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Goodbye Chavez, America Never Knew You

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News of Hugo Chavez's death is spreading rapidly. In America, we can anticipate a large collection of articles noting his activities, articles that are nearly all a product of our American/corporate view of the world.

These American articles will be mostly negative, a one-sided portrayal of a complex leader who was beloved by much of his country, admired by large parts of the world, but nearly always portrayed in the American media as a one-dimensional character.

American articles will talk about when Chavez led an attempted coup, they will talk about his friendship with Castro, Ahmadinejad, Putin and other leaders, and they will reference his famous "devil" quote about George Bush but they will steer away from hints of Chavez's accomplishments.

These articles will not mention the fact that Venezuela has made strong steps in education and health. The expected number of years of education rose from 10.5 years in 2000 to 14.2 years by 2011, no doubt driven by the Missions that Chavez championed. Venezuela's life expectancy increased from 72.4 years to 74.4 years during that same time period.

These articles might mention that Chavez pushed through legislation to change the presidential term limits possibly even accusing him of being authoritarian. These articles will probably not mention that Chavez has been democratically elected with popular margins and higher turnout rates than we have seen in the U.S. in decades.

These articles will talk about poor prison conditions in Venezuela but not mention that Chavez pardoned those who attempted to overthrow his democratically elected government in 2002.

These articles will mention that his government benefited from a rise in oil prices but are not likely to mention that he used those inflated oil revenues to support citizens of many nations in need, including Americans in need of low-cost heating oil.

Years ago, I lived in Venezuela and have visited there many times. It is a challenging country, filled with both tremendous opportunity and national pride. For many Venezuelans, Chavez symbolized that national pride. While I didn't agree with all of Chavez's statements and beliefs, when I returned to America I found it nearly impossible to find any hint of fair reporting of news and political events in Venezuela. Almost everything I read in America was tinged with a strong anti-Chavez flavor.

As Chavez is now laid to rest, the one thing I am certain of is that the mainstream American media will once again fail to accurately and fairly capture the positives and negatives of this complicated leader.

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