Venezuela; about that Maduro op-ed in the NYT, UPDATED
The NYT published an article by Nicolas Maduro’s ghost writers, Venezuela: A Call for Peace on April 1.
Assuming it was not an April Fool’s joke, Maduro states
According to the United Nations, Venezuela has consistently reduced inequality: It now has the lowest income inequality in the region. We havereduced poverty enormously — to 25.4 percent in 2012, on the World Bank’s data, from 49 percent in 1998; in the same period, according to government statistics, extreme poverty diminished to 6 percent from 21 percent.
And where did the UN’s numbers come from? The Venezuelan government – which has not allowed its own numbers to be verified for almost a decade. Not only has Venezuela not held an held an Article IV consultation with the IMF in 100 months, it also stopped reporting a number of standard indicators several years ago.
Daniel Wiser does a Nicolas Maduro Fact Check:
Chavez’s family now reportedly owns 17 country estates totaling more than 100,000 acres in the western state of Barinas, as well as assets of $550 million stored in various international bank accounts. Residents in the same region wait as long as three hours for basic provisions at grocery stores.
National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello, a close confidant of Chavez and member of Maduro’s United Socialist Party, has allegedly amassed “a private fortune” through corruption and ties to regional drug traffickers. TheMiami Herald reported accusations last week that Cabello received at least $50 million in bribes to overlook lucrative public contracts that were overpriced, according to a recent lawsuit.
On healthcare (I posted about it last year):
The Associated Press reported in November that Venezuela’s health care system “is collapsing after years of deterioration.”
About 90 percent of the country’s public hospitals lack vital supplies due to government-imposed dollar shortages and price caps. The government was forced to suspend organ donations, transplants, and non-emergency surgeries.
On “extending a hand to the opposition” (and keep in mind Maduro’s been threatening to bomb the state of Táchira),
Two opposition mayors elected by large majorities have also been sentenced to several months in prison, according to the Human Rights Foundation.
Maduro posits that “claims that . . . current protests represent mainstream sentiment are belied by the facts.” Here’s an aerial video of “sentiment” taken on the March 22 demonstration
Francisco Toro writes about The Most Outrageous Lie in Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s New York Times Op-Ed
Fact-checking the entire piece would be enough to cause an aneurysm. Instead, to give a sense of the depth of historical falsification involved, let’s focus on one particular line: Maduro claims that the Bolivarian revolution “created flagship universal health care and education programs, free to our citizens nationwide.”
This is roughly equivalent to President Barack Obama claiming that he created Social Security. Venezuela first established free universal primary education (for both boys and girls) back in the nineteenth century. It was 1870, in fact, when President Antonio Guzmán Blanco—the visionary military dictator who dominated politics at the time—created a mandate for the state to teach all children ”morals, reading and writing the national language, practical arithmetic, the metric system and the constitution.”
Granted, universal education remained more an aspiration than an on-the-ground reality for several decades, but by 1946 Venezuela’s first elected, social democratic government rode to power partly due to a commitment to enact that vision. Free education, including at the university level, was an ideological cornerstone of successive governments beginning in 1958. Under the leadership of the great educational reformer Luis Beltrán Prieto Figueroa, the government created one of Latin America’s first adult education institutions, INCE, in 1959, and in the 1960s pushed to increase adult literacy through the famous ACUDE program.
Maduro’s mentor, Hugo Chávez, might have told him a thing or two about that: As a teenager in the ’60s, Chávez volunteered as an adult literacy coach at ACUDE—one of the flagship education programs that Maduro claims didn’t exist until Chávez created them.
It’s much the same story with health: Already in 1938, still in the era of dictatorships,landmark public hospitals were being built and treating patients free of charge. The 1961 constitution—the one chavismo insisted on replacing, seeing it as a vehicle for neo-imperial domination—guaranteed free public health care in article 76. Even today, virtually every major hospital in the country was built before the Bolivarian revolution, whose contribution was limited to a secondary network of outpatient clinics staffed by Cuban medics and located inside poorer areas that, in the view of many, ended up largely diverting resources that would have been better spent upgrading theincreasingly ramshackle legacy hospital network.
Yes, both the school system and the hospital network were overstretched, underperforming, and in need of reform by the time Chávez came to power in 1998, and yes, chavismo‘s reforms of both systems have been broadly popular. There’s an interesting conversation to be had about the successes and failures of those reforms.
But that conversation can’t happen when the government insists on a wholesale falsification of history, simply erasing the long, rich history of health and education reforms that in 1999 bequeathed Chávez the large and ambitious, albeit flawed, health and education systems that Maduro oversees today.
Maduro also mentions the “new market-based foreign exchange system, which is designed to reduce the black market exchange rate.” That ended up getting lost in translation:
See if you can spot the difference in MINCI’s official translation of the same OpEd. It describes SICAD II as ”un nuevo sistema de cambio de divisas que ya ha reducido la inflación durante las últimas semanas.” [Fausta's note: "a new foreign exchange system which has already reduced inflation over the past few weeks"]
Did you catch that? Either SICAD II is somehow more market-based in English than it is en español, or the system’s market-basedness is locked in quantum indeterminacy, cycling in and out of existence over time.
Continuing to assume the NYT article was not an April Fool’s joke, The real question isn’t “what” Maduro is saying, but “why?”(emphasis added),
Why does Maduro display such concern about international public opinion, while putting on a show about being so above caring about his domestic popularity?
Chávez battled external demons fictional or not – usually fictional – to give himself ammo for his political battle back home. With Maduro, it’s the battles on the home front that are being submitted to the court of international public opinion for international validation.
It’s like he doesn’t actually grasp that, in accepting Venezuelans’ discontent only in a foreign tongue to a foreign newspaper and then blatantly ignoring those complaints in his actions, then pleading with gringo readers to be spared from the consequences, Nicolás Maduro is only incriminating himself.
All the same, expect the usual apologists to endlessly repeat Maduro’s talking points. The joke’s on the Venezuelan people.
UPDATE: Alek Boyd takes a jackhammer to the NYT piece,
According to unaudited figures we provide to the United Nations, Venezuela has consistently reduced inequality: It now has the lowest income inequality in the region. We have reduced poverty enormously — to 25.4 percent in 2012, the World Bank’s data (again which no independent auditor has checked in the last 98 months), from 49 percent in 1998; in the same period, according to government statistics, extreme povertydiminished to 6 percent from 21 percent. This incredible reduction was achieved overnight, after our commander in chief called the National Statistics Office to order lowering the figures.
And that’s just the warm-up. Go read the whole thing.
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