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viernes, diciembre 09, 2005

Q & A & A

A couple weeks ago, the New York Times published a piece by the Council on Foreign Relations titled "Q&A: U.S.-Venezuelan Relations." Political Affairs magazine then published a counter-article that asks some of the same questions, but (of course) gives very different responses.

Overall I'd say the NYT article is not bad, for a mainstream U.S. source. But there are some bits that strain credulity. It discusses the massive poverty in Venezuela (true, and probably the single largest challenge for the Chavez government) but then goes on to say that "Many experts say these numbers [of poverty and extreme poverty] will likely increase if current political and economic trends continue." What experts? To which trends are they referring? On what basis do they make this prediction, espcially since in the last year or two poverty has begun to decline?

It continues by complaining about "Chavez's refusal to consider diversifying Venezuela's economy, which is almost completely dependent upon oil." Chavez has done more than "consider" diversifying the economy; he has repeatedly emphasized that diversification is crucial, and spurred numerous non-oil economic development efforts, many under the rubric of "endogenous development". Whether these attempts will succeed is another question, and an important one; unfortunately, it's a question which the CFA does not address nor even acknowledge.

The NYT article also repeats the oft-cited, but totally unsubstantiated accusation that "News reports allege he [Chavez] has also supported . . . Colombia's FARC terrorists." I suppose the CFA can claim they didn't actually accuse Chavez of supporting the FARC, but just let us know that "news reports allege" he did so. But repeating unsupported allegations is hardly professional or ethical behavior. (Appears to be par for the course at the NYT, though... )

The Political Affairs column, on the other hand, is unabashedly pro-Chavez. It's pretty good, but makes some unfounded accusations of its own, most of them having to do with the anti-Chavez opposition's entanglements with the U.S., with phrases like, "the coup showed to what lengths the US special services are willing to go to topple the Chavez government" and statements making the entire opposition out to be an arm of the U.S. government, including the following:

In 2003, the US decided to once again try the electoral route hoping the economic difficulties caused by the strike and supply shortages had softened up voters to finally oust Chavez. Millions poured into the opposition campaign via US-AID and NED.

Ok, yes, the U.S. gives aid and comfort to the opposition, but the opposition itself is Venezuelan. I have never seen evidence that the entire opposition leadership takes its marching orders from Washington. Let's not exaggerate here.

In conclusion, both articles are a bit short on evidence for some of their claims, but put together I think they give a decent overview of recent developments in U.S.-Venezuela relations. Read the NYT article here and the Political Affairs piece here.

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