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PRODUCTION

SCRIPT

 

 

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT

INTERNATIONAL EDITION

2017

Venezuela Undercover

27 mins 37 secs

 

 

 

 

 

©2017

ABC Ultimo Centre

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NSW 2007 Australia

 

GPO Box 9994

Sydney

NSW 2001 Australia

Phone: 61 2 8333 4383

Fax:   61 2 8333 4859

 

e-mail thompson.haydn@abc.net.au


Précis

Just 15 years ago Venezuelans bathed in their oil riches, and in the revolutionary charisma of their radical leader Hugo Chavez.

 

 

But cancer claimed Chavez, oil prices tanked and Latin America’s wealthiest state plunged into poverty.

 

 

The country is practically destroyed. We barely eat. – Leon and Andri Guerrero, husband and wife from the slums of the capital Caracas.

 

 

In Caracas, people now forage for food among piles of rubbish or queue resignedly outside near-empty shops...
They’ve been here since 3 am to buy two packets of flour. That’s the only product in the store. – man in food queue

I’ve been here since 4 am with my four-month-old daughter but I couldn’t find any nappies. – woman in food queue

 

 

…while more and more turn to crime…
Well we do a bit of everything – drugs, kidnapping, stealing cars, killing for money like hitmen, you know. Mostly drugs. – gangster leader

 

 

Masked in balaclavas and flashing their guns, the gangsters tell reporter Eric Campbell that for them – unlike most Venezuelans – business is going just fine. For Campbell and producer Matt Davis, it’s a dangerous meeting - one of many tense moments in an assignment that can only be conducted undercover.

 

Caracas – barrios and gangsters, Chavez murals

ERIC CAMPBELL: It’s a city on the edge of destruction, where the poor eat garbage and gangsters rule.

GANGSTER:  Now you’ll have your fingerprints on it.

00:00

 

ERIC CAMPBELL:   This country has more oil than Saudi Arabia, but under populist presidents it’s blown the lot.

00:11

Prof. Lopez Maya

PROF MARGARITA LOPEZ MAYA: “It’s broken, it’s absolutely broken. Listen, it’s so amazing what is going on in Venezuela, and so unnecessary. You can’t believe it”.

00:19

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: Foreign camera crews have been banned from reporting on this disaster so tonight we’re going undercover as foreign tourists.

00:27

Isla Margarita GVs

Music

00:40

Super:
ISLA MARGARITA, VENEZUELA

ERIC CAMPBELL:  Our secret journey starts on the resort island of Isla Margarita.

00:50

Campbell on cliff top. Super:
VENEZUELA UNDERCOVER
Reporter ERIC CAMPBELL

It’s too expensive for locals, but one of the few places foreigners still come.

00:57

Campbell in taxi

ERIC CAMPBELL:  “Many tourists here?”

01:08

 

DRIVER: “No. Not many. A few Argentinians… Colombians and Brazilians, but they speak Spanish.”

ERIC CAMPBELL: “No Venezuelans?”

DRIVER: “No”.

 

Davis on beach with camera

ERIC CAMPBELL: To beat the ban on journalists, producer Matt Davis and I have smuggled in small cameras and brought a surfboard for cover.

01:25

Isla Margarita beach

For the next week we’ll be risking arrest as we try to film what the government wants to hide. It doesn’t take long to see how absurd this once oil-rich economy has become.

01:40

Campbell to camera on beach

 “Now the first thing you do when you come to a place like this of course is change money. But nobody goes to a bank for that, because today’s official exchange rate is about one-fifth the black market rate. So I’m off to see a guy who’s been recommended by a guy to change four hundred USD400. He suggested I bring a big bag”.

01:56

Isla Margarita GVs

Music

02:19

 

ERIC CAMPBELL:  I’m about to experience firsthand what Venezuelans go through every day.

02:25

Campbell walks up stairs of hotel carrying bag

Their currency has collapsed even faster than the price of oil.

02:30

Campbell unwraps Bolivars

 “So when you hand over four one hundred dollar notes, you get more than a million Bolivars which is what the local currency is called, and in socialist Venezuela, a Bolivar really is worth not much more than the paper it’s printed on”.

02:37

Surfing

Music

02:54

Campbell boards plane

 

03:02

Flying to Caracas

ERIC CAMPBELL:   The next day we fly to the capital, Caracas, one of the most troubled cities on earth.

03:17

Caracas GVs

Music

03:24

 

ERIC CAMPBELL:   This crowded metropolis of five million people once had all the trappings of a rich petro-state. Petrol is still cheap, you can fill your car for less than a dollar – what people can’t afford is food or medicine..

03:37

Food queue

They have to queue for government handouts. Every day, before dawn, residents start lining up for their weekly food rations.

03:59

Man in food queue

MAN: “They’re here from 3am, to buy two packets of flour. That’s the only product in the store, there’s not more”.

ERIC CAMPBELL: “Who’s to blame?”

MAN: “Well, the government is to blame, because the government holds the people’s money”.

04:17

Food queue

Music

04:31

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: These queues have often turned into riots. Police and soldiers now guard food stores. Many supermarket shelves are empty.

04:34

Woman with young child in food queue

WOMAN WITH YOUNG CHILD: “They’re fine in the government, they can eat and all that stuff while people queue from three in the morning. For instance, mothers just like me have been here since two or three in the morning just to find nappies for our babies, which you can’t find, as well as the food for our kids”.

04:44

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: “How hard is life in Venezuela now?”

WOMAN WITH YOUNG CHILD: “It is very difficult… really hard”.

05:05

Food queue

Music

05:13

Woman with baby

WOMAN WITH BABY: “This, what we see here… queues. People get here one day earlier to see if they can buy, otherwise they miss out. Being in danger, with my daughter only 4 months old, I’ve been here since 4 in the morning and I can’t find nappies”.

05:20

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: “Is there a solution to this?”

05:39

Man in food queue

MAN: “Of course, there is a solution! Well, to change the whole system. To change the system because it cannot be like this”.

05:40

Food queue

ERIC CAMPBELL: It’s hard to imagine this was once seen as a model of socialist success.

05:51

Chavez. File footage. 2009

In 1998, Venezuelans elected a firebrand former army colonel to build a new fairer society. Hugo Chavez lavished oil money on the poor and nationalised private companies.

05:59

Chavez speaking at rally, 2009

HUGO CHAVEZ:  “In capitalist society, what is it that rules? Inequality. The most savage, irrational inequality – and therefore injustice and social violence, the exploitation of man by man, as Karl Marx said. The kingdom of God here on earth is socialism”.

06:18

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: As his popularity grew, so did his power.

06:51

Campbell at rally, 2009

When I was last here in 2009, the army, police, even the courts, had come under his direct political control.

PROF MARGARITA LOPEZ MAYA: “This was not a regime

06:56

Prof. Lopez Maya

sustained on rational discourses, this was a regime that was standing on charisma and a very strong, charismatic leader with a lot of money, you know?”

07:06

Caracas GVs

Music

07:20

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: But the money started running out. Chavez destroyed the market economy, leaving the country entirely dependent on oil, an industry the socialists proved incapable of managing.

07:25

Lopez May interview

Margarita Lopez Maya has been chronicling her country’s rise and fall.

07:41

Super:
Prof MARGARITA LOPEZ MAYA
Historian

PROF MARGARITA LOPEZ MAYA: “Venezuela today has the biggest reserves of oil in the world, but the problem has been that during this, the Chavez era, the company has deteriorated seriously, especially in the last years and we are reducing our oil production”.

07:47

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: “They’ve killed the golden goose”.

PROF MARGARITA LOPEZ MAYA: “They have killed the golden goose”.

08:07

Maduro mural

ERIC CAMPBELL: When Chavez died in 2013, he was replaced by a former bus driver named Nicolas Maduro.

08:10

Food queue

Soon after, world oil prices started falling and revenue more than halved. The crisis became a catastrophe.

PROF MARGARITA LOPEZ MAYA: “All the improvement that the Chavismo

08:20

Lopez May interview

 did during the boom years, very fastly deteriorated when the oil price fell”.

08:31

Train station. Campbell on to train

Music

08:36

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: We head out to what was once the heartland of the revolution, the slums that surround Caracas. It takes an hour to reach the district

08:44

Campbell visits Antimano

of Antimano, one of the city’s biggest shantytowns with more than 200,000 people. The poorest live at the very top of the hills. Taxis don’t even go there. Communal buses and motorbikes take people up and down the pot-holed roads.

08:54

Guerrero on motorbike

Music

09:25

 

ERIC CAMPBELL:  Leon Guerrero scratches a living ferrying neighbours to one of the highest areas where he lives with his wife Andri and three children.

09:33

Guerrero interview at home with family

LEON GUERRERO: “It’s hard because we barely eat. One or two times a day if… because, things get… sometimes she helps me out – she goes to work while I also work. But it’s hard. Every day the situation gets harder. I feel like I’m suffocating. People don’t even want to take a moto taxi anymore. The situation is devastating”.

07:43

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: “Do people in the barrios still support the revolution?”

LEON GUERRERO: “Now? No.”

ERIC CAMPBELL: “No?”

LEON GUERRERO: “Most of the people disagree with the president. In fact, people want him out of power but we have to support him. He doesn’t even allow people to vote because he knows he’s going to lose”.

10:09

Baseball game

Music

10:34

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: More than 80 per cent of Caracas residents live in these shantytowns known as barrios. Chavez gave them a chance to dream. He built sports facilities, health clinics, new roofs and concrete steps, even public exercise equipment. People still speak fondly of him.

1:43

Joespina Lopez

JOSEPINA LOPEZ: “”Well, let me tell you that we miss him a lot. We miss Chavez – because he used to solve all the problems we have now”.

11:13

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: But even diehard supporters like 72 year old Josepina Lopez, struggle to say anything good about President Maduro.

11:21

 

JOSEPINA LOPEZ: “Well let me tell you, it’s not that he’s a bad person, he really is not. But the people who work with him betray him”.

PROF MARGARITA LOPEZ MAYA: “He has no charisma whatsoever. What he has

 

11:31

Prof. Lopez Maya interview

is that Chavez says if something happens to me, this is my successor. That’s his - his legitimacy rests on that finger of Hugo Chavez that said if something happens to me, he is the one that has to succeed me because he is the one I trust in, he knows my legacy”.

11:46

Chavez eyes mural

Music

12:06

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: The late president’s eyes are painted on public buildings as if watching over the revolution. Chavez has become the embodiment of Orwell’s Big Brother -

12:08

Campbell greets man with eye tattoo

this man even tattooing the eyes onto his forehead.

12:19

 

MAN WITH TATTOO: “We will fight. We will live and we will fight. Chavez lives and lives! The nation goes on and on! That’s the image, the eyes of our Supreme Commander Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias. The eyes that see the world, the whole world”.

12:25

Chavez murals

Music

12:43

City skyline

ERIC CAMPBELL: And that is Venezuela’s conundrum – people clinging to a dream as it becomes a nightmare.

 

 

 

 

12:49

Campbell in barrio overlooking city

“When I was last here there was a real fervour in the barrios for what Chavez was doing and a hope that things would get better. Now today it’s much more muted, but the government still has strong support here where most of the population lives. They remember how bad the conservatives were when they ruled Venezuela and how they neglected these slums. So as bad as things are, many still prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t”.

12:56

Guerrero dresses and gets on motorbike

Leon Guerrero has no time for politics. He’s too consumed with trying to make enough from his motorcycle to feed his family.

12:23

Andri does Cat’s hair

His wife Andri and her best friend Cat, try to bring some beauty to their lives, keeping pride and dignity as their country collapses. But they don’t see opposition politicians offering any alternative.

13:34

Andri interview

ANDRI GUERRERO: “One’s no better than the other. At this point we don’t even know who we’re going to vote for. Now, the country is practically destroyed. At this point we don’t even know who we’re going to vote for. They’ve done nothing to make us vote for them. For my part, I would not vote”.

13:52

Campbell walks with Leon to view of city from barrio

ERIC CAMPBELL: The view from their barrio is a daily reminder of the city’s historic inequality.

14:15

 

LEON GUERRERO: “Well, people here in the west are poor, you see. Over there to the east, there are people with more money, very rich people with money”.

14:21

City centre

ERIC CAMPBELL: The east is where the middle class live.

14:29

 

Music

14:32

Campbell walks to visit Machado

ERIC CAMPBELL:  It’s also where you find most of the opposition parties, hunkered down behind tight security. The regime dismisses them as remnants of the old elite and is doing everything it can to crush them.

14:42

Campbell greets Machado

Maria Corina Machado heads Vente, one of 20 opposition groups. She’s fighting a barrage of criminal charges, including allegations she plotted to kill President Maduro.

15:00

Machado interview. Super:
MARIA CORINA MACHADO
Opposition politician, Vente

MARIA CORINA MACHADO: “Everybody that dares to criticise the destruction of the country after 15 years of the biggest oil boom in history, everybody who criticises is considered an enemy and is treated as such”.

15:16

YouTube clip of Machado being fired at

ERIC CAMPBELL: The irony is that government supporters have actually tried to murder her on camera.

MARIA CORINA MACHADO: “A group of these paramilitary came and started to shoot us. We had to get into a vehicle and one of our,

15:35

Machado interview

my colleagues was hurt on her head. And fortunately, fortunately it wasn’t, it was a minor hurt but it was…”

ERIC CAMPBELL: “She was shot?”

MARIA CORINA MACHADO: “But she was shot and she was just beside me”.

 

 

15:55

Vente headquarters. Machado being interviewed

ERIC CAMPBELL: Machado has paid a high price for being a face of opposition, albeit on the few media outlets not controlled by the regime. She had to send her three children to grow up in the US after receiving repeated death threats. The government won’t give her an exit visa to see them.

16:10

Machado interview

MARIA CORINA MACHADO: “They are the main reason for me to, to keep on moving ahead. I mean I’m determined to see my kids, as well as all Venezuelan children, living in a nation full of opportunities, with solidarity, innovation, prosperity and freedom”.

16:32

Machado in meeting

ERIC CAMPBELL: But many in the barrios see these middle class politicians as entitled and out of touch.

ANDRI GUERRERO: “I don’t think people support her. Nobody likes her.

16:49

Andri Guerrero

People talk more about President Maduro and the other one, whatshisname”.

17:00

Models in hotel foyer

Music

17:06

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: You can still see glimpses of the old wealth that once divided Caracas into haves and have nots, but it’s fading fast.

17:12

Revolutionary murals

The revolution really is creating a more equal society in which almost everyone is poor. The economy shrank more than 10% last year, prices rose by 800%.

PROF MARGARITA LOPEZ MAYA: “It just has gone worse.

 

17:22

Prof. Lopez Maya interview. Super:
Prof MARGARITA LOPEZ MAYA
Historian

Now they say something that had never happened in the 20th century Venezuela is that the extreme poverty is growing faster than poverty. Which is something that never happened that we know of since we had official numbers, had never happened”.

17:39

Construction sites. Workers queue

ERIC CAMPBELL: In the city centre you see people queuing for day work on construction sites or scavenging for food. And everyone lives in fear of violence. The economic collapse has caused an explosion in crime. Caracas has close to 4,000 murders a year.

17:56

Traffic

Music

18:24

Campbell in car

ERIC CAMPBELL:  “Well right now we’re about to meet what most people would call a bad hombre. We’ve managed to make contact with one of the many criminal gangs terrorising Caracas and the leader has agreed to meet us. Now we’ve left his name and address with a lot of people and we’ve organised to ring the boss of the barrio this evening to say we’re okay, so hopefully he’ll just talk to us and not kidnap us”.

18:32

Visit to gang leader

Music

18:58

 

ERIC CAMPBELL:   We’re led up some stairs then taken at gunpoint to a holding cell where the gang keeps its victims. There are six young men and two women all heavily armed. I begin by asking the leader what kind of work they do.

19:04

 

LEADER OF GANG: “Well, we do a little bit of everything. Drugs, kidnapping, stealing cars, killing for money like hitman, you know. Mostly drugs”.

19:20

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: “Do you worry about the police?”

LEADER OF GANG: “No, I have good contacts”.

19:33

Gang leader shows weapons

ERIC CAMPBELL: They proudly show me some of their weapons from the US, Brazil and Austria. After taking out the bullets, he hands me his pistol.

19:40

Campbell holding pistol

 “You know I haven’t held one of these before. This is my first time”.

LEADER OF GANG: “Ah you left your fingerprints on…”

ERIC CAMPBELL: “Oh no… I’m in trouble, I better leave. [laughter]

19:49

 

He tells me business is good.

20:01

Gang leader interview

LEADER OF GANG: “In my case, life is better now than in the past but I reckon people from the city are having a hard time. Last year was the worst year in the history of Venezuela. I don’t know why, maybe it’s the economy. Everybody is struggling, but in my case I’m better now”.

ERIC CAMPBELL: I want to ask about the morality of what they do but with so many guns I don’t dare.

 

 

 

20:05

 

Instead I ask if he planned to become a gangster when he was a kid.

LEADER OF GANG: “I always like guns, although I never figured I would hurt anybody else. But the problems and the streets changed my mind. When I was 13 I changed my mind”.

20:31

Boys shooting hoops

 

20:50

TV Footage.  El Aissami

Music

21:02

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: Critics say the regime itself has turned to narco-trafficking to raise money. On our fifth day in Caracas, the US slaps sanctions on the Vice-President Tareck El Aissami, calling him a drug kingpin. State TV denounced the move as a CIA plot against the revolution.

21:07

 

PRESIDENT NICOLAS MADURO: “Venezuela will activate all legal, diplomatic, political, national and international mechanisms, even in the USA, to counteract and take apart these false accusations.

21:26

Tattoo expo

Music

21:42

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: Everyone here is looking for escape. For some it’s retreating into an extremity of their own making. Caracas’s annual tattoo expo is the biggest in Latin America and one of the most intense.

 

 

21:52

Public Disorder perform

The big entertainment at the expo is a band called Public Disorder. They sing of the millions who have fled Venezuela.

HORACIO BLANCO: [Vocalist, Public Disorder] “Maybe the most

22:22

Horacio with band members. Super:
HORACIO BLANCO
Vocalist, Public Disorder

violent city in Latin America might be Caracas, and due to this reality a lot of people is leaving the country. A lot of young people is looking for newer horizons in different countries, different places all around the world, even in Australia and we sing about this reality”.

22:38

Public Disorder perform/Tattooists at work

SONG LYRICS: “Estrella in Italy, frying empanada, Carlito in Germany, Natali is in Brazil. Ana in Dominica, but thinking about Choroni. El Cumanes in Arabia, La Marachucha is in Russia. Manuela in Australia but wants to be in Caracas. Someday they’ll return”.

23:03

Demonstration

 

23:28

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: Some choose to stay in Venezuela and fight for change. On our last day in Caracas the opposition staged demonstrations across the city. It’s a dangerous business. One opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, has been sentenced to 14 years in gaol.

23:32

Orietta at demonstration

Orietta Ledezma’s father Antonio, the former mayor of Caracas, has spent two years under house arrest.

23:58

Orietta interview

ORIETTA LEDEZMA: “They took away all his powers as mayor. They created an institution above his office, so they could stop him from doing his job. And after all that they arrested him”.

24:10

Demonstration

ERIC CAMPBELL: Yet still they march. But numbers have fallen drastically since last year, when hundreds of thousands would take to the streets. Opposition parties won control of parliament only to see President Maduro ignore its rulings. They fear he will ban opposition candidates from next year’s presidential election.

MARIA CORINA MACHADO: “Even though today over

24:24

Machado interview. Super:
MARIA CORINA MACHADO
Opposition politician, Vente

80% of the population is desperate for a profound change and I would say it’s not only political, it’s existential; they have realised that they no longer can have even uncompetitive elections”.

24:55

Men playing dominoes on street

Music

25:15

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: Having chosen a populist saviour, Venezuelans are finding it impossible to shake his legacy and some say it’s a warning to the world.

PROF MARGARITA LOPEZ MAYA: “When I look at Trump, this is populism. Right and left populism is very similar and so what we have to see more carefully is

25:20

Prof. Lopez Maya/Street, people GVs

how populism comes, emerges when you don’t pay attention to problems in society. Poverty and social exclusion, a lot of inequalities and when you have that in a society, and you find a charismatic leader, it’s like putting the light on the candle. I mean people are seduced by that because they want to punish those political elite that have not delivered the goods that they have offered. What we are seeing in the United States is very similar to what we saw in Venezuela at the end of the last century”.

25:40

 

ERIC CAMPBELL: After nine days we managed to smuggle our footage through airport security and fly to the US. It’s hard to see any peaceful solution for the 32 million people we left behind.

26:25

 

Music

26:44

Baseball game

 

27:02

Credits over: 

Reporter - Eric Campbell
Producer - Matt Davis
Camera - Matt Davis
Editor - Joshua Webber

Executive producer - Marianne Leitch

abc.net.au/foreign

© 2017

27:20

 

 

27:37

 

 

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