‘Socialism’ Absent from 9,000-Word NY Times Profile of Venezuelan Opposition Leader

The New York Times’ abject refusal to pin the socialism label on the failed and starving state of Venezuela is well-documented (as is the paper’s whitewashing of that and other tyrannical left-wing regimes).

In the newest Times Sunday Magazine, writer Wil S. Hylton devoted nearly 9,000 words to fiery, often-imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, “Can Venezuela Be Saved?” yet managed to totally avoid the word “socialism,” the idea that formed the root of the country’s present failures.

Even the left-wing New York Review of Books did somewhat better in its recent issue, using a few lefty labels and calling out journalistic organs like The Guardian and The New Yorker for worship of the late Venezuelan socialist dictator Hugo Chavez, who ruled from 1999 to 2013 and plunged the country into chaos and hunger.

Hylton began his epic tale:

As a nation unwinds, Leopoldo López, the opposition’s most prominent leader, sits under house arrest and contemplates what might still be possible....The Venezuelan government routinely disparages him as a right-wing reactionary from the ruling class who wants to reverse the social progress of chavismo and restore the landed aristocracy; the Venezuelan right, meanwhile, considers López a neo-Marxist, whose proposal to distribute the country’s oil wealth among the people would only deepen the chavista agenda.

Hylton insisted no one could have predicted the failure of a populist socialist movement, and that Chavez kept his economic promises:

It’s easy now, with the country in turmoil, to dismiss the whole project of chavismo. But the election of Chávez in 1998 coincided with a groundswell of social and political movements for whom Chávez, with his energy and outrage, pledging to crack down on corruption and raise the minimum wage, seemed a natural ally. Whatever else Chávez became, he delivered on many of his promises. During his tenure, unemployment fell by half, the gross domestic product more than doubled, infant mortality dropped by almost a third and the poverty rate was nearly halved. You can chalk this up to other factors, like a tenfold increase in the price of oil that showered his administration with revenue, and you can argue that Chávez failed miserably to anticipate the next downturn in oil prices, but you can’t really accuse him of making promises to the poor and then delivering to the rich, or keeping all the money for himself. Under his watch, income inequality dropped to one of the lowest levels in the Western Hemisphere.

Chávez didn’t have to steal elections. He was wildly popular among the poor and put his proposals up for election almost every year. He introduced touch-screen voting, with thumbprint recognition and a printed receipt, an electoral system that Jimmy Carter described as being, among all the countries he had monitored, “the best in the world.”

Chavez as a proponent of election reform?

Even the criticism of Chavez was tempered somewhat:

....It’s possible to think of Chávez as a totalitarian or a tyrant for suppressing his opponents while rejecting the term “dictator” to describe a popular president.....

The fatal flaws rooted in the socialist ideal were skipped, reduced to simply personal incompetence from Chavez.

You can think of the decade between the coup and his death in 2013 as a gradual process of bleeding out public resources for public consumption. At a basic level, Chávez just wasn’t very good at managing an economy....through a combination of Chávez’s misguided theories and a general failure to invest in the company and installing his personal henchmen to run it, production of Venezuelan oil has fallen by nearly half....


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Latin America Venezuela Bias by Omission Labeling Communists New York Times Wil Hylton Hugo Chavez Nicolas Maduro
Clay Waters's picture