Socialism? What Socialism? NYT Avoids Blaming S-Word for Venezuela Crisis

From:                                          By Clay Waters

Friday’s New York Times covered the start of the second term of Venezuelan autocrat Nicholas Maduro, but managed to avoid unflattering descriptions like that, in “With Venezuela in Free Fall, Its President Starts New Term,” from Ana Vanessa Herrero and Megan Specia in Caracas. Yet other stories on Friday tossed around the word “autocrat” to complain about President Trump’s embrace of Egypt’s leadership.

Also as usual, the Times’ use of the S-word (socialism) was limited and perhaps even positive, even though socialist economics have ravaged oil-rich Venezuela and rendered it a starving basket case.

The story accurately surmised the plight of the nation, while ignoring the major cause.

When President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela was sworn in for his second term on Thursday before the country’s Supreme Court, a small group of supporters standing outside greeted the news by waving tiny flags with little enthusiasm.

The huge crowds that gathered to greet him after his first inauguration were nowhere to be seen.

In the years since Mr. Maduro first took office, violence and hunger have become emblematic, inflation has skyrocketed, and the migration of Venezuelans out of the country has reached unprecedented levels.

Mr. Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, presided over the free fall of what was once Latin America’s wealthiest nation. The country’s economy continues to unravel at an alarming rate. And Mr. Maduro’s re-election last year was widely denounced by other countries as fraudulent.

Despite these denunciations and the humanitarian crisis Venezuela is facing, Mr. Maduro is embarking on a term that extends until 2025.

So how did he get here, and how has he managed to hold on?

He first came to power in a snap vote following Mr. Chávez’s death in 2013, after the former leader had anointed him as successor.

No socialism here:

But by the 2018 election, Venezuela’s economy had plummeted to new lows as a result of mismanagement and corruption, and the country was in the midst of a crisis.

No socialism here either:

International sanctions and plummeting oil production have further weakened the already floundering economy.

While the country’s opposition lost much power because of government persecution and the forced exile of some of its most prominent figures, last week’s election of Juan Guaidó as the new president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly has renewed calls to remove Mr. Maduro from power.

At last the S-word and the term “leftist “cropped up, but in neutral fashion.

Mr. Maduro has found some allies in the region, including President Evo Morales of Bolivia, a fellow socialist who attended the inauguration.

And Mexico’s new leftist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, invited Mr. Maduro to his own inauguration and has taken a friendlier stance in relations with Venezuela than his predecessor.

Within Venezuela, loyal “chavista” governors, named for their support of Mr. Chávez and his revolutionary leftist policies, expressed support for Mr. Maduro in a news conference on Wednesday. Héctor Rodríguez, governor of the state of Miranda, denounced Mr. Maduro’s critics and urged the country’s opposition to “reconsider” their criticism of him.

“Socialist policy” in this paragraph is characterized not as a chain on Venezuela’s people but a savior, at least until recently:

Daily life in Venezuela has become unrecognizable from what it was just a few years ago. Where once the government built homes, clinics and schools for the poor as part of its socialist policy, people now find themselves without the most basic necessities.

Meanwhile, there was a stark contrast between treatment of autocrats in Venezuela and ones the Trump administration supposedly supports in Egypt. The same edition featured reporter Mark Landler’s news analysis, “President and Top Diplomat Embrace Autocrats and Excoriate Opponents.” The text box to a related front-page story: “Bolstering alliances with Arab autocrats loyal to Washington.”