16 January 2007

Should egalitarians support Chávez?

Asks Francisco Rodríguez - assistant professor of economics and Latin American studies at Wesleyan University, and former chief economist of the Venezuelan National Assembly.

This is really a very unusual venue that professor Rodríguez is using - the infamous CiF. In any case, you would expect some attention to what the man is telling, since his bio makes what he says highly relevant, coming from a person who was a supporter of Chavez' reforms for some time. And the story he is telling is grim - even for people who suspected the rising caudillo from the beginning.

It wasn't just that the government did not understand the difference between dissenters and opponents - perhaps understandable in a climate of heightened political polarization. Nor that they seemed genuinely disinterested in anything that was not directly connected with their staying in power - also understandable when the opposition seems to only think about how to oust you from power. It was that they really didn't seem to care much about any of the reasons we were there: improving the well-being of the poor and making Venezuela an open, democratic society.
There is a broad gap, however, between what the government says it is doing for the poor and what is actually going on. Did you know that the percentage of underweight and underheight babies has actually increased in Venezuela during Chávez's administration? That, once you take out social security - which, in Venezuela, benefits mostly the middle and upper classes who work in the formal sector - the fraction of social spending in the government budget has actually decreased? That, despite the government's claim of having eradicated illiteracy, its own Household Surveys revealed more than one million illiterates in Venezuela at the close of 2005, barely down from pre-Chávez levels?
I have chosen on purpose the quotes that deal with economy, but the article tells more and is quite depressing. For a normal person, that is. And this gets us back to the question asked in the headline.

Unfortunately for professor, his choice of venue has proved (once again) to be self-defeating. Looking for egalitarians (or progressives mentioned in the subtitle) on CiF is a bad decision, and after a few positive remarks the flood of foulmouthed usual suspects begun in earnest.

Just a few examples to get you all going:
But Chavez's strong arm tactics seem almost gentlemanly compared to that thicko Bush and his redneck regime.

This stinks of CIA propaganda to me.

Subject US citizens to your neo-liberal economic theories by all means but you should not expect other nations/states to believe in your bullshit.

No one's property is being "taken" and the media and opposition remain amazingly free and vocal...much more than in the US.

So who's paying you then sonny? Oh I see a US college. Figures.

I wonder how much the author was paid to write the intial comment, and paid by who ?

Stupid right wing propagandists, please go away.
Ehehe. Enough for now. Looking for egalitarians and progressives in that cesspool...

Cross-posted on Yourish.com