It's interesting how hard it is to notice bias in reporting, even when one is on the lookout for it. For example, I've been reading articles on the Chavez election for some time, and only yesterday did I spot how most of them set up the stage in a biased manner, at least for American readers. Even the most neutral-seeming report emphasized the anger against Chavez, his extreme left-wingedness and the chaos in the country. There was very little about why he was elected in the first place in 2000.
Thus, it came as a bit of a surprise to read today that Chavez seems to be leading in the vote by a wide margin. Of course the opposition argues that this is the result of an election fraud, but international monitors on site seem to counter that claim. We'll see. In any case:
The national electoral council president, Francisco Carrasquero, announced at 4 a.m. that Mr. Chávez had won the backing of 58 percent of voters, with 42 percent supporting the opposition's drive to recall him.
But the opposition, which soon after the polls closed at midnight had giddily predicted victory, said that the government had cheated and that it had won by a wide margin. The Organization of American States and the Atlanta-based Carter Center, which monitored the election and conducted their own highly accurate voting samples, had not commented on the dispute as of 11:30 a.m.
"We categorically reject the results," Henry Ramos, spokesman for the Democratic Coordinator, the umbrella of 27 political parties that opposes the government, said in a televised announcement. "They have perpetrated a gigantic fraud against the will of the people."
But a diplomatic observer, who did not want to be identified, said late this morning that the O.A.S. samplings are in line with the voting results released by the national electoral council.
The president of the council said the government mustered 4,991,483 votes, while the opposition collected only 3.6 million votes.
The diplomatic observer said that representatives of the O.A.S. and the Carter Center had a long meeting with the opposition in the early morning hours and showed them the results, telling the opposition that they thought they were accurate.
The opposition was stunned by what they were shown, the official said, and continued to say there had been strong irregularities.
"The opposition is basically saying there was computer fraud, but that's almost impossible," said the official, noting that electronic touch-screen machines were used to record the votes.
What might be useful to remember is that Venezuela is a country with a large majority of very poor people, and a small hierarchy of the very rich who have traditionally held the power. Chavez has at least listened to the poor whatever else he may be guilty of.
In Iraq, the situation does not look good as we all know:
Dozens of explosions echoed here early today as American marines fired artillery shells into the cemetery from their base three miles to the north, pressing on through the night in renewed fighting with rebels loyal to the cleric.
Barely a day after truce talks collapsed, two American soldiers were killed here on Sunday, part of a force of Army and Marine units that had pushed into the outer edge of Najaf's Old City and battled Mr. Sadr's fighters in the cemetery just north of the shrine of Imam Ali, a mosque revered by Shiite Muslims.
The American military said today that a third soldier attached to the First Marine Expeditionary Force, deployed in Al Anbar Province, was also killed on Sunday.
And then there is the whole awkward question of protecting the shrine of Imam Ali. Some damage to an outer wall has already taken place. If the shrine gets destroyed we all better pray to whatever divine forces we have our trust in. And yes, it is true that the insurgents are using the shrine to shelter in and thus causing the possibility that it will be destroyed by the Iraqi government and U.S. forces. Still, the blame for any damage will not be placed on them but on the infidels. Such is the human way of thinking about religions and others, and the American administration must be aware of this. They must also know that nobody in the Muslim world will accept the premise that it's other Iraqis attacking the shrine. Oh how I hate writing about Iraq. Violence and greed and religious intolerance are always unattractive topics, and even more so when they exist largely due to stupidity.
But at least we are not living in uninteresting times. Remember the old Chinese curse:"May you live in interesting times!"