by Lucas Koerner Venezuelanalysis
A report by the Spanish website FCINCO has revealed that a photo widely circulated by international media as a depiction of chronic shortages in Venezuela was actually taken in New York in 2011.
The now iconic photograph, which shows a woman in a supermarket gazing at empty shelves, was reposted by news outlets hundreds of times over the last three years as evidence of Venezuela’s economic crisis.
However, a closer examination of the photo demonstrates that it was taken by Reuters photographer Allison Joyce in a New York supermarket on the eve of Hurricane Irene with the caption, “A shopper passes by empty shelves while looking for bottled water at a Stop and Shop at Rockaway Beach in New York, August 26, 2011.”
The image was first erroneously associated with Venezuela by several small blogs in 2012 and 2013, but only in 2014 did it begin to circulate massively, including among prominent news media such as El Nacional, Prensa Libre, La Patilla, Entorno Inteligente, El Nuevo Siglo, Mercopress, Elsalvador.com and Ahora Visión.
In the original high resolution version, the English signs and labels are clearly discernable, including a large poster in the background that reads, “Save 10 cents, 20 cents, 30 cents, or more per gallon.”
Nonetheless, in the course of its massive dissemination, the photo was adulterated to a point that the background signs are pixelated and consequently illegible.
The manipulated image has been so frequently associated with Venezuela that it appears among the first three results of a Google search for “scarcity Venezuela” in Spanish.
In addition to news media, Venezuela’s opposition coalition, the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD), also circulated the photograph together with a pair of articles published on its website last summer, titled “Poverty, scarcity, repression, and censorship: the deepening calamities in Venezuela (I)” and “The government is the only one responsible for shortages and scarcity”.
Neither the Venezuelan opposition nor any of the news outlets responsible for circulating the photo have yet issued a correction.
For his part, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa seized on the incident as yet another instance of the international media and right-wing forces manipulating facts in order to destabilize progressive governments in the region.
Taking to Twitter, the head of state posted a link to the exposé by FCINCO with the caption, “Yet again… ‘They will not dominate us with force but through deception’. Simón Bolívar.”