Just to follow up on the previous NPR post, one of the most frustrating aspects of being a vocal critic of the so called Chávez revolution is countering the Robin Hood myth spread all over the world by the Venezuelan government's, petrodollar financed, PR machinery.
Especially left-leaning and liberal minded groups in the US and Europe seem to succumb readily to the government's empty rhetoric on poverty reduction ostensibly attributable to their policies of redistribution of wealth. Nothing could be further from the truth. Why do people readily accept these misleading claims without ever asking for any tangible proof of results thereof? Rarely do we hear discussions based on facts (and by facts, we mean actual NUMBERS, like statistical evidence, not. anecdotal. evidence, people). Usually, the standard response you get when being critical is: Well, yeah ... I hear you, but he's (Chávez) at least doing something for the poor.
There is no question that reducing poverty is the single most important task that any Venezuelan government should pursue, but sticking to rigid ideology, denying the signs of rampant corruption and violence while ignoring, at the same time, sound economic advice and keeping people in false hopes don't cut it. At the end of the day, it's only results that matter. Ten years have past since the pretty revolution took on power and the results, so far, have not been pretty at all. Just read Francisco Rodríguez' piece, An Empty Revolution: The Unfulfilled Promises of Hugo Chávez, published in the upcoming Foreign Affairs March/April 2008 issue.
Currently an Assistant Professor of Economics and Latin American Studies at Wesleyan University, Rodríguez was Chief Economist of the Venezuelan National Assembly from 2000 to 2004 and in his article he does an excellent job at debunking the myths of the so called Chávez Revolution. Here is an excerpt:
...Although opinions differ on whether Chávez’s rule should be characterized as authoritarian or democratic, just about everyone appears to agree that, in contrast to his predecessors, Chávez has made the welfare of the Venezuelan poor his top priority. His government, the thinking goes, has provided subsidized food to low income families, redistributed land and wealth, and poured money from Venezuela’s booming oil industry into health and education programs. It should not be surprising, then, that in a country where politics was long dominated by rich elites, he has earned the lasting support of the Venezuelan poor.To download the entire article in .pdf format, click here.
That story line may be compelling to many who are rightly outraged by Latin America’s deep social and economic inequalities. Unfortunately, it is wrong. Neither official statistics nor independent estimates show any evidence that Chávez has reoriented state priorities to benefit the poor. Most health and human development indicators have shown no significant improvement beyond that which is normal in the midst of an oil boom. Indeed, some have deteriorated worryingly, and offcial estimates indicate that income inequality has increased. The Chávez is good for the poor hypothesis is inconsistent with the facts...
Foto credit: The Robin Hood Memorial in Nottingham near the castle, licensed under GNU Free Documentation License