Boss Hugo [Chavez]
Published on Thursday, August 25, 2005 | Diplomacy: Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez has auditioned for years to be included as part of the Axis of Evil. To him, televangelist Pat Robertson, who urged the U.S. to "take him out," must seem a godsend.
In recent months, Chavez has insulted President Bush, broadcast sexual and racial innuendo about Condoleezza Rice and denounced the U.S. as "the biggest terrorist." But you probably didn't hear much about that. Instead, you've gotten a full ration of remarks by Christian Broadcasting Network's Pat Robertson, who seemed to urge the U.S. government to assassinate Chavez.
Robertson has apologized, but not before Bloomberg did five updates on his loose talk — then started a second story on him. CNN did special coverage. Time also weighed in, and Robertson made the front page of both the Los Angeles Times and USA Today.
Internet site VenezuelaToday.net reported the year's record high in unique visitors. Web site-use measurer Technorati said Robertson was the blogosphere's top subject for two days. And Wikipedia was flooded with visits seeking the Hugo Chavez listing.
Why all this interest in Robertson? After all, he doesn't make policy. His political clout has diminished since his well-publicized run for the presidency in 1988. These days he's a minor player at best.
Maybe it's that he's a fundamentalist Christian, and therefore fair game for the liberal media. He's also a Republican — a daily double for those wanting to score.
But the frenzy over Robertson — some of whose views we've often called silly — underscores how the media have been ignoring Venezuela and its hostile leader, to the public's detriment.
Since his 1998 election, Chavez has turned a working democracy into an authoritarian state. He's stacked the courts, corrupted the election process and used the state oil company as his own ATM.
He's trumped up political crimes against dissidents, allowed violence against peaceful protesters and threatened Venezuela's free press. Now he's cozying up to communist Cuba. In fact, the two thugocracies are actually talking about merging.
This month, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro stood at the head of Venezuela's military graduating class in Havana like a colonial sahib. Cuba's security services now control Venezuela's identification system and its intelligence apparatus. Chavez cut cooperation with the U.S. on drug interdiction, and has repeatedly threatened to cut off U.S. oil — no idle threat, since Venezuela is our No. 4 supplier, just behind Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.
The wreckage of Venezuela's democracy is clearly dangerous. Chavez is an obvious foe of the U.S. Those should be major issues. Sadly, the media only seem to get interested in him when a Christian preacher with a tendency to pop off says something stupid.
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