On the front page of Tuesday’s NY Times (subscription required), reporter Juan Forero (and I use that term loosely) does the Bushco spin on Chavez and it’s time someone points out the spin asap.

With Venezuela’s oil revenues rising 32 percent last year, Mr. Chávez has been subsidizing samba parades in Brazil, eye surgery for poor Mexicans and even heating fuel for poor families from Maine to the Bronx to Philadelphia. By some estimates, the spending now surpasses the nearly $2 billion Washington allocates annually to pay for development programs and the drug war in western South America.

“He’s managed to do what Fidel Castro never could,” said Stephen Johnson, a scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Here we have the completely biased right wing think tank the HERITAGE Foundation as his first ‘expert’. That should signal the hatchet job yet to come.

Mega-projects, like Mr. Chávez’s utopian plan of building a gas pipeline through the Amazon from Venezuela to Argentina, are not likely to materialize.

Don’t you just love it, it’s “utopian” when a Latin America country has big plans (backed by big money don’t forget) but when the Neocons/Gas and Oil people want to run pipelines throughout the Middle East that are 10 times larger they are seen as ‘visionary’.

The Center of Economic Investigations, an economic consulting firm in Caracas, issued a study recently that said Mr. Chávez had spent more than $25 billion abroad since taking office in 1999, about $3.6 billion a year, while First Justice, a leading opposition party, put the figure at $16 billion, based on Mr. Chávez’s own declarations.

Just who is the “Center of Economic Investigations”, a CONSULTING FIRM? And of course we head right for First Jusice, a leading “opposition” party. Where is the balance here? what is the government’s number? I guess you’d have to get a real reporter for that information.

Critics see the spending as a reckless exercise in populist decadence intended to burnish Mr. Chávez’s image as the region’s leading statesmen while embarrassing the Bush administration, the Venezuelan leader’s principal obsession since American officials gave tacit support to a failed coup against him in 2002. Venezuela may be enjoying record high oil prices, they say, but it remains poor and mismanaged.

Critics do, really? What about supporters or independent analysis? Again, I guess you’d have to have someone walking around and doing reporting.

Mr. Chávez is “spending considerable sums involving himself in the political and economic life of other countries in Latin America and elsewhere, this despite the very real economic development and social needs of his own country,” said John Negroponte, the American director of national intelligence, in February at a Congressional hearing in Washington.

Negroponte? The death squads idiot now fronting for Bushco? What a great catch that he is being quoted dissing the head of a Latin American president of a democracy. How funny that he has a problem with a country sending loads abroad while things at home get slashed! Mr. Negroponte needs to shut one of his two faces here.

Antonio Ledezma, an opposition leader and one of the president’s more determined foes, said the policy’s aim was to build “a political platform with an international reach.”

Wow, another opposition leader getting a slap in, how long did he have to stand in line with the other negative commentators? The line of Venezuelan Chavez supporters is less than zero here.

Mr. Chávez celebrates the spending as revolutionary largesse, intended to further his dream of unifying Latin America in a way Simón Bolívar could only dream of.

Nice putdown Juan, Chavez as dreamer again. Why is this relevant when Bolivar didn’t have Chavez’s BILLIONS? Again, it would take a reporter to handle that story. Mix that with his very popular status in Latin America. How tough it must be to help unify Latin America when you have tons of money to help the poor and disenfranchized (the majority) and you are wildly popular on top of it.

“From a fiscal perspective,” said Michelle Billig, director of political risk at the Pira Energy Group, a New York consulting firm, “there’s a lot of concern over the lack of savings and what an expansionary fiscal policy could do to their macroeconomic outlook should there be a downturn in prices or supply.”

Thanks again Juan, how can we live without Ms. Billig’s take from the Pira Energy Group, another ‘consulting firm’ (for the Energy folks no less).

Venezuela plans this year to deposit $10 billion into a fund for social programs, Mr. Chávez said in February, up from $8 billion in 2005.
 The programs, government officials contend, have helped reduce poverty to below 30 percent of the population. Social scientists in Venezuela dispute the claim, saying that poverty still hovers at well over 50 percent.  Whatever the truth, polls show that Venezuelans, even those who strongly support Mr. Chávez, are increasingly concerned about the spending abroad.

These numbers are staggeringly fantastic for a country of only 25 million people! Then we get another slap about concerned Venezuelans from a ‘poll’. Whose polls Juan? The opposition party’s?

Big deals — often announced on Mr. Chávez’s weekly nationwide television and radio broadcast — go to the heart of the president’s persona, that of a revolutionary out to remake a region he says has suffered under Washington’s thumb. In the process, critics note, the Venezuelan government has fallen short on the more mundane aspects of governing, like fixing bridges, building homes or running hospitals.  “I do think this is a vulnerability of Chávez, that he prefers the grandiose to the pedestrian,” said Michael Shifter, a policy analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based policy group, who recently visited Caracas.

Critics note? And what do his supporters say you ask? Considering Chavez’s poll numbers are much more than double George Bush’s you don’t get to hear them! Stunning.

But if you read to the end of the article (which how many people really do when this part gets buried off the front page) guess who loves dear Hugo Chavez? Read here:

In the Bronx this past winter, Citgo, a subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, provided heating fuel at a 40 percent discount to some 8,000 low-income residents of 75 apartment buildings.
Even in Philadelphia, where thousands of households are benefiting from a program by Citgo to provide heating oil at a significant discount, people were won over, despite Mr. Chávez’s antagonism toward Mr. Bush.
 “All I can say is thank God for him for being able to help me and some others get some oil,” said Geraldine Shields, a homeowner who received 200 gallons of free oil in January and will be able to buy fuel at a 40 percent discount. “It’s time somebody starting thinking of the little guy.”

Mr. Forero and the New York Times, you are on notice. We are watching you and your bias.

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