Hector Abad's piece
assailing Chavez has now been corrected twice by the UK Observer. I suspect many people have written to the Observer about Abad's error riddled article.
I wrote to Observer editor, Stephen Prichard, about two falsehoods. One of them is now acknowledged in this correction that the Observer has appended to the article – the one about Haiti's earthquake:
This article was amended on 11 March 2013. The original referred to Mujica's connection with the leftwing Argentinian guerrilla group known as the Montoneros, rather than the Uruguayan Tupamaros, and Luiz Lula da Silva's successor as Vana Rousseff Dilma, rather than Dilma Vana Rousseff. These have been corrected. It was further amended on 16 March 2013 to remove a reference to Hugo Chavez claiming that the US caused the Haiti earthquake. The claim was not made by the president, but by state radio, which later withdrew it.
I also wrote to Prichard about the nonsense that Abad wrote regarding Venezuela's fiscal deficit. Abad claimed that it "exceeds 20%".
Prichard told me he would be making a correction about the Haiti earthquake, but what he said about the 20% number was shocking. I had sent him three sources (IMF
, and Fitch Ratings
) all hostile to Chavez. All of them said that Venezuela's fiscal deficit in 2012 was between 7-8.5%. Prichard has – thus far – rationalized not correcting the "exceeds 20%" error because Abad told him that an opposition governor said the fiscal deficit exceeds 20% as well as some economists critical of the Venezuelan government. Abad said to Prichard
"You can choose to accept the government official figures or not; I do not accept the government official numbers."
I replied to Prichard (in part) as follows about about Abad's defence of the 20% figure:
The IMF does not easily accept government numbers that it believes are wrong.
The IMF often included explanatory footnotes with Argentina's inflation numbers. Last year it openly threatened Argentina
with sanctions over its inflation numbers
It may be true to say that "some economists critical of the Venezuelan government CLAIM the fiscal deficit exceeds 20%"
It is not ethical to state, as fact, that "the fiscal deficit exceeds 20%".
You are setting the bar for "fact" so incredibly low that – if you are consistent – you would abolish any distinction between a claim and a fact in Observer op-eds.
I also noted to Prichard – again – that the IMF has been hostile to the Chavez government. The IMF publicly supported
the short lived Carmona dictatorship which had deposed the Chavez government for two days in April of 2002. If the IMF had any grounds to challenge Venezuelan government figures then it obviously would have. Hopefully rationality and basic journalistic ethics will eventually prevail.
I do understand the reluctance to add even more corrections to Abad's article. The Observer must be embarrassed by them and it should be.