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Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez

Ambassador Alvarez: Yes, Venezuela Is Reducing Poverty

The Washington Post
Letter to the Editor
Wednesday, October 5, 2005; Page A22

Jackson Diehl misinformed readers when he wrote that President Hugo Chavez's policies had increased the rate of poverty. ["Buying Support in Latin America," op-ed, Sept. 26].

Under the U.S.-sponsored "Washington consensus," or "neoliberal," model, poverty rose in Venezuela from 28 percent in the early 1980s to 85 percent when Mr. Chavez took office.

In the years since, social expenditures have risen in net terms (despite the U.S.-backed coup and oil strike), to about $5 billion per year, increasing as part of gross domestic product from 7.8 percent to 12.3 percent. This represents a massive transfer of resources to the poor. It has wiped out illiteracy, provided 40 percent of the population with subsidized food and ensured that 18 million people have free health care.

According to a recent analysis by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, in the first quarter of 2005 the fastest-growing economies in Latin America were those that rejected the failed and flawed neoliberal model.

Indeed, Venezuela has the fastest-growing economy in Latin America, with growth rates in the first two quarters of 7.5 percent and 11.1 percent, respectively. It had a 17.8 percent growth rate in 2004. The non-oil sectors grew at a faster pace than the oil sector, rising 8.7 percent and 12.1 percent in the first two quarters of 2005. Venezuela's economy is growing at the second-fastest rate in the world, topped only by China.

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