teleSUR vs. the poor

Founded on a promise to cover the news from the perspective of the underprivileged, teleSUR today does precisely the opposite: spinning the Venezuelan crisis away with an editorial line that drips with contempt for the poor.

Since its inception, teleSUR acted as a propaganda machine for Venezuela to project a democratic image abroad. The station promised to occupy a unique space in Latin America’s public sphere by providing coverage from the perspective of the underprivileged. With its recent coverage of Venezuela, teleSUR defaulted on that mission, once again proving it exists only to serve Chavismo.

Today, teleSUR’s coverage of the worst crisis in Venezuela’s history da pena ajena. The “progressive” news outlet minimizes the effects of the crisis on Venezuelans, the majority who now live in poverty, and hasn’t so much as hinted that families need 15 minimum wages to afford the basic food basket. Instead, teleSUR is fixated on the idea that the mainstream media is exaggerating the crisis.

teleSUR’s slant isn’t always that obvious. On non-Venezuela topics, it reads like a relatively normal left-leaning station news station. Open and you might find articles on institutional racism in the U.S., the 43 missing students in Ayotzinapa, or how the Gaza strip is in ruins.

These are alarming social issues, but in the magical world of teleSUR, only conservative governments are held responsible. In teleSUR’s Venezuela, food riots are merely an opposition strategy to generate social unrest. According to them, the average Venezuelan is fine; they ate enough to satisfy international standards in 2015. Forget that 16% of households stopped eating three times a day from February to April this year, and forget that the share of the population that isn’t eating properly is now 46.5%. Forget the constant looting for food. If you forget those marginalized by the government’s policies and the economy, averages tend to look alright.

teleSUR’s other coverage on Venezuela consists of fluff pieces that rhetorically emphasize equality and criticize conservative actors. “Venezuelan government continues to work for social equality” reads the headline of an article published last week, consisting entirely of statements from a PSUV official. Instead of examining the outcomes of policies to support the working class through the crisis, it repeats the same, tired, Chavista script about a “media war” and a “new era of social inclusion”.

Articles like these couldn’t have any more depth if they tried. In its stubbornness, the government no longer strives for social equality; it is merely preoccupied with its image. This is a “new era of social inclusion” in which 74% of Venezuelans do not benefit from CLAPs, Maduro’s latest plan to solve the scarcity crisis. And yes, these are numbers from Hinterlaces, a Chavista-leaning polling firm.

In arguing that “things in Venezuela are not as bad as Western media tells you,” teleSUR is being más neoliberal que el carajo. A station that claims to speak with and for the poor increasingly peddles arguments that make sense only if you’re privileged.

Seriously! No matter how much teleSUR denounces neoliberalism, it implicitly admits that economic austerity is necessary by being uncritical of the government’s measures to pay its debts and avoid default. Are the measures necessary in order to keep PDVSA afloat? Probably, yes. Still, teleSUR fails to point out that had the government saved up during the largest and longest oil windfall in Venezuela’s history, like other oil-dependent countries, the underprivileged would be suffering a lot less.

It has always been like this

A few weeks back, Juan pointed out how pro-government apologists can go through absurd lengths to make sense of the crisis. I wholeheartedly agree, but I think that what happens with teleSUR’s content is systematically different. At least Gabriel Hetland’s piece for The Nation tries to recognize the unequal way in which Venezuelans suffer from food scarcity, even if it poorly misses the mark elsewhere. Hetland may be an apologist, but his work is his own.

The same cannot be said for most of teleSUR’s work. The Venezuelan government has been the majority shareholder of the network since it was founded in 2005. Like the big media conglomerates it blames for the crisis, teleSUR protects a specific set of interests. When these interests are at odds with the beliefs that are tediously repeated in its own content, it’s the interests that win out.

Defenders of teleSUR argue that it offers an alternative point of view by standing up to imperial powers, rebelling against the economic interests of the global elite, and fighting for women and minorities. Sure…

Did teleSUR stand up to Maduro when he displaced Colombian migrants in an effort to control the bachaquerismo that Chavista policies created? It criticized the United States’ forced displacement of undocumented immigrants, so surely it must take the same stance in this case, right? Unfortunately, no. Like Donald Trump, teleSUR sells human rights violations as security measures.

Did it rebel against Maduro’s monopolistic ambitions when he used military threats to prevent Guyana from competing in regional oil markets? Nope. They sided with the world’s largest oil reserves holder, Venezuela, and blamed the smaller country for the ongoing border dispute that the British actually started.

Where was their defense of women when Venezuelan judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni was raped in prison? Even Chomsky, highly critical of Western media, advocated for her release. At the time, teleSUR argued the story was used to disparage Venezuela. A couple months back, Afiuni’s eventual release was casually cited as the result of “poor health conditions”.

*sigh* verga…

teleSUR claims it’s not subject to “capitalist” industry norms because it foregoes commercial advertising. Even so, by relying on the Venezuelan government for the majority of its funding, it’s a pawn of Chavismo’s hemispheric chess game. Its subjugation to Maduro’s agenda makes it as unreliable as Fox News.

But this article is just another effort by international media to destabilize Venezuela, right? I’m a 23 year old kid writing this for free. Get at me, teleSUR.