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Letter to AP re: Venezuela “news article”


This AP news article is actually a scandalously poor op-ed that makes no distinction at all between allegations and facts.
 
The headline of the article claims
 
“Venezuela's Opposition Ground Down By Chavistas”
 
The article begins with various assertions
 
“Chavez's designated successor, Nicolas Maduro, and his ruling clique have repeatedly circumvented the constitution and exploited their monopoly on power to all but crush an opposition already crippled by years of government intimidation.”
 
First of all, the article does not offer a single example of a constitutional violation, much less "repeated" examples of violations. The authors say 
 
“The constitution says the National Assembly speaker should instead become interim leader if a president elect dies before taking the oath of office. ”
 
The Venezuelan constitution does not say that. 
 
Article 231 of the constitution reads
 
"The candidate elected shall take office as President of the Republic on January 10 of the first year of his constitutional term, by taking an oath before the National Assembly. If for any supervening reason, the person elected President of the Republic cannot be sworn in before the National Assembly, he shall take the oath of office before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. "
 
No date is specified for the swearing in ceremony in the case of the president being too ill to attend on January 10. Nowhere does it say that, in such a situation, January 10 is not the beginning of a new term. 
 
Two months before Chavez died, the Supreme Court ruled that the new term began on January 10.  Numerous opposition voices were then calling for the October 7 elections to essentially be annulled because of Chavez's illness. The Supreme Court, quite reasonably, rejected this absurd interpretation of the constitution.
 
Article 233 of the constitution is very clear that, once a new term begins, the Vice President takes over as president if the president dies within the first four years of that term. A new presidential election will be held as stipulated in the constitution. April 14 has already been announced as the date of the election. 
 
As for the claim that the Venezuelan opposition has been "crippled by years of government intimidation", the authors do not attempt to explain how a "crippled" opposition received 44% of the vote in an election with 81% turnout. There is no mention of detailed studies of the Venezuelan media during the last presidential campaign that found a media advantage for Capriles. These findings are bolstered by the October 7 election results. As of 2010, the state television media only had about a 5% audience share.
 
The AP authors also seem oblivious to contradictions in their own article. They mentioned that Capriles has accused the government of lying about exactly when Chavez died – a wild accusation that would obviously not be made by an "intimidated" presidential candidate. 
 
The authors depict the Capriles campaign as "destitute" by taking at face value claims made by his campaign manager. The Capriles family alone owns a large chain of cinemas and several daily newspapers. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of Venezuela knows that government opponents in Venezuela are extremely well represented among the super rich.
 
In newspapers articles, journalists supposedly make considerable effort to moderate debates rather than be openly partisan participants in them. Even in a highly partisan op-ed, writers should have the integrity to avoid falsehoods and to accurately represent opposing views before rebutting them. This piece fails to achieve the minimal intellectual honesty that anyone should expect from an op-ed.

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