Venezuelan murder rate triples under Sean Penn’s hero


IconicPhotos is a site that deserves more attention. The blogmaster’s politics are hard to pin down, and frankly, shouldn’t matter. He provides the back stories about, well, iconic photos, like Galella’s strolling Jackie O and Bill Eppridge’s images of a dying Robert F. Kennedy, and in doing so offers up bite-sized history lessons.

Not all the images at the site are “iconic,” at least not yet. This week, IconicPhotos posted contrasting front pages from an Venezuelan newspaper; I’ve posted the “after” image (above), but hesitate to post the photographs that prompted that “Censored” stamp. I’m aware of the irony in doing so, however, the original photos are graphic. They resemble the paintings of Goya or Bacon or Blake — except the bodies they show are very real.

The story, “What They Aren’t Seeing in Venezuela,” begins:

On August 13th 2010, El Nacional newspaper in Venezuela published a photograph of piled corpses at a morgue in Caracas on its frontpage. The New York Times called the photo, “unquestionably gory and unusually anarchic”. Three days later the photo was reprinted by another newspaper, Tal Cual. The Venezuela government denounced the publication as part of campaign against President Hugo Chavez’s Socialist Party ahead of September 26 legislative elections, and the courts ordered all newspapers not to print violent images ‘to protect children’. On August 18th, El Nacional responded by issuing a front page without photos, but with the word “Censored.”

We’re further informed that:

Caracas remains one of the most violent cities in the world. There,  two people are murdered every hour — a homicide rate that has tripled since Hugo Chávez came to power in 1998 — and 90 percent of them go unsolved by a system that always manages to find time for cases against Hugo Chavez’s critics. Venezuela as a country does not fare better: if you were a civilian living in Venezuela in 2009, you are nearly four times more likely to get murdered than if you are a civilian living in Iraq!

The Iraq comparison is particularly apt. Some of the most famous celebrity opponents of the war in Iraq, like Sean Penn and Oliver Stone, are equally enthusiastic in their support of communist Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.

So don’t expect any movies by Penn and Stone expressing sympathy for those murder victims shown (however briefly) in the pages of that nation’s newspapers. Chavez forcibly censors his critics — and worse. Penn, Stone and their fellow useful idiots don’t require any such arm twisting. They toe the Chavez line voluntarily.

That they then present themselves in public as brave truth-tellers is the ultimate sick irony.

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