The Associated Press has released a largely glowing, almost romantic obituary of the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, who died today. “President Hugo Chavez was a fighter,” the obituary begins, and proceeds to recount a highly selective version of Chávezs life, omitting many of his abuses and political failures.
Most glaringly, the obituary, written by the AP’s Frank Bajak, fails to mention the fact that Chávez lost a 2007 referendum that, as the UK Guardian reported at the time, “would have allowed him to run for re-election indefinitely and enshrined socialism in the country.” (He finally won passage of a similar referendum in 2009, after a forceful campaign marred by brutish tactics.)
The AP mentions some of Chávez’s actions against domestic political opposition, but omits some of his worst excesses, including his repeated uses of antisemitism.
The AP article only gives passing mention to Chávez’s alliance with Iran, and fails to mention Chávez’s support for would-be dictator Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. In 2009. Zelaya tried to pass a Venezuela-style constitutional referendum, in violation of his own country’s constitution. Chávez attempted to ship him the necessary ballots; Zelaya was deported before he could act. Only the U.S. left, long enamored of Chávez, mourned Zelaya’s ouster.
The AP also ignores Chávez’s connections with FARC guerillas that have long destabilized neighboring Colombia.
Instead, Bajak and the AP dwell on Chávez’s theatrical gestures, from brandishing Simon Bolivar’s sword to waxing poetical about the southern plains of the country. The obituary glosses over Chávez’s economic mismanagement and corruption, as well as human rights abuses committed under his rule.
The best that can be said of the AP’s effort is that it is not the worst hagiography of Chávez we will see in the next few days.