VIO News Blog

January 13, 2009

Venezuela’s Political Reality Distorted Again Today

The Washington Times reports that Aruba is “worried” by a Venezuelan natural gas project located 14 miles off its shore. The article, written by a freelance Dutch journalist, is based on one comment by Dutch embassy staff and provides no insights from Venezuelan authorities.

In Foreign Policy Magazine, a Washington-based analyst says President Chavez will not win a referendum on ending term limits, but gives little accurate information about the proposed legislation. An amendment would not, as the piece states, end term limits “among other things.” A single question approved in rough draft form by the National Assembly yesterday simply asks voters if they agree with ending term limits for all public offices. Nor is the legislation a bid by Chavez to become “president-for-life.” It would allow all elected officials the chance to compete in free and fair elections as many times as they wish. The referendum will likely occur on February 15th.

A Wall Street Journal op-ed presents an intensely distorted picture of Venezuela by arguing that it is not a democracy. It is unclear how the Journal determined that elections are not free and fair in Venezuela, when all international observers (the OAS, the Carter Center, the EU, NAACP, and others) have certified them as such. The Chavez government is not a “military government”; dismissals from the armed forces came in 2002 after some factions helped overthrow the democratic order, which would be standard procedure in any country. Meanwhile, civilians involved in the coup were pardoned by the president in January 2008. Children are not “indoctrinated” in public schools; a re-write of curricula along socialist lines was sidelined last year due to criticisms. Economic freedom is not “dead,” nor is a currency devaluation planned. Venezuela is rendered unrecognizable in the Journal’s opinion page.

A Washington Post op-ed from the National Endowment for Democracy similarly deems Venezuela “nondemocratic.” This is despite the fact of free and fair elections, the separation of powers, and abundant human rights guarantees under the constitution. The misperception is particularly sad because Venezuela is among the longest-running democracies in Latin America, and has seen an explosion of popular participation in politics under President Chavez. Polls like Latinobarometro show that Venezuelans are the most likely in the region to support democracy, and second most likely to express satisfaction with the actual functioning of the democratic process.

Finally, two more contrasting reports on the economy appear today. A McClatchy wire story says Latin America is better prepared to handle an economic crisis than it has been in the past. Meanwhile, a Miami Herald op-ed argues that the region cannot insulate itself and recommends more of the same capitalist policies that have helped cause repeated crashes.

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