Yesterday on NPR: Me and Kimi vs. Every Leftie in the Bay Area

San Francisco NPR
San Francisco NPR

So I was on a Bay area NPR show up against a couple of random chavistas yesterday: you can listen to the recording here.

Listen closely at 4:44 to hear my 15 month old daughter Kimi make her public radio debut…by picking up a phone somewhere else in the house and cheerily joining the debate. (And picture me, dear reader, frantically running upstairs to snatch it away from her before she started singing Los Pollitos Dicen.)

Details of the show after the jump…

 On today’s Your Call, we’ll have a conversation about the political situation in Venezuela. President Hugo Chavez’s battle with cancer has prevented him from assuming his presidential responsibilities. So how has Venezuela changed since Chavez took power 14 years ago? Who is in control now? Join us at 10am Pacific or post a comment here. How has Chevez’s revolution changed the sociopolitical landscape in Latin America? It’s Your Call, with Holly Kernan, and you.


Miguel Tinker Salas, professor of Latin American History at Pomona College and author of The Enduring LEgacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela

Francisco Toro, freelance journalist and political blogger for Caracas Chronicles

Sujatha Fernandes, professor of sociology at Queens College and author ofWho Can Stop the Drums?: Urban Social Movements in Chavez’s Venezuela

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


  1. I did not know bout this opportunity but I hope the text I sent you some days ago can be of some help:
    domingo, 3 de febrero de 2013Venezuela: 14 years under Hugo Frankenchavez

    Venezuela has been under the domination of a Venezuelan-Cuban gang of gangsters for the last 14 years and two months. Our country has had bad presidents before but never such a combination of ineptitude, corruption, ideological perversion and abuse of power. I have listed below some basic information for the use of readers interested in Venezuela. I have separated the information into quantitative and non-quantifiable. Together, they give a good idea of what this regime of gangsters is all about.

    Some important quantitative indices
    In 1998 Venezuelan oil exports represented 77 percent of the country’s total exports. Today they represent 96 percent. The country has become more dependent, really totally dependent, on oil. Still worse, in 1998 these exports went to commercial clients who paid cash. Today, about 50 percent of Venezuelan oil exports are not sold commercially but tied to political agreements, such as the 100,000 barrels per day going to Cuba essentially for free or the 300,000 barrels per day that will be going to China for the next ten years, to repay Chinese loans to the Venezuelan government.
    II. In 1998 the Venezuelan national debt was about $34 billion. Today is close to $150 billion, in spite of the fact that the national treasury has received the largest petroleum income in history, some $700 billion during the period. When other income and the loans received are added, the Venezuelan government has received about $1.4 trillion during the period and has very little to show for it.
    III. Petroleos de Venezuela, the Venezuelan state oil company produced about 3.3 million barrels per day in 1998. Today it produces anywhere between 2.4 and 2.9 million barrels per day, depending on the source of the information. At this time, if they had executed their five-year plan, the company should have been producing 5.5 million barrels per day. The company has been forced to partially abandon its core business and now engages in importing and distributing food, building houses and raising pigs, among other non-oil related activities. It has not built one single new refinery or petrochemical installation during these years and sits ineffectively on the largest oil resources of the hemisphere, the Orinoco heavy oil deposits, talking about but not developing them.
    IV. Gasoline and Diesel are now being imported due to the explosion and collapse of the large Amuay refinery, which has been operating at a 60 percent capacity for the last 6 months
    V. The labor force of the state oil company has exploded, going from 32,000 employees in 1998 to about 115,000 in 2012, in spite of the forced dismissal of 22,000 technical staff in 2003, after they protested against the politicization of the company at the hands of the regime. The swelling of the labor force has been due to the massive expropriation of companies serving the oil industry and the hiring of their labor, in an effort to asume total “control” of oil activities.
    VI. The number of private companies active in the country has gone down, from some 14,000 in 1998 to about 9,000 in 2011. Government policy has been to absorb most industrial and commercial activity, an obvious impossibility and one that is driving the Venezuelan economy into the ground. A particularly disastrous example has been the electric sector, which is now generating more electricity with imported diesel, at a large loss to the nation.
    VII.Industrial employment in 1998 accounted for 840,000 jobs. In 2011 the number of employees is down to about 540,000
    VIII.Whereas expropriations did not take place in Venezuela before 1998, more than one hundred private companies and countless private buildings and farms have been taken over by the government in the last 14 years, while many of the legitimate owners have not received proper or timely compensation.
    IX. Public expenditure in 1998 amounted to $21 billion. In 2011 it was $115 billion. However, the large increase went to current, not capital expenditure. Increasing expenditure has created the largest fiscal déficit in history, 18 percent of the GDP in 2012, and a very high inflation rate.
    X. The value of imports, mostly food, has increased from $17 billion in 1998 to some $50 billion in 2011.
    XI. GDP had been growing at a rate of some 10 percent in 1998. In 2009 it had declined to -4 percent
    XII. Direct Foreign Investment went from positive in 1998 to negative in 2011
    XIII. In 1998 Venezuelan steel production was about 3.2 million tons but fell to 1.7 million tons in 2012, the lowest on record. All companies beoning to the state agglomerate CVG: iron, Steel, alumina, aluminum, bauxite, etc, are essentilly bankrupt today and do note ven have money to pay salaries.
    XIV.In 1998 there were 3200 murders in the country. In 2011 there were 17,900.
    XV.In the last two years 753 prisoners have died violently in Venezuelan prisons, due to the negligence of the government.
    XVI.In 1998 there were 16 ministries. In 2011 there were 28 ministries, indicating considerable bureaucratization in the government.
    XVII.In 1999 there were 1,395,326 public workers. In 2009 this number had increased to 2,372,587.


    I.The presidential language/rethoric has deteriorated significantly during these 14 years. Insults have replaced arguments. The majesty of the office does not longer exist
    II.Tolerance and respect for political dissidence have dissappeared
    III.Class and racial components have been introduced by the government as political weapons
    IV.Oil income has been used for handouts to political followers in Venezuela and abroad, in order to keep them loyal to the regime
    V.Secrecy dominates the actions of the government. Transparency and accountability do not exist
    VI. Undue dependence on Cuban leaders and advisers has weakened Venezuelan sovereignty
    VII. Inclusion of the poor has ben done at the expense of exclusion of the middle class
    VIII. High levels of corruption permeate the public ranks
    IX. Institutions are not autonomous but are under the political control of the Executive
    X.The Armed Force has been put to the service of a socialist/militarist political project
    XI.The regime has connections with terrorist and drug trafficking organizations worldwide and withdraws from international organizations that decide or judge against them, such as the Inter American Human Rights Commission and the Center for Arbitration of the World Bank.
    XII. Political prisoner rights have been violated systematically. In particular, Judge Afiuni, ordered to prison by Chavez himself, was raped in prison. Even Chavez’s friend Noam Chomsky has publicly called for her release, to no avail. Police Supervisor Simonovis and two of his colleagues remain in prison, sentenced by a politically motivated judge, in need of medical attention that is not given to them.
    XIII. The current provisional government and the situation of president-elect Hugo Chavez have been decided in open violation of the constitution. This government is, in fact, ilegitimate. This is the overwhelming opinion of Venezuelan jurists. President elect Chavez remains in a Havana hospital, true condition unknown since he has not been seen or heard for sixty days. Actions are being taken by the government which are said to derive from his orders but nobody has verified these claims.

    Publicado por Gustavo

    • Tinker Salas (the other man) is so utterly shameless! He actually argues that alternative points of view are sufficiently represented because they have plenty of websites! He even offers as absolute proof to link to them.

      Even better, earlier on, he had complained that the US media misrepresents what has happened in Venezuela. What media? Couterpunch and Mother Jones have been pushing Chavez’s point of view for years, by his standard, the fact that those magazines and websites exist ought to be prima facie evidence of a free and fair media in the US.

      • I think TinkerSalas’ pugilism gets in the way of a balanced view. Love how he minimizes the Chavezian effects on Venezuela’s economy and social fabric, and his euphemism and pre-Chávez observations without comparing them to current realities. … Cuba’s best (doctors) … exchanged Barrio Adentro for oil to Cuba at “long-term prices” (love that deflection) … crime was on the increase before Chávez” (hello?)

        No mention of Radio Caracas shut-down, no mention of multiple hefty fines for Globovisión, no balanced comparison between the treatments of broadcasters. Websites? Hello? Internet no monta cerro, mijo.

        When I hear some of these social science profs expound and promote their personal political visions, without due balance, I get alarmed over the QUALITY of education being provided to the impressionables, during their first years in college.

        “Venezuela: Everything You Need to Know. ” Tinker Salas’ ego knows no bounds.

        • crime was on the increase before Chávez” (hello?)
          As in, have you had a gander at the dramatic rise in crime rates since Chávez entered the political fray, darlin’? Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you, Tinker Salas.

          • Yeah, I got that, too. MTS got defensive, knowing that a chavista label would point to a lack of balance, which would not do his academic credentials too many favours, or would limit the potential readership of his books.

  2. Good interview Francisco!
    Now, Could somebody tell me in what Venezuela did Sujatha Fernandes made her “cultural research”? During the interview she argued that during the Chavez era cultural movements have improved in the barrios and that thanks to Chavez people now in barrios celebrate San Juan, Cruz de Mayo and such traditions, Come on! I come from a musical family and traditions have been around for more than decades, or is she trying to say that in the small towns in Miranda nobody danced tambores during religious festivities before Chavez?
    I am 27 years old and I got tired of going to celebrate Cruz de Mayo with my father during my childhood.

    • That was one of the most outrageous remarks made on the interview, almost offensive, well that and the interviewer saying that Hugo Chávez was responsible for the nationalization of the oil industry.

      The chavistas helped by the interviewer did a great job in panting Venezuela almost as a 20th century post-colonial african country with a beloved hard-working nationalist leader fighting an evil opposition wanting to reclaim their former colonial rights.

        • Yeah, the guy’s vintage alright. How about that reference to Andrés Eloy Blanco (1897-1955)’s “Píntame angelitos negros” to justify the political need for Chávez’ inclusionary optics.


          Toro was right on the money (and diplomatic, too!) referring to some of the views on the show as being anachronistic.

          Methinks Tinker Salas (Dad worked in Creole?) has not lived in Vzla for a long time, while he carries a romanticized vision of the country’s past and what its present and future should be.

      • Yes, Hugo Chavez helped overthrow the old colonial masters. Now the quaint Venezuelan people are celebrating with new music, reflecting how ebullient these people are now that they guide their own destinies.

    • Young Sujatha Fernandes doesn’t know the difference between cultural movements and those that have been politicized within the polarized fabric of a 14-year vintage.

  3. From what I am reading from afar, not nearly as afar as I would wish, it looks like the last chapter of an Ayn Rand novel with two looters trying to be the one to grasp the last of the loot before the end.

    • I would pose it as two teams of looters trying to get what is left of Venezuela and become slave owners of everyone like the Castro brothers. The winner will control $100 billion annually including military assets to protect it.

  4. I listened to this broadcast yesterday live as long as I could before leaving home and was soon literally chafing at the bit at the silly starry-eyed Aussie with the Central American name and professor Tinker both of whom seem to take all Chavista blurb as gospel truth unwilling to expend the little effort required to dig deeper and discover the desolate truth.

    Congratulations on your excellent participation!

    • Cuando tienen hambre…pio pio pio….

      Love that she participated! I mean, you were good and everything….but the real star in the family….

      • Quico, I’m sure you did great, but I couldn’t stomach listening to Tinker Salas and the other lady. Kimi was the bomb though. Is she interested in a guest post some time soon?

        • The other lady has a point. There was indeed a Venezuelan underground culture that had never found ways to get known through any media let alone the mainstream —ENcontrARTE, for instance. What the lady fails to pinpoint is the incredible effort of the government to turn the situation upside down, that is, to replace mainstream with underground culture and push the mainstream into the underground with high hopes to do away with it in the long term.

          Quite a recognizable pattern for us, isn’t it?

    • I would love to hear Kimi’s rendition of Los pollitos dicen … pío, pío, pío. You might tie it in with a post on “Where have all the gallineros verticales gone?”

  5. I couldn’t get through the whole thing. When I heard Tinker Salas dismiss the Afiuni situation and crime stats, I just wanted to punch through my monitor! Que tipo tan pajúo, por dios

    • TS referred to one of the most high-profile political prisoners as “Afini”. This coming from a guy who’s supposed to know EVERYTHING about Venezuela. And who presumably is from Venezuela. Though information on his early life appears guarded, as though MTS, like Boticelli’s Venus on the half shell, started his life as a young man in the academic sphere.

  6. Heh. MTS was my college professor at Pomona, I have first-hand knowledge of the ivory-tower California-based boli-intellectuals. Very cushy lives they live, far away from el peo. I suppose I wish him well.

  7. So sad, no one outside of Venezuela really cares, you guys got yourselves into this s**t, you’re gonna have to get yourselves out! And if not, get ready for another 14 years of being ruled by a ghost!

    • The really sad thing is not only that people in the opposition (at least 45% of all Venezuelans) having to bear for whatever time , short or long, the blunders, the corrruption , the tyranny , the mismanagement, the crappy boorish insulting and pompous rethoric of Chavez heirs , but the miseries and deepening ruin that will befall the other 55% of deluded Venezuelans who now feel aligned with the regime . I just saw a two hour documentary on the life of ordinary cubans , and it makes for a sad sad picture . Some of the oppo people who write in this blog have scaped or have the talents or means to scape the comming horror and make a good life abroad , but still they cannot but lament the devastation that Chavez and his minions have brought into a much loved country !!. ,

      • Liveblogging KALW’s mp3 file!

        2.01 – Really? MTS, a bit too enthusiastic to be there,

        2.30 – Had no idea CUNY, was pronounced “CUENY”.

        3.44 – MTS with a stuffed argumentative strategy: “The very nature of politics in Venezuela” is such that we have to put up with all this crap. Well, a bit of exceptionalism goes along way.

        4.44 – FT’s daughter makes some crackling sounds, quietly disrupting MTS’ drivel.

        And well, that’s about it, bloody awful from there on.

        But then there’s this…

        20.45 or thereabouts. SF says, regarding crime and violence in Venezuela, that the government “has had some improvements in some places, and not in other places”. Fascinating. I guess Iris & la policía nacional “mandan más que un dinamo”.

        The truth is that they both –MTS and SF– come across as quite uninformed.

        33.24 – SF is gone!

        34.00 – Yay! Mystery Caller Antulio from Venezuela/Canada, saves the day! Really good point about polarization and the lack of any progressive politics in the country.

        40.15 – FT is brilliant on the anachronistic portrayal of the media.

        46.40 – FT with what I think is an important argument, but a slightly tricky one: popular government vs democracy.


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