In Latin America generally, society is broadly divided into three groups: whites, mixed race mestizos and the original native peoples. The elite ruling classes, namely whites, select and have elected white presidents.
Evo Morales in Bolivia, the late Hugo Chavez and now Nicolas Maduro are new and notable exceptions. The mostly white opposition in Venezuela is peopled by those holding leadership and management positions in business and industry, and consequently wield substantial financial clout and the ability to inflict economic damage, even chaos.
Challenged on several fronts simultaneously, President Maduro has had problems. But the attitude of the Western press and its one-sided reporting has not helped. National Public Radio (NPR) in the U.S. calls itself an independent voice, is deemed sober and left of center, and sides usually with Democrats. But on Venezuela, the mainstream press is united -- also on Russia, no matter how contrary the facts.
When the opposition decided to hold its own July 16 referendum/'consultation' on the proposed constitutional change, NPR reported as follows: Headlined the following day as, "In Unofficial Vote, Venezuelans Overwhelmingly Reject Constitutional Change," the piece goes on to state 98 percent voted to reject. And more than 7 million voted including 700,000 expatriates comprising a third of the electorate.
Here is what it fails to mention: First, government supporters did not join this exercise. Second, although far short of the 14 million the opposition had said would participate, it still claimed they tallied 7,186,160 votes. Something is wrong somewhere because they also state they had 2000 polling stations and 14,000 voting booths. Simple division yields 513 votes per booth or 57 votes per hour (one per minute) over the 9-hour voting period at each and every voting booth. Hardly believable. Clearly NPR does not stretch itself to simple arithmetic. There are other easily checked facts. NPR, for example, fails to report evidence including a video proving multiple voting. Indeed the unusual step taken by the opposition to burn all ballots after counting, purportedly to protect the voters, in itself should raise eyebrows.
Obvious questions remain unasked and unanswered. If the opposition was so certain of its numbers and if as NPR headlines, 'Venezuelans overwhelming reject constitutional change', why didn't the opposition simply wait until the official poll on July 30 instead of this poorly supervised affair with questionable results.
The mainstream media in the West also declines to explore the sociological aspects of the Venezuelan divide. The opposition comprises the elite, predominantly white segment; the Chavistas mostly mestizo. The population is actually 43.6 percent white, 51.6 percent mestizo, 3.7 percent black African and 2.7 percent Amerindian.
The political divide is also social with the white population less than willing to give up some of their share of the economic pie.It is a tough fight for the Chavez revolution aimed at greater social equity, given the economic power of the elite.
To make matters worse for an oil exporter, there is a glut of oil. Royal Dutch Shell just put forward a pessimistic vision of the future believing that oil prices will remain "lower forever" although Shell itself is well prepared. Venezuela is not, and a recalcitrant elite class does not help.
Dr. Arshad M Khan is a former professor whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media.