U.S Bogeyman Chavez has Grown Venezuelan Economy by 526%

Hugo Chavez Marcha por el SI a la Reforma

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By Ben Cohen

Hugo Chavez became a U.S bogeyman primarily

because he refused to make the ‘structural adjustments’ to Venezuela’s

economy the U.S dictated to the rest of Latin America. Having seen the

region devastated

by neo-liberalism, Chavez has forged a new type of socialism that has

had dramatic effects on poverty and inequality. There is no doubt that

Chavez has many faults – his personality cult and domination of the

media is clearly not good for democracy, and there are huge problems

with crime that Chavez has failed to deal with. But he has never

challenged the will of voters

whenever an election has come up, and has accepted term limits on his

Presidency (which is not the case in countries like Britain).

In an interesting and balanced article on Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, the Guardian

reports on Chavez’s remarkable accomplishments, and his failures.

Economically, there is no doubt that the country is in much better


Today a third of the population is classified as poor, compared with

half in 1998. Extreme poverty is said to have tumbled even more

dramatically, from 42% to 9.5%. Inequality narrowed and Venezuela rose

up the UN’s human development index. Social programmes known as

“missions” widened access to health and education and reduced

illiteracy. The economy ballooned by 526%, unemployment was halved to

6% and Venezuela instituted Latin America’s highest minimum wage at

$372 (£254.80) a month.

However, the state of the countries infrastructure and social problems is not so good:

Corruption and bureaucratic chaos – ministers rotated with bewildering

frequency – atrophied infrastructure and public services. Roads and

hospitals deteriorated, a housing shortage worsened and jails remained

shockingly overcrowded and violent. Some prisoners languish for years

without trial.

It will be interesting to see what Obama’s relationship with Chavez

will look like, and whether Obama will continue to refer to him as a

dictator as his predecessor did. The region is changing, and leftist

movements are spreading quickly. Whatever the U.S may think, it must

come to accept the new reality in Latin America. And that means dealing

with Hugo Chavez.

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.