Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Nothing about the U.S. media response to Hugo Chavez’s reelection in Venezuela Sunday has been surprising. Save for a few corners of support for the socialist leader, American pundits have — with a strong dose of neoliberal ideology — criticized his record and the means through which he has remained in power.
Chavez won the mandate of another six years in power (adding to his 14-year tenure) with more than 54 percent of the vote, beating challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski. A number of conservative U.S. news outlets were quick to challenge the validity of the large margin (which was nonetheless the weakest margin the socialist leader has ever enjoyed in an election).
Fox News reported that “exit polls told a different story.” In an example of what Glenn Greenwald described via Twitter as “revealing and amusing … cognitive dissonance” in Western media over this election, the Fox News host decried the Venezuelan result, suggesting that even if there was no technical foul play, Chavez had overly influenced the elections with money and media monopolies.
Greenwald assured Twitter followers that he had no love for Chavez — his comment aimed only to skewer American journalists engaging in painful hypocrisy.
Opining in the Wall Street Journal, Mary Anastasia O’Grady used venomous scare quotes to note that “Chávez ‘won’ the Venezuelan presidential election” and that the Venezuelan leader made Chile’s Augusto Pinochet look like a “hero” by comparison (as Pinochet, a war criminal, voluntarily gave up power). O’Grady’s piece is colored by disdain for public spending by Chavez’s government to the detriment of free market economies and oil prices.
The Christian Science Monitor, by contrast, noted that the chance to “consolidate the ‘Bolivarian 21st-Century Socialism’” was welcomed by many Venezuelans celebrating in the streets. Carlos Romero, a political scientist at the Central University of Venezuela, told the magazine, “Half of Venezuela doesn’t like the revolution,” citing inefficiency. However, CSM notes, “the opposition was unable to shed its decade-old image of being right-wing oligarchs with pretensions to dictatorship.” Meanwhile, the magazine questions whether Chavez in his fourth term will be able to deliver promises including “become more independent, increase control over natural resources, boost energy output, unite Latin America, and improve the environment.”
Kevin Gosztola of FireDogLake’s Dissenter blog also noted the hypocrisy of American news outlets decrying Venezuela’s democratic elections (which have regularly been commended by impartial bodies). Gosztola takes a strong stance in Chavez’s defense. He compares figures illustrating much higher satisfaction in Venezuela with their democratic process than Americans have with their own electoral system. He concludes:
The country did not re-elect Chavez because poor people are waging a class war led by a leader intent to further decimate Venezuelan society. They re-elected him because, as Weisbrot has noted, “Poverty has been cut in half and extreme poverty by 70%. And this measures only cash income. Millions have access to healthcare for the first time, and college enrollment has doubled, with free tuition for many students. Inequality has also been considerably reduced.”
Neoliberal and/or free market policies have been soundly rejected. Those at the bottom are doing better. Americans should begin to ask whether Chavez and his movement have been doing something right.
And finally, in light of the fact that President Obama spent Monday dedicating a monument to Cesar Chavez, the Nation’s Jeremy Scahill took to Twitter to preempt some unfortunate confusion:
Can't wait for some dingbat to attack Obama for dedicating a monument to "Hugo" Chavez.— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) October 8, 2012
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email firstname.lastname@example.org. More Natasha Lennard.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)