The Day Caracas Chronicles Went Viral in Japan

Japanese journalists can't make heads or tails of Venezuela's crazy economy. To try to help, I made this chart...and it took off on Twitter!

Being married to Quico, I haven’t had much choice but to learn a lot about Venezuela. There’s almost nothing worth reading in Japanese about your country, so two years ago I started translating Caracas Chronicles. It’s my little way to push back against the terrible, muddled coverage Venezuela usually gets in my country, when our press stops to take notice at all.

Usually, gets about 300-400 page views a day. Not a lot, sure, but then it’s not exactly a surprise that not many Japanese people care.

This week, though, we’ve had more than 15,000. CaracasChronicles is Big in Japan, suddenly! But why?

The other day I found a story by Asahi Shimbun’s Sao Paolo correspondent on Maduro’s recent reforms that was so mangled, it pushed me over the edge. Citing El Nacional, it said “regular gas rose from 0.07 bolivars (about 1 yen) to  1 bolivars (about 17 yen)…” When you do the math you see that, yup, he’s using the official rate.

For a professional journalist to get a basic point like that wrong is shocking and pathetic, though sadly also kind of common in Japan. Nobody puts in the time to think through the arbitrage games that dominate the Venezuelan economy.

This kind of thing makes me so mad! But I was not surprised. I understood. Even for financial journalists, the Venezuelan economy is so crazy, it’s easy to see why they get confused.

So, inspired by Pedro’s food shortages article, I made this chart last Saturday, and it went mini-viral…the thing got retweeted over 1,400 times!


My Japanese readers loved this. They seemed so shocked! For the first time, the chart brought home to them how over the top the economic distortions in Venezuela are now.

Hopefully, some Japanese journalists will have been reading, too.