We have more TV channels and more 24-hour "news stations" than ever before. We can cover news events and deliver reports instantly from the farthest corners of the world. Our TV reporters are daring enough to go into war zones and violent demonstrations. But when it comes to Latin America, we act as if it's not even there.
There is hardly an "international crisis" that we miss, especially in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. If people are getting killed, we have cameras there to show it. But when those who are dying are our own hemispheric neighbors — when it's happening in our own backyard — the images are hard to find on American television.
In fact, if you don't read a newspaper or search the Internet, and you don't follow Spanish-language media, you probably don't know that 18 people have been killed, that 260 have been injured, and more than 800 have been arrested in student clashes with government forces in Venezuela over the past couple of weeks.
When it looks at the world, our TV news wears horse blinders.
If your news comes from our English-language TV networks, you probably know about the government snipers who killed demonstrators in Ukraine last month. But you may not know that government goons are also killing protesters in Venezuela. Unless you looked up the YouTube videos shot by Venezuelans, you probably haven't seen the bloodshed.
It's disgraceful, but not surprising.
In Latin America, countries could be having revolutions, bloody coup detats, extreme natural disasters, astonishing human rights violations, and downright genocide, but on American TV, if there is another crisis anywhere else in the world, it takes precedent.
Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Iran, North Korea and now, of course, Ukraine — all producing legitimate news stories that should concern us. But so should the chaos in Venezuela!
Even on "slow news days," before we look south of the border, we look for Justin Bieber to see if he can keep us from covering real news in Latin America.
This disdain and indifference toward our hemispheric neighbors has never been more evident than during the last couple of weeks, when the U.S. television coverage of the Venezuelan crisis has been abysmal.
Instead of leaving the cities and heading to the beach for their annual carnival celebrations Sunday, tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets to continue a month-long campaign of protest against the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro, who was fraudulently elected to succeed socialist demagogue Hugo Chavez last year.
But you probably didn't see it on American TV, because all our networks were rushing to send correspondents to Ukraine.
Chavez's "Bolivarian Revolution" was supposed to pull Venezuela's poor up into the middle class, and yet, has turned the entire country into a poverty-stricken and crime-ridden slum. In the country with the world's largest oil reserves, people are struggling to find toilet paper!
There is unimpeded violent crime, crippling corruption, skyrocketing inflation, and food and medicine shortages that are making Venezuelans overcome their fear of government repression and forcing them to come out shouting against Maduro's mismanagement of the Venezuelan economy. They are fed up with a government that claims to be helping poor Venezuelans while actually squandering its coffers to subsidize socialist regimes in Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and leftist movement all over the continent.
Following the playbook from his socialist mentors in Cuba, and trying to emulate Chavez, Maduro blames the United States for all his failures. He says the recent demonstrations are part of a U.S. plot to topple his government — as if the thousands of Venezuelans who are pleading for freedom and democracy were all working for the CIA.
But on American television, it took an actor at the Academy Awards to remind us of Venezuela.
"To all of the dreamers out there around the world watching this tonight, in places like Ukraine and Venezuela, I want to say, we are here," said actor Jared Leto as he accepted the Oscar for best supporting actor. "And as you struggle to make your dreams happen, to live the impossible, we're thinking of you tonight."
It was a desperately needed and yet rare comment on American television. For a precious moment, Leto took off our TV horse blinders and exposed the negligence and bias of our news networks.
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.