Network Silence Greets Announcement of Chavez's Hostile Oil Industry Takeover

     His country is the fourth-largest exporter of oil to the United States, and he just announced an oil nationalization plan that would undercut private investment in his country, but dictator Hugo Chavez’s announcement earned no mention on the ABC or NBC evening weekend newscasts.

     Chavez’s announcement is just the latest step in his push to socialize his country’s economy. In the April 14, 2006, edition of the Christian Science Monitor, contributor Jens Gould reported on Chavez’s pre-election push to seize private oil company assets. At that time, Chavez’s government seized private oil fields after France’s Total and Italy’s ENI refused “to convert their contracts to joint ventures with the state by April 1.”

     The socialist president’s most recent power grab was reported on CNN’s January 15 “American Morning.”

     “Hugo Chavez is busy taking over the energy industry in Venezuela, and he probably is after more than that,” teased anchor Miles O’Brien as he introduced Ali Velshi’s “Minding Your Business” segment shortly before 8 a.m. on the January 15 program.

     “We’ve decided to nationalize the whole Venezuelan energy and electricity sector. All of it. Absolutely all of it,” Velshi quoted Chavez from his January 13 State of the Nation.

     Velshi explained the new policy would mean nothing short of the Venezuelan government seizing oil service firms like Halliburton (NYSE: HAL) as well as refining operations owned by American companies such as Chevron (NYSE: CVX) and ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) as well as international companies such “Britain’s BP, Norway’s Statoil, and France’s Total,” Velshi said.

     Yet even as Velshi noted the march towards full-fledged socialism, he punted when it came to what the move could mean for oil markets or for the Venezuelan people. “We’ll have to see how this all works out,” he concluded, insisting that the country can’t afford to stop selling the United States oil.

     But as AEI’s Mark Falcoff wrote on January 10 in The American magazine, Chavez’s nationalization policy bears a strong resemblance to the failed Marxist policies of another Latin American country.

     “It is ironic that Cuba – the country Chavez takes as the model – after a half-century of socialism is courting foreign private capital for joint ventures and is also running short of sugar, which for over a century was its principal export. Cuba’s problem is not just one of world sugar prices, which have slumped for decades, but also maintenance of equipment and subordination of management to political considerations,” the Princeton-educated Latin American scholar noted, drawing parallels to Chavez’s gamble with state-owned and managed oil reserves.

     The media’s disinterest in Chavez and his economic policies is hardly new.

     On March 1, 2006, the Business & Media Institute (BMI) released a special report on the media’s paltry coverage of the bellicose anti-American Chavez that found that, among other things, the media downplayed Chavez’s radical politics. In fact, only four stories in an 8-year time period mentioned Venezuela’s state ownership of gasoline retailer Citgo. Nearly two months later, BMI found that the broadcast news media had little inclination to criticize Chavez’s management of the profits from state-owned oil ventures, even as reporters criticized publicly-listed U.S. corporations for record profits.