Foreign Correspondent’s “Venezuela: A nation on the brink”, screened on the ABC on March 21 was a straight out piece of US State Department propaganda.
It was also more evidence of the ABC’s rightward trajectory under ex-Murdoch executive and CEO Michelle Guthrie.
“Venezuela is a disaster,” reporter Eric Campbell and producer Matt Davis begin. “It has the biggest oil reserves on the planet. But instead of living like Middle Eastern sheiks, many Venezuelans are on the brink of famine.
“The economy is in ruins, the currency is all but worthless, shops are empty and people queue for subsidised food rations to survive.
“A charismatic former army colonel named Hugo Chavez launched a socialist revolution after he was elected in 1998. But, under his successor, Nicolas Maduro, the oil-rich country has become a failing state.”
The Foreign Correspondent team allege they had to go “undercover” as tourists “to evade the government’s restrictions on foreign journalists”. They claim “a week in the capital Caracas revealed a city on the edge of destruction”.
They observed food queues, visited a barrio, consorted with a drug gang and talked to a couple of anti-government figures. That was it. There was no attempt to balance the ledger in any way, although, when pressed, one interviewee said Venezuela had progressed under Chavez.
Foreign Correspondent constructed its argument around interviews with two anti-government figures: sociologist Margarita Lopez Maya, who supported Chavez up to 2009 but has since turned against the Bolivarian Revolution; and Maria Corina Machado, who regularly meets with US government agents and right-wing leaders. Machado was involved in the 2002 coup attempt against Chavez and has been linked to recent coup plots against Maduro.
No attempt was made to investigate the underlying causes of the serious problems Venezuela faces as a result of the oil crash and capital hoarding. There was no attempt to note the Bolivarian Revolution’s social gains over the past decade and a half.
These include the construction of 1.5 million homes for the poor over the past several years, the continued growth of the social “missions” which provide free health care and education up to tertiary level as well as subsidised food. The creation of communal councils and communes, run by the Venezuelans, also continues.
Ordinary Venezuelans are facing dire economic problems, but the ABC “journalists” fail to attempt to analyse where they have come from, preferring instead to blame the socialist government of Chavez and Maduro.
The catastrophic fall in the world price of oil has undermined state revenues that the Venezuelan government has relied on to support its social programs, including free health care, education for all and free housing for the poor. The economic hoarding and boycotts, imposed by private businesses in Venezuela, has made life very difficult for many.
The government has made serious errors in its economic policy, but there is a class war going on, waged by a small, but still strong, reactionary oligarchy that is backed by the US. They want a return to the “good old days” of rule by the super-rich, which the Foreign Correspondent team seem to also condone.
Maduro may be unpopular at present, but the right-wing opposition who control the National Assembly are even more unpopular, recent polls conclude. The opposition is widely seen as having no viable alternative program except to return to rule by the oligarchs. Revealing, was the tiny opposition rally, although Campbell and Davis had no real explanation beyond government threats.
Balanced investigative journalists would have sought answers to the real problems facing Venezuelans.
Campbell has form. He visited Venezuela in 2009, producing a Foreign Correspondent piece titled, “Venezuela: total control”, in which he claimed that Chavez was becoming increasingly dictatorial — against any skerrick of evidence.
Campbell’s feint to “balance” was to leave in some comments from his interviewees about the reforms made under Chavez. You can imagine there were a lot more for these couple of lines to remain in the final program.
Contrary to Campbell’s assertion that the Venezuelan media is primarily state-owned and controlled, the private media corporations are still strong and they run a permanent anti-government campaign.
But the Venezuelan people are heroic and resilient. They have withstood the capitalist media and other attacks on their Bolivarian Revolution since 1999.
Campbell’s piece, which revolves around his subjectivity, is an example of the new genre of documentary called “alternative facts”.