The New York Times
Published: November 18, 2005
To the Editor:
Re "The Idiots Abroad," by John Tierney (column, Nov. 8):
Poverty rose in Venezuela from 28 percent in the early 1980's to 85 percent when President Hugo Ch?vez took office. That was the backdrop of his initial victory as a democratically elected alternative to the flawed policies of the past.
In the years since, social expenditures have risen in net terms to about $5 billion a year; this represents a large 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.
Venezuela has the fastest-growing economy in Latin America, with growth rates in the first two quarters of 7.5 percent and 11 percent, respectively. Importantly, the non-oil sectors have grown at a faster pace than the oil sector, rising 8.7 percent and 12 percent in the first two quarters of this year.
This is the right result for Venezuela even if it does not fit the United States' paradigm, or Mr. Tierney's idea of the difference between wisdom and idiocy.
Bernardo Alvarez Herrera
Ambassador of Venezuela
Washington, Nov. 8, 2005