[News] Whitewashing Neoliberal Repression in Chile and Ecuador

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 25 13:28:36 EDT 2019


  Whitewashing Neoliberal Repression in Chile and Ecuador

Lucas Koerner - October 23, 2019

Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, people are rising up against 
right-wing, US-backed governments and their neoliberal austerity policies.

Currently in Chile, the government of billionaire Sebastian Piñera has 
deployed the army to crush nationwide demonstrations against inequality 
sparked by a subway fare hike.

In Ecuador, indigenous peoples, workers and students recently brought 
the country to a standstill during 11 days of protests against the 
gutting of fuel subsidies by President Lenín Moreno as part of an IMF 
austerity package 

One might expect these popular rebellions to receive unreservedly 
sympathetic coverage from international media that claim to be on the 
side of democracy and the common people. On the contrary, corporate 
journalists frequently describe these uprisings as dangerous alterations 
of “law and order,” laden with “violence,” “chaos” and “unrest.”

This portrait contrasts remarkably with coverage of anti-government 
protests in Venezuela, where generally the only violence highlighted is 
that allegedly perpetrated by the state. In the eyes of Western elite 
opinion, Venezuela’s middle-class opposition have long been leaders of a 
legitimate popular protest against an authoritarian, anti-American 
regime. Poor people rebelling against repressive US client states are 
considered an unacceptable deviation from this script.

      ‘*Crackdown’ in Venezuela*

Corporate journalists have never been able to contain their enthusiasm 
for the right-wing Venezuelan opposition’s repeated coup attempts, which 
are regularly cast as a “pro-democracy” movement (*FAIR.org*, 5/10/19 

In 2017, Venezuela’s opposition led four months of violent, 
insurrectionary protests demanding early presidential elections, 
resulting in over 125 dead 
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/13081>,  including protesters, 
government supporters and bystanders. It was the opposition’s fifth 
major effort to oust the government by force since 2002.

Despite the demonstrations featuring attacks on journalists, lynchings 
and assassinations of government supporters, they were depicted as a 
“uprising” against “authoritarianism” (*New York  Times*, 6/22/17 
a “rebellion” in the face of “the government’s crackdown” (*Bloomberg*, 
5/18/17 <https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2017-venezuela-protests/>) 
and a David-like movement of “young firebrands” facing down a sinister 
regime (*Guardian*, 5/25/17 
Reporters frequently attributed the mounting death toll to state 
security forces (*France 24*, 7/21/17 
Newsweek,* 6/20/17 
*Washington Post*, 6/3/17) 
while generally ignoring opposition political violence reported to be 
responsible for over 30 deaths 

The pattern was repeated in January, when deadly clashes broke out 
across the country  in the days before and after opposition leader Juan 
Guaidó declared himself “interim president” with the US’s encouragement. 
Corporate outlets described the events as a “violent crackdown” 
(*Independent*, 1/24/19 
with security forces “spreading terror…to target critics” (*Reuters*, 
and “soldiers and paramilitary gunmen…hunting opposition activists” 
(*Miami Herald*,1/27/19 
International journalists based their accounts largely on pro-opposition 
sources, suppressing inconvenient details that complicated their 
Manichean narrative, such as the fact 
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14256> that some 38% of protests 
were violent and at least 28% featured armed confrontations with 

Unlike in Chile and Ecuador, corporate outlets have consistently 
vilified Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro—who won 6.2 million votes, 
or 31% of the electorate last year—as an “authoritarian” (*FAIR.org*, 
or a “dictator” (*FAIR.org*, 4/11/19 
justifying the latest coup effort.

      *Chile ‘Riots’ *

In recent days, Chileans have taken to the streets in mass 
demonstrations against the Piñera administration, following a further 
increase in Santiago’s exorbitant subway fare.

Beginning as high school student–led protests, the movement has 
escalated into a full-scale rebellion against the savagely unequal 
neoliberal order 
prompting the government to militarize the streets and impose a curfew 
for the first time since the Western-backed Pinochet dictatorship (1973–90).

Despite the largest protests since the return of democracy, the 
international corporate media have largely referred to them in 
pejorative terms such as “riots” (*CNN*, 10/19/19 
*CNBC*, 10/21/19 
“violent unrest” (*New York Times*, 10/19/19 
and “chaos” (*NPR*, 10/19/19 
*Vice*, 10/21/19 
providing a moral casus belli for war against the people.

Revealingly, no major outlets have described the government’s brutal 
repression as a “crackdown,” nor called into question the legitimacy of 
Piñera, who was elected in 2017 with the backing of 26% of registered 

It’s true that international journalists are beginning to reference 
allegations of human rights violations reported by Chile’s National 
Human Rights Institute <https://twitter.com/inddhh>, including, as of 
October 23, 173 people shot and 18 dead, among them at least five 
presumably at the hands of authorities.

However, the victims of state violence in Chile have not received 
anywhere near the amount of attention international outlets have 
dedicated to protester deaths in Venezuela, where the dead have been 
movingly profiled (*New York Times*, 6/10/17 
*BBC*, 5/14/17 
<https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-39885943>)—provided they 
were not lynched by the opposition 

In two emblematic cases, Manuel Rebolledo, 23, died on October 21 after 
being run over 
by a navy vehicle near Concepción, while Ecuadorian national Romario 
Veloz, 26, was shot dead the day before at a protest in La Serena. 
Neither men have been mentioned by name in Western press reports.

It would appear that the only worthy victims, in the eyes of US 
corporate journalists, are those that have propaganda value from the 
standpoint of Western foreign policy interests. Reporters spontaneously 
empathize with neoliberal technocrats like Piñera, even as they 
occasionally chide them for “excesses.”

“Mr. Piñera said that he is mindful of the broader grievances that 
fueled the unrest… But he seemed to have difficulty coming to grips with 
the real source of the population’s frustrations,” the *New York Times 
sympathetically observed, before going on to note that the president has 
declared “war” against his own people.

The paper of record suggested that Chileans might find the imposition of 
martial law “jarring,” given that “the military had killed and tortured 
thousands of people just decades ago in the name of restoring order.” 
But despite the article being headlined “What You Need to Know About the 
Unrest in Chile,” the *Times *did not find it relevant to mention 
anywhere that state security forces were currently maiming and killing 
demonstrators in the streets, and allegedlytorturing detainees 

The dominant narrative fed to the public is that Piñera’s government has 
been “inept” in responding to the protests (*Economist*, 10/20/19 
*Reuters*, 10/21/19 
*New York Times*, 10/21/19 
but never criminal or cruel.

No Western newspapers have published scathing op-eds calling Piñera a 
“dictator” and demanding their government take action to “restore 
democracy,” as they have done regularly in the case of Venezuela 
Rather, they counsel the billionaire president to address “inequality,” 
barring any reference to what is increasingly coming to resemble state 
(*New York Times*, 10/22/19 
*Guardian*, 10/23/19 
*Bloomberg*, 10/23/19 

Corporate journalists continue  to whitewash Piñera, describing him as 
“center-right” (*Guardian*, 10/21/19 
*CNBC*, 10/19/19 
*Reuters*, 10/21/19 
and concealing his personal ties 
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBGwQX34oeo> to murderous dictator 
Augusto Pinochet and those of his top cabinet members 

      *Ecuador ‘Violence’ *

Corporate journalists have shown only marginally more sympathy to 
Ecuador’s recent indigenous-led uprising against IMF-imposed austerity 
measures, frequently described in headlines as “violent protests” 
(*CNN*, 10/8/19 
*Guardian*, 10/8/19 
*USA Today*, 10/9/19 
*Financial Times*, 10/8/19 

President Moreno has yet to be labeled by the international media as 
“authoritarian,” despite ordering soldiers to repress demonstrators in 
the streets, imposing a curfew, suspending basic civil liberties and 
arresting rival politicians.

Since betraying his campaign promise to continue his predecessor Rafael 
Correa’s left-wing policies. and embracing the oligarchy he ran against, 
Moreno has become the darling of Western elite opinion (*FAIR.org*, 

Like in Chile, corporate outlets have whitewashed Moreno’s vicious 
crackdown <https://www.thenation.com/article/ecuador-protests-imf/>, 
which left seven dead, around a thousand arrested and a similar figure 
wounded. However, corporate outlets have been even more nefarious in 
obfuscating the origins of the crisis in Ecuador.

As Joe Emersberger has recently exposed for FAIR (10/23/19 
Western journalists’ favorite lie is that Moreno “inherited a debt 
crisis that ballooned as his predecessor and one-time mentor, former 
President Rafael Correa, took out loans for a major dam 
highways, schools, clinics and other projects” (*New York Times*, 
In fact, the country’s debt-to-GDP level remains low, though it has 
increased slightly under Moreno, due not to public works but to his 
pro-elite policies.

Corporate outlets have for the most part admitted that Moreno has 
presented no evidence to back his ludicrous claims of Correa and Maduro 
supporters orchestrating the protests; nonetheless, they have, with few 
exceptions (*DW*, 10/14/19 
*Reuters*, 10/12/19 
shamefully ignored Moreno’s draconian persecution of Correaist 
politicians (including elected representatives), which he justifies on 
the basis of the very same conspiracy theory. This coverage contrasts 
sharply with the red carpet treatment regularly provided to Venezuela’s 
US-friendly opposition politicians, regardless of how many coups they 
perpetrate (*Reuters*, 4/30/19 
*LA Times*, 4/30/19 
*Guardian*, 2/6/19 

      *Western Media Gendarmerie *

It is not coincidental that Western journalists stand aghast at the 
violence of the excluded and exploited in Chile and Ecuador, while 
rationalizing that spearheaded by Washington-backed opposition elites in 

This bias has nothing to do with any actual amount of looting or arson. 
Rather, it is the eruption of the racialized poor into polite bourgeois 
society’s technocratic body politic that is viscerally violent to local 
neocolonial elites and their Western professional-class backers.

Ecuador’s protests are the latest in a long line of anti-neoliberal 
uprisings, which brought down three presidents between 1997 and 2005.

The rebellion exploding in Chile is the largest in over a generation, 
evidencing the terminal legitimacy crisis of the “low-intensity 
democracy” crafted by Pinochet to maintain the neoliberal model imposed 
at gunpoint. The Chilean uprising has genuinely terrified elites, 
leading  the right-wing president to wage war on his own people. At 
stake is not just the stability of a key Western ally, but more 
crucially, neoliberalism’s ideological narrative that has upheld Chile 
as a “success story 

Corporate journalists will most likely continue to muffle themselves 
vis-a-vis repressive US client states, in the same way that they 
systematically conceal the impact of Washington’s sanctions on Venezuela 
(*FAIR.org*, 6/26/19 
which are estimated to have already killed 40,000 Venezuelans 
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/14446> since 2017.

If the first casualty of war is truth, its self-anointed purveyors in 
the international media have much blood on their hands indeed.

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