Chavez is Brutal Archives

January 24, 2007

A Dig Too Far

The New York Times tests the boundaries of rational discourse today, with a little piece called “In Venezuela, Chavismo Is Dissected by Fans and Foes.”

It starts out stupidly enough, referring to a collection of egalitarian peaceniks as a “baffling array of influences” on the Venezuelan president. Baffling, perhaps, for someone without access to a library, (a “baffling array” of knowledge bound in paper volumes) or Wikipedia (a “baffling collection” of ones and zeros).

But then the article just gets weird. Totally ignoring his own headline, reporter Simon Romero goes on to profile only Chavez critics, who refer to the president’s ideas in a progressively baffling-er array of twisted metaphors:

One man calls chavismo “a bowl of minestrone soup… a series of arbitrary improvisations.” Whatev, hungry guy.

Another says it’s a “largely cosmetic” yet “pragmatic” manifestation of “socialist talk.” Ok, cynic.

And then:

“Some of Mr. Chávez’s critics compare the project to Pol Pot’s emptying of Phnom Penh in his bloody effort to remake Cambodian society in the 1970s”

Compares? to Pol Pot’s campaign of genocide? Favorably, I assume, what without all that “internecion.” Jesus.

But it doesn’t stop there. The article concludes with this:

“But there are those who see Mr. Chávez’s socialist ramblings more darkly.”

My italics. I mean for godsake, more darkly than Pol Pot?

“After hearing him resuscitate Che Guevara’s idea to forge socialism through the creation of a “new man,” the historian Manuel Caballero caused a stir recently by saying that a large part of the electorate voted for Mr. Chávez ‘because it wanted a dictatorship.’”

We’re starting to wonder whether the Times employs a baffling array of arrogant, historically challenged hacks.

March 27, 2007

Elian II


Here’s an interesting turn in the immigration debate: Florida Republicans want to eliminate that pesky provision in U.S. asylum law that says you have to actually face political persecution back home in order to be allowed to stay here forever and ever. The proposal would only apply to Venezuelans, natch.

The proponents—Miami-area Cubans, as if you need to ask—acknowledge that the proposal is meant to be “a diplomatic jab at Chavez,” and figure that the tens of thousands of new immigrants who would presumably displace people who really do have cause to fear deportation, is a small price to pay for the erotic joy they get from pretending that the fastest growing economy in our hemisphere is actually an unlivable communist dictatorship.

So to all you child-slaves, torture survivors, religious minorities, war refugees, Colombian trade unionists and huddled masses yearning to breathe free: Suck it! We’ve got priorities.

March 29, 2007

Communism On the March

Venezuela continued to chip away at the God-given right to property ownership yesterday. Apparently, under Chavez, even if your servants steal from you, even if they get totally drunk in your back yard, even if they use your swimming pool without permission, you are no longer allowed to defend yourself in the most reasonable way possible: rounding them up, attacking them with machetes, dousing them with gasoline and setting them on fire. This “rule” applies even if you are a famous Major League Baseball star.

Ugueth Urbina’s lawyer complained that the former Phillies pitcher’s fourteen-year sentence for five counts of attempted murder was “too severe.” Indeed. According to our research, property rights the way our founding fathers intended are now only applicable in Texas, Sadr City, and certain regions of Uganda.

May 17, 2007

New York Times Publishes Original Venezuela Story—Almost.

Congratulations, Simon Romero! As we’ve observed in the past, the intrepid New York Times correspondent normally waits to see what everyone else is writing about and then publishes a similar story a few days later. Today, though, he’s managed to publish his similar story on the same day as the Wall Street Journal. An impressive feat, really. Good on ya, dude.

So what is this burning story? Land Reform, natch. Yes, I know this process has been going on since President Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress movement in the 60’s but today its really got resonance because…well just because.

And to be fair to Romero, the two stories take a bit of a different tack: the Journal says the reforms are stupid and riddled with corruption, and the Times says they're violent and riddled with commies.

By way of background, land reform is actually a huge issue in Venezuela. A handful of families own 80% of the rural land, and peasant farmers generally act as sharecroppers. In Venezuela, the idea was to divide up a portion of idle land so that campesinos can break the cycle of poverty.

But it’s the video that accompanies the Times story that’s particularly gag-worthy. Through most of it, Romero follows a wealthy landowner on a tour of his properties as he discusses his fears of the unwashed masses in perfect, un-accented English. The article itself notes that at least 160 campesinos have been murdered by paid hitmen in recent years, but Romero forgets to ask about that little development, although he does track down another large landowner whose husband was killed by poor people—one of eight in recent years. Her story is quite sad, but really, could he really not find any poor victims who are being killed 20 times more frequently?

But hey, we’re just happy that Romero got out of Caracas on a junket that doesn’t appear to be a package tour. It’s a start.

January 2, 2008

Lamest. Dictatorship. Ever.

You’ve heard about the iron grip of Hugo Chavez, right? And how the big guy is always going around cracking down on his political opposition just to be a dick? Well it turns out that it’s true sort of! And now it's been proven scientifically with numbers. You see, researchers have been able to carefully track the “economic well being” of 87,000 Venezuelans on both sides of the political divide and arrived at this remarkable conclusion:

“They found that, between 2003 and 2006, ‘signing [against Chávez] cost you 4 percent of your income,’ says Francisco Rodríguez, a Venezuelan economist at Wesleyan University”
Four percent! It just sort of hangs in the air there, doesn’t it? Four percent. That’s like 3 fewer cups coffee a month. I mean sure it’s nice that half the country gets to “see a doctor for the first time,” or, like, “learn to read,” but who’s looking out for the poor schmucks who’ve been forced to eat out less often on account of the brutal political repression? Sweet Jesus, at least Idi Amin had the decency to kill you (and eat you!) rather than make you suffer the humiliation of wearing the same cocktail dress to two different Christmas parties.

So thanks, once again, Foreign Policy magazine, for publishing the big issues you won’t find anywhere else. And for the record we totally don’t believe it when they say you’re crazy-biased just because your editor in chief is the Venezuelan who spearheaded the country’s worst economic and human rights disaster in modern history. We know you speaking out for what’s right. We know you’re fighting for that four percent.

January 5, 2008

Your Little Magazine Used to Be Hackneyed. Now It’s Just Sad.


Lots of email responses to the Foreign Policy article about the Terrible Economic Price™ paid by the Venezuelan opposition. You may remember that we all had a good laugh the other day when FP published a story about some study that supposedly found that Venezuelans who opposed Chavez saw their incomes decline by roughly the price of a rum and coke a month. And then we made fun of them for acting like this was evidence of hardcore political retaliation. It now turns out that they were exaggerating.

BoRev readers, who are obviously more diligent than BoRev itself, took the time to look up the original study and noted a few important points:

>>> Context, as always, is important here. The signature drive for the recall referendum took place immediately following an attempted coup d’etat and an illegal oil strike, so presumably there was a lot of overlap in the participants of each. Even if there were some state “discrimination” going on at the time, it would be impossible to say that it was for merely signing a petition.

>>> But there probably wasn’t even any discrimination going on at all. The original study ran a number of regressions. While one indeed indicated the minor income loss for opposition supporters, another found an even larger loss of income for pro-government supporters during the same period. A third regression found similar losses for both sides. Confused? I think you’re supposed to be. Now check this out:

>>> A “loss of income” doesn’t mean that anyone’s income actually went down. When FP cited a 3.8 percent loss of income for opposition supporters, they mean a 3.8 percent loss relative to government supporters. Since national income has risen steeply since 2003, we’re talking about one group seeing income gains of, say, 50 percent while the other increased by “merely” 48.1 percent.

So while we once laughed that Foreign Policy cited lame and irrelevant data, we now know they cherry picked, misrepresented and exaggerated the data to make the story in the first place. So kudos to Moises Naim and team for possibly making this the special-est issue of your increasingly mockable magazine to date!

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