To the editors:
On this one-year anniversary of the death of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, we call on the editors of the New York Times to rectify its coverage of Venezuela and to present a more honest and accurate picture of what is happening in that country.
In the past few weeks the New York Times has devoted extensive coverage to the violent protests that have recently been taking place in Venezuela. In the three weeks since February 12, when coverage of the events began, the New York Times has printed an average of nearly one article per day, or a total of 20 major stories and opinion articles about Venezuela.
The first problem with this coverage is the imbalance of space that the New York Times devotes to Venezuela compared to other important topics. For example, the coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests, which were arguably far more important for U.S. audiences than Venezuela is, were covered far less extensively.
Second, the vast majority of New York Times articles downplayed or even ignored the violent nature of the opposition’s protests, which killed several bystanders, vandalized dozens of buildings, ruined countless streets, and defaced and destroyed public transit, not to mention the throwing of stones and molotov cocktails at state security forces. Instead, echoing the wider international media’s coverage, the focus has been on the supposedly peaceful nature of the protests and the supposedly violent state repression they face.
Even an article that highlighted the weapons that opposition protesters use (molotov cocktails, “homemade mortars made from steel tubes. A small bag of explosive powder is put inside the tube and a fuse is lit. When it goes off it makes a loud bang and launches a firework-like projectile about half a block”) was sympathetic to the protesters. Also, the article claimed that the government is ignoring the protestors’ complaints of high inflation, shortages, and crime, when in actuality these issues have been persistent areas of government policy-making for the past year.
Given this type of coverage, it is no wonder that the U.S. public and the U.S. government end up believing that “we need a dialogue in Venezuela, not arrests and violence in the streets, and persecution against young people who are voicing their hopes for a future,” as Secretary of State Kerry has said. Actually, at the time Kerry made these statements, the Venezuelan government had offered to hold a dialogue with the opposition, including the student movement, but they have rejected these offers and the New York Times has failed to report these developments. This is something, by the way, that U.S. leaders never offered to Occupy Wall Street protesters, even though these protests enjoyed the support of a significant segment of the population.
In short, New York Times coverage of Venezuela is feeding into the widespread misconception that the Venezuelan government is repressing peaceful majority-supported protest. The reality, however, is that Venezuelans are facing a small, violent, and determined opposition sector, where the vast majority of the population (over 80% according to most independent polls) and even most opposition leaders oppose these protests.
We recall that the New York Times editors shamefully supported the military coup of 2002, before retreating and recanting after the coup was defeated by a mass uprising of the Venezuelan working people. Then, as now, the Times coverage echoes and reflects that of the US government. It is rarely mentioned in any of the coverage of Venezuela over the years that Washington has an extensive program — funded by a bipartisan US Congress — of open and covert aid and support to the Venezuelan opposition. The people of Venezuela must be allowed to resolve their problem without the intervention and interference of the US government. This is the united position of all of the governments and peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.
We thus urge the New York Times to improve its reporting on Venezuela, so that the misconceptions it is spreading don’t continue to fuel violence within Venezuela and bad relations between Venezuela and the U.S.
Bolivarian Circle Alberto Lovera New York
Cuba Solidarity New York
Casa Las Americas
International Action Center
Colombianos Por La Paz
1199 Latinoamerican Solidarity Group
Pastor For Peace
People Power Assembly
Sisatakari Centro Laboral
La Voz Latina WBAI
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