Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The BBC on Latin America: Peru and Venezuela

Yesterday, the BBC started a series of reports about what they call "one of the world's most under-reported big stories". They are referring to Latin Ameica's shift to the left.
Yesterday's report was about the forthcoming Peruvian elections -read Ollanta Humala- and Chavez. You can see the report here (about 1hr. long).

However, I must say I was dissapointed with the report. The report's hypothesis is very simplistic: the root of the current political situation in Latin America is the US's war on terrorism. Because of the war on terrorism, the US has neglected its backyard and is about to lose it. The report goes on to say that the US has undermined more than 40 Latin American governments and, basically, is the cause of widespread poverty in the region. This view is tremendously misinformed for one of the biggest news agencies in the world.

Let's put things straight. The US has a deal of great influence in the region. And yes, there has been some intervention in the past. The report failed to say, on the other hand, that during the cold war, the US was not the only country intervening in the region and that Latin America was not the only disputed area. Does anybody remember Germany, for example?
Also, besides Puerto Rico, all countries in the region are independent, which means that their success or failure does not depend on the US. So, the current situation cannot be fully attributed to what the US does or does not do. The root of Latin America's political situation -to the extent things can be generalized- lies in the countries themselves. Widespread corruption, weak institutions, decades of interventionist and populist dictatorships/governments and lack of incentives to private investment did the trick. None of this was mentioned. This just perpetuates the view that we Latin Americans are inefficient imbeciles with a clear conscience: everything that happens is somebody else's (read: the US) fault.

Moreover, the report seemed too sensationalist, perhaps more in tone with The Sun than with what the BBC is usually associated. When Ollanta Humala was interviewed, the reporter seemed eager to hear how he hated Bush, and most of his questions were going towards the objective. Humala did not humour him and said that he was accountable towards Peruvians and not Bush. Nobody mentioned his alter ego, the one who used torture in the 1980s. Two lesser candidates to the presidential race were also interviewed, but they were still on the campaign trail and did not say anything important. When Otto Reich (Assistant US Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere 2001-2) was interviewed, it seemed like the reporter only wanted to hear laments on how the US regrets the loss of Latin America. To top things up, Chavez's profile was extremely biased and presented a favourable view of the dictator as a champion working for the poor. Only a fleeting mention of the persecution to opposition candidates could be heard. Nothing on the persecution suffered by Sumate or the electoral fraud committed in December, nothing on his new consitution, nothing on the limits imposed to the free press and the trials to periodists and nothing on the destruction of the economic apparatus.

The report is supposed to be the first in a series that will be aired during this week. Let's hope the remaining episodes have more substance. I really hope my TV license did not finance this.

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Blogger La Ventanita said...

Alvaro, as usual you are right on the mark. Someone should had the BBC the guide to the Perfect Latin American idiot, which of course, has some of the same arguments you mention and that we all know by heart.

Keep it up!

12:49 AM  
Blogger Alvaro Ruiz-Navajas said...

Thanks La Ventanita!

9:17 AM  
Blogger Ryan_Liam said...

Thanks the post, as a fellow Mancunian at Uni :P your post struck a chord, I watched that Newsnight report with gritted teeth, I'm just wondering however no one picks up on it, doesn't anyone care? Is complacency to blame?

3:44 AM  
Blogger Alvaro Ruiz-Navajas said...

Thanks Ryan.
The simple answer would be that no one really cares much.

I believe that it has to do with Latin America not being part of the UK's sphere of influence. That has led, I believe, to a state of complete disinformation and disregard about the region.

The US, on the other hand, always makes the headlines. And this is, probably, why the BBC reporters chose to run the story from this perspective: they needed to sell the story somehow and the best thing they came up is by appealing to the Anti-Americanism that many people still feels because of Iraq.

In the end, I ended up completely appalled and, as I said, hoping that my TV license didn't go to Newsnight.

9:22 AM  
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