Why Won't American Media Tell the Truth About What's Happening in Venezuela?
Date Written: 2017-09-22
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX22022
Unlike Brazil and Argentina, Venezuela has been victimized by a number of factors outside of its control, but especially a precipitous drop in the price of oil, the country's main source of revenue.
Since 1999, the Venezuelan government has experimented with a process of social and economic reform using constitutional and electoral means. The president who initiated the experiment, Hugo Chavez, called it the "Bolivarian Revolution," but for the most part it is now simply called Chavismo.
Chavez held power from 1999 until his death in 2013, interrupted by a three-day coup in 2002. During his presidency, the country saw a referendum on a constitutional assembly, the election of that assembly, a referendum to ratify the new constitution, a new election under that constitution, an attempt to use a provision in the constitution to recall Chavez, and two additional presidential elections, all of which were won by Chavez's government. To say that Chavismo's popularity and that of Chavez himself has been tested at the polls is an understatement.
While Chavez was alive, no politician could rival him for the presidency. This was true despite the 24-hour demonization of him in the country's private media and the systematically negative coverage of his government across Western news outlets. As often occurs whenever a country runs afoul of the U.S., Chavez was presented as a dictator, despite his numerous electoral victories. So popular was he that when opposition leaders seized power for 72 hours in 2002, one of their first orders of business was to shut down the government's TV channel. As the 2003 documentary, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, reveals, the coup was ultimately defeated when officials managed to get back onto the airwaves.
Phases of economic warfare
When coup and media campaigns failed to upend the government or silence its mouthpiece, the opposition resorted to economic warfare. This war has had several phases: a national strike in 2002-2003 brought Venezuela's state-run oil company, PDVSA, to a halt, denying the government its main source of revenue. But despite their personal suffering, the company's lower-ranking officials remained loyal to Chavez (as did many of the middle ranks), stepping up to replace the striking managers and engineers in order to get the oil flowing again.