Last Monday the Guardian Comment is Free website carried a piece by Ricardo Hausmann on Venezuela entitled The legacy of Hugo Chávez: Low growth, high inflation, intimidation.
The piece painted a doomsday scenario for modern day Venezuela, arguing that “Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez is a master at holding onto power, but it has cost his country and people dearly.”
Ironically this came out just days before the Venezuelan economy was announced to have grown 5.6% in 2012 on the back of a huge housing stimulus.
Worse still, the piece appeared just a couple of days before the anniversary of the ‘Caracazo’ of 27 February 1989. The Caracazo is the day when the Venezuelan people rose up against a package of cuts forced upon them. Over two thousand people were then brutally executed by state security forces in what has been termed Venezuela’s worst human rights disaster in history. In stark contrast, precisely on February 27 2013, Venezuela was elected by about three quarters of the governments represented in the UN to become a permanent member of the United Nations Human Rights Council for three years.
What is the link between this and Ricardo Hausmann?
In 1989, Hausmann was an economic advisor to the soon-to-be-disgraced president Carlos Andres Perez who carried out the cuts and subsequent Caracazo violence.
As this academic paper points out:
“Pérez appointed a team of radically pro-market technocrats largely recruited from the Institute of Advanced Administration Studies (IESA) to his economic cabinet. These ministers–among whom were Miguel Rodríguez, Moisés Naím, Ricardo Hausmann, Gerver Torres, and Julián Villalba–became known as the “IESA Boys,” by analogy to the “Chicago Boys” of Pinochet’s Chile. This team designed the shock “package” that Pérez promised in his inaugural address in February 1989 and put into effect two weeks later”.
After that, from 1992 to 1993, Hausmann served as Minister of Planning in Venezuela and as a member of the Board of the Central Bank of Venezuela, also under Carlos Andres Perez. Clearly the ‘Caracazo’ was not severe enough to break his link with President Perez.
Around the same time, Hausmann was Chair of the IMF-World Bank Development Committee. Judging by the nature and tone of his attack on the current Venezuelan government, one may have expected the 1990s to have been the dawn of some golden IMF-sponsored growth across Latin America.
Yet as economist Mark Weisbrot has pointed out, this period marked the worst economic performance of the continent in a century. Only with the recent leftward shift (in many ways led by Venezuela) has there been a much needed combination of economic growth and social justice.
Rejected by the Carter Centre
Hausmann later based himself in the US at Harvard, but came to prominence again following the 2004 recall referendum against Hugo Chavez, when he published a paper claiming that “statistically” the outcome could have been the result of fraud. At the time, the Wall Street Journal was amongst those who recycled the claim. The well respected Carter Centre debunked the myth and the politically motivated claims of fraud by stating clearly that “the results were accurate”.
Hausmann’s and Venezuela’s new right
In the run up to last October’s election, won by Hugo Chavez in a landslide victory, it was Hausmann (acting as an advisor to the defeated right-wing candidate Henrique Capriles) who claimed the right-wing opposition would have 200,000 people at polling stations and could then announce their own results before the official ones.
Luckily this plan – which was seen by many as the start of a worrying destabilisation aimed at getting the legitimate results not recognised internationally – failed to pick up momentum due to the scale of Hugo Chavez’s victory, with Capriles himself recognising the results. But this was not before the Spanish newspaper ABC had published a fake exit poll claiming Hugo Chavez had lost.
Surely his role as an advisor to the right-wing political candidate should have featured in the Guardian piece. This would better explain the reasons for the content of the piece.
Likewise sections of the British media have also recently quoted Diego Arria (who denies the 2002 coup in Venezuela was even a coup!) and the 2002 coup-supporting, hard right-wing MP (and friend of George W.Bush) María Corina Machado. Both are prominent signatories to a recent public petition calling on the Venezuelan military to overturn the country’s elected government.
Of course, people are entitled to express their views on Venezuela. But it’s clear that the Venezuelan people have time and again rejected the views pushed by Hausmann and the other members of the Venezuelan right, views which have nevertheless attracted such interest recently in certain quarters of the British media.
Dr. Francisco Dominguez is the secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, UK.