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Caracas Chronicles, Part I of an Ongoing Series

I just got back from Venezuela and I’ll be writing a lot about the country next week. Virtually everything you read or see about the country in the U.S. media is a lie. And to be clear, I don’t mean skewed or misleading or incomplete, I mean a lie.

For example, people in Venezuela are not starving — at least very few are, if any — nor is the country a dictatorship. But that’s exactly what you would believe from reading the likes of the atrocious Hannah Dreier, who failed upward from the Associated Press to ProPublica, that beacon of investigative reporting, and who has been a chief propagandist for the rancid old oligarchy.

I was all over the barrios of Caracas, especially San Augustin.

In another, La Vega, I had a meal at the home of a resident. She cooked me blood sausage, rice and chicken liver, and Pasta Bolognese.

People live humbly but they have food — especially because the government distributes a monthly food package, for the equivalent of a few pennies — to everyone who needs it and even some who don’t. Furthermore, food — fruits, vegetable, meat, bread, for example — is available everywhere. You have to be a blind liar like Dreier to miss it since street markets overflow with abundance. It’s not cheap but it’s available.

Furthermore, President Nicolas Maduro, who I personally detest, is corrupt and repressive, but he is not a dictator. There are anti-government slogans painted all over Caracas and people spoke openly about wanting him gone, from the barrios to barbershops to markets.

I had an intense argument with many people close to the government while I was in Venezuela, yet continued to wander the streets and dive bars of the city until the wee hours. No one, neither government security forces nor crack heads, of which there are a few, bothered me.

Maduro does not appear to be widely liked, but he is certainly more popular than the widely reviled and mocked Juan Guiado, President Donald Trump’s toy poodle. This clown used to be an electronics trafficker, for fuck’s sake. (Note: I got the picture below from a security guard who used to work in the area where Guiado street hustled, before he became the Trump administration’s full time brothel whore.)

I love Venezuela and its proud, inspiring, wonderful people and wish them the best in their struggle for greater freedom and socialism. In closing, for now, here’s my lightly edited reply to an email I received from someone close to the Maduro government.

Thanks for the reply. You should never have “confidence” in a journalist, at least an independent one. In a sense, journalists have no friends, only enemies. And I report what I see with my own eyes, I am not led around by PR handlers or because my plane ticket was paid for by a solidarity group.

I remain a strong supporter of the Bolivarian Revolution and totally oppose U.S. efforts to overthrow the Maduro government, which I consider the only legitimate government in Venezuela. I detest the rancid old oligarchy and in fact got in an argument on the plane with a wealthy women sitting next to me on the way to Panama who wants Maduro out. The idea that some people considered me “Esqualido” is shocking and reflects very badly on their ability to accept any sort of criticism.

I was very troubled to see that support for the president in the barrios is not very solid, based on my reporting. Most of the people I spoke with in the barrios prefer Maduro to the old order — it’s not even close — but would prefer he step down in favor of a younger and more progressive leader.

I was also disappointed to hear that about a week ago, the National Guard shot and killed a young man in San Augustin, near a school, for no good reason. And of course there are serious allegations of corruption and drug trafficking against him that cannot be easily dismissed.

It’s not enough to say Maduro is not as repressive as Bolsonaro in Brazil or that poor people live better in Venezuela than they do in Puerto Rico and Colombia. That’s worth noting but doesn’t serve as an excuse for his government’s shortcomings.

In any case, best of luck in your future endeavors and I will seek comment from Maduro’s press office as merited.

Best,

Ken

This piece first appeared on Washington Babylon.

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Ken Silverstein is a politically eclectic DC-based investigative journalist and creator of Washington Babylon. Incredibly underpaid contributing writer to VICE and columnist for the New York Observer.

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