Yeah, tell it to the Beeb. It seems to have been bending over to prove the opposite lately. Especially with “reports” like this:
This so-called reporter, John Sweeney, is absolutely incredible. As in, “not credible”. As in, “like a three-dollar bill”. As in “Is he carrying water for Big Oil and that crazy Boris Johnson? Smells that way to me!”
To Sweeney-among-the-nightingales, Simon Bolivar (whose name apparently isn’t even worth pronouncing correctly) is just a statue covered in pigeon crap. Thus, the president of the country is “the high priest” of crap-coated-statue worship. No mention of what Simon Bolivar did–a task which he was forced by the native oligarchy to leave undone when he died prematurely (177 years ago today) in Colombia. No mention of his heroism in liberating five Latin American nations from Spain. No mention of anything about him at all, except that his statue attracts a lot of pooping birds (as does, I’m sure, that of Sir Winston Churchill, that laudable old imperial racist).
The present-day Bolivarian revolution, according to Sweeney, is also a load of birdshit. Evidence of the revolution’s unimpressive “successes” is a ranch which, according to its previous owner, was confiscated without payment, at gunpoint and under death threats. One would think something as scandalous as that would have actually made the news (as does every other dust mote in Venezuela’s eyes), but I can’t find any actual news stories. And Sweeney doesn’t question this, nor does he produce proof either in favor or to the contrary. He just takes the ex-owner’s word for it–as if latifundistas never lie in Venezuela, especially about the idle land they don’t want to give up OR work on. The fact that the co-op now running it has built up its own herd from practically nothing is…well, practically nothing. Sweeney prefers to fixate on the muddy floor of the milking shed as some kind of indicator–forgetting that other milking sheds, even in the developed world, aren’t that much better, and that milk in Venezuela, as elsewhere, actually gets filtered and pasteurized before it’s sold to consumers. Maybe we’re supposed to infer that the brown hands doing the milking are also dirty.
And do we get to see any other co-op ranches, ones more successful and up to date, or reformed scrupulously in accordance with the Ley de Tierras? Nope. We’re not supposed to. At least, not on the Beeb. The mission here is not journalistic honesty or even deeper digging, but simply to throw mud (and bovine feces), thick and fast, and make sure it sticks.
The same pattern pertains throughout. We get little mention of the depth of the poverty that prevailed for a good 20 years before Chavez. And no mention at all of the Caracazo, which was directly caused by poverty and capitalist greed, in accordance with IMF dictates. What we do get, in spades, is “evidence” that things have barely improved. Not a word about how the Venezuelan poverty rates have dropped dramatically. Not a peep about its impressive economic growth overall. No mention that illiteracy is ancient history in Venezuela now. And of course, we are given to understand that the schools only attract as many pupils as they do because the kids are being fed. No other mention that affordable food is an important revolutionary contribution. We’re led to believe that except for the school meals, everyone is still starving. Nope, not a single Mercal in sight. And no mention of the Bolivarian community kitchens, either. In fact, we don’t even get to hear from the average barrio housewife at all whether there is more sancocho in her pots today than there was ten years ago. Strange, no?
Healthcare? That too is being played down. We don’t see the doctors who came from Cuba to provide it for a remarkably modest salary and free lodging; we barely hear about it at all. Presumably, we hear so little because no one at the Beeb wants to admit that maybe those Cuban commies aren’t such bad guys after all–that they are, in fact, sincere and dedicated for reasons that have less to do with Marxism than plain old medicine. No mention of all the eye surgeries they’ve done. No mention of the fact that Operation Barrio Adentro is now in its third phase (or is it the fourth? I can’t keep track anymore), and that big new hospitals have been completed, some of them providing highly specialized care, and all of it free of charge.
No, what Sweeney would rather have us see is one–just one!–young guy who’s done rather well for himself in oil, presumably only because he calls himself a Chavista. Presumably this one guy is supposed to represent some kind of corrupt trend. He just bought a TV station; presumably this is meant to represent the “tightening stranglehold” of Chavez on the Venezuelan media. He speaks English very well, with a British accent no less. And he goes clubbing in fancy-pantsy nightspots from which you can see the hillside barrios, where, if we are to believe Sweeney, gunshots are constantly–CONSTANTLY!!!–ringing out, and it’s supposedly so bad that the government no longer publishes crime stats. (Uh-huh. Well, some opposition-dominated municipal governments don’t–because the truth makes them look rather bad. And if the municipal governments don’t report, what can the feds do?)
And how convenient for Sweeney it must be never to mention the #1 root cause of crime in Venezuela. Poverty rates are still fairly high there, and as they drop, we can expect crime to follow–eventually. It’s going to take time, obviously, to bring policing up to snuff, and so on. But as the link I posted makes clear, violent crime in Venezuela is nothing new, any more than is the poverty that causes it. Let’s be clear here: we’re talking about a problem that’s been festering for 500 years. And somehow, if it’s not all fixed in less than a decade, then it means the revolution is bogus–or worse, that the revolution is itself to blame for those high crime rates? Come on. What are the other political leaders, chopped liver? Don’t any of them care about professionalizing their local police? For that matter, do the police care about bettering themselves? It’s hardly all the fault of Chavez, as Sweeney insinuates it is.
Oh, and speaking of crime: He all but comes out and says that the Chavez government is hiring Tupamaro gang members as mafia muscle to keep the bullet-riddled barrios under his thumb. Um, doesn’t that come awfully close to contravening British libel law, which tends famously to side with the accuser and place a heavy onus on the accused? (Paging Ken Livingstone, this might be a job for you. Or the good people of the British Venezuela solidarity movement. Or the Venezuelan embassy in London. What say, folks?)
Oh, and the funniest thing of all is how wrong they get the amount of oil Venezuela is sitting on. It’s not home to the world’s seventh largest reserves, but THE LARGEST, period. Numero fucking uno, baby. Mentioning THAT, I guess, would have given too much credibility to the accusation that the oil-thirsty US is trying to kill this high priest of pigeon-poopy statuary just so its big oil companies can get their hands on what they “worked” so hard to keep flowing.
In this case, though, what flows most fluidly is the steady stream of BBC bullshit. Never mind that Venezuela’s oil was actually nationalized in 1976; Sweeney seems to think Chavez did it just recently, and totally–when in fact, all he’s done is insist on a majority stake in all foreign oil developments, and joint ventures between the state company, PDVSA, and foreign oil corps. Which isn’t really so bad at all when you think about it, which Sweeney would rather you didn’t do. Oh, and proper royalty payments, and prompt and full payment of taxes, too–things that the foreign Big Oil guys used to count on an ever-changing series of presidential faces to look the other way about. Hmmm, maybe that’s why the oily oppos are so big on term limits, which democracies like Canada and Britain don’t have. When a head of stat
e isn’t allowed to stay in power long enough to actually do something about corrupt collusion between the oligarchy and foreign oil companies–or worse, is himself involved and therefore has no incentive to stick around anyway, let alone long enough to do something right…well. I think you get the picture!
I guess the Beeb feels it has to keep up with Channel 4 in the crapaganda wars. Either that, or they can no longer afford the services of a real reporter like Greg Palast. Maybe a little more state funding is in order, so that they can do better, more thorough investigative reporting that actually tells the whole story without the crapitalist skew, hmmm?
(PS: I note that the video’s Spanish translators, who did a decent job elsewhere, got one detail hilariously wrong: it’s “crackers”, not “crackass”, as they put it down. “Crackers”, of course, simply means wacky, loopy, crazy. Still not a flattering thing to say about Caracas or its most famous denizen, but not nearly as bad as it’s made out to be here.)