January 22, 2016

AP Underinforms in Reports on Venezuela’s Rule-by-Decree Confrontation

When the Associated Press issues a brief unbylined report on an obviously important matter, one’s first instinct should always be to ask: “What are they deciding not to tell us?” More often than not, the answer is “Plenty.”

An example justifying the need to look further appeared this morning when the wire service published a five-paragraph report on inflation in Venezuela’s economy:


Lacking in the report:

  • The fact that the executive branch of Venezuela’s government is steadfastly socialist.
  • The fact that Venezuela’s central bank avoided revealing how bad the country’s inflation problem is by pretending that it was “only” running at 80 percent during 2015 until last week, when it fessed up to 141 percent, which is still barely half of what the IMF believes it was.
  • The name of its authoritarian leader, Nicholas Maduro.
  • The fact that Maduro is attempting to rule by emergency decree on economic matters as a result of the economic and humanitarian crisis he and predecessor Hugo Chavez created, and has engineered a confrontation with a newly elected opposition National Assembly, which he intends to portay as obstructionist if it doesn’t give him a blank check for power.

Maduro declared the emergency, and that he intended to rule by decree, on Wednesday (links are in original; bolds are mine throughout this post):

Venezuela Declares ‘Economic Emergency’ that Allows President to Rule by Decree

Nicolás Maduro, the President of Venezuela, has announced an “economic state of emergency,” allowing him to rule by decree, in yet another attempt to diminish the power of the nation’s legislature ruled by the opposition anti-socialist party for the first time in 17 years.

Maduro announced a 60-day “economic emergency,” beginning on Friday, which will allow Maduro to override any attempt by the legislature to liberalize the strictly socialist Venezuelan economy. The decision followed the release of official economic data for the first time in more than a year, showing Venezuela’s rampant inflation problem and warning of even worse economic decline. The government estimates the national inflation rate at 141.5 percent.

This number, experts say, is significantly smaller than the actual inflation rate in Venezuela, which the socialist government is trying to hide.

 The opposition has rejected most of Maduro’s economic efforts, calling his rule-by-decree “extremely dangerous” for the well-being of the nation. “What is coming is more inflation, more shortages, and more problems, that decree will fix absolutely nothing,” William Dávila, a newly-minted opposition lawmaker, told reporters this week. The decree, he added, “is practically giving carte blanche to the government to keep expropriating and even to create a small ‘corral’ to limit the use of currency in banks.”

If the AP did a story on Maduro’s gambit when it was announced, it appears not to have been carried at its Big Story site, where posted items ordinarily remain permanently. There’s no evidence of an AP story on Maduro’s decree effort at its main national site, where many stories get replaced by newer ones reporting other developments after a day or two.

It’s also quite interesting that AP appears to have waited to report the opposition’s rejection of Maduro’s decree effort as genuine news instead of as a foregone conclusion known two days ago. It did so in a 4:16 p.m. Eastern Time report by Hannah Dreier which replaced the one pictured above. How convenient that the AP appears to have decided not to tell U.S. readers until Friday afternoon, just in time for a slow-news weekend where anyone who is paying attention to the news in the Northeast and South will be focusing on the wintry weather.

Dreier’s dispatch also was quite indulgent of Maduro, considering the circumstances he owns:


(“Extra” power? He wants TOTAL power over economic matters. — Ed.)

Venezuela’s opposition-led Congress on Friday headed for a rejection of President Nicolas Maduro’s request for emergency powers [1] to right the country’s plunging economy, whose woes were dramatized by an IMF estimate that inflation this year will top 700 percent.

Socialist and opposition lawmakers accused each other of trying to run the country into the ground [2] in the first major congressional debate the country has seen in more than a decade. Critics of the socialist revolution kicked off by late President Hugo Chavez took control of congress last month for the first time in 17 years.

Maduro last week proposed an economic emergency decree that would give him expanded authority [3] to make decisions for 60 days.


[1] — Maduro is not making a “request.” He’s making a “demand,” backed by “the Venezuelan Supreme Court (which) gave Maduro the go-ahead with his plans to decree emergency measures that he said are necessary to help citizens deal with grueling financial and social crises.” The Chavista-filled court “ruled that Maduro’s announced measures are legal under the Constitution.” His economic minister “read the decree over national television and radio” on Wednesday. Maduro then went to the country’s National Assembly and delivered “a nearly three-hour-long speech” pushing his plans (socialists love to hear themselves talk, don’t they?).

It is not known how Maduro will react now once his demand is officially rejected. The guess here is that if he feels that he can go “full Castro,” he will, but that he can’t — not yet.

[2] — No, Hannah. Maduro and his predecessor Chavez have already run the country into the ground (Dreier also characterizes this obvious fact as something “the opposition argues” in a later paragraph). The question is how to stop the bleeding and get on the road to recovery. Maduro has declared that there will be no compromising with socialism, saying, “You will have to come and overthrow me if you want to pass a privatization law.”

[3] — There’s one “little” problem with the decree which Dreier failed to report, namely that, as reported elsewhere, though it’s assumed to be comprehensive, almost no one knows exactly what’s in it:

… The opposition speaker of the congress, Henry Ramos Allup, accused Maduro’s government of failing to adequately inform lawmakers of the details of the decree so they could debate the plan.

… He said earlier that lawmakers suspended a session of the assembly in which the government was due to defend the decree because the ministers did not show up.

Maduro’s economic team pulled out at the last minute saying they would only participate if it was closed to the media, Ramos said.

The AP has irresponsibly, characteristically and shamefully done its best to keep Venezuela’s confrontation as invisible as possible to its American audience.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


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