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Most Venezuelans have a blind spot on their own country according to James Bloodworth


James Bloodworth, when he isn’t applauding Obama’s murderous drone attacks on Pakistan, occasionally takes time out to complain about leftists supporting the Venezuelan government. He claims that Venezuela has become a “nightmare” and that, despite elections that he appears to acknowledge are clean and transparent, Venezuelans are, nevertheless, “living under tyranny” because of the government’s “unwillingness to tolerate dissent”.

Bloodworth says that he supported the Chavista movement when a US backed coup violently ousted Hugo Chavez in 2002. “I have no trouble remembering which side I was on” he claims – very dubiously as I’ll explain.

Bloodworth doesn’t remember that Leopoldo Lopez was among the leaders of that coup. This video shows Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles (a state governor who ran against Maduro in April of 2013) supervising the illegal “arrest” of a Chavez government minister during the 2002 coup.  Bloodworth objects to Lopez’s arrest for leading protests over the past few weeks that are clearly aimed at repeating what happened in 2002, but Bloodworth never considers an incredibly obvious point. Lopez would have been locked up for decades (if he were lucky) had he participated in the violent overthrow of the UK or US governments.  If not for the Venezuelan government’s unusually high tolerance for dissent, Lopez and Capriles (his “moderate” ally) would never have been around to lead protests, much less hold public office as Capriles now does.   One can only shudder at what their fate would have been in the USA after participating in a briefly successful coup. Chelsea Manning has been locked up for years and openly tortured simply for exposing human rights abuses and embarrassing the US government. Manning will not be leading violent protests or holding public office (even if she wanted to) any time soon.

Bloodworth also forgets (or more likely doesn’t know or care) that Human Rights Watch (HRW) utterly disgraced itself during the 2002 coup. He takes HRW assessments of Venezuela at face value but does not recall that during the 2002 coup HRW failed to denounce the coup, failed to call on other countries not to recognize the Carmona dictatorship, failed to invoke the OAS charter, and did not call for an investigation of US involvement.  Thankfully, most governments in the region denounced the 2002 coup at once, exactly as HRW would have done had it not been penetrated by US State Department officials and other elites as Keane Bhatt recently noted.

Bloodworth’s effort to dismiss the Venezuelan government’s record on poverty alleviation is pitifully inept.  He considers only the 2007-2011 period to argue that Venezuela’s record is unimpressive compared to Brazil, Uruguay and Peru. Does he not recall that Hugo Chavez first took office in 1999? Could somebody who claims to have opposed the 2002 coup be that ignorant? The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) found that from “1999 to 2010 Venezuela achieved the second highest rate of poverty reduction”.   Extreme poverty fell by 70% during Hugo Chavez’s time in office.  The 2002 coup and related efforts to overthrow the Chavez government severely disrupted progress for about 2 years or the economic gains might have been even better.  Bloodworth might know this if he had actually opposed the 2002 coup as he claims he did.

Predictably, Bloodworth promotes the most cherished dogma of Venezuelan government opponents over the past 15 years:  the myth of the voiceless opposition. The Carter Commission exploded this myth very effectively last year – without really trying to and in very polite language. It examined TV news media during crucial weeks of the April, 2013 Presidential election that pitted Henrique Capriles against Nicolas Maduro. It found a 57% to 34% edge in coverage for Maduro over Capriles by simply totaling minutes of coverage on the major networks. That finding alone refutes the myth of the voiceless opposition but it gets worse for people who peddle this myth. Three quarters of Capriles’ coverage was in the private news media which (the Carter Commission found) had nearly three times the audience share (72% to 24%) of the state news media where Maduro received most of his coverage.

Bloodworth has nothing to say about Maduro government opponents spreading falsified images of the protests through social media – a tactic they could rely on the private media to deploy on a massive scale in 2002. The most anti-democratic faction of the opposition claims that media coverage of their protests is now inadequate and that is enough for Bloodworth to completely agree.  Similarly, one of the sources Bloodworth uncritically cites about Venezuela’s economy is Moisés Naím, one of the architects of the brutal austerity polices of the early 1990s that ultimately led to the Caracazo uprisings in which up to 3000 people were murdered by Venezuela’s security forces. Does Bloodworth not know this about Naím, or just not care?

In order to claim that violent deaths are more numerous in Venezuela than Iraq, Bloodworth  ignores peer reviewed scientific studies (published in 2006, 2008 and 2013) showing that anywhere from one half to only one twelfth of violent deaths are captured in Iraq by standard data collection methods. He also appears oblivious to scholarly research suggesting that Venezuela’s murder rate may have been falling since 2008.

Perhaps worst of all, Bloodworth completely ignores the decisive defeat the opposition received in December’s municipal elections which the opposition worked very hard to frame as a referendum on Maduro’s government. The results were easy to understand if one looks beyond the reactionary talking points about Venezuela’s economy that Bloodworth mindlessly parrots. The economy has not gone into recession since Maduro was elected despite the spike in inflation. Moreover inflation is not a direct measure of living standards. Many of the poorest countries in the world have very low levels of inflation (Mali, Rwanda, Chad among others).

Additionally, despite serious economic problems in 2013 poverty fell from 21.6 to 19.6%, extreme poverty from 6.3 to 5.5%, unemployment from 5.9% to 5.6%

It is not really foreign supporters of Maduro’s government whom Bloodworth attempts to dismiss, it is the majority of Venezuelan voters.

14 Comments

  1. Al McKay February 23, 2014 1:32 am 

    Joe Emersberger, you might be interested to know that Bloodworth has labelled you a “Srebrenica truther” and so has dismissed your article without addressing any of its content.

    • avatar
      Joe Emersberger February 23, 2014 2:53 am 

      Thanks. That’s unsurprising. The guy is liar and war monger who tries to pass himself as being leftist. The UK seems to produce that weird kind of pundits in abundance: Oliver Kamm, Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch. George Monbiot, at the rate he is going, may soon be fairly included in that company.

      • David Littlewood February 23, 2014 5:22 pm 

        Not sure how you put Aaronovitch together with Monbiot. George Monbiot is one of the few sane people left on the planet where environmental issues are concerned. He has developed a blind spot on nuclear power, but that is because he feels that we have wasted so much time in developing low-risk renewables that we have to have nuclear as a stop-gap. Can you say why you regard him as a problem?

        • avatar
          Joe Emersberger February 23, 2014 8:00 pm 

          This is how:

          ‘As no one else is now likely to act, and as the raid on the prison would probably have been impossible without the suicide bomb, should we not be celebrating this act of extraordinary courage?’

          http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/10/orwell-hero-terrorism-syria-british-fighters-damned?CMP=twt_gu

          That’s right, Monbiot would have us celebrate suicide bombers provided their targets are official enemies. Think he’d forget to consider bystanders – among other things – if such an attack occurred on a US base or prison?

          Monbiot also said that “genocide denial” is a “central doctrine of the internationalist Left”. He launched a vicious hatchet job against Herman and Peterson based on their work about the Srebrenica Massacre and even denounced Chomsky – in an incredibly stupid and dishonorable way – for refusing to join in his vilification of Ed Herman and David Peterson.

      • Al McKay February 23, 2014 11:33 pm 

        Bloodworth’s behaviour here has been cowardly and dishonest. Perhaps it might be worth producing a post challenging his lies or challenging him on Twitter?

        • avatar
          Joe Emersberger February 24, 2014 7:41 pm 

          Thanks Al. I hate Twiiter and doubt I’ll ever go beyond monitoring it for the best and worse content it provides. It appears that what really enraged Bloodworth & Kamm was that Owen Jones – with nearly 200K Twitter followers -approvingly tweeted my article. Oliver Kamm contributed the following libelous remark via Twitter:

          @J_Bloodworth is right not to debate with someone whose message & methods, though not intellect, are same as David Irving’s.

          My “message” is Neo Nazi denial of the Holocuast accoring to Kamm. That’s not even Kamm at his sleaziest. He accused the Media Lens editors of not just denying but actually celebrating the Srebrencia Masacre.

          I will be interested to see Owen Jones responds to their tacts – if at all..

          • Al McKay February 24, 2014 8:10 pm 

            I know all about Kamm’s tactics.

            Bloodworth’s had a grudge against Jones for a while so it’s not surprising. He’s something of a comedian is Bloodworth. Last year he insisted that certain Labour MPs cut their ties with the Henry Jackson Society. Now, he’s publishing content from Student Rights (a HJS project) on Left Foot Forward and constantly endorsing material from HJS affiliates on Twitter. He’s a complete fraud.

  2. avatar
    Joe Emersberger February 22, 2014 8:00 pm 

    Vaguely referring to “serious ecnomists” is, well, not very serious. Mark Weisbrot has documented, for years, how wildly off the mark what “serious economists” have been forecasting for Venezuela has been. The economics profession has a lousy track record in general -so even when they are in agreement it is far from a safe bet that they are correct. Mark’s collegue at CEPR, for example, was raising serious alarms bells about the housing bubble in the USA when most ecnomists were totally asleep on the issue.

    Wesibrot’s analysis of Venezuela fits the data.
    http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2013/12/16/guest-post-venezuela-has-imbalances-but-is-not-collapsing/

    “For two years of economic recovery, from June 2010 to June 2012, inflation was falling even as economic growth accelerated to 5.7 per cent annually for 2012. In the first quarter of 2012, annualised inflation was running at just 12.1 per cent for a three-month period (to emphasise, this was an annual rate – inflation over the three months was just 2.9 per cent)

    It picked up to some extent over the next few months but really began to accelerate after October 2012: the government agency Sitme cut auctions of dollars by half in November 2012, and then eliminated them altogether in February 2013. The devaluation also contributed somewhat to inflation, although it is not clear how much. Inflation peaked at a monthly rate of 6.2 per cent in May. It then began to fall, probably as a result of the government’s new auctions of dollars: inflation in June was 4.7 per cent, July 3.2 per cent, and August 3.0 per cent. It then went back up in September (4.4 per cent) and October (5.1 per cent), as the black market price of the dollar continued to accelerate (it has gone from 12 bolívars in October 2012 to about 64 today).”

    The Venezuelan government has bundered in the manageent of its exchange rate. Bolivia offers an example of the reforms that should be pursued.

    • Al McKay February 23, 2014 11:16 am 

      I think you need to point all of this out to goal-post mover Bloodworth.

    • Sam Livingston February 24, 2014 2:33 pm 

      From interview with GREGORY WILPERT, FOUNDER, VENEZUELANALYSIS.COM

      WILPERT: Well, the inflation figures for January just came out, and it was measured at 3.3 percent, which is still very high. If it were at an annualized rate, it would come to over almost 40 percent. So that’s an extraordinarily high rate of inflation. Last year, for 2013, it was 56 percent.

      And shortages in Venezuela are actually also quite dramatic, and they went up, actually, in between November and January. That is, previously, the Central Bank measures shortages as a percentage of how many of the basic goods cannot be bought in any given store. And they–previously it was around 20 percent. In, I think, December, January, it was around 28 percent. So things have gotten kind of bad in that sense.

      - so did Mark Weisbrot see that coming? Sounds like not only did he not see that coming but also he keeps trying to deny this as it’s happening

      • avatar
        Joe Emersberger February 24, 2014 3:12 pm 

        Sam, You say “Sounds like not only did he [Wesibrot] not see that coming but also he keeps trying to deny this as it’s happening”

        You should pay much closer attention to Wesibtrot’s work. As far back as 2010 he advised Venezuela to abandon its fixed echaeg rate regime in favor of a “dirty float”. A few months ago Wilpert interviewed Weisbtrot about Maduro’s (very popular) price controls. Weisbtrot said the governmnet would have to do more than that to bring inflation down which is what the most recent dada you refer to seems to confirm. Weisbrot did NOT say, as your sloppy missreading (or perhaps non- reading) of his works suggests, that inflation would come down because of the price controls alone – much less that inflation was not way too high and should not be brought down..

        Most recently Wisbtrot has advised Venezuaal to pursue deals with China to ramp up its resveres so that it can thwart currency speculation the same way Bolivia has done – extremely successfuly – over the past several years.
        http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/31/latin-america-china-us-foreign-policy-reserve

  3. Sam Livingston February 22, 2014 7:00 pm 

    2013 spike in inflation is attributed to by serious economists to 2012 wramped up pre election spending by Gov to win over votes. Votes were won, but so was inflation. You don’t think those two were related?

    Also to my previous point do you think that economic theory is wrong when it points out that price caps very likely lead to shortages?

  4. avatar
    Joe Emersberger February 21, 2014 6:39 pm 

    The spike in inflation happened very recently – 2013 – so the idea that excessive money printing lies behind it dosen’t stand up. Inflation has been signifcantly lower in the Chavista era than it was in the 15 years that preceded it. Inflation actually spiked at about 100% a few years before Chavez was first elected in 1998.

    Production of milk and other agricultural goods has increased in the Chavista era but caloirc comsumption has increased faster.
    The governmnet has made its share of mistakes but those mistakes have been blown completely out of porportion as December’s municipal election results revealed (in addition to an honest reading of the economic data).

  5. Sam Livingston February 21, 2014 3:57 pm 

    When it comes to economy noble intentions may not be enough…
    “Additionally, despite serious economic problems in 2013 poverty fell from 21.6 to 19.6%, extreme poverty from 6.3 to 5.5%, unemployment from 5.9% to 5.6%”
    That what happens when Gov prints a lot of money with no regard for economic realities, albeit for a good, moral cause like welfare for the Poor. Poor get more money – but money loose their value just as fast due to inflation, which reached 50% that year. And putting price caps is also a noble intention but has devastating economic consequences like shortages – because why would anyone produce Milk if for example it costs 80 bolivars to produce but forced to sell at 17. It’s only logical that if anyone would decide to produce milk they would only do so for export (to Columbia) but that’s illegal so there really is no incentive to produce basic goods.

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