Mark Falcoff: CBS serenades Chavez

Mark Falcoff is resident scholar emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute and the author, most recently, of Cuba the Morning After: Confronting Castro’s Legacy. He writes:

I don’t normally watch CBS’s Sunday evening 60 Minutes show, but I happened to be at some friends’ house for a barbeque tonight and they had the TV on, so I managed to see part of the program. The segment I caught had to do with youth orchestras in Venezuela (“El Sistema: Changing lives through music”). The main theme was how an idealistic Venezuelan has started a movement to interest young people, particularly from desperately poor areas, in classical music. The segment concluded with a film of one of these youth orchestras performing at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Now who is against youth orchestras? Not me.

However, it was explained in the segment that most of the funding for these orchestras comes from the Venezuelan government. I believe the figure $80 million was mentioned. To be fair, the narrator admitted that five or six successive Venezuelan governments have supported this worthy endeavor.

However, what was interesting was what was NOT said in the segment. $80 million sounds like a lot of money for youth orchestras, even if there are hundreds of them in Venezuela (which we were told). But still, the founder of this movement seems to be looking all over the world (but particularly the US) for additional funding.

I thought, how very interesting. That same day Bloomberg news reported that Hugo Chavez, the president-dictator of Venezuela, had announced plans to order TWO BILLION DOLLARS’ worth of weapons, including diesel subs, Mi-28 helicopters, and airplanes from the Russian Federation. The same dispatch pointed out that since 2003 Chavez has already ordered FOUR BILLION DOLLARS worth of Russian arms.

Think of it: that’s a lot of youth orchestras.

I couldn’t help thinking that the segment was intended to soften up American TV viewers towards the Venezuelan dictatorship–to show its “humanitarian” side. Every so often when I think I might have exaggerated my opinion of CBS and 60 Minutes, I catch a program like this and realize that I am right on the money.

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