How the Venezuelan press is remembering Hugo Chavez


A screenshot of a government-sponsored ad running in the Venezuelan press.

Venezuela -- and the world -- is divided over the death of Hugo Chavez, the polarizing political figure who led the Latin American country for 14 years.

As the Post's Nick Miroff reported this morning, poor Venezuelans have tearfully mourned Chavez's death, even as American politicians celebrated the "welcome news." American outlets alternatively described Chavez as "poisonous," "exploitative" and "flamboyantly provocative."

But the most telling accounts of Chavez's life and death are in the Venezuelan press, which has reported breathlessly on his lengthy illness, funeral preparations and boyhood photos since Tuesday. They reflect, if nothing else, the lasting impact Chavez will have on Venezuelan life.

Full-page government ads in several papers showed a smiling Chavez under the red text "hasta la victoria siempre" -- "toward victory forever!" -- a phrase made famous by the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.

An editorial in El Nacional, one of Venezuela's largest national papers, describes Chavez's hold over the state:

He dominated all of the state powers, won indefinite reelection, enjoyed the highest petroleum prices and personalized power in such a way that 15 years after the Bolivarian Revolution, he left the structures of the State built in his image and likeness.

But at El Universal, another national paper, some see hope for change. The paper ran an editorial headlined "The story is barely starting":

The phase of chavismo without Chavez begins and, maybe -- if the people's maturity in the midst of change and great turbulence permits it -- we will be able to build on this great opportunity, to resume the necessary and viable plans and projects aiming for a better horizon, with renewed hopes and the generative consensus of peace and progress. The story is barely beginning.

 

This could be the moment to rewrite it. And, this time, to do it better.

Notably, Venezuela has a history of press censorship and intimidation. As recently as January, Human Rights Watch slammed the Chavez government for building "a legal regime that allows it to censor and punish its critics, in clear violation of international norms."

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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Caitlin Dewey · March 6, 2013