Losing the spin war

My immediate reaction after today’s “pictures” and revelations, in Foreign Policy’s Transitions blog. Whether it’s Chávez’s health or the economy, it seems the only “proof” we have is that the government’s messaging is just as bad as its handling of the economy. An excerpt:

The government doesn’t answer questions from an independent press, and this spares them the trouble of fielding obvious questions. Any independent journalist would have questioned the logic of denouncing currency exchanges while keeping them in place for years. They would have probably pointed out that exporters of “non-traditional” items need to ask permission from the government to export. They would have asked about the things that people are saying on chavista websites, which have assailed a move many of them consider “neoliberal,” particularly after the IMF went out of its way to praise the Venezuelan government for devaluing.

Today the government startled everyone by admitting that the president was having trouble speaking due to a tracheal tube. The revelation, accompanied by pictures of a smiling Chávez and his two daughters (with the tracheal tube safely out of sight), came a few days after the publication of a story by Spanish daily ABC reporting that, indeed, Chávez could no longer speak, a story the government promptly dismissed. And Chávez’s son-in-law, in a rare slip, said that Chávez was receiving “palliative care,” a term frequently used for end-of-life care.

The lack of message discipline is even affecting the Cuban government. After Fidel Castro himself, in a rare public appearance, sounded bullish about Chávez’s prospects for recovery, the Cuban government made an effort to tone down expectations and even tried to modify the transcript of Castro’s words to the press.

As the government contradicts itself on issue after issue, it takes high-level parsing to understand what is going on behind the scenes. This only heightens the sensation among many Venezuelans that, as their leader fights for his life, the nation is adrift.