BBC article runs wild with unsourced whoppers about Venezuela

This BBC article by Mariana Zuniga says


“This situation might be bearable if the Venezuelan oil-dominated economy was performing well, but it is expected to shrink by 8% this year after contracting by 5.8% in 2014.”

The article doesn’t say – which is terrible reporting – but the prediction of 8% contraction comes from the IMF which had predicted a 10% contraction in 2015. It contracted 5.7% in 2015 – the article erroneously says 2014. That error was probably a typo, but key thing is that Zuniga used an unsourced prediction from an outfit that just made a really lousy prediction.

The article says

“With the Venezuelan economy continuing to be mired in its worst recession for more than 70 years, “

She doesn’t say by what measure this is the worst, but the 2002/3 coup + oil strike caused larger contraction in GDP per capita and also vastly higher unemployment.

Some figures in an article I wrote here

Zuniga goes on to claim

“Yet with the unemployment rate in Venezuela now at 17%,….”

Again, no source is provided. Bank of America Merril Lynch said unemployment in Venezuela was 7.2% in 2015 and, quite unlike the IMF, had very accurately predicted the country’s GDP contraction in 2015.

The following quote is from the Tradingeconomies site which compiles data from World Bank and other sources

“Unemployment Rate in Venezuela decreased to 6 percent in December from 6.10 percent in November of 2015. Unemployment Rate in Venezuela averaged 10.69 percent from 1999 until 2015, reaching an all time high of 20.70 percent in February of 2003 and a record low of 5.50 percent in December of 2014. Unemployment Rate in Venezuela is reported by the National Institute of Statistics, Venezuela.”

Mind you a lot of employment has certainly become informalized because of the recession – people standing in line to buy stuff at government controlled prices then resell it – but that is still not unemployment.

The following outrageous claims is also made by Zuniga and as usual no source is provided for or it:

“For the country’s small businesses, the knock-on impact is having to deal with an inflation rate of nearly 700% – the highest in the world “

According to Bank of America Merril Lynch report at the end of April

 “…using our coincident indicator model (The Red Book: 4Q15 edition, p. 14), which estimates monthly inflation so far this year at an average of 8.2% mom”

Inflation at 8% per month projects to 150% for the year – miles away from the 700% of Zuniga’s unsourced  claim.

Zuniga also said – again citing no source – that

1.5 million Venezuelans, or almost 6% of the population, are estimated to have left the country since 2010″

This figure very likely comes from an academic, Tomas Paez, who supported the 2002 coup against Chavez. He has been widely quoted in the past saying 1.5 million have left since 1999. The BBC article makes the claim even more extreme by saying that many have left since 2010.

Paez added his name to a letter in a newspaper welcoming the Carmona dictatorship while it was briefly in power in 2002. See a snapshot here. Jesus Torrealba, an important opposition leader, also added his name to it.

I looked into Paez estimates and they are incredibly far-fetched. I wrote about it in detail here.

Basically, you can tell how outlandish his claim is by looking at US government data for Venezuelans who have come to the USA. Based on overseas voting data for Venezuelans, probably about a third of Venezuelan immigrants live in the USA.

As of 2013, about 9.500 Venezuelan per year were getting legal residency in the USA and – overwhelmingly – Venezuelans who immigrate to the USA have obtained legal status and done it quickly.


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