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Pandya, Podur, ZNet, Venezuela, The NewStandard, Chávez si, etc. . . .

By Gustavo Coronel

January 25, 2004 - I was reading an article titled “The Chávez Government’s Economic Policies” in, by C.P. Pandya and Justin Podur, and I thought: “who are these people?" Their names did not sound like shredded meat and black beans, a Pabellón Criollo, to me. Of course, you do not have to be a lifelong Venezuelan to talk about the Venezuelan economy but, I can tell you, it helps. Anyways, I searched their names in the Internet and found out that these persons are staff writers for ZNet, a leftist publication. Their article was originally published by ZNet in November 2003 and was reprinted by in January 2004. In Venezuela we call this a “refrito,” a refried item. When the article was reproduced, however, the authors had become writers in another Internet publication called The NewStandard, both as associate editors. Their brief curricula on this site describes them as covering Southeast Asia, Race Watch, Chiapas, Colombia, the West Bank and Gaza strip, the one, and as copy editor in the mainstream media covering energy and equity markets, the other. I marveled at this versatility but I also knew that some oceans tend to be very shallow. It is difficult to be an expert at everything. Where had they learned enough to discuss Venezuelan economy? Well, they had not. For them, this was obviously one more job. Apparently they are the type of people who can produce almost any type of report on demand. Mad Cow disease? Gay rights in Zimbabwe? The sexual lives of Brazilian ants? Venezuelan economy? You say the word and they will probably provide you with a product, something like those sites in Internet that will sell students term papers on almost any subject.

Their effort is part of a general campaign by the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chávez to mold international public opinion, to make people abroad believe that President Chávez is the good guy and those who oppose him are the bad guys. Since Pandya and Podur are not Venezuelan experts, they have to rely on what has been said before by other Chávez followers and in some general statistics that would provide a vague sense of credibility to the piece.

The authors of the piece start by quoting Gregory Wilpert’s article in dealing with Chávez fight against poverty “Venezuela’s Mission to fight Poverty” and claim that Chávez has done great progress in this task. I think I took care of that analysis and of this erroneous claim in my article on “The Impossible Mission of Gregory Wilpert,” published in in November 2003. In my article I showed how poverty in Chavez’s Venezuela had increased dramatically. The authors go on to say that poor countries like Venezuela need “capital and investment” but, almost immediately, they add that the suppliers of capital and investment “exact a terrible price from people in exchange for their investments.” They also say that the benefits of those investments “somehow elude the population.” They should make up their minds! I would ask them: What are we supposed to do? Do we bring the investors in or do we force them out? In the case of Chávez's Venezuela, that question has already been answered because the investors have leaving at a very rapid rate and today they are almost all gone. When the authors of the article claim that the benefits of investments somehow elude the population, they do not seem to realize that this is due to the fact that the government is very corrupt and that the money generally stays in the hands of the people in power, the corrupt civilian and military. This corruption is, today, greater than ever before.

The authors claim that since capital flight, exchange controls, inflation and corruption had existed before in Venezuela, it was inevitable that they also would occur under Chávez. But the so-called “revolution” was designed, precisely, to end these perversions, not to expand on them.

They also repeat the claim of Chávistas that the economic crisis in Venezuela started in December 2002, with the general strike. In fact, the strike was started in protest against the crisis which had already appeared months before and was threatening to produce a total collapse in the country.

The authors also justify the continued existence of exchange controls and the suspension of credit card activity. These two measures have resulted in a total economic paralysis in the country and in the emergence of a black market in which the bolivar is now sold at less than half the price which prevails in the official market. The international reserves accumulated at the expense of the economic paralysis above mentioned are being coveted by Chávez, who wants them to finance his populist social programs. If he has his way, we will end up without a free economy and without international reserves.

The authors do not seem to know, or do not want to know, about the Venezuelan Index of Human Development and how it has collapsed. They do not seem to know about the Index of Economic Freedom, according to which we are below Haiti. They do not seem to know about the 80% poverty index in Venezuela, about street peddlers being 70% of our working population, about our rate of inflation being the highest of Latin America, about the 200,000 + children abandoned in the streets of Venezuela. Of course they do not know or do not want to know. They live somewhere in the State of New York, working from 8 am to 5 pm, producing reports on demand about every possible country and every possible subject, using the maximum of clichés and leading to the conclusions that will please those who are footing the bill.

They are not in a crusade but simply doing a job.

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