UK Guardian partially corrects Venezuela op-ed by Ricardo Hausmann

Two months after numerous errors were pointed out to them by readers, the UK Guardian has made the following correction to an op-ed about Venezuela written by Ricardo Hausmann. The Guardian explained

This article was amended on 22 April 2013. The original incorrectly stated that Venezuela had the lowest average GDP per capita growth rate and highest inflation of any Latin American country except Haiti. According to the world development indicators of the World Bank it ranks 18 in a list of 28 countries in the region for GDP per capita growth between 1999 and 2011 and had the highest inflation rate of 32 countries in the region over the same period.

The IMF website makes Hausmann’s claim about per capita GDP very easy to debunk. However, the Guardian insisted on getting up to date figures from the World Bank as well before it would make a correction.  

Hausmann’s claims about the Chavez government’s record on Inflation and GDP per capita growth are very deceptive even after corrections are made. The GDP growth numbers from 1999-2012 include the years when the opposition deliberately tanked the economy in an effort to depose Chavez. In 2002, they actually did manage to depose him for 2 days and later that year were able to shut down the state oil company for months. However, by about mid-2003, the government had vanquished its most undemocratic enemies and had finally taken control over the state oil company. Venezuela then had several years of very strong economic growth, poverty reduction and reduced inequality.

Both inflation and GDP growth are also vastly improved in the Chavez era compared to the years before Chavez took office.

One shouldn’t expect Chavez bashers like Hausmann to provide context like this in an op-ed. It isn’t Haumann’s job, in an opinion piece like this, to make his opponents' arguments for them. However one should expect, even in highly partisan op-ed, some basic respect for facts.

Unfortunately, even after the Guardian’s corrections, Hausmann’s op-ed still contains some howlers.

Hausmann wrote that Venezuela’s murder rate is “arguably the highest murder rate in the world”

The New Yorker recently acknowledged (in partially correcting a very shoddy piece by Jon Lee Anderson) that Venezuela’s murder rate, while certainly very high, is not even the highest in Latin America, much less the world.

The weasel word “arguably” should not allow Hausmann to pass this falsehood off as an “opinion” to which he is entitled – especially when he offers no data at all to defend it.

Hausmann also alleged that the Chavez government made sure it had a “30-to-1 balance of airtime” over opponents.

Whether he means television, radio or both there no basis for this claim and, in fact, he offered none. Studies of the Venezuela media during Chavez’s final election campaign showed an advantage for Capriles. It is far from obvious if the Chavez government enjoyed any advantage at all in the mass media, never mind a 30-to-1 advantage.

All that said, partial corrections are vastly better than none at all. Partial credit is therefore due to the Guardian, New Yorker and UK Observer for the partial corrections that they have been recently willing to make to articles and op-eds about Venezuela.

I hope the alarming rate at which falsehoods accumulate about Venezuela in international press prompt them to do better. They should find it very embarrassing.

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