mr Chávez’, reported The Times, with Chávez – ‘the famously combative president’ – having ‘become Latin America’s main anti-US agitator’ and being ‘expected to . . . develop alliances with opponents of US policy’. This is obviously unacceptable, and it is neither necessary nor feasible to consider the US to be the partner in the wrong in a ‘troubled relationship’.51 In an accompanying analysis, the reporter Hannah Strange commented how Chávez’s ‘policy of using the country’s vast oil wealth to develop relationships with ideological allies has positioned Mr Chávez at the centre of a vast network of leftist governments and US critics stretching from Latin America across the globe’. Again, it is not noted exactly why anyone would or could criticise the US, or why a ‘vast network’ of such minded governments could develop.52

The Guardian carried two articles on the Tuesday following the election, one noting ‘a hard-fought but convincing victory’ for Chávez, whose ‘gains of the past 13 years’ include ‘a sharp reduction in poverty, unemployment and infant mortality’, adding that the opposition believed the vote was on ‘an unfair playing field in terms of access to state resources and air time’.53 This was reiterated in a report – mostly a Chávez profile – by Rory Carroll (which happened to be almost verbatim to an official profile on Chávez in The Observer on 30 September [noted above]):54 ‘Billboards, posters and murals sprouted across the country. Chávez dominated TV . . . his voice filed the radio spectrum. Civil servants were bussed to events in huge convoys, a mobile army’. This charge is repeated earlier in the piece also, with regards to the 2006 election, wherein ‘The president dominated airwaves, commandeering radio and TV for folksy, freewheeling speeches which lasted hours’.

The Seumas Milne article cited above was one unorthodox piece following the election. Another came in the form of a Comment piece by Owen Jones, who wrote that ‘The reality of Venezuela could not be more distant from the coverage [found in the Western media]’, pointing out that ‘Under Chávez, the poor have become a political power that cannot be ignored’. Significantly, Jones highlights the hypocrisy of Western governments which is all but ignored in every other report:

His [Chávez’s] critics attack him for his association with autocrats and tyrants such as Gaddafi, Assad and Ahmadinejad. They have a point, but given the West’s own support for dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kazakhstan – whose regime is currently paying Tony Blair $13m a year for PR services – a giant glasshouse looms behind them.55

By the weekend, the Financial Times had appeared to have calmed down somewhat, and in an article on the ‘cobbled streets and palm-fringed bay’ of the fishing village of Chuao – ‘one of those semi-mythic Latin American towns that seem to leap from the pages of a novel’ – ‘the general hilarity and excitement of the results’ is coupled with the fact that ‘people’s lives have improved and the government still enjoys a wide margin of error’. Whilst ‘many’ consider Chávez’s past governance to have been ‘14 ruinous years in power’ ‘the success of Mr Chávez’s politics’, nevertheless, ‘owes less to a revolutionary ideology than a petrodollar love affair with voters’, and thus, in Venezuela – ‘the Saudi Arabia of South America but with more oil reserves’ – Chávez has over the last ten years, ‘showered ‘Black gold’ on ‘Venezuela’s poor’. ‘The waste and corruption of Mr Chávez’s extravagant state-sponsored populism’, though, ‘is huge’ and ‘not everyone in Chuao is convinced by Chávez’s demagoguery or folksy turns’.56


In the run-up to the election, emotive language was used to describe opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, while scorn was reserved for President Hugo Chávez.57 Capriles’ sporting abilities seemed to symbolise his viability for the presidential role. It was conceded that Chávez had done much for the poor - or ‘downtrodden masses’ (The Independent) – but that he had done so through use of the state’s oil reserves was viewed as overwhelmingly scandalous and indefensible, despite it being is such a strong, valuable resource to use in aiding a poor majority. This, bittersweet as it may be, was overshadowed by the much greater attention given to the depiction of the failures of the Bolivarian revolution. (It is notable that when successes of the Bolivarian revolution are mentioned, statistics are not cited to demonstrate the strength of such achievements. When, however, focus turns to failures - such as an increased murder rate - figures are always on hand.)

Following the election, arguably, little changed, other than the fact that votes had been cast, and one candidate – Chávez - had emerged victorious. The ballot was still reported to be tight, despite the difference in votes; the opposition still represented a large threat to Chávez and his administration (‘That frustration over Mr Chávez’s feckless rule is growing is evident from the swelling electoral strength of the opposition, now marshalled behind its young new leader, Henrique Capriles’ wrote The Times, though it is ‘evident’ yet unremarked upon, that such frustrated citizens still represented a minority of voters);58 the Bolivarian revolution – and Chávez personally – were still viewed as clear failures, to the detriment of Venezuelan society. It could be argued that hostility towards Chávez actually increased in the aftermath, and to the extent that the antagonism towards Chávez could also be considered to be directed at those who voted for Chávez, given the continued and intensified displeasure at the prospect of another six years of Chávez in government. Thus The Economist can declare Venezuelans to be ‘stuck with’ Chávez, despite his majority re-election.

Whilst – in light of previous reporting - the coverage was perhaps unsurprising, it nevertheless demonstrated that even in the (openly acknowledged) critical context of an election that ‘will have an impact on the global economy, energy supplies and regional geopolitics’ (The Guardian),59 the UK press largely failed to provide a balanced interpretation of the event.


1. Hannah Strange, ‘Chávez’s biggest test as voters go to polls’, The Times, 06.10.12.

2. Benedict Mander and John Paul Rathbone, ‘David and Goliath battle grips Caracas’, Financial Times (Weekend Edition) October 6/October 7 2012.

3. Virginia Lopez and Jonathan Watts, ‘In Chávez’s revolutionary heartland the passion burns, but fear of defeat grows’, The Observer, 30.09.12.

4.See Samuel Grove, ‘Carroll in wonderland: how the Guardian misrepresents Venezuela’, Red Pepper, 2008,
http://www.redpepper.org.uk/Carroll-in-wonderland-how-the/ ;
Josh Watts, ‘Refusal to Connect the Dots: Analysing Rory Carroll’s Portrayal of Latin America’, News Unspun, 2012,


5. Rory Carroll, ‘Hugo Chávez: People’s hero in final showdown’, The Observer, 30.09.12. The latter piece is Rory Carroll, ‘A third term in defiance of cancer as Chavistas turn on heat’, The Guardian, 09.10.12.

6. Jim Armitage, ‘Time may not yet have come for the man who would rescue Venezuela’, The Independent, 06.10.12.

7. Girish Gupta, ‘Chavez defiant as “lowlife pig” dares Venezuela to oust him’, The Sunday Times, 07.10.12.

8. Andrew Cawthorne, ‘Chávez rattled by heart-throb rival’, The Independent on Sunday, 30.09.12.
The FT also described Capriles as a ‘business-friendly law graduate’ in a small column reporting a ‘Colourful challenge to Chávez’, the weekend before the election (Benedict Mander, ‘Colourful challenge to Chávez’, Financial Times, Weekend Edition, September 29-September 30 2012).

9. Philip Sherwell, ‘Venezuela’s marathon man looks to run down Chávez’, The Telegraph, 2012,

10. Leader, ‘Henrique and Hugoliath’, The Economist, September 29th-October 5th 2012.

11. ‘Talk your way out of this, Presidente’, The Sunday Times, 07.10.12.

12. See Josh Watts, ‘Promises and Failures: The Economist and the Venezuelan Election’, News Unspun, 2012,

13. Gupta, ‘Chávez defiant as “lowlife pig” dares Venezuela to oust him’, The Sunday Times, 07.10.12.
On the topic of gangsterism, Tariq Ali reminds us of its presence in Cuba prior to the revolution of 1959: ‘Hollywood issued a health warning: Francis Ford Coppola provided us with a few memories in Godfather Two [1972]: images of 1959 Havana as a Mafia-infested brothel and the Mafia bosses fleeing the country with Fulgencio Batista as the revolution moved ever closer to the capital’ (Tariq Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope, c.2006, London and New York: Verso, 2008, pp. 117-8).

14. See Caitlin McNulty and Liz Migliorelli, ‘Media in Venezuela: Facts and Fiction’, Upside Down World, 2009,
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/venezuela-archives-35/2059--media-in-ven... ;
Maurice Lemoine (trans. Julie Stoker), ‘How Hate Media Incited the Coup Against the President’, c.2002, in Gregory Wilpert (ed.) Coup Against Chavez in Venezuela: The Best International Reports of What Really Happened in April 2002 (Fundación Venezolana para la Justicia Global, 2003)

15. ‘Talk your way out of this, Presidente’, The Sunday Times, 07.10.12.

16. Simeon Tegel, ‘Hugo Chávez finally meets his match’, The Independent, 2012,

17. ‘Talk your way out of this, Presidente’, The Sunday Times, 07.10.12.

18. Rory Carroll, ‘Hugo Chávez: a strongman’s last stand’, The Guardian, 2012,

19. The Comment Matrix, ‘Venezuela is over the Chávez cult’, The Independent, 29.09.12

20. Francisco Toro, ‘The Hugo Chávez Cult is over’, The Guardian, 2012,

21. See The Editors, ‘The Guardian Lacks Transparency As Writer’s Conflict of Interest is Undisclosed’, News Unspun, 2012,

22. Seumas Milne, ‘The Chávez victory will be felt far beyond Latin America’, The Guardian, 10.10.12.

23. Talk your way out of this, Presidente’, The Sunday Times, 07.10.12.

24. Grace Livingstone, ‘The United States of America and the Latin American right’ in (eds.)

Francisco Dominguez, Geraldine Lievesley and Steve Ludlam, Right-Wing Politics in the New Latin America: Reaction and Revolt (London: Zed Books, 2011), p. 27.

25. Michael Klare, Blood and Oil: How America’s Thirst for Petrol is Killing Us (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2004) pp. xiv, 10-11.

26. Klare, Blood and Oil, 2004, p. 20.

27. ‘The autocrat and the ballot box’, The Economist, September 29th-October 5th 2012.

28. Tegel, ‘Hugo Chávez finally meets his match’, The Independent, 2012,

29. Mander and Rathbone, ‘David and Goliath battle grips Caracas’, Financial Times (Weekend Edition) October 6/October 7 2012.

30. Jonathan Watts, ‘Jaded Venezuelans weigh up options as Hugo Chávez stands for another term’, The Guardian, 2012,

31. Virginia Lopez and Jonathan Watts, ‘Unease and AK47s on the streets as Venezuelans flock to the polls’, The Guardian, 08.10.12.

32. On United States interference in Venezuela, see Francisco Dominguez, ‘Venezuela’s opposition: desperately seeking to overthrow Chávez’ in Dominguez, Lievesley and Ludlam, Right-Wing Politics in the New Latin America, 2011; and Geraldine Lievesley, ‘Unearthing the real subversives: the US state, right-wing think tanks and political intervention in contemporary Latin America’ in Dominguez, Lievesley and Ludlam, Right-Wing Politics in the New Latin America, 2011. For a detailed history of US intervention in the world since the Second World War, see William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military & CIA Interventions since World War II (London: Zed Books, 2003).

33. BP, BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2012, p.6.
PDF available at: http://www.bp.com/sectionbodycopy.do?categoryId=7500&contentId=7068481

34. Charlie Devereux, Michael Forsythe and Henry Sanderson, ‘Chávez’s Most Helpful Campaign Aide: China’, Bloomberg Businessweek (Europe Edition) October 8-October 14, 2012.

35. Livingstone, ‘The United States of America and the Latin American right’ in Dominguez, Lievesley and Ludlam, Right-Wing Politics in the New Latin America, 2011, p. 27.

36. ‘Political Unrest in Venezuela’, Contingency Planning Memorandum No. 16, Council on Foreign Relations, 2012,

37. See Greg Grandin, Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism, c.2006 (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 2010).

38. See Fabián Escalante, The Cuba Project: CIA Covert Operations 1959-62 (Melbourne and New York: Ocean Press, 2004).

39. Cited in Noam Chomsky, Turning the Tide: U.S. Intervention in Central America and the Struggle for Peace (Boston: South End Press, 1985), p. 58.

40. Mark Weisbrot, ‘Why the US demonises Venezuela’s democracy’, The Guardian, 2012,

41. Ian Clark and Diana Raby, ‘Balanced coverage or western bias against Chávez in Venezuela?’, The Guardian, 2012,

42. Ewan Robertson, ‘Chavez Wins Venezuelan Presidential Election with 54% of the Vote [Updated]’, Venezuela Analysis, 2012,

43. Watts and Lopez, ‘Unease and AK47s on the streets as Venezuelans flock to the polls’, The Guardian, 08.10.12.

44. Editorial, ‘Chávez’s challenge’, Financial Times, 09.10.12.

45. See Richard Gott, ‘Venezuela’s Murdoch’, New Left Review, 2006,

46. Michael Reid, ‘Latin America’s big tests’, The Economist: The World in 2012.

47. A regional example of this is the United States’ attitude towards Cuba, with which it justified its interference in the 1898 Cuban war of independence against Spain. The US emerged in control of the island, and remained so until the revolution of 1959. For details of the United States’ perception of Cuba, see Louis A. Perez, Jr., Cuba in the American Imagination: Metaphor and the Imperial Ethos (North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2008).

48. ‘Stuck with him’, The Economist, October 13th-October 19th 2012.

49. Leader, ‘Staying On’, The Times, 09.10.12.

50. Benedict Mander and John Paul Rathbone, ‘Chávez hails election result as “a perfect victory”’, Financial Times, 09.10.12.

51. Hannah Strange, ‘Chávez brushes off opposition with promises to do better’, The Times, 09.10.12.

52. Hannah Strange, ‘A leftist collective sigh of relief’, The Times, 09.10.12.

53. Jonathan Watts, ‘Chávez calls on spirit of Bolívar in victory’, The Guardian, 09.10.12.

54. Rory Carroll, ‘A third term in defiance of cancer as Chavistas turn on heat’, The Guardian, 09.10.12.
The earlier piece is Rory Carroll, ‘Hugo Chávez: People’s hero in final showdown’, The Observer, 30.09.12.

55. Owen Jones, ‘We demonise Chávez for his challenge to our Western dogma’, The Independent, 09.10.12.

56. John Paul Rathbone, ‘Chávez’s petrodollar-powered popularity resumes after recent brief disruption’, Financial Times (Weekend Edition, October 13/October 14 2012)

57. The Economist appeared obsessed with Chávez’s health. In July 2011, a leader in The Economist claimed that ‘Mr Chávez’s government treats the details of his condition as a state secret, in the worst traditions of the Kremlin or North Korea’, commenting that ‘the anti-emperor has almost no clothes’ (Leader, ‘Lulismo v Chávismo’, The Economist, July 23rd-29th 2011), and described the president in a subsequent report sympathetically as ‘The sick man of Havana’ (‘The sick man of Havana’, The Economist, July 23rd-29th 2011). In June 2012 it reported how during the registration for candidacy for the presidential election, Chávez ‘made the ten-block journey from the presidential palace to the CBE [the electoral authority] on an open-topped bus, reportedly equipped with a hidden lift so that he could avoid having to climb stairs’, whilst Capriles ‘demonstrated his own vigour by walking 10km (6 miles) to the offices of the CNE’ (‘Hugo’s last hurrah’, The Economist, June 16th-22nd 2012).

58. Leader, ‘Staying On’, The Times, 09.10.12.

59. Watts and Lopez, ‘Unease and AK47s on the streets as Venezuelans flock to the polls’, The Guardian, 08.10.12.