Readers across Colorado can be excused for spilling their coffee after seeing The Denver Post‘s front-page treatment Wednesday of the death of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.
The banner headline is a quote from a Chavez political appointee: “I feel a sorrow so big I can’t speak. He was the best this country had.”
The Post’s front-page teasers promote stories on how the “son of schoolteachers, Chavez rose from poverty to president,” and “Former soldier was the father of four.”
There’s just one thing missing: a story on Chavez’s love of jazz. Otherwise, the coverage bears a striking resemblance to how Pravda used to cover the death of Soviet dictators.
The article itself is reasonably impartial–which is surprising, given that it comes from the New York Times. Score one for the Post for managing to snatch bias from the jaws of objectivity with its fawning headlines.
Cheap Seats would remind Post editors that Chavez may have formally held the title of president, but he was a Socialist dictator who predictably brought economic devastation, corruption, crime and human-rights abuses to the very people whose interests he claimed to champion.
His elections were farces, designed to ensure big wins for himself by placing onerous rules on rival campaigns and threatening to fire public employees if they voted against him. He concentrated power, seized control of the judiciary, and built alliances with international thugs and troublemakers from Damascus to Teheran to Pyongyang.
Chavez squandered Venezuela’s oil wealth to build support for himself with government hand-outs, but oil production during his tenure plummeted by almost half as he sold off parts of the state-owned company and neglected aging energy infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Venezuela has become the kidnapping capital of Latin America. Readers of the Post’s sports page will recall stories about the kidnapping of Colorado Rockies’ catcher Norvit Torrealba’s son in 2009, after which he moved his family to Miami. Just three days ago, the family of Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Brayan Villarreal survived a kidnapping attempt outside Caracas.
This from Human Rights Watch:
Hugo Chávez’s presidency (1999-2013) was characterized by a dramatic concentration of power and open disregard for basic human rights guarantees.
After enacting a new constitution with ample human rights protections in 1999 – and surviving a short-lived coup d’état in 2002 – Chávez and his followers moved to concentrate power. They seized control of the Supreme Court and undercut the ability of journalists, human rights defenders, and other Venezuelans to exercise fundamental rights.
By his second full term in office, the concentration of power and erosion of human rights protections had given the government free rein to intimidate, censor, and prosecute Venezuelans who criticized the president or thwarted his political agenda.
We realize the Post doesn’t have a Latin America bureau, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay for its editors to display such shocking ignorance on the current state of foreign affairs. It’s also particularly troubling that a newspaper would run such obsequious coverage of a dictator who will be remembered largely for his crackdown on independent media and reporters who dared question his brutal reign.
Post readers can only imagine the obituaries now in the can for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar al-Assad, and Kim Jong Un. A bit of advice: Don’t pour your coffee until after you see the front page.