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Monday, October 03, 2005

Always getting a dig in on Hugo Chávez

The NY Times has an interesting and relatively low-on-the-bias-scale article about a new law in Venezuela which requires that radio stations play at least 50% Venezuelan music. The effect has been to make Venezuelan musicians more popular, increasing turnouts at their concerts and sales of their CD's.

But, continuing the American press tradition of bad-mouthing Hugo Chávez at every opportunity, the Times headlines the article this way: Venezuelan Strongman's New Gig: National Disc Jockey. They also refer to the "fiercely nationalist government" and "Chávez's efforts to regulate culture." That Venezuela has a representative government that passed the law, apparently with Chávez's support (the article says nothing about how the bill was actually introduced or passed), and that no evidence whatsoever is given that Chávez is in any way involved in the day-to-day selection of the music on radio stations--none of this matters in the headline. To the headline writers (and unfortunately, probably to the headline readers as well), Chávez is a "strongman" forcing his own culture down the throats of the poor oppressed Venezuelans, rather than the oft-elected president of a democracy more vibrant than our own (the opposition in Venezuela actually OPPOSES--imagine that!).

No doubt Chávez has used his popularity to increase his power, in ways similar to those used regularly and legally by both major parties in the US. But there really is no evidence that he has stifled opposition or locked up or intimidated political opponents (quite the contrary--most of the leaders of the 2002 coup attempt were not prosecuted, even though the coup was clearly illegal). "Strongmen" do those things, but Chávez doesn't. There is also little to no evidence that he has used his power to increase either his personal wealth or those of his cronies--unless you consider Venezuela's 20 million poor people to be his cronies. Chávez has used his power to see that those "cronies" have adequate health care and education, as well as better housing and food.

The thing that Chávez is NOT doing is playing Washington's globaloney game--and THAT's what has our power elite, including the NY Times, so pissed off.