Controversial Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez causes division even on the political left. Confronted with an endless barrage of fear-mongering commentary and superficial coverage, North Americans seem to widely regard Chavez as a demagogue and dictator, when his popular and legitimate electoral support surpasses that of any leader in the western world. I remember Jon Stewart (who stands for nothing worthwhile and much that isn’t) nearly climbing over his fake news desk years ago to shame lifelong activists Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover for associating with Chavez. In the tightest election of his career, Chavez was re-elected yesterday with a mandate to “deepen” the Bolivarian revolutionary process in a landslide vote (with a voter participation – and registration – rate that should be the envy of the world).
For some discussion of the western press’s ignoble Chavez-centric reporting on Venezuela, see Mark Weisbrot and Owen Jones. The real reason for this post, however, is to point you to GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER’s firsthand coverage of election day from Caracas: The Ballot and the Bullet. Author of a new book (a bottom-up people’s history of the Venezuelan revolution), this is some of the most compelling first-person political journalism I’ve read. Full disclosure: I was part of a group that brought George to Vancouver to speak several years ago when he was still working on the Ph.D dissertation that would become his new book.