CARACAS, Venezuela — Despite the anti-government protests that continue to shake Venezuela today, the majority of the population still considers the late president of the nation, Hugo Chavez, a hero.
According to Al Jazeera, “the legacy of Hugo Chavez still dominates political life in Venezuela” and is “in the minds of many in Venezuela’s poor majority.” The network also quoted a street vendor who said Chavez was the only Venezuelan president that cared about the poor.
Contrary to popular belief in the United States, the socialist government in Venezuela undoubtedly helped many people overcome poverty.
“During the Chavez period, between 2006 and 2011, Venezuela moved up seven spots on the United Nations’ human development index,” Al Jazeera said. “By 2011, poverty had [also]dropped to 29.5 percent compared to more than 48 percent in 2002.”
These achievements can help explain why most Venezuelans admire and respect the socialist government and why the right-wing student opposition struggles to gain popular support.
Since the beginning of the protests, the mainstream media often regurgitated the viewpoints of the Venezuelan opposition and failed to provide both sides of the story. This led to many misconceptions about the situation in Venezuela.
On the other hand, the independent media took a more analytical and historical approach when reporting about the protests in the South American country.
During an interview with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now!, George Ciccariello-Maher, a professor of political science at Drexel University, said that social media made people in America more sympathetic to the protesters in Venezuela “without necessarily knowing what the back story is.”
“What we see is yet another attempt in a long string of attempts of the Venezuelan opposition to oust a democratically elected government,” said Maher.
Furthermore, Maher argues that the Washington Post was incorrect in claiming that one of the leaders of the opposition, Leopoldo Lopez, is a “left-leaning moderate.”
“Leopoldo Lopez represents the far right of the Venezuelan political spectrum,” said Maher. “In terms of his personal and political history, here’s someone who was educated in the (U.S.) from prep school through graduate school at the Harvard Kennedy School.”
Lopez, according to Maher, is also related to Simon Bolivar, who is essentially the George Washington of Venezuela.
Mark Weisbrot, an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, also argues that social media has made the political context in Venezuela too difficult to understand.
“Although there are abuses of power and problems with the rule of law in Venezuela – as there are throughout the hemisphere – it is far from the authoritarian state that most consumers of western media are led to believe,” said Weisbrot. “Opposition leaders currently aim to topple the democratically elected government–their stated goal–by portraying it as a repressive dictatorship that is cracking down on peaceful protest.”
He claims that the protesters in Venezuela use violence as a tool to induce a similar response from the state.
“Washington has been more committed to ‘regime change’ in Venezuela than anywhere else in South America–not surprisingly given that it is sitting on the largest oil reserves in the world,” said Weisbrot.
Although different point of views regarding the protest of Venezuela are presented in the mainstream media, people are still misguided because they are given unclear representations of the historical situation in Venezuela.