The Venezuela of Hugo Chávez: The truth in numbers
By Gustavo Coronel
07.03.05 | In parallel with the Venezuela of words and promises that Hugo Chávez expertly delivers both inside and outside the country, there is a real Venezuela that is well known to Venezuelans but only vaguely known to the outside world. This real Venezuela is a sad country, where streets and avenues remain dark at night because cables and bulbs are vandalized or stolen, where the public art works of recently deceased Venezuelan master Jesus Soto are dismantled by scavengers to be sold as scrap metal (remember the environment portrayed in Mel Gibson's The Road Warrior or Mad Max?) and where thousands of street children drug themselves and sleep half naked in the sidewalks of our cities.
No matter how many times I describe these horrors and write about the tragic social involution generated by the authoritarian and now socialist regime of Hugo Chávez, there will always be many honest and idealistic people located outside Venezuela who will say: "This guy is exaggerating or, worse, he is lying. He probably lost his privileges when Chávez came into power. For all I know he is a corrupt member of the elite that Chávez is trying to dismantle." Therefore, I am trying now to present numbers, which corroborate this dismal picture of my country. Of course, people can always say that the numbers are not real, that the statistics serve to prove almost anything. Although this is true, I believe that many more people will pay attention to the Venezuelan tragedy generated by Hugo Chávez if I mention some numbers, almost all of which come from a source that is very credible: The Venezuelan Central Bank. These numbers came out before the President of the Bank was ousted by Chávez because he refused to hand over to the Chávez government the monies that properly belong in the Bank, since they represent a portion of the country's international reserves.
The numbers pertain to the six years, 1999 to 2004, of the Chávez period and show the chaotic economic performance of the Chávez regime.
1. The petroleum income during this period has been the highest in Venezuelan History.
Source: Venezuelan Central Bank
The Bank has also said that the Chávez income could be significantly greater as the government has failed to deposit petroleum income in the Bank, as the law dictates.
Where has this money gone?
Meanwhile, during the period,
And the public debt increased significantly, as follows:
The total debt has increased by 63% in these six years, in spite of the highest petroleum income ever.
The volume of petroleum exports has fallen, due to the collapse of PDVSA in the hands of the regime.
Source: United Nations
These are some of the numbers that I felt were pertinent, in order to show what the reality of Venezuela has been under the self-proclaimed defender of the poor, Hugo Chávez. The reality is that our country, Venezuela, has been into a steep descent into chaos. What started out, six years ago, as a democratic feast has turned into a horrendous national tragedy characterized by inefficiency, corruption and ideological logorrhea. Six years ago Hugo Chávez said to Venezuelans that he would solve the political problems first and then he would tackle the social and economic problems. This sounded logical at the time but, six years later, he is still muddling through political problems artificially created by his egocentric manners, while the social and economic afflictions of Venezuelans have grown much worse. One of his cronies, Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez, in an effort to defend the increasingly authoritarian nature of the regime, claims that Latin Americans, given to choose between democracy and the solution of their economic problems would choose the latter. What he says is true since a survey of UNDP suggests that slightly more than half of Latin Americans feel that way. But this is not what we are experiencing in Venezuela. In our poor country we are witnessing a tragic double whammy of lack of democracy combined with galloping poverty.
This is a combination that no one in Latin America or anywhere else wants to experience.
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