Chavez and the Bogus Photo

Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words?

Dariela Aquique

HT File/Photo of Hugo Chavez by Caridad.

HAVANA TIMES — Due to the changes in television programming in Cuba, Channel 21 is giving considerable space for programs by Telesur, the Venezuelan public television network that broadcasts news and features from that nation and the rest of Latin America.

Thanks to that television network, a few days ago I learned about a photo published in the Spanish newspaper El Pais that showed President Chavez in poor physical condition and connected to breathing apparatus. According to TeleSUR, that photo was a fake that had been taken from a video uploaded to YouTube in 2008.

The Venezuelan government, upset over the lack of journalistic ethics, has sued the Spanish periodical, which responded by admitting that the photograph had not been properly confirmed and by also providing an entire story about its origin.

A whole program of discussion and debate regarding the incident was presented entitled Medios sin vergüenza (Shameless Media). I’ve followed all the reports.

But from the beginning, something caught my attention (really bothering me). This was the often mentioned picture not being clearly shown on the screen. Instead they presented a blurred image, which itself can lend to logical conjecture – especially by those who don’t have Internet access and couldn’t see the photo reported in El Pais.

In that broadcast there was an exchange between a professor and a Colombian journalist (Javier Dario Restrepo), who made astute observations about the situation, as well as statements with which I fully agree.

First, he said that what El Pais did was without justification and that he considered it truly unethical, but this didn’t mean there wasn’t an explanation. He then gave the reasons why any media can give distorted or misrepresented information about any topic.

According to Restrepo, when the news that’s circulated isn’t entirely convincing or explicit, and when it’s obtained from an interested party, then there’s room for doubt. This encourages other media sources — antagonistic or not — to spread other versions of the same event. From his point of view, this was what happened.

The information about the health condition of President Chavez is only given by his vice president, Nicolas Maduro, and by the Minister of Communications. This is always very positive and never supported by medical opinions or the presence of specialists who can provide categorical explanations.

There’s also a complete absence of photos, which favors the opposition’s campaigns.

Of course the opinion of this professor was refuted by the Venezuelan journalist who was a guest on the program, as well as by the show’s hostess.

This reminded me about what I said in a post several days ago:

“Evidently, Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias state of health has to be more delicate than what is actually being said. This can be deduced from the absolute absence of images of the recovery of the populist leader. This is why the Venezuelan opposition is speculating about it and engaging in their media campaign.”

In response to this I received strong criticisms from some readers. They accused me of echoing the message of the anti-Chavez media campaigns.

This was not my intention. I was only giving my opinion, and there didn’t exist nor does there now exist information that can contradict that perspective.

We should remember that a few years ago a media campaign was also waged to misrepresent the true health condition of Fidel Castro, which was refuted by photos, videos and even the printed medical diagnose by the doctors who treated him.

The Cuban media, made up of specialists in the art of secrecy, know very well that nothing lends itself more to speculation than silence or overly condensed information. That’s why at the time they were aided by the slogan “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

For the record, we shouldn’t circulate phony photos. However, I’m left with the desire to see the questionable photo and draw my own conclusion. What do you think?

Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

Dariela Aquique has 233 posts and counting. See all posts by Dariela Aquique

6 thoughts on “Chavez and the Bogus Photo

  • You seem to be well-informed on many things Venezuelan including Chavez. What is your informed guess as to why Lula de Silva was not able to see him in person during his trip to Cuba? You obviously believe he is still alive, so what’s the deal?

  • I’ll believe that when I see it.

    By the way, have you seen this? New York capitalists are making billions from Chavez and his criminal mismanagement of the Venezuelan economy.

    “Chavez’s 681% Returns Mean Socialism Buoys Goldman: Andes Credit”

    “This is a really great high-income and high-total-return investment for your portfolio,” said Sara Zervos, an emerging- market debt manager at New York-based OppenheimerFunds, which oversees $176 billion in assets and has invested in Venezuelan notes for more than a decade. “Chavez hasn’t done a lot of good for his country, but he has the objective to service the bonds. Our interests are aligned.”


  • In democratic countries, the news media is a highly competitive business. El Pais thought it had a scoop. In its rush to be the first media outlet to run the photo, the newspaper didn’t do its fact checking properly. Since the photo was a fake, it was withdrawn from circulation as soon as possible, and the newspaper apologized for the error.

    For your information Dariela, since you don’t have regular internet access , the photo was of a Mexican patient taken in 2008 for educational purposes that somehow found its way onto YouTube. From the angle it was taken, the man in the low resolution photo does bear a resemblance to Hugo Chavez but this does not excuse El Pais from failing to verify its authenticity.

  • If everything that the official Venezuelan media has reported regarding Chavez is true, then his campaign of secrecty and obfuscation has not served his purpose well. Especially, in view of the most recent reports that Chavez’ condition has improved, he should ‘get ahead’ of the story and produce his own photos or video. Fidel, in response to the latest rumors of his death, published photos of himself holding a current Granma and others of him in the company of visitors in a van on the way to the National Hotel. For Chavez to do the same comes right out of the ‘Ailing Dictator’s Playbook’. Failure to answer even the most reasonable questions regarding his health status only fuels the doubts presented by his opposition. On the other hand, if Chavez is dead or nearly so, the number of lies told by his inner circle and the handful of foreign leaders on his payroll to maintain this charade is incredible!

  • I would like to see a new video of Chavez, showing him alive, or at least functioning. Who really believes he dictated and signed that farcical letter Maduro read yesterday?

    Nobody outside his close circle of supporters has been allowed to “see” him. There has been not one video or photograph or audio recording of Chavez since he entered hospital on December 11th, 2012. If such a thing existed they would have released it by now.

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