October 9, 2011

AP Whitewashes Chavez’s Planned Island Property Expropriation, Waters It Down Further in 24 Hours

In a report carried at the Washington Post on Thursday and updated early Friday, the Associated Press’s Christopher Toothaker wrote a lengthy report about how Venezuelan ruler Hugo Chavez plans to “expropriate homes on the Caribbean resort islands of Los Roques, saying the structures were built on plots bought in shadowy business deals.” By the end of the day Friday, the report turned into four paragraphs written from the standpoint of certain island residents which made it seem like no big deal. Both AP reports don’t convey the severity of the Chavez’s action found in a Reuters report on the same topic.

Here are key paragraphs from the initial longer AP report (bolds are mine throughout):

Venezuela’s Chavez says houses and inns on idyllic Caribbean island to be expropriated

… Chavez offered no details regarding the planned seizures of private homes and quaint inns, known in Spanish as “posadas.”

“There are some houses that were illegally built. We’re going to take them over,” he said on television from the presidential palace.

The president said the government would build state-run inns on Los Roques, which is an archipelago of tiny islands offering snorkeling and scuba diving along numerous coral reefs and deserted white-sand beaches.

Lying 95 miles (150 kilometers) off the mainland, Los Roques is immensely popularly with foreign tourists seeking natural beauty and tranquility.

Here’s the later, not-to-worry item:

Venezuelan islanders say expropriation affects few

Most residents of Venezuela’s Los Roques archipelago don’t seem concerned by President Hugo Chavez’s announcement that his government will expropriate homes on the Caribbean islands.

They say the measure will affect only a few property owners.

Some residents on the archipelago’s neighborhood-based assembly say they had expected Thursday’s announcement and don’t fear their homes or inns will be targeted for state takeover.

I would suspect that it won’t be too long before we can file the bolded sentence above under “famous last words.”

Chavez says some homes on Los Roques were built on plots bought in shadowy business deals and will be seized by the state.

The problem is that even AP’s original report, which gave the impression that Chavez intends to be selective, is not consistent with how Andrew Cawthorne at Reuters described it:

Chavez eyes Venezuela tourist islands for takeover

President Hugo Chavez said his government would seize private homes on the idyllic Los Roques archipelago in the Caribbean and use them for state-run tourism in the latest move to implant socialism across Venezuela.

“I’ve always said we should nationalize Los Roques,” the ever-pugnacious Chavez said, making the announcement in a telephone call to state television late on Wednesday.

Lying just north of Venezuela’s coast, Los Roques’ dozens of islands are one of the South American nation’s favorite — and most expensive — tourist spots, with pristine white sand beaches, coral reefs and teeming sea life.

… The 57-year-old leader, who is mainly communicating with the nation by phone calls to state media during his convalescence after cancer treatment, said the government would build hostels on Los Roques “for the people.”

Yachts confiscated from fugitive bankers would be used to transport tourists, he added.

Representatives of property owners on Los Roques could not be immediately reached for comment.

As a state-administered national park, it is unclear how people have been able to obtain property there.

The bolded sentence makes it look like he wants the whole, uh, enchilada, doesn’t it?

If you ever wondered why Hugo Chavez’s authoritarian actions don’t get mentioned much in U.S. news coverage, you need look no further than how the Associated Press consistently downplays — and then further waters down — what he says and does.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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