When bland journalism reads like a hatchet job

Reading Simón Romero’s New York Times piece on the intensifying wave of repression in recent weeks is a strange experience – and one that paints a vivid picture of the scale of the International Public Relations quagmire chavismo is now in.

On the one hand, the piece is almost mundane: a just-the-facts-ma’am recapitulation of stories that are widely known and amply documented in the public record. The kinds of things you couldn’t really contest on any kind of evidenciary basis. On the other hand, the piece reads like – and will, no doubt, be interpreted by the government as – a merciless attack, a hatchet job maliciously designed to blacken the government’s image.  

Have a look at just the first three paragraphs:

When Judge María Lourdes Afiuni issued a ruling in December that irked President Hugo Chávez, he did little to contain his outrage. The president, contending on national television that she would have been put before a firing squad in earlier times, sent his secret intelligence police to arrest her. 

Then the agents took her to the overcrowded women’s prison in this city of slums near Caracas. They put her in a cell near more than 20 inmates whom Judge Afiuni had sentenced on charges like murder and drug smuggling.


“I’ve received threats from inmates telling me they will burn me alive because they see me as a symbol of the system that put them in prison,” said Judge Afiuni, 46, in her prison cell. “I’m in this hell because I had the temerity to do my job as a judge in a way that didn’t please Chávez.”

See? Chavismo has crossed all sorts of rubicons now – it really doesn’t take any special powers of observation to dig up facts that place it way, way beyond the pale. So the piece goes on like that, graf after gory graf, piling on details on the kind of abuse of power nobody with even the slightest democratic sensibility could begin to justify or stand behind. 

The only rebuttal left for the regime’s boosters is the generic accusation of media conspiracy, because any attempt to wrestle with the actual facts contained in the piece leaves them mired in a mountain of evidence they can’t possibly refute. 

This, when you think about it, is the bed chavismo has made for itself. And now, the Weisbrots and Wilperts of this world have to lay in it.