Thursday, January 12, 2006

16 billion dollars or 16 billion lies? 

I don't know how many of you read the excellent blog "El Espacio de Lubrio" - certainly everyone who can read Spanish should. The other day he published an excellent entry which again points out the absurdity of much of what the opposition says. Recently I posted on the absurd comments of Gerardo Blyde and now Luigino has posted on some crazy comments by his Primero Justicia collegue, Julio Borges, who is already a declared presidential candidate. Given that the post was written in Spanish I thought I would take the liberty of translating it into English:

According to the opposition presidential candidate Julio Borges, "in only a few months”, President Hugo Chavez “has given to 35 countries more than 16.4 billion dollars, which could have been invested in such a way that Venezuelans would have decent living conditions”.

This appeared in the web site of the newspaper El Impulso.

The alarmist message of Borges, made on Globovision, was reproduced repeatedly by both the national and international media even when Borges’s source is “research by his compeign” without any other documentation or proof. It was front page news in various Venezuelan papers such as 2001. But is it true?

Lets see. What is meant by “in only a few months”? Three months? Six months? A year? Lets assume he means six months which is fairly generous for such a imprecise statement. This means that, according to Borges, Chavez has been “giving away” daily:

16,400,000,000 dollars / 180 days = 91,111,111 dollars.

If we assume that Venezuela has earned, on average, thirty dollars for every barrel of oil it produces (oil has sold at $50 but much of it is subsidized and from what I understand production costs are about $10 per barrel) then we have to assume that the president is “giving away” the equivalent of 3,037,037 barrels of oil daily, which is almost all of the daily national production (which I understand is 3.3 million barrels a day although some sources put it at 2.8 million).

That is, according to Borges, Chavez is giving away virtually everything we earn from oil production. In other words, in Venezuela:

We are not paying the salary of nearly 2 million public employees.

We are not carrying out social missions (one of which taught hundreds of thousands how to read and write and another of which has 12 thousand doctors in Venezuelan neighborhoods).

We are not constructing 5 subway lines simultaneously (2 in Caracas, one in Los Teques, one in Valencia and one in Maracaibo).

We aren’t constructing various railroads (that of Valle de Tuy and others in Bolivar state).

We aren’t constructing a second bridge over the Orinoco river nor our we beginning a third bridge.

We aren’t carrying out various infrastructure projects throughout the country.

We aren’t supporting public autonomous universities (the UCV alone costs $300 million annually and the University of Zulia $200 million, etc.) nor the Sucre mission nor the Bolivarian University.

And a very long list of etceteras.

Borges is being slick. He is taking advantage of the recent announcement of $30 million that is being donated to Bolivia to then create a lie the size of Viaduct 1. And with this type of alarmist announcement he was successful in becoming the center of attention of all the opposition media, which of course was not going to deny him television space either, regardless for what kind of crazy things he was saying.

Fortunately, the majority of Venezuelan’s don’t believe Borges and they won’t believe him while he keeps fabricating lies. Even when its difficult to justify what was given to Bolivia, and I recognize it. But Chavez is a good strategist; we’ll see what happens.

Luigino has done an excellent job of pointing out the absurdity of Borges accusations. It is not even remotely possible that Chavez has given to other countries anywhere near the amount of money that he claims. This shows the cheapness of what comes out of the mouth of one of the opposition's leading politicans. Borges’s political party, Primero Justicia, claims to be the party of the future and claims to be a clean break with the old corrupt parties of the Fourth Republic. Maybe. But apparently lying and making up widely false information is not one of the Fourth Republic practices they are willing to break with.

What is more, that the opposition media just runs this without any sort of analysis shows what they are about. The other day they were quite assertive when it came to asking some detailed follow up questions of the mayor of Caracas. Yet it apparently doesn’t occur to them to ask Borges for a detailed breakdown of how he came up with the $16 billion dollar number, much less where any of the evidence is. Apparently their journalistic standards vary according to who the information favors.


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