Hugo Chavez: the $2 trillion dictator


    The former British Ambassador to Venezuela said: "but Chavez is an incredibly popular figure, is he not?" I must confess, I hate that type of argument. It means little, in my book, given that I am part of that 52% of Venezuelans who are at the receiving end of Chavez's hatred. So I replied: "you give anyone the access to the kind of money that Chavez has got control over, and even a chimpanzee would become incredibly popular." Laughter. Followed by "well, that's true." See, we have had to put up with such comments for too long. Comments that mean, in a couple of words, that the world is keen on turning a blind eye on whatever Chavez wants to do, and does, for the sheer amount of money he commands, and the possibility of profiting from him is of such magnitude, that the perished Venezuelan democracy is, quite simply, entirely irrelevant.

    So I went and dug some figures recently. Numbers cited come from the World Bank, and official chavista institutions. Hugo Chavez is a peculiar dictator. A dictator, nonetheless, that has not had the need to kill, or disappear, thousands of foes. He just buys them off. When that fails, he kills its foes' public personas, or gets his courts to accuse and imprison them on trumped charges. No one can touch him. No fortune in Venezuela is large enough to compete, to counter him. Since his arrival in Venezuela's presidency in 1999, Chavez has enjoyed a GDP of $2 trillion. Give or take. Hugo Chavez is, the $2 trillion dictator. Hugo Chavez has enjoyed an income larger than what the previous 8 administrations got COMBINED, between 1958 and 1998.

    Comparison of number of houses
    built, by Chavez and predecessors.

    Then one has to hear nonsense, such as "the opposition is atomised, keeps shooting itself in the foot, is disconnected, didn't serve the poor, is elitist, oligarchic..." Right. Above all else, elitist and oligarchic, when compared with the $2 trillion dictator. Pariahs, such as CEPR's Mark Weisbrot, argue that poverty has been dramatically reduced, from 54% to 30%. No one, of course, buys into Weisbrot's propaganda, for even the cat knows that Chavez's figures, which are the fountain of all of Weisbrot's arguments, are not trustworthy. Still, let's give his apologists the benefit of the doubt. Can anyone explain how come, after $2 trillion, there are still 30% of Venezuelans living in poverty? Venezuela, it must be borne in mind, is a country of 28 million people. While we are at it, on the recent issue of floods, can anyone explain how come the Chavez regime has only been able to build, since 1999 and with $2 trillion, 296,047 houses for the poor, while his predecessors built 2,033,481 houses, between 1969 and 1998, with a fraction of that income? To conclude, with less than a fifteenth of the amount Chavez has gotten, Europe was rebuilt after WWII.

    Now, let's hear what Human Rights Watch has to say about democratic credentials of the $2 trillion dictator...

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