Newsweek has a commentary piece this week by Venezuelan journalist Boris Muñoz which cites anonymous sources as suggesting that Hugo Chávez’s cancer is but a cleverly designed conspiracy meant to distract Venezuelans from the country’s problems:
As someone very close to Chávez told me (anonymously as he feared falling out of favor with the supreme commander), it was a welcome distraction from the wear and tear of years of failed policies. Chávez “has drawn attention away from the big problems of his administration such as its incompetence, corruption, and bureaucracy, and the nation’s criminal violence,” the source said. “He has created this dramatic scenario to ... seduce the masses because he knows that, terminally ill or not, this is his last chance.”
Indeed, even some members of his inner circle suspect that Chávez’s long battle with cancer is really an elaborate charade masterfully orchestrated in complicity with the government of Havana— and one that might win him yet another term, perpetuating his presidency for another six years.
Never mind for a minute the idea that someone “very close to Chávez” describes his administration as “incompetent” and “corrupt” – “members of his inner circle” suggest Chávez never had cancer at all! With the help of those ingenious Cubans, he successfully duped the Venezuelan people – and so many naïve journalists, including Dan Rather – into believing he was in a life and death struggle against illness, even appearing take on a more plaid complexion, and have his hair fall out! In publishing this article, Newsweek has moved into Weekly World News territory, ala stories such as “Dick Cheney is a Robot” or the harder to believe “Hillary Clinton Adopts Alien Baby.”
While considering this sinister plot, recall how derisively the media generally reacts to Chávez’s assertions regarding assassination plots and U.S. government subterfuge in Venezuela – even though the U.S. role in the 2002 coup, in which Chávez was removed from office is well documented.
Newsweek has never reported the Venezuelan government’s slashing poverty in half, cutting extreme poverty by 70 percent, or even Venezuela’s strong economic growth once the government got control over the oil sector. And Newsweek has barely reported (save for this 2004 article) on one of the most important stories in Latin America’s modern history, one which helps explain the region’s shift to the left: the historic and unprecedented economic failure from 1980 – 2000. But it has plenty of space for wild Hollywood-style conspiracy stories.