Below is an open letter to ABC’s Foreign Correspondent by Eulalia Reyes, a Venezuelan activist and Brisbane co-coordinator of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network. It was written in response to March 21 program titled “Venezuela Undercover”.
As a Venezuelan that has once again had to endure being insulted by you presenting my country as on the brink of disaster and Venezuelans as bring incapable of liberating ourselves from this situation, I am writing to demand respect for my country and its people.
To be honest, documentaries such as this - which present Venezuela as a country in disarray, where despite its great riches people are supposedly reduced to delving into rubbish bins to find food - no longer surprise me.
We, Venezuelans, have for the last 18 years democratically decided who our government should be.
Some admire and respect us for our decision; others reject and oppose our choice. The latter group, which includes most foreign media outlets, have done everything they can to put an end to our government.
Ever since the Venezuelan people, together with former president Hugo Chavez, became a symbol of resistance and struggle against capitalism and neoliberalism, my country has captivated the media.
The media clearly has its own interests at heart. You will say that your only interest is to “tell the truth and nothing but the truth”. But everyone has an agenda, and in most cases, the media’s agenda has been a dishonest, biased and right-wing one.
Throughout the years, the people of Venezuela have learned to see through the media’s agenda and have developed a thick skin to deal with the countless lies that others are only happy to spread around the world.
Eric Campbell, Matt Davis and everyone at the ABC that endorses these kinds of attacks on Venezuela for daring to stand up for itself have denied viewers a balanced panorama of the situation inside of Venezuela.
I am not going to argue that the situation inside my country is not extremely difficult. Venezuela is a rich country with the biggest oil reserves in the world and an oil dependent economy that today finds itself in a lot of problems.
But I do disagree, and very strongly, with your misguiding views as to the reasons for this so-called “disaster”, as Margarita Lopez Maya, the Venezuelan sociologist you interview, puts it in the documentary.
Before going on, I would like to add a parenthesis here to give you a bit of background as to why I have chosen to write this open letter.
I am Venezuelan. I was born and raised in that great country. But for many years now I have lived in Australia. In fact, I am also an Australian citizen, one who has contributed to this country that I also love.
But make no mistakes, since the inception of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, I - like many, many Venezuelans – have been warmly encouraged by the path my country has decided to take.
I know very well the reality and background of my country, and like the majority of Venezuelans, I knew this was the right path.
We are finally moving forward, not only for the benefit of us Venezuelans but also for the people of the region and the world, who have been inspired by the courage and determination of Hugo Chavez and his followers.
This is something you should try to study and understand before going to another country to report on its internal affairs.
Before you make assumptions about why, despite living in Australia, I feel the need to refute your program, I should point out that I have returned to Venezuela as often as I can, and even more so since the beginning of this new stage in the life of my country.
I have participated, as much as possible, in the many varied ways Venezuelans do, to help propel this project forward. I have witnessed firsthand the benefits the revolutionary government has brought to my country.
I could not be prouder than I am of my country that, despite great difficulties, has become a leader in the struggle for a better world.
I, like every Venezuelan, have witnessed and suffered from the experiences of queuing for food and medicines in my country. We do not deny this reality.
But we understand the reasons behind it, the fact that interests that seek to undermine the progress of my country are constantly working to sabotage it. You have to be extremely naive to deny this is the case.
You pretend that you had to sneak into Venezuela, “risking arrest” if you were discovered by the government. The only thing this proves is that you clearly went with your own agenda and were always going to present a distorted picture of Venezuela.
The reality is that, in my country, anyone can enter and everyone is welcomed. In Venezuela, there is a loud and violent opposition that is constantly campaigning, inside and outside the country, spreading its poisonous message against the Bolivarian project.
And the media, both local and foreign, is always there to echo it message.
The private media corporations are very strong and are constantly running an anti-government campaign. They lie, they conspire, they try to break the morale of the people and they do so with no one shutting them down or silencing them.
Although tired of hearing the media lies, they do not deter us Venezuelans. Instead, we continue with our revolution.
In your documentary, you interview Lopez Maya without even once questioning some of her unsubstantiated claims. For example, she is far from sincere when see says that extreme poverty has grown in Venezuela.
She should know that in fact even the United Nations has recognised that extreme poverty in the country have been reduced from 24% in 1999 to 5.5% in 2015.
Furthermore, Venezuela has been recognised by the United Nations for reaching most of the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Perhaps you and your team should have sought another scholar that could have explained this and given your viewers a more balanced view of Venezuela’s reality.
So why didn’t you? Are you and your team such poor journalists that you are unable to do this? Or did your local hosts advise you against this option?
I would have thought this was a natural part of any journalistic endeavour, yet such basic standards of fairness and independence are completely absent in your program.
Instead, you chose to blame the democratically-elected government of Nicolas Maduro for the critical situation in the country.
You also chose to censure the reality of how Chavez and Maduro have used the country’s wealth.
You say Chavez “lavished money on the poor and nationalised private companies” simply to build his popularity and power, while in the process destroyed the economy. For you, this is proof that “socialists” are incapable of governing.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand the impact that falling oil prices can have on a country such as Venezuela. But one thing you never ask is why despite Venezuela being a “disaster”, despite the catastrophic image you present, this country and government has not collapsed.
You could have found an answer to this if you had chosen to not simply interview people whose answers you knew in advance would fit your misguiding agenda.
I, like many other Venezuelans, could have explained to you the resilience of our people. Yes the country is going through a problematic situation; yes we are facing food and medicines shortages (though not on the scale you want people to believe); yes, we are still dependent on oil despite the important effort of our people and our government to transform our economy.
But us Venezuelans are brave, heroic, resilient and determined to construct our own destiny. We deserve respect and admiration instead of dishonour and offense.
The success of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela will prove you, along with all those other media outlets that have ferociously campaigned against our right to choose our own destiny, wrong.
If you are interested, I would be ready to provide you with a different viewpoint and give you actual information regarding my country.
This could perhaps give you a chance to redeem yourself and avoid the only genuine risk you have taken, that of losing your reputation as a journalist.
[This article appeared as part of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network April 2017 broadsheet.]