The Oliver Stone documentary, "South of the Border" takes aim at the media for its misinformed and misleading coverage of Latin America. The film includes clips from CNN, network news programs, the New York Times, Fox News, and other media to demonstrate just how bad the coverage can be. But a host of reviews of "South of the Border" serve as additional examples, getting countries and presidents mixed up with each other, confusing democratic elections with coups d'etat, and other errors.
What do you think is the dumbest mistake in a "Border" review so far? Vote in the poll!
UPDATE: Problems voting? Some folks have reported that they weren't able to vote in the poll if they were not logged in. Others claim this is not necessary. I don't know the answer to this, but if you are having trouble voting and are not logged in, please try logging in to vote.
UPDATE 2: I have a theory about the voting problems that some people had. I think you can vote without logging in if no-one has voted from your IP address (or something like that.)
The nominees are:
The Washington Post, for "Oliver's Passionate Twists"
Error: The following picture, with Evo Morales misidentified, accompanies the article:
The picture for Evo Morales is actually of Sacha Llorenti, Minister of Government in the Morales administration. Llorenti is featured in "South of the Border" translating Morales' comments for Oliver Stone.
Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) for "Movie Review: South of the Border"
Error Number 1: "If you are interested in the fascinating events around Chavez's rise to power, you can see "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,""
Fact: The movie was about the coup in 2002, not Chávez' rise to power. Chavez had already been president for 4 years when the film was made.
Error Number 2: "And if you care about the groundbreaking election that brought Morales to power in Ecuador, creating a situation Kirchner described as "for the first time in the region, the leaders look like the people they govern," the film to watch is Rachel Boynton's "Our Brand Is Crisis," which shows how American political consultants tried in vain to get Morales' opponent into office."
Fact: (1) Evo Morales is the president of Bolivia, not Ecuador.
(2) "Our Brand is Crisis" is about the 2002 election of Gonzalo Sanches de Lozado, most commonly known as Goni, in which American political consultants helped Goni get elected – not the 2005 elections that "brought Morales to power." Thus they did not "try in vain" but actually succeeded in getting Morales' opponent into to office, and that is the main story of the film.
Larry Rohter (New York Times) for "Oliver Stone's Latin America"
Error Number 1: Rohter accuses the film of inaccuracy, writing: "As "South of the Border" portrays it, Mr. Chávez's main opponent in his initial run for president in 1998 was "a 6-foot-1-inch blond former Miss Universe" named Irene Sáez, and thus "the contest becomes known as the Beauty and the Beast" election. But Mr. Chávez's main opponent then was not Ms. Sáez, who finished third, with less than 3 percent of the vote. It was Henrique Salas Romer, a bland former state governor who won 40 percent of the vote."
Fact: The description of the presidential race in the film, cited by Rohter, is from Bart Jones, who was covering Venezuela for the Associated Press from Caracas at the time. Here is what Bart Jones actually said in the film:
"By 1997, Chávez decides to run for president. His main opponent is a 6'1" blonde former Miss Universe. The contest becomes known as the beauty and the beast."
This was exactly true in 1997, when Chávez entered the race. In fact, Sáez remained Chavez' main opponent for the vast majority of the race, until about three months before the election.
Rohter's description makes it seem like Saéz was a minor candidate, which is absurd.
Error Number 2: Rohter criticizes the film for inaccuracy, stating: "A flight from Caracas to La Paz, Bolivia, flies mostly over the Amazon, not the Andes"
Fact: The narration does not say that the flight is "mostly" over the Andes, just that it flies over the Andes, which is true.
Error Number 3: "the United States does not "import more oil from Venezuela than any other OPEC nation," a distinction that has belonged to Saudi Arabia during the period 2004-10."
Fact: Rohter is here criticizing a 5 second sound bite from Phil Flynn, an oil industry analyst who appears in a 20-second clip from U.S. broadcast TV. It is worth noting that the 5 seconds cited by Rohter have nothing to do with the film, or even the point he is making in the 20 second clip. However, Rohter is mistaken, and Flynn is correct. Flynn is speaking in April 2002 (which is clear in the film), so it is wrong for Rohter to cite data from 2004-2010. If we look at data from 1997-2001, which is the relevant data for Flynn's comment, Flynn is correct. Venezuela leads all OPEC countries, including Saudi Arabia, for oil imports in the U.S. over this period. (Source: US Energy Information Agency for Venezuela and Saudi Arabia)
Error Number 4: "Like Mr. Stone's take on the Kennedy assassination, this section of "South of the Border" [the 2002 coup] hinges on the identity of a sniper or snipers who may or may not have been part of a larger conspiracy."
Fact: The film makes no statement on the identity of the snipers nor does it present any theory of a "larger conspiracy" involving any snipers. Rather, the film makes two points about the coup: (1) That the Venezuelan media (and this was repeated by U.S. and other international media) manipulated film footage to make it look as if a group of Chavez supporters with guns had shot the 19 people killed on the day of the coup. This manipulation of the film footage is demonstrated very clearly in the film, and therefore does not " [rely] heavily on the account of Gregory Wilpert" as Rohter also falsely alleges. The footage speaks for itself. (2) The United States government was involved in the coup (see documentation here.)
Stephen Holden (New York Times) for "South of the Border"
Error: "Mrs. Kirchner recalls resisting pressure to keep borrowing from the fund rather than pay back what was owed."
Fact: That was actually President Lula da Silva of Brazil, not Mrs. Kirchner (President Cristina Fernandez of Argentina)
Elizabeth Dickinson (Foreign Policy) for "The Oliver Stone Show"
Error Number 1: "How much of the revenue from the 2.6 million barrels of oil Venezuela sold last year trickled down to the people?"
Fact: That is 2.6 million barrels per day, not per year.
Error Number 2: "Globovisión is the only independently owned station left."
Fact: There are numerous others; at the national level there are also Televen and Venevision for example.
Error Number 3: "It is Chile, not Venezuela or Ecuador or Cuba, that made the furthest strides in lowering poverty in the region."
Fact: This is a meaningless statement since it depends on what years are chosen, and there is no time period here.
Tim Ferguson (Forbes) for "Humanizing Hugo Chavez"
Error: "(Brazil, although governed by labor-leftist Lula, has benefited at the same time from good old establishment central banking. Argentina, meanwhile, is a mess.)"
Fact: Argentina's economy grew by 63 percent from 2002-2008, the fastest growth in the hemisphere and vastly outstripping Brazil. Argentina also slightly outpaced Brazil in 2009 during the world recession, and both are now growing again.
Ronald Radosh (Wall Street Journal) for "To Chavez, With Love"
Error: "Another sin of omission: Mr. Stone makes no mention of Chile, which in the 1970s embraced economic liberalization and successfully reduced poverty much more than Mr. Chávez has managed to do in his own country."
Fact: Again, this depends on the time period, but this is certainly not true for the 1970s, when the bloody Pinochet dictatorship that this author praises murdered and tortured tens of thousands of its opponents.
Karina Longworth (LA Weekly) for "South of the Border: Natural-Born Shillers"
Error Number 1: "Stone and Chávez seem especially palsy-walsy: They kick around a soccer ball"
Fact: That was Evo Morales, not Chávez.
Error Number 2: "Yet Stone raises the specter of media manipulation when it suits him, devoting a whole section of the film to sympathetically presenting Chávez's argument that during the failed coup attempt of 2002, the Venezuelan media were so in the tank for his political opponents that they edited footage of rioting in the streets to make it look as if Chávez's supporters instigated a firefight."
Fact: Actually it was a lot more than "instigated a firefight", the media made it look like armed Chavistas shot and murdered 19 unarmed demonstrators in cold blood. This became the primary justification, repeated throughout the world, for the military coup of April 2002.
Adam Smith (Empire Magazine) for "South of the Boarder (TBC)" [sic]
Error Number 1 (excluding the spelling error in the title): "The complicating fact, for instance, that Venezuela's Hugo Chávez came to power via a coup, albeit a popular one, is mentioned then airily dismissed."
Fact: As the film documents, Chavez came to power in a 1998 election, not a coup.
Error Number 2: "And it is left to former president of Argentina Nestor Kirchner to gently castigate the object of Stone's schoolboy crush for his somewhat undemocratic desire to be elected for life."
Fact: The Venezuelan constitution requires new presidential elections every six years. Kirchner, of course, knows this and did not say anything about anyone being "elected for life."