Venezuelans Continue to Defy Washington Post By Peter Hart

8 January 2013FAIR Blog

The Washington Post has never been fond of left-wing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. As serious questions mount about the state of Chavez’s health, the paper’s editorial page (1/5/13) found it a good time to take another swipe:

Venezuelans are bracing themselves for the death of the caudillo who has ruled them–and wrecked their once-prosperous country–over the past 13 years.

Economist Mark Weisbrot has a different take. In a “Room for Debate” discussion at the New York Times (1/4/13), he writes:

Since Hugo Chávez first took office, he and his party have won 13 of 14 national elections, mainly because they greatly improved the living standards of the majority of voters in Venezuela. Since 2004, after the economy recovered from the devastating opposition oil strike, poverty has been cut by half and extreme poverty by more than 70 percent.

Weisbrot goes on to show some of the other ways Venezuelans’ lives have improved in the Chavez years, adding:

These numbers are not really in dispute among economists or international statistical agencies. If you follow Venezuela and haven’t heard any of this, it’s because the news media is giving you the equivalent of a “tea party” view of the country.

So there’s maybe a chance that Venezuelans don’t think Chavez “wrecked” their country at all–unless you think reducing poverty and income inequality are bad things. To the Post, the fear seems to be that Venezuelans will remember this after Chavez’s passing:

Sadly, the economic pain caused by Mr. Chavez could, after his death, help create a political movement that will revere his memory.

Their point is that Chavez’s policies will force the next government to oversee harsh austerity policies to correct Chavez’s supposed mistakes. But Venezuelans might actually “revere” Chavez for the same reason they voted for him: Hispolicies worked for the majority of the population. And that doesn’t sit well with the Washington Post.

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