Intrinsic bias, Venezuela's representatives and other tales
By Aleksander Boyd
London 08.03.06 | Yesterday I received an email from Rosa Kim, from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). As researcher given the task of preparing the ground to a filming crew to be sent to the country, Rosa wanted to speak to me about Venezuela's situation. Our conversation was most cordial and ranged on a number of issues. However some remarks of hers were shocking. First was the mention of "an economist from Washington DC" (Mark Weisbrot), versed in Venezuelan matters. Weisbrot's novel idea to include feel good factors when measuring poverty levels appears to be gaining traction in some quarters. That is to say, since some Venezuelans can now go and shop at heavily subsidised prices at MERCAL and they 'feel good about it,' said feeling has morphed into a tangible and measurable (?) factor to be considered when appraising and determining poverty levels. By the same token, it would be extremely interesting to gauge the 'feel bad factor' of the millions of people whose lives have been affected by the inclusion of names, details and political tendencies in the Maisanta database, produced by the Chavez regime for political prosecution purposes.
Secondly was her own admission of being a moderate -center left- who strived to be impartial and objective about topics unknown to her, i.e. Venezuela. Yet she did say that, although her knowledge about our country was simply non-existent, she was well aware of the dramatic effect that neoliberal policies have had in the current under-developed status of most Latin American countries.
The only country in South America that has implemented successfully a neoliberal set of policies is Chile. The much maligned Augusto Pinochet did leave a legacy for all Chileans to enjoy, and the benefits, much to the chagrin of the Left, are there for all to see. Venezuela during the second term of Carlos Andres Perez also implemented economic policies associated with the neoliberal model. "After the 8.3% drop in output in 1989, economic growth leaped forward. GDP grew 6.5% in 1990 and 10.4% in 1991, the highest rate the Venezuelan economy had ever experienced and one of the highest rates in the world" . The darling of some academic and media circles Teodoro Petkoff, did try to re-enact similar policies during Rafael Caldera's second term, that were heralded at the time as necessary. Thus it is false to claim that the pauperization of Venezuela is due to neoliberalism. A more appropriate culprit is the utter inefficiency of the state's apparatus, the extremely weak institutional framework, lack of continuity, the very nature of civil servants and Venezuelan politicos and mercantilism. It would have been foolish on my part to expect Rosa to know all this, however it is equally silly to repeat such leftists mantras that are, as all things from the Left, totally disconnected to reality.
Rosa said that she was under the impression that Chavez had introduced free healthcare and education. It was a bit of a surprise to her to learn that both access to health and education were free, as mandated and established in the country's constitution since at least 1961. Little information could she gather with respect to the deviation of funds by the Chavez administration to the Barrio Adentro programme, at the detriment of the national network of hospitals, where people die for lack of oxygen.
I asked Rosa how many Venezuelans had she interviewed/contacted during her research to which she replied that I was the second one. This merits some consideration, since the team of Venezuelan pundits, defenders and apologists of Hugo Chavez in the international arena these days are non-Venezuelan individuals. Ergo I ask Rosa "isn't that telling?" She agreed.
I relayed to her that my beef with Chavez weren't his social programmes, otherwise known as Misiones, but rather his alliances with rogue states, dictators, narcoguerrillas, money launderers, terrorists, drug cartels and the introduction in the country's politics and society of Chavez's hallmark hatred discourse.
She then asked me about Chavez "tremendous popularity," which is another fallacy, if electoral results are any indication. Rosa did not know the reason that prompted opposition parties to abandon the legislative elections of December 4 2005, when representatives were elected by less than 10% of the possible votes. She had never heard of Leopoldo Gonzalez and the mock election conducted in the presence of OAS, EU, CNE, Smartmatic and opposition representatives on November 23 2005 in Fila de Mariches. Which brings me to the point of Venezuela's representatives. There aren't such representatives. As a concerned Venezuelan citizen I have no international, nor national, representation. The bunch of unelected, self-appointed clowns that are meant to represent civil society have, to this day, being unable to even realize the importance of Leopoldo Gonzalez's findings. And this is a tragedy for many of my countrymen, who feel completely dissafected towards both the opposition and the government. I am sick and tired of seeing the same old dinosaurs -or its offsprings- donning different political guises and discourses in order to appeal a constituency that long ago lost all interests, and trust, in them.
Rosa couldn't hide her apprehension towards Maria Corina Machado, given that Machado fits the oligarch profile. No surprise there. Chavez's lackeys have been particularly successful in constructing a bad image about Sumate and its directors. Sumate, a legally registered NGO, acceptance of NED monies to conduct perfectly lawful electoral workshops is a sin that shall never be pardoned/forgotten, yet Chavez, a politician, acceptance of BBVA monies is not even mentioned. Isn't this selective vilification very illustrative of leftist's 'probity'?
She argued that it was difficult to ascertain whether human rights violations had increased during Chavez's tenure, and I recommended her to get in touch and revise reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Inter American Court of Human Rights. She did say that, curiously, everybody took very seriously, in Canada at least, reports from those organizations when referring to Sudan for instance. Alas credibility and accuracy of reports produced by the very same organizations about Venezuela were heavily disputed and contested. Again, another example of successful lobbying by Chavez's troop of apologists.
She asked whether I could put her in touch with some people in the country and all I could think of was to recommend my fellow bloggers Miguel and Daniel. I expressed preoccupation towards the political slant that producers could give to the programme, as it has happened in the past with Mentorn TV, Harry Minetree botched documentary and others. I adviced her to "get off the beaten track" of both opposition and chavista circles and interview real people, for there's a story to be told about them. Last time I was in the country the question de rigueur to every person I encountered was "are you better off today than 6 years ago?" No one answered affirmatively...
Moises Naim, Paper Tigers & Minotaurs: The Politics of Venezuela's Economic Reforms, p. 62.
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