Sunday, 14 October 2018

Arte on Venezuela: how to fail

Arte is a German-French culture channel and it often produces very good programmes but the one I just watch about Venezuela is not one of them. It failed to answer the question it asked at the start: how could Venezuela come to this mess?

You can watch it in German here (at least until November 2018)

  • 2:30 The population in Venezuela is indeed ethnically very mixed but the figures Arte got are the old and rather official figures that do not have anything to do with what our Venezuelan common sense and present day genetic studies have shown. Arte says our population is 50% "of mixed origin", 42% "of European origin", 3.5% of African and 2,5% "of native American origin". In reality people of purely European original might be less than 10% and probably more than 88% are mixed in the most incredible ways. A lot of Europeans or US Americans might think I am of "European stock". As I have always known and as the Genographic Project showed me, I am the typical European-native American-African Homo sapiens. My profile, which is close to the mean, is 67% European, 25% native American and 8% black African. This is a good start to view what genetics in the Caribbean is. Arte: instead of trying to explain our ethnic background or whatever you want to call it, you could have spent some time explaining how the left extreme sponsored by Cuba infiltratred military and got to military like Chavez or violent groups that promoted the clash of El Caracazo in 1998 or how the military managed to destroy the already weak division of powers or how elections were influced or simply violated (you probably did not hear about the Smartmatic scandal).
  • At minute 3 Arte says the average Venezuelan has good education levels. That is bollocks, to say it mildly. If you want to read about education in Venezuela, you can check out my posts since 2007 and, in particular, my little project about the OECD PISA programme. I can put journalists in contact with people in Venezuela and abroad who dealt with this issue. Venezuelans had a lot of top professionals who fled in the last decades due to Chavismo but the median Venezuelan is not better educated than the average Colombian or Argentinian or Chilean or Uruguayan or Peruvian get the point. Official literacy figures were already at about 93-95% in 1998, but in reality we had and have a huge problem with functional illiterate. The quality of education had been going down the drain since oil prices first collapsed back in the eighties things worsened even when Chavez got the longest, biggest oil boom in our history - and the petrodollars that go with that. UNESCO my foot. United Nations also praised Venezuela for its efforts in food production made up by the regime...shortly before people discovered malnutrition was worse than what we had in many many decades.
  • At 4:20 Arte says oil exports make up 95% of our exports. That has been the figure mentioned since at least 2005. What Arte fails to say is that in the nineties, before the caudillo came to power, the figure was around 75%. What happened?
  • At 4:40 Arte, like a lot of journalist sources that did not care to investigate, repeats the mantra that Chavez introduced the social contract of distributing oil wealth. Arte - and this is the very worst of the program - simply did not care to investigate what efforts previous governments did, already since the end of the Gomez dictatorship in 1937, particularly in the forties and then in the sixties, seventies, eighties...until world oil prices collapse. Arte did not mention free education and health care systems were introduced long before Chavez was born. It did not mention that sinking oil prices impacted those social programmes that enable all of Chavez's family, my family, the families of almost all Venezuelans to receive free education and health care - faulty but free nonetheless and better than during most of the Chavista regime. Arte claims Maduro is keeping up those policies of helping the poor. This is simply rubbish. Maduro prefers to pay back the huge debts incurrend by Chavez and himself instead of providing for basic medicine for children, for the elderly, for everyone. Virtually all Venezuelans could give you a lesson or two about that.
  • At 5 Arte explains we have not built other production sectors apart from oil. It does not care to find out how we were earning the 25% of export during the low oil price time that enabled Chavez to become a candidate. Arte and those German and French journalists do not have a clue about how Venezuela had started to export more things related to aluminum, steel, even textiles etc but people did not want to wait for the fruits and a minority went to elect a populist, a bloody coupster who, they thought, would bring back the golden times when oil prices were high. Unfortunatelly, few books and Internet sources report what kind of things we were exporting back in 1998. Try to Google a bit "Rualca Venezuela". That kind of company was destroyed by Chavismo. There were a few like it.
  • At 5:39 Arte talks about how we import food etc from different countries. We have done that indeed for many many decades but Arte does not care about the percentage of things we were importing before Chavismo came to power. Finding out about that requires some investigation, which Arte has no time to do.
  • At 5:59 Arte shows a chart for oil price evolution for the last ten years. Here lies one of the biggest errors of Arte. It definitely is not able to put Chavismo in perspective. If Arte journalists were data scientists trying to help the world with their use of statistics, we would be doomed like now. In my blog you can find many charts about oil prices, GDP etc that take into account the evolution since before Chavismo came to power. There is no excuse for Arte to restrict its chart to the 2008-2018 period: you can in the same time give a bigger and much more clear picture. Oil prices now are still higher, much higher, inflation included, than what they were in the early days of Chavismo and much more than in the decade that preceded Chavismo. In the nineties we had hard times but people were not starving as they are now, we did not have the massive flood of emigration and even our murder rate was a third of what we have now. This is something Arte journalists do not mention. As people who do know about economics have written, Venezuela's economics was already a mess when oil prices were at its highest...only that Chavez sold Venezuela's future to the Chinese and Russians. 
  • At 6:23 Arte finally mentions the magic word "corruption". Unfortunatelly, it does not show the incredible evolution corruption - an eternal problem in Venezuela - has had since Chavismo came to power. The government of Carlos Andres Perez fell for a fraction of a fraction of the money Chavismo stole in their first days. Chavismo has stolen more than what Mobutu stoled over a longer period of time in Congo.
  • At 6:40 Arte rightly mentioned that we have not diversified our economy...but it does not know we were actually doing it before the coup monger was elected president in December of 1998.
  • At 6:47 Arte says unemployment is at 25%. This figure is just pointless. Better say a university teacher could not earn enough to buy food with his salary, much less to buy shoes.
  • Arte does not mention how the regime is printing money like absolute idiots
  • At 8 the journalist explains Venezuela's population is divided between opposition and pro-government, something with an information value close to zero as you can say this of many many countries around the globe. In reality we have a middle group that is equally important and that group is made up of those who blaimed it on the opposition and the governemtn (whereas the opposition blames it on the others and the government and the government blames it on the opposition and the rest of the world that is not Putin and the Castro Regime and China and Iran).
  • At the end Arte talks a bit about the massive emigration from Venezuela but as Venezuelan history for the Germans and the French started with Chavez, it fails to report that many millions of people immigrated to Venezuela in the decades prior to Chavismo. It does wonder why.

Please, Arte: oil prices are not a major reason for the whole mess. We did not have this mess during the period of low oil prices between 1988 and 1998. Even Nigeria or Iran do not have this crisis.

Arte: do your homework. Even left-oriented newspapers like The Guardian and a few French ones produce a much more critical analysis in less time/space than you do. Venezuela's history did not start in 2008 or 1998.

You failed to explain how Venezuela turned into an ugly dictatorship.