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Wed Dec 5, 2012, 10:37 PM

"What the Statistics Tell Us about Venezuela in the Chavez Era"

Last edited Fri Dec 7, 2012, 02:08 AM - Edit history (2)

What the Statistics Tell Us about Venezuela in the Chavez Era


In the lead up to Venezuela’s presidential election earlier this year, the picture painted in most private media was that of a country falling apart (LINK)—a corrupt regime drunk on oil money (LINK) that was attempting to hold onto power after more than a decade of gross mismanagement (LINK) of the country’s economy and public institutions. The young, energetic (LINK) opposition candidate was riding a wave of enthusiasm (LINK) among the tired masses that desired a change from the past and were looking for new leadership to move their country forward.

Of course, the electoral outcome proved that to be false, but if one has paid attention to the international media in recent years, there is constant talk of crime, food shortages, electrical blackouts, and of a long list of failed policies that have supposedly led to a stagnant economy and a country on the brink of collapse. (LINK) Without providing any context, the impression given is that of a socialist clown (LINK) clinging to power through populist policies and fiery rhetoric, and a country that is suffering the consequences.

Needless to say, little context is offered on the supposed “new” leaders of the opposition either, whose top three candidates (Henrique Capriles Radonski, Maria Corina Machado, Leopoldo Lopez Mendoza) (LINKS) are all children of the old elite. Their families own three of the country's largest business conglomerates (Grupo Capriles, Grupo Zuloaga, and Grupo Mendoza, respectively) (LINKS), whose ultimate goal is to enact the neoliberal economic policies (LINK) that serve their interests, despite the continuous denials of their candidates.

But a brief look at the statistics offers a very different story about Venezuela. While there are certain elements of truth to the media campaign—indeed there have been persistent blackouts, some food shortages, and rising crime—understanding the context of the changes that the country has experienced under the Chavez government over the last decade tells a very distinct story. It is a story that helps explain why the majority of the Venezuelan people keep re-electing a government that, according to the private media, is driving the country into the ground.

Poverty and Household Consumption

There are two important indices that are essential starting points for understanding the larger context of what has happened in Venezuela in recent years. These are poverty, and household consumption. As can be seen in the charts below, both of these statistics have seen important changes over the last decade. Poverty has fallen significantly:

(Note by me: steep line down the chart as poverty drops from about 60% when Chavez was first elected to 25% in 2009, with only one quite interesting peak upward in the 2002 rightwing coup year.)

With extreme poverty also falling from 23 percent in 1999 to 8 percent in 2011, according to Venezuela’s National Institute of Statistics (INE).

But perhaps more important is the remarkable increase in household consumption:


The sharp increase in consumption began in 2003 once the Chavez government had survived the 2002 coup attempt and 2003 oil strike, and was finally able to carry out its social and economic policies without interruption. In the decade that followed, per capita consumption in Venezuela reached an historic high, even surpassing the 1970s oil boom that is remembered by many Venezuelans as the country’s greatest time of prosperity.

This significant decrease in poverty and the massive increase in household consumption, along with the continual growth in population (which grew by 23 percent from 1999 to 2011), translated into significant increases in demand for basic goods and services. Sectors of society that before had been marginalized and submerged in poverty were now suddenly rising out of poverty and consuming greater and greater quantities of food and consumer goods.


...Regarding food production in Venezuela, two important things have occurred in recent years. As the charts show below, not only has production increased quite remarkably over the last decade, but the land area under production has also increased to an historic high:



...from 2003 to 2011 milk production increased by 230 percent, beef production by 19 percent, chicken by 60 percent, rice by 25 percent, corn by 116 percent, and beans by 320 percent.

As can be seen, the claims among Chavez’s critics of a decrease in food production are simply false. And while it is true that there have been food shortages, the real reason is quite different from what the media reports. An impressive increase in food production in recent years has simply been outpaced by growing consumption that has increased even more rapidly, creating supply problems in many basic items and the need to import increasing amounts of food. Though often cited as a major failure of the Chavez government, it is actually the result of millions of poor Venezuelans eating better and consuming more than ever before. As one Venezuelan recently said to an opposition activist who insisted that empty supermarket shelves were proof of the government’s failures and demanded to know, “Then where is the milk?”: “The milk,” he replied, “is in the bellies of Venezuela’s poor.”


Creative Commons License (my emphasis)


The author says the same about energy problems (blackouts) as about food shortages, that the problem is not lack of activity and development by the government, but rather that consumer demand (so many people rising out of poverty) has outstripped production. The anti-poverty programs have succeeded so well that other projects--energy and food production--haven't been able to keep up. This matter has been falsely portrayed by rightwing politicians and the corporate media who never reveal that the reason for these shortages is increased and more equitable income and decreased poverty..


...the persistent blackouts so decried by the Venezuelan opposition in recent years are actually the result of millions of Venezuelans from the poorest sectors who are now able to afford a better standard of living, and acquire some of the same comforts the rich have enjoyed for years. Electricity production has increased, but consumption has increased faster.

In this context, it is hard to see this negatively. Yet the media and political opposition have done just that by removing the necessary context and focusing only on the side effects of the important social changes that have taken place in the country over the last decade.


He says that the rightwing criticism of the crime rate in Venezuela is justified, that government policy wonks initially believed that dramatic decreases in poverty would reduce crime and this did not turn out to be true. The government now understands its mistake and has begun to address it.

On long term economic outlook, Carlson stresses the need for Venezuela to diversify away from oil, to improve investment in other industries and to increase agricultural production Oil exports and prices are booming (due, in no small part, he says, to Chavez's work in OPEC) but an oil economy, of course, has many risks and Venezuela needs to reduce its dependence on this resource. Agricultural production and manufacturing are also up but still not meeting the demands put on them by high employment, good wages and big poverty reduction.


"...there are a few statistics that are worth mentioning with regards to Venezuela’s economic outlook. Although it is often implied in the media that Venezuela’s current economic growth is unsustainable, or that the country is on the brink of economic crisis, this is clearly false as has been demonstrated elsewhere."
See http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/venezuela-2012-09.pdf


One thing I want to mention (that Carlson doesn't go into) is that the continued decline in poverty in 2009 is very significant. In the midst of the Bushwhack-induced worldwide depression, there was no uptick in poverty in Venezuela, in 2009-2010, because the Chavez government, through good management of cash reservers and other policies, inflicted NO CUTS IN SOCIAL PROGRAMS. Putting money in the hands of the poor was the correct answer to the horrendous malfeasance and crimes of the Bushwhacks and Wall Street. Venezuela weathered about 1.5 lean years (no growth, or very slow growth) but quickly recovered and is back up to over 5% economic growth, still with high employment, good wages and many other positive indicators for ordinary Venezuelans.

I've mentioned these awesome poverty reduction stats in Venezuela as the MISSING INFORMATION in all corporate news articles about the recent presidential election in Venezuela. If you did not know this, and if you relied on corporate news reports, you would be utterly baffled by Chavez's continued high popularity numbers--with barely a dip throughout his tenure--and his decisive election wins. They report ONLY negative news--all of it out of context and often biased in the extreme. And they also don't tell you that Venezuela's election system is honest and transparent ("the best in the world," Jimmy Carter recently stated).

I'm glad to see such a well-researched and intelligent report that stresses this contradiction--the black holes in corporate news reports, identical to the lies, omissions and distortions of the rightwing politicos in Venezuela.

Black holes are the mysterious objects at the centers of galaxies that suck in all matter around them and are so powerful, in a negative way, that they emit no light. That is the corporate news, here and in Venezuela, and that is rightwing politics, here and in Venezuela. They emit no light.

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Reply "What the Statistics Tell Us about Venezuela in the Chavez Era" (Original post)
Peace Patriot Dec 2012 OP
ForgoTheConsequence Dec 2012 #1
teddy51 Dec 2012 #2
niyad Dec 2012 #3
newfie11 Dec 2012 #4
Judi Lynn Dec 2012 #5

Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 11:02 PM

1. I'm shocked.

So you're telling me the librul media lied to me?

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 11:08 PM

2. I've thought and have been saying for some time that President Chavez is a great leader for


his country, and this to me proves it. I will be very sad if Chavez does not beat his cancer, and I know that his people will suffer as well. My hope is that he leaves someone to replace him, that can maintain his Liberal view on Venezuela.

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Wed Dec 5, 2012, 11:48 PM

3. k and r==bookmarking, emailing, and printing off copies. I am tired of listening to several people

who claim expertise telling me how awful chavez is.

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 09:29 AM

4. K&R

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 03:12 PM

5. An earlier poster was right: this is most clearly outstanding information worth saving & sharing.

Your comparison to our corporate "news" media was excrutiatingly keen. The truth goes in and it doesn't come out again.
They have failed everyone other than their greedy owners and their allies.

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