Mar
26
2014

Who Is Dying in Venezuela? A Revealing NYT Correction

Venezuelan protester (cc photo: Andrés E. Azpúrua)

Venezuelan protester (cc photo: Andrés E. Azpúrua)

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has an op-ed in the New York Times today (3/26/14). Given that he is currently being held in a military prison, the piece is notable. But the most revealing part might be a correction that appears at the end: 

Correction: March 26, 2014 

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the more than 30 people killed in the political demonstrations in Venezuela since February 4 were protesters. That number includes security forces and civilians, not only protesters.

So the op-ed currently reads, "Over 30 people, including security forces and civilians, have died in the demonstrations." In the original, those deaths were all considered to be on the protesters' side: "More than 1,500 protesters have been detained, more than 30 have been killed." If you have been relying on US media to follow the Venezuela story, or relying on Venezuelan opposition sources, you'd probably have the mistaken idea that the violence was basically all happening on one side–which might explain how this error got into the Times.

Jake Johnston of the Center for Economic & Policy Research (CEPR) has been keeping track of the deaths attributed to the protests ("Venezuela: Who Are They and How Did They Die?"), and a similar effort by Ewan Roberston can be found at Venezuelanalysis.com. The latter finds  pro-government and anti-government deaths about equal (nine on both sides), with a dozen deaths of civilians with no apparent political affiliation–numbers that basically line up with Johnston's. 

Street barricade, Merida, Venezuela (cc photo: Pedro Moreno)

Street barricade, Merida, Venezuela (cc photo: Pedro Moreno)

The presence of the protest barricades appears to be the most common cause of deaths: individuals shot while attempting to clear the opposition street blockades, automobile accidents caused by the presence of the barricades, and several incidents attributed to the opposition stringing razor wire across streets near the barricades. The most recent reported death was a pregnant woman who was shot while walking towards a barricade (AP, 3/24/14). She was not participating in the protest on either side. 

Some analysts have pointed out the most recent protests reveal a fundamental split within the Venezuelan opposition, between those who believe in defeating Maduro and his party by democratic means and those–like Lopez–who favor street confrontations with the goal removing Maduro from office. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that he would want to conceal the fact that the protests have been responsible for many of the deaths he would prefer to blame on the government. 

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.