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New York Times Apology: As a Venezuelan I Accept It — about Time!

By: Luis H. Ball - Jun 22, 2016, 9:58 am
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The New York Times’s apology: as a Venezuelan, I accept it, but it comes after they legitimized Chávez’s dictatorship. (wikimedia)

Since 1999, the New York Times’s reporters and editors consistently reported on Venezuela as if the country’s poor were neglected until a heroic and always well-intentioned Hugo Chávez arrived on the scene.

They ignored the fact that, since 1958, Venezuela’s democratically elected leaders were all either social democrats or Christian socialists. Parties of the right never even came close to winning national elections. Healthcare and public education, including universities, have been universally available and free since 1936.

Anyone with knowledge of Latin America or who visited the country in 1980 would have noticed that public health was not only available to everyone but also as good as the best private healthcare found in the rest of the continent.

Yet, reading NYT’s coverage of Venezuela over the last 17 years, one finds nothing but praise for Hugo Chávez and his “unprecedented” social programs.

President Carlos Andrés Pérez, whom Hugo Chavez, and the NYT contributor Nicolás Maduro, tried to overthrow in a bloody coup in 1992, was the darling of the “progressive world” for two decades. Mr. Pérez, who re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1974, nationalized foreign and domestic oil and mining companies.

Beginning with his administration, foreign investment was not allowed in telecommunications, food distribution or banking, among many other fields. Billions were spent on creating giant state-owned steel and aluminum companies and oil production was curtailed because oil riches “corrupted the values of the Venezuelan citizen.”

These same policies were not only continued but were deepened by the administrations that followed. All presidents before Hugo Chávez belonged to parties with membership in the International Socialist Movement.

Over the past 40 years, private companies in Venezuela were free to set the prices for the goods they sold without prior government approval for only three years (1991-1994).

For years, however, NYT reporters and editors conveyed the impression that Venezuela was a capitalist economy prior to Hugo Chávez’s wonderful socialist paradise. The poor, they claimed, were never better off.

Human Rights Watch, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC), the U.S. State Department, and the European Parliament made many pronouncements regarding the total loss of judicial independence in Venezuela.

During the last two presidential elections, the European Union refused to send observers, stating clearly that the Venezuelan government would not provide an adequate environment for the experts to do their jobs.

Yet the NYT and its editors kept making references to Mr. Maduro’s legitimate election as Venezuela’s leader in 2013.

Finding evidence of Cuban involvement within the Venezuelan administration is rather easy. Spain’s most prominent newspaper, El País, ran an extensive series of very well documented articles on that very subject.

Any Venezuelan lawyer can provide ample evidence of rules, laws and treaties now in force that allow Cuban police officers and other security personnel to carry weapons in Venezuela and even make arrests inside Venezuela.

Copies of contracts given to Cuban government companies for the automation of Venezuela’s national ID and passport systems, its property and commercial registry and all notaries, are easy to obtain for anyone who tries.

But as late as 2014, the NYT reported from Caracas that the opposition leaders “offer little hard evidence to back their suspicions” of Cuban involvement.

When Venezuela’s last truly democratic president Rafael Caldera — a man of the left who governed with a coalition of socialist parties — handed the presidential seal to Chávez in January 1999, Venezuela was in the midst of its worst economic crisis in a century. The price of oil, the key factor for the entire economy, got as low as US$7 per barrel that year.

By 2005, the price of oil recovered and reached its highest level as of that date. It was this enormous windfall of petro-dollars that allowed Chávez, and later Maduro, to claim a reduction of poverty levels.

Their vaunted social programs were empty shells, as it is now evident. They were gigantic Potemkin Villages with which they fooled those who allowed themselves to be fooled. The surprise is that it was the hard-nosed New York Times that swallowed their story.

Had one of Hugo Chávez’s predecessors, any of them, counted with an equal amount of resources, Venezuela would have been launched into prosperity. Chávez and Maduro achieved the opposite.

As in Soviet Times

The NYT once counted among its own the now-infamous Walter Duranty, Bureau Chief in Moscow for the newspaper from 1922 to 1936.

Duranty, an avowed communist, hid from the world the horrible “Holodomor,” the mass death by starvation of millions of Ukrainians carried out under direct orders of Lenin and Stalin.

The NYT later called his work “some of the worst reporting to appear in this newspaper.”

In the case of Venezuela, its reporting and editorials during the last 17 years contributed to legitimizing a dictatorship born of fraudulent elections.

The Grey Lady” also weakened an already weak opposition by using the word “radical” against any leader that called the regime by its name.

In 2014, the newspaper disheartened the opposition movement by publishing an opinion piece by Nicolás Maduro himself, which was evidently written for him by his paid US publicists.

Lately, the NYT’s reporting on Venezuela has improved, and its editorial this week was perfect.

Is all forgiven? One would hope that the editors of America’s leading newspaper would have learned of the harm caused by their zeal in believing in the good intentions of socialists everywhere.

No more Walter Durantys please!

Luis H. Ball Luis H. Ball

Luis H. Ball is publisher of the PanAm Post.

Venezuela: Mass Famine Is Imminent as Neighbors, Washington Stand By

By: PanAm Post Staff - Jun 22, 2016, 9:06 am
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EspañolA humanitarian crisis, the likes of which have never been seen in the Western Hemisphere, is brewing in Venezuela and it will be inevitable in a few weeks. Much has been written recently about the crisis in Venezuela. During the last week, the world's leading media outlets have amply reported the shortages of food, medicine and other basic supplies in the country. Unfortunately, despite some great reporting by various journalists, the true extent and the reasons for the country’s desperate situation have not yet been clearly understood by the media and the international community. Read More: Venezuela: Food and Medicine Shortages Are a Government Policy Read More: Hunger by Design: How Venezuela Keeps Dissidence under Control The majority of those reporting on Venezuela still believe the current crisis has been caused by the collapse in the oil price. If that were true, other countries dependent on their oil export revenues, such as Nigeria, should be facing a similar situation. That is not the case. Nigeria is suffering a severe economic downturn, but it is far from suffering the extreme shortages of food and medicine that Venezuelans now face. Apparently the world has forgotten that food lines first appeared in Venezuela in early 2014, when the price of oil was still over USD $110 per barrel. Venezuela first suffered an extreme shortage of toilet paper in 2013, nearly two years before the collapse of the oil price Also, even now, with oil below USD $50/barrel, Venezuela has an export income larger than that of Peru, a country with identical population and where there are zero reported shortages of any kind. The estimate for Venezuela’s export income this year would place it at an amount almost equal to that of Colombia, a country with nearly double the population of Venezuela. Thus, it is incontestable that the decline of oil income is not the cause of the tragic situation in which Venezuelans find themselves. Venezuela No Longer Has a Functioning Economy The fact is that Venezuela, while still pumping oil, no longer has a functioning economy. Seventeen years of nationalizations and confiscation of private industries, farms, cattle ranches, distribution companies, sugar mills, and even shopping malls have completely destroyed not only the local production, but the distribution networks necessary for the normal functioning of the economy. Ninety percent of confiscated and nationalized companies and farms no longer produce anything. SIVENSA, a private steel company formerly with over USD $1 billion in sales, mostly for export, now has negligible production. A country that during the 1980s boasted about having Latin America’s highest levels of production of cement, which it exported to the USA, now has a shortage of cement, even with insignificant construction levels. For most of the 20th century, Venezuela was among the world’s largest coffee producers. Now, the coffee that Venezuelans drink, if they can find any, comes from Nicaragua. In addition, a draconian system of price controls that forces most local businesses to sell their wares at a loss has halted any attempts by local entrepreneurs to keep their businesses alive. Thousands of businesses have been closing every week. Read More: In Venezuela, Mango Trees Are Becoming a Last Resort for Food Read More: Chavistas Beat up Venezuelan Congressman during Protest While the government intentionally tried to substitute private operators with government companies, which were almost always run by corrupt army officers who know nothing of the industries they were entering, shortages of every kind, not just of food and medicine, began to occur. Currently, there are no tires, no car batteries, no auto parts to be found, except through good connections with the military or in the black market. The distribution fleets of Venezuela’s largest companies have been depleted to the point of no longer being worthy of the word “fleet.” In 2004, Hugo Chávez dismantled the old 10,000 strong Caracas Metropolitan Police and other police forces in the country. Since then, crime has skyrocketed, but now it has reached a level unthinkable in civilized societies. At the Caracas Country Club, the country’s most expensive, and formerly most exclusive neighborhood, home to dozens of ambassadorial residences, there are now at least three kidnappings per week. Entire swaths of Venezuela’s largest cities, particularly in poor neighborhoods, are now ruled by gangs under the control of no authority. There's No Capital in the Country with the World's Highest Inflation Levels Inflation has reached a level close to 1,000%. Prices fluctuate on an hourly basis. In a country that had a GDP of half a trillion US dollars in 2012, the total amount of lending that the entire Venezuelan banking system can offer, due to devaluations and bank regulations, now amounts to merely US$ 170 million. It would now take a pool of banks to finance the construction of a 20 unit apartment building As a result, credit has become non-existent and companies without access to capital have closed in ever larger numbers. These are businesses that were essential suppliers of key products, such as pharmaceuticals or medical devices. This week, after days of widespread looting around the country by desperate citizens going hungry, trucks have been assaulted by organized mobs waiting at the edge of roads for any sign of a delivery carrying anything edible. This has further disturbed the already precarious distribution system for basic goods as truckers prefer not to work rather than risk losing the main asset for their livelihood. All this will only get worse unless there is an immediate change of government in Caracas. Venezuela desperately needs the immediate dismantling of all regulations devised by the communist clique ruling the country and their inept Cuban advisers. Maduro's Incompetent Regime Has to End Even if the Maduro government were to try a 180 degree change and embrace capitalism overnight, the regime lacks the knowhow to improve and rebuild the country’s supply chain, and provide the needed security to achieve it. The Maduro government, full of corrupt army officers, drug dealers, and communist apparatchiks, simply cannot even begin to tackle the problem they created At the PanAm Post we warned about the consequences of Maduro’s actions nearly three years ago Now, what we can see is much worse than even we imagined. The leaders of all countries in the hemisphere, except for Castro’s Cuba, are meeting now in Washington DC. These leaders will be remembered as those responsible for the first mass famine in the Americas, and the world will not forgive them.

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