“The missing President”, article by Alberto Barrera and Cristina Marcano is an extraordinary account of Venezuela’s current tragedy, see it in yesterday’s New York Times, link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/opinion/chavez-the-missing-president.html?_r=0.
However, it includes an assertion that I have seen repeated many times, even by Chavez’s harshest critics. They say: “Venezuelans today are less poor than they once were. But they are also far more dependent on the state, and more susceptible to a propaganda machine that attributes this “miracle” to Mr. Chávez. Over the past decade, his government has invested around $400 billion in social spending, an oil-infused luxury that few countries in the region have ever been able to indulge in”. The authors perpetuate the myth that Chavez has decreased poverty in Venezuela by “investing” about $400 billion in the social sector.
What I frequently see in the best of analyses is failure to see the difference between the temporary condition of having money in the pocket and a true, permanent scape from poverty. More spending money does not necessarily mean less poverty but, at best, a temporary alleviation of poverty. A structural cure for poverty simply has not existed during Chavez’s watch. Only citizens who are self-reliant can escape poverty. And this requires empowerment, not handouts. $400 billion can go a long way to make the poor feel better for a while but, when the handouts cease, as they inevitably will cease, the poor will revert, and in worse shape than before, to their previous condition.