From a False Messiah to Just Another Latin American Dictator: Analysis of U.S. Mainstream News Media’s Coverage of Hugo Chávez’s Death

Douglas S. Wilbur, Juyan Zhang


Combining constructionist framing analysis and thematic analysis, this research analyzes mainstream U.S. newspapers’ coverage of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s death. Overall, the mainstream newspapers defined Chávez as “a leftist revolutionary passing the torch,” “a populist, yet just another South American dictator,” “a false Messiah,” and “a friend of religious extremists and leaders sponsoring terrorism.” He left behind a “polarized and failed experiment.” As a result, Venezuela faces a “not-so-bright future,” unless it adopts a policy friendly toward the United States. Our findings indicate that the Cold War frame, in this case antisocialism, and the War on Terror frame continued in media coverage of international affairs. They also point to an emerging ideological and cultural framing package in the post–War on Terror era: the free market economy and liberal democracy frame.


image, framing, Hugo Chávez, Cold War, War on Terror, media

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