Venezuelan Government Charges U.S. Government of “Dirty” Media Campaign

Communication and Information Minister Andrés Izarra charged that the U.S. government is trying to portray the Chavez government as friendly to terrorism, as a buddign dictatorship, and as a menace to the U.S. Major media outlets are acting as willing accomplices in this campaign.

Communication and Information Minister Andres Izarra holds up an issue of the Miami Herald, which he accuses of being one of the main media outlets in Washington’s “smear campaign.”
Credit: Prensa Presidencial

Caracas, February 22, 2005—In a press conference held yesterday, the Venezuelan Minister of Communication and Information, Andrés Izarra, denounced “the false information and groundless accusations” made almost on a daily basis in the United States press as a new media war against the people of Venezuela and their government.

Izarra affirmed that in light of the large influx of erroneous and de-contextualized information, it is evident that the US private media has joined forces with the US Department of State and spokespeople of the Bush administration in an effort to launch a “smear campaign” against the Venezuelan government. According to Izarra, this “smear campaign” has the objective of undermining the mandate of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in order to, at the very least, destabilize the country, and at the very worst, set the stage for a military intervention. 

“This new assault appears to be oriented towards de-legitimizing the efforts of the Venezuelan people and the Venezuelan government to democratically advance in order to propel changes towards political, economic, and social progress of our country,” asserted the Minister.  

A common “news” item in the media that Izarra countered was that the Venezuelan government is considering cutting off oil exports to the U.S. “Venezuela is not pursuing nor is it studying any measure to cut the supplies of oil to the United States,” Izarra said in response.

Izarra’s statements were based on his analysis of the content of information published between January and February of 2005 by The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times, Sun Sentinel, CNN, Fox News, Financial Times, and Dow Jones Newswires. 

Members of the press were invited to the press conference and received several documents that revealed a series of troublesome underlying themes and tendencies in the United States media with respect to their coverage of Venezuela.  They were also shown a series of graphs which demonstrated a clear anti-Chávez bias.  For example, one graph demonstrated that 84% of Venezuelan spokespeople who appear in the US media or are quoted in the US press are linked to the opposition, while only 16% present the perspective of the Bolivarian government. Another chart showed that out of 216 quotes of Venezuelan officials, 184 were pro-opposition while only 32 spoke favorably of the government.

Izarra presented a list of twelve pages of biased or distorted comments made by various media outlets.  For example, he said that the Miami Herald is falsifying information with headlines such as “Chávez is Arming Himself for War against the United States,” (February 12th, 2005) and questioned whether their intention is “to scare the people of the United States, thereby justifying an intervention” in Venezuela. The notion that Chavez represents a threat to western democracy is one of the main themes of this campaign.

He went on to point out that an article published by the Washington Times on the 10th of February presents an inaccurate, de-contextualized, and warped commentary portrayed as not as an opinion, but rather as news.  The article reads, “Mr. Chávez has talked of establishing an Al-Jazeera style news network in Venezuela that would reach all of Latin America.  Some Pentagon officials consider the Qatar-based Arab-language channel to be pure propaganda,” The “Al-Jazeera style news network” is in reference to the creation of Telesur, a satellite news channel based in Venezuela which is intended to complement the conservative viewpoint offered by the dominant network in the region, CNN en Español, with a more “southern” perspective on Latin America and the world. According to Izarra, the purpose of this statement is two-fold:  first, it insinuates that Al-Jazeera has links to terrorists; and secondly, it implies that Telesur is somehow going to follow this model.  This transitively alludes that Venezuela has links to terrorist organizations and therefore, merits the same treatment as Iraq. 

The themes of the dirty media campaign, according to Izarra, thus are that Chavez supports international terrorism and that the Chavez government either already is or is heading towards a dictatorship.

Izarra displayed the “dirty laundry” of some of the Bush Administration spokespeople, including former Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Otto Reich, the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, and CIA director Porter Goss, among others, who have spoken out not only against the Venezuelan government, but also against several other popular movements in Latin America. Izarra recalled how Otto Reich had headed a “dirty war” in the 1980’s to plant news articles and journalists so as to discredit progressive movements in Latin America.

Washington’s smear campaign is an attempt to make the public believe that Hugo Chávez is an accomplice of international terrorism and a threat to democracy in the West, and that the Venezuelan government is becoming an “authoritarian democracy,” explained the Minister.  Izarra also affirmed that the US intends to modify the Democratic Charter of the Americas so that they can apply it to Venezuela.

According to Izarra, it is evident that we live in a world with exaggerated, imprecise, falsified information that is often de-contextualized and manipulated.  He emphasized that it is imperative to call attention to this new media attack, which is directed to create a negative opinion of the changes that the Venezuelan government and the people of Venezuela are implementing democratically and legally.

Relations between the Bush administration and the government of Hugo Chávez have always been less than cordial. The Venezuelan President accused the Bush administration of supporting a short-lived and unsuccessful coup attempt against him in April, 2002, while Washington has criticized Chávez’s relationship with Cuban President Fidel Castro and accused the Bolivarian government of supporting Colombian “terrorists”.  In the past few weeks, relations have become increasingly strained as CIA director Porter Goss classified Venezuela as the top “potentially unstable country” in Latin America and Chávez alerted the world to Washington’s possible intentions to assassinate him.