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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Michael Rowan: Facts Don't Matter in Venezuela or the USA
"The facts are missing from the country stories many are telling themselves. In this era of information, brains are in serious disorder," writes political genius and Latin American expert Michael Rowan. "For example, Venezuela is poor but thinks it’s rich; and the US is rich but thinks it’s poor. Let’s consider the consequences of false story-telling."

By Michael Rowan

The facts are missing from the country stories many are telling themselves. In this era of information, brains are in serious disorder. For example, Venezuela is poor but thinks it’s rich; and the US is rich but thinks it’s poor. Let’s consider the consequences of false story-telling, Venezuela first.


Venezuela is poor because it doesn’t know how to create wealth. Look at three similarly sized oil states: Venezuela has 32 million people; Saudi Arabia has 27 million people; and Texas has 28 million people. Oil leads the economy in all three.

But look at the GDP’s: Venezuela is $287 billion and falling like a rock; most of its people are poor.

Saudi Arabia’s GDP is $640 billion, twice the size of Venezuela’s. The Saudi’s are desperately trying to diversify their economy to deal with poverty and unemployment among the young.

And the Texas GDP is $1.6 trillion, almost six times Venezuela’s. It is the only robust, diversified, and stable economy among the three, and where poverty is in single digits.

We can argue until the cows come home about why this is so. But Venezuelans can’t argue that the Saudi’s don’t know how to produce 10 million barrels of oil per day or that Texans don’t know how to produce a diversified economy.

Likewise, there is absolutely nothing to learn from Venezuela, a country with zero bragging rights.

How many times have you heard that Venezuela has more oil reserves than any country on earth as if it means something? It means absolutely nothing if Venezuela can’t learn how to produce the oil in a sustainable way.

We know that the current regime is not interested in sustainable economy. But who in Venezuela knows how to build an economy that actually benefits agriculture, manufacturing, education, tourism, the environment, and trade for the whole population? That’s precisely what Texas is doing and Venezuela is not doing.

And just to be clear, very few Venezuelans were getting the economy right before Chavez came along. And very few in the opposition to the current regime have any idea what to do if by some miracle they come to power.

Remember the facts. Twenty years ago, frustrated by traditional corruption and politics, a majority of Venezuelans voted for a populist who promised to take from the rich and give to the poor, and Venezuelans agreed. Once elected, he said he needed more power over the constitution, legislature, judiciary, states, cities, military, education, and economy – and he got his way, one way or the other.

While the oil price was high, Venezuelans went along with the paratrooper – he was a charismatic, entertaining guy. He didn’t know anything useful but he talked a lot.

And when he died, $300 billion in public funds was unaccounted for; those close to power were filthy rich; the oil price was on a roller-coaster decline; and with its decline died all the promises, hopes and dreams of what Chavez had called a revolution that would last a thousand years.

Given these gloomy facts, the endgame of Venezuela’s collapse is frightening to think about.

So much money has been stolen by so few in power during two decades of looting the state that any reckoning by law downstream is unthinkable for them. How many people will have to die before the military runs out of bullets to kill them? Chavez thought of that a long time ago when he bought 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles – and built a factory inaugurated by old man Kalashnikov himself.

The 58 who have died in recent protests, the 50,000 per year that get killed by guns, the thousands that have been stunted by malnutrition and the millions who have been mentally deranged by Bolivarian education, are just the tip of the iceberg of this Lost Generation of Casualties in Venezuela.

So, what are the facts in the USA?

The United States

In 2016, the US went haywire, in case you didn’t notice. The mood and the media met in a marriage as facts disappeared mysteriously from the scene. One of the sixteen Republican candidates for office understood how to surf this mood. He was a master-mind of nonsensical tweets.

His point was that Obama was a catastrophe, the economy was a carnage, and that only he could stop a stupid calamity from burying us all. A majority of the Electoral College, if not the American voters, agreed.

So, for the last six months, the US has been unraveling a world order painstakingly built in the wake of World War II which has served well in spreading world wealth, health, and peace – relative to the first half of the 20th century, that is. Also unraveling are the political parties, the Congress, the courts, the intelligence agencies, the media, immigration policy, historical European allies, the NATO force, the belief in climate change and trade. In short, lots of dependable facts are turning upside down.

When I look back on the columns I wrote in several Venezuelan newspapers six months after Chavez got elected in December, 1998 – and one was in the Wall Street Journal – I was making the point that Chavez wanted to take over or change everything impulsively and without a plan in mind, which is what is being reported daily in the US two decades later.

Facts are the big problem in the US. Are all the intelligence agencies right about Russian meddling in the 2016 US election? Or should the president’s doubts and Russian denials be believed? It looks like Trump sides with Putin not the US intelligence agencies.

We have come a long way from Soviet Union leader Khrushchev banging his shoe on a podium and yelling “We will bury you” to President Kennedy. What if Kennedy had said, “He might be right. Why can’t we get along with the Soviet Union? Let’s make a deal.” That thought is not so strange now.

Fundamental facts can be overcome, as the 2016 election demonstrated. The biggest lie of 2016 was, the US is a catastrophe, a calamity and a carnage.

The GDP of the US was $18.6 trillion in 2016, which means that 25% of the world’s GDP was produced by only 4% of the world’s people, the American people. That’s historic. And it’s been true since World War II. This is why America is the envy of the world.

China produced a GDP of 11.4 trillion in 2016, which means that 15% of the world’s GDP was produced by 19% of the world’s people – nothing to write home about. The only spectacular thing about China’s recent production is the huge improvement over China’s disastrous performance under the communist Mao Zedong.

Since Mao’s departure, China grew remarkably by adopting American market capitalism and abandoning communism. It is a fact that China is succeeding by imitating the U.S., but you never hear this from Trump.

Trump also believes that the US needs to make friends with Russia because it is globally powerful. The facts are: Russia is a catastrophe, a calamity and a carnage.

Russia’s GDP was $1.2 trillion on 2016, which means that it produced 1.6% of the world’s GDP with 1.9% of the world’s people. As Trump might tweet, this is pathetic. In 2016, Texas produced $400 billion more in GDP with one fifth Russia’s population. In Texas talk, Russia is all hat, no cattle.

Demographically, economically and politically, Russia is on its last legs, racked by corruption. But Trump thinks Russia is more important than Europe. Trump has alienated Europe because he considers it a disaster zone. The facts tell another story.

Europe’s GDP was $17.1 trillion in 2016, which means that 23% of the world’s GDP was produced by only 6.8% of the world’s people. This is the second-best economic result in the world, which was engineered and financed by the US Marshall Plan after World War II.

Together, the US and Europe accounted for 48% of the world’s GDP in 2016 which they produced with only 11% of the world’s people, who are the beneficiaries of free markets, democracy and the Enlightenment. This is what America’s president believes is a carnage.

Well, so did Hugo Chavez, so did Evo Morales, so did Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, so did Osama bin Laden, and so does Vladimir Putin. They also turned against the values of Europe and the USA.

Chavez set Venezuela on the path to destroying free markets, democracy and the Enlightenment – and as he looks at us from the Other Side he must be happy for succeeding beyond his fondest dreams. It is hard to imagine if or how Venezuela can recover from the lunacy Chavez loosed on Venezuela.

As for the USA, I remain in stunned silence. Like millions of other Americans, I am in shock at how easily the country is mentally falling apart and what this may mean for my children, grandchildren, and the America they may live in.

Michael Rowan is an author and political consultant who has advised presidential candidates throughout Latin America, including Governor Manuel Rosales in Venezuela, President Jaime Paz Zamora of Bolivia and President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica. In the U.S., he has advised winning candidates in 26 states. He has been an award winning columnist for El Universal, The Daily Journal -- predecessor to LAHT -- and the Latin American Herald Tribune since the 1990s. He is the author, with Douglas Schoen, of The Threat Closer to Home - Hugo Chavez and the War Against America.


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