September 18, 2007

Next They Came For The Schools

Hugo Chavez has progressed onto the next agenda item in his bid to create a new Cuba out of Venezuela. He has threatened private schools with closure if they do not teach their students to adopt his socialist vision, ending the independence of educators and taking another step towards indoctrinating children:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has threatened the country's private schools with closure unless they adopt the government's socialist ideology.

Mr Chavez warned all schools they must introduce a new curriculum this year that he said would help develop values of cooperation and solidarity.

Education had been ignored by past governments, said the president. But many parents are concerned that the new curriculum will spell indoctrination for their children.

One has to wonder when the people of Venezuela will say, "Enough!" Will it be when Hugo sends the state after their children? Or will the parents of these children simply opt to take the money they spent on private education and flee the country instead, taking their economic participation with them before Chavez bars any exit from the country?

What excuse will Chavez apologists give this time? When they came for the television stations, his fans claimed that the broadcasters committed treason. When Chavez nationalized industrial assets, his backers said that foreign companies had exploited the poor of Venezuela. When Chavez demanded and received dictatorial powers, his supporters claimed that he got them legitimately.

What treason have educators committed? What exploitation have teachers in private schools committed? How do they interfere with Chavez' power to implement emergency economic measures for the poor? What threat do private schools represent to the people of Venezuela?

None, of course. That won't keep Chavez' apologists from offering a new rationalization for the new Fidel of South America. I just can't wait to hear why educational independence threatens the well-being of Venezuelans. Maybe I'll post the most ridiculous later in the show.


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Comments (61)

Posted by Bill M | September 18, 2007 1:22 AM

Ahhh Hugo, the new Fidel. Venezuelans can kiss what's left of their freedom good bye.

Posted by swabjockey05 | September 18, 2007 1:59 AM

O where O where has the little shyster gone..?
O where O where can he be..?

Who says school teachers cannot commit treason?

Where is it written that private schools have a “right” to exist in the first place?

Private schools are subsidized by the government. Since they don’t teach the same themes that are taught in state-run schools, they are in unfair competition with the state education system. The competition is a drain on the economy. It will be a more efficient use of resources to convert the private school into a state-run education facility.

If the renegade private school teachers (and the abusive parents) don’t understand this simple concept, they need to be re-educated themselves.

Posted by Cybrludite | September 18, 2007 2:14 AM

As someone more clever than I put it, "Wherever there is a boot stomping on a human face, there'll be a well-heeled western liberal to point out that at least the face enjoys 100% literacy and government provided healthcare."

Posted by Otter | September 18, 2007 3:42 AM

Swabjockey, you beat me to it.

And consider! They may even provide new clothes for the private school students, both there And, if they can force it here in the US...

Brown shirts, perhaps.

Posted by Hugh Beaumont | September 18, 2007 4:10 AM

The slums of Caracas are a testament to
the blindness of the former Venezuelan leadership.

Pineappleface Chavez is a product of those same Latin oligarchies. The former elites got what they deserved; the poor could care less who is in charge as long as someone is addressing their concerns.

It's a predictable cycle.

Posted by Gorilla | September 18, 2007 4:58 AM

Some may wonder when the people of Venezuela will say, "Enough!", but I wonder when the people of the United States (those not drinking the Kool-Aid of the crowd) will say, "Enough?"

Posted by docjim505 | September 18, 2007 6:12 AM

Since dave (whose love for Chavez is eclipsed only by his hatred of Israel) hasn't showed up yet, allow me to try to take his place:

Cap'n Ed: Hugo Chavez has progressed onto the next agenda item in his bid to create a new Cuba out of Venezuela. He has threatened private schools with closure if they do not teach their students to adopt his socialist vision, ending the independence of educators and taking another step towards indoctrinating children...

"Indoctrinating" children? America has government-run schools; are we "indoctrinating" our children, too? Anyway, only rich people in Venezuela send their kids to school; Chavez is making sure that the poor, who have been trampled and ignored by past Venezuelan governments, are allowed to attend school so they can become educated to improve their country. The right wing in Venezuela are the only ones who oppose Chavez's attempts to improve public education; you are simply parrotting the line taken by them and their Big Oil masters on Wall Street, who want the Venezuelan people to remain ignorant serfs so they can be more easily exploited. The Israelis also have state-run schools where they teach their children to hate Palestinians and to deify the terrorists who founded Israel; when will you criticize Israel?


Well, how'd I do? Did I sound sufficiently like dave? Notice how I slipped in the gratuitous swipe at Israel? I thought that was a nice touch.

Perhaps Cap'n Ed can have a regular contest: "Why Can Write Most Like a Lib?" with some small prize offered, like copies of "A People's History of the United States" or "Fahrenheit 9-11".

Just a suggestion.

Posted by Val Prieto | September 18, 2007 7:02 AM

It's not just a question of the indoctrination of children, but, if hugo is following the cuban model, which by all accounts he is, then nationalizing schools has another use.

In Cuba, the school system is how they keep track of the student's entire family. A student file is more like a dossier of the cuban family, with information on their parents political activities, ideological leanings, etc...Thus, in essence, they not only get to indoctrinate the child into a future New Man socialist, but keep his family in check and also use the education of the child as a form of coersion. If the family is not in line with the official government mandate, then the child's future education is at risk.

It's a win win win for the dictator.

Posted by victor | September 18, 2007 7:34 AM

I disagree with your assertion that "... What threat do private schools represent to the people of Venezuela? None, of course.....".

It is my experience that when one looks at the present international scene, one will quickly realize that it is education in the form of books, a blackboard, chalk, pencil and paper, that is having the greatest impact on all those who are the most disadvantaged and backwards in the world. For example in Iraq and Afghanistan there is a deep sense and conviction among the majority that their betterment can only come from embracing the future and exposing their children to this dream. The enemies of reason know this ….. and this is why they kill teachers, burn schools and libraries, and threaten the youngest of the young.

As for Venezuela's Chavez ..... he may not go to the extreme of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, but they all understand the medium to long term impact that unfettered education can have on a population.

They will all fail. The internet is one of the means for a people to escape this regimentation of education and indoctrination. We run a very simple and free online library and education portal at , and I am always amazed at the large number of visitors that we are always receiving from places like Iran, Cuba, Zimbabwe ..... and yes .... Venezuela.

Posted by TomB | September 18, 2007 7:45 AM

What is really frightening is the speed with which the Venezuelan Democracy (relatively robust up to now) could be dismantled. Chavez seem to be unstopable and unchallenged. It looks like all society suddenly had a death wish.

Posted by dave | September 18, 2007 8:00 AM

I am so flattered...
This subject is way too broad to talk about on a blog, but I do have a question. Do people here think that schools in all countries teach according to a particular vision or ideology, or do you believe that certain countries present all ideologies in a fair, unbiased way, and allow the children to make their own decisions?

Posted by Daryl Herbert | September 18, 2007 8:16 AM

"What treason have educators committed?"

Their students are not sufficiently "open-minded." Not enough ability to perform "critical thinking."

But the government can fix that.

(I'm not joking, that is the reason given.)

Posted by rbj | September 18, 2007 8:32 AM

Gee dave, are you a product of the American educational system?

Posted by dave | September 18, 2007 8:42 AM

"Gee dave, are you a product of the American educational system?"

Yes, and I was also a typical American for the first 35 years of my life. You would have liked me back then. At that point I started educating myself...
So does your response mean that you believe that the US educational system presents all ideologies in a fair, unbiased manner, and allows the children to decide which values to adopt or reject?

Posted by ray | September 18, 2007 8:45 AM

They should have killed him during the coup attempt when they had the chance. The greater good will be served when Chavez is dead.

Same could go for US politicians if they try and force the country down a the stupid socialist path. Fortunately, our military doesn't support the forced implementation of socialist dictates.

Posted by Silvio Canto, Jr. | September 18, 2007 8:47 AM

This is so similar to what happened in Cuba. In the early 1960s, our Catholic school was shut down by Castro.

Posted by docjim505 | September 18, 2007 9:00 AM

docjim505 as "dave": "Indoctrinating" children? America has government-run schools; are we "indoctrinating" our children, too?

the REAL dave: Do people here think that schools in all countries teach according to a particular vision or ideology, or do you believe that certain countries present all ideologies in a fair, unbiased way, and allow the children to make their own decisions?

Damn, I'm good!

Posted by rbj | September 18, 2007 9:02 AM

So dave, despite your "indocrination" by the American school system, you think for yourself. I've known a lot of people on the Left who also went through our educational system but were lefties while still teenagers. My experience is that the American educational system does not indoctrinate students; at least not at the level that socialist/communist systems do.

I was actually much more open to liberal solutions when I was younger -- I got turned off by the hypocrisy of liberals' supposed openness which only extends to their own superiority.

Posted by dave | September 18, 2007 9:10 AM

Yes, you were pretty good at presenting a valid question that you thought I might ask. Too bad you are not as good at presenting an answer. Is there a reason you cannot answer the question?

"My experience is that the American educational system does not indoctrinate students; at least not at the level that socialist/communist systems do."

You say that the US does not indoctrine students, but then you qualify it, and suggest that we might, but not as much as other systems do. Which is it? This opinion is "based on your experience". How did you obtain your experience, or knowledge, of the degree that socialist systems indoctrinate their students? Do you think that all socialist systems indoctrinate students to the same degree? Do all capitalist system indocrinate their students to the same degree?

Posted by burt | September 18, 2007 9:15 AM

Those who flee won't be taking much of their financial assets out of the country. Unless their assets are already out of the country, the only thing they might leave with are smuggled cash, jewelry and possibly cocaine. They aren't able to turn real estate into cash without having it confiscated.

Venezuela, has always, at least our lifetimes, had dreadful governments. It should have a high standard of living based upon it's natural resources, but oil seems to carry a curse. Oil oligarchs seem to breed crooked governments. Venezuela went from a government for the governors to a government for the governors with the added benefit of a communism to destroy all freedom and economic initiative.

Posted by rbj | September 18, 2007 9:34 AM

I study, listen to others, and keep an open mind.

Posted by dave | September 18, 2007 9:49 AM

"I study, listen to others, and keep an open mind."

That's great, but it's not what I asked. I guess you don't want to talk anymore.

Posted by Cousin Dave | September 18, 2007 9:50 AM

So what do the Venezuelans think about all this? Unfortunately, from my long-range view, they appear to be, by and large, pretty happy with it. As long as Chavez can stir up the nationalist fervor, that seems to be all that matters to them. Latin America. Sigh.

Reality is going to be a very difficult lesson for them. They are going to learn two things: (1) thrusting and parrying at imaginary enemies does not put food on the table, and (2) you can't swim from Caracas to Miami.

Posted by unclesmrgol | September 18, 2007 10:14 AM

It's amusing that dave has fallen deeply into the trap the rest of you set for him. We're talking about private schools here, not public ones. Suddenly, free speech doesn't seem so valuable anymore, right dave?

That said, all schools have an ideology they attempt to impress upon their students. Consider La Academia Semillas del Pueblo, whose founder has stated the following:

If Brown was just about letting Black people into a White school, well we don't care about that anymore. We don't necessarily want to go to White schools. What we want to do is teach ourselves, teach our children the way we have of teaching. We don't want to drink from a White water fountain, we have our own wells and our natural reservoirs and our way of collecting rain in our aqueducts. We don't need a White water fountain. So the whole issue of segregation and the whole issue of the Civil Rights Movement is all within the box of White culture and White supremacy. We should not still be fighting for what they have. We are not interested in what they have because we have so much more and because the world is so much larger. And ultimately the White way, the American way, the neo liberal, capitalist way of life will eventually lead to our own destruction. And so it isn't about an argument of joining neo liberalism, it's about us being able, as human beings, to surpass the barrier.

I wonder what the kids learn at this charter school, funded by the State of California, if not an ideology? This school certainly meets Hugo's idea of what a school should teach. But that seems to be it; children will leave fully indoctrinated, but without useful skills (given this school's abysmal performance on the standard tests California gives every year).

Posted by dave | September 18, 2007 10:14 AM

Cousin Dave:
"thrusting and parrying at imaginary enemies does not put food on the table"

That's true. Increased income puts food on the table. Since Chavez came into office, GDP per capita is up 68% and consumption per capita is up 32%. But maybe you are worried about the poor. Real income amongst the lowest economic level has increased 130% in the past three years. Venezuelans are doing just fine.

Posted by unclesmrgol | September 18, 2007 10:47 AM


I wonder if it's the opium that's improving the economy? Oh, excuse me, oil accounts for 90% of the GDP, and that must explain where the difference between the increase in per capita GDP and per capita consumption is going -- right into Hugo's pockets, eh?

I love the thought of pocketing 36% of the "improvement". At least some of it is getting down to the people, according to your numbers.

By the way, where did your numbers come from?

Posted by David M | September 18, 2007 10:52 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 09/18/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

Posted by docjim505 | September 18, 2007 10:56 AM

OK, dave, I'll take you up on this because it's a topic that interests me very much.

Let us first examine the purpose of public schools. In my view, they should do the following basic tasks:

1. Impart knowledge

2. Foster logic and critical thinking skills

3. Prepare the student to be a good citizen in his society. This includes inculcating him with the core values and principles of that society as well as teaching him to deal peacefully and tolerantly with his fellow men

Obviously, there is a heavy element of indoctrination implicit in these tasks because somebody has to decide WHAT knowledge to impart and WHAT values are important. The decision whether to teach Spanish or Latin, for example, indicates that somebody thinks that it is more important for students to know one language rather than the other. The decision to teach mathematics also indicates an indoctrinating choice: math is only important to people who are expected to engage in some sort of commerce and / or get a technical education later in life: primitive societies or purely agrarian societies have little need for geometry, trig, or calculus, while technological societies have a heavy need for people with education in such subjects.

May we therefore stipulate that ANY education system indoctrinates its students?

Now, not all indoctrination is desirable or "good". This distinction, of course, represents a value judgement that varies from person to person and society to society. As a conservative, white, college-educated, technically-employed, middle-class American, I think that an education should be heavy on:

1. Mathematics

2. The hard sciences

3. English grammar and composition

4. Civics to impart a good understanding of the American system of government and an acquaintance with other systems

5. Sufficient English literature to make the student "well-rounded" and acquaint him with examples of good prose style, symbolism, rhetoric, and general "good writing"

6. American history to impart an understanding of why our society exists as it does and to impart a spirit of patriotism

7. World history to allow an understanding of how America compares with other nations (past and present) and interacts with them

8. Foreign languages

Let me be explicit: the purpose of teaching civics and history is to teach patriotism, i.e. that America is a great and good nation despite our national flaws and sins.

These are subjects that I think are important for American children to be taught. They represent a value judgement on my part, indoctrination if you will. Some people would find my choices reasonable, others ridiculous. Deciding who gets to decide is what democracy is about.

Now, you'll doubtless ask why it's OK for docjim505 to "indoctrinate" American school children but bad for Hugo to indoctrinate Venezuelan children. The answer is simple: I make another value judgement that teaching American values of democracy, liberty, and fair play are "good" while Hugo teaching socialist / communist values is "bad" (please note that I would expect Venezuelan schools to teach Venezuelan government, history and literature). In the same manner, I would not be happy to know that a nazi was establishing school curricula. There is no way to objectively determine whether Hugo, the nazi or I are "right"; possibly we are all wrong.

But I'm pretty sure I'm a damned sight more "right" than Chavez or a nazi.

Posted by dave | September 18, 2007 11:58 AM

Your first post:
Sorry, reading too fast. I did not recognize that the threat was towards private schools. In that case, I do not agree with the threat made by Chavez. So far it is a threat. If it becomes reality, I will oppose it. I doubt that it will. Chavez loves to spout off, but his actions have always been rational.

“By the way, where did your numbers come from?”
GDP per capita from the Venezuelan National Bank. You may say they are lying. GDP numbers are reported everywhere, however. If you like I can get identical numbers from Bloomberg:

Consumption per capita and real income for the lowest class from AC Nielsen, an American firm:

“…oil accounts for 90% of the GDP,…”
According to the Venezuelan National Bank oil accounts for 16% of the GDP:

Yu may say they are lying. But if you look at the 1997 numbers, before the lying Commies were in power, oil accounted for 20% of the GDP. So where do you get your 90% number from? I don’t expect an answer to that one.

Second post:
You list subjects that you think an education should focus on. In a general sense, I agree (I would add “the arts” in general, and not just literature. Also, I would add more of a focus of understanding other cultures, religions, systems of government, etc). One thing I would think we disagree on is the US bias implicit in the way all of these subjects are taught. I would say the bias is much more than you would. I also think that Chavez would agree with you more than I, with the idea of shifting the inherent bias to a socialist one than a capitalist one. Maybe he would say this is justified since the vast majority of the citizens have democratically chosen a socialist path. I would disagree with both of you in that sense. I understand that bias is inevitable, but I think that the goal should always be to teach as impartially as possible, and to give all viewoints as fairly as possible.

“…possibly we are all wrong…”

I both the US and Venezuela are wrong. I think that Chavez is less wrong than we are, however.

“There is no way to objectively determine whether Hugo, the nazi or I are ‘right’”

I know of a way. Presently, this is how it works. The US and Israel are always right. If you don’t think so and want to try something else, the US will do anything and everything in its power to destroy that system. Embargo’s, CIA sponsored coups, military action, etc. What if we allowed other systems to compete with us in a fair manner? Aren’t we all about competition? If we are so confident in our system, then lets show everyone it is the best on a level playing field. Why can’t the US do this?

Posted by Clyde | September 18, 2007 12:25 PM

I suppose it could be worse: Chavez could be the new Mugabe instead of the new Castro. That's the difference between the oppression and impoverishment of Cuba, and the total chaos and impending collapse in Zimbabwe.

Chavez's main problem is that Venezuela isn't an island. While Cuba is 90 miles away from Florida by raft, Venezuela has long land borders. If it gets bad enough, the people can up and leave.

Posted by Gringo | September 18, 2007 12:35 PM

Anyone who cannot see the progression of El Chávez’s salami tactics this year is the product of an educational system that has not taught its citizens to think. For now, let us compare El Chávez’s performances with past Venezuelan governments and with Latin America during the government of El Chávez’s.

Consider housing. According the the Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce,from 1990-1998, an average of 69,528 housing units were constructed annually in Venezuela. From 1999-2005, an average of 20,818 housing units were constructed in Venezuela. From 2001 to 2006 the housing deficit increased from 1.22 million units to 1.68 million units. (From El déficit y la producción formal de viviendas.) (05- 2006) )

El Chávez and his minions claim that he has accomplished great gains in health and education. Infant mortality is usually considered the benchmark statistic for a country’s health system.

In 2000, Venezuela’s infant mortality rate was 20.7/ 1000 live births; for Latin America, 30/1,000 live births. For 2005, the figures were 18.1 for Venezuela and 26 for Latin America. This gives a reduction in infant mortality rate from 2000-2005 of 12.6% for Venezuela and 13.3% for Venezuela. By this figure, the improvement of Venezuela’s health system was average to slightly below average compared to Latin America. ( World Bank figures) US Census Bureau shows improvement in Venezuela IM to be also less than LAC improvement.

The INE says that the 2000-2005 reduction in Venezuela’s infant mortality rate was 13.3% . Again, average for Latin America, and most of Latin America did it without the vast increase in oil prices that benefited social programs in Venezuela. Three different sources say the same thing: Venzuela’s improvement in infant mortality was at best average compared to the rest of Latin America, belying the claims of superior performance for Venezuela under the guiding hand of El Chávez.

Consider the claims that of El Chávez has eliminated illiteracy.
In 2006, youth literacy (ages 15-24) for Latin American and the Caribbean was 96.0%; for Venezuela, 97.2%. The 2006 figures for adult literacy are 89.7% for Latin America and the Caribbean compared with 93% for Venezuela. From 1990-2006, Latin America and the Caribbean increased its youth literacy rate by 3.3%; Venezuela by 1.2%. ( World Bank World Development Indicators, online

Posted by docjim505 | September 18, 2007 12:41 PM

How did Israel get involved in this??? Oh, wait: you hate 'em, so they're ALWAYS involved in the conversation.

I will agree that the US throws its weight around. I will even stipulate that we have done so in an unfair and outright bullying manner on occasion. But to say that we "always" do it is unfair to us. For example, Turkey didn't do our nefarious bidding prior to the Iraq war. We have not invaded them, bombed them, embargoed them, or done anything other than "tut tut!" and try to make the best we can of the situation. France stabbed us in the back before the war; I haven't heard of US bombs falling on Paris. Despite ominous warnings from libs that we're getting ready to go to war with Chavez because he's a commie prick, I haven't heard of anybody in government discussing even sending him a sharply-worded note. So please give the "evil US and Israel" meme a rest, will you?

But back to the topic at hand:

Yeah, "arts" is probably a better and more inclusive term than "English literature" as exposure to classic painting, sculpture, architecture, etc. will make for a more well-rounded student.

As for giving "all viewpoints as fairly as possible", there are a couple of flaws:

1. That's a LOT of viewpoints to cover. Older students can presumably handle that much more data, but I'd prefer a heavy concentration on the American system / American history for American students, especially for younger students;

2. More importantly, I think that some subjects cannot and should not be taught in a value-neutral manner. For example (and my class had this discussion during a graduate-level course on modern European history), shouldn't the history of Nazi Germany be taught with emphasis on how evil it was? O' course, if one brought in a nazi teacher, I'm sure he'd have nothing but good things to say about Schickelgruber, Fatso, and all the wonderful things they did, but I think that any normal person would find the Third Reich an appalling example of human wickedness.

Math and (to a large extent) science can be taught in a neutral manner as they rest on objective evidence; 2 + 2 = 4 for conservatives, liberals, nazis, commies, anarchists, etc, etc. But how to deal with "hot button" issues in science (calling John Scopes!)? With political issues in a civics or history class? Questions of race or creed or even sexual orientation? How to account for the natural biases of the teachers? These are tough questions to which I don't think there will ever be a definitive answer other than, "We do the best we can."

Posted by dave | September 18, 2007 1:44 PM

Here are the housing numbers you give:

1990-1998: 69,528
1999-2005: 20,818

Here are the housing numbers published in El Universal:

1990-1998: 38,204
1999-2005: 23,388

It would help if you could show where your numbers came from. In addition, the numbers as shown above are deceiving, as can be seen by the graph. The numbers from 1999-2005 include many years were very little housing was built due to the economic crisis brought on by the US sponsored coup attempt. Now that the effects of this are over, the numbers show a different story. You did not mention 2006, when 77,700 housing units were built, more than any other year, even pre-Chavez. Also, more than 80,000 are planned in 2007. I think it is clear from the chart what is happening.

You say that the infant mortality rates (it’s funny how Commies are always criticized for bringing up infant mortality and literacy, but since the Chavez economy is doing so unbelievably well, in that case the critics bring up: infant mortality and literacy!!) in Venezuela have decreased slightly less than the rest of Latin America. Your link does not work, but I will assume your numbers are correct. When you express the reductions as a percentage, this is misleading, and I think you know it. Venezuela’s infant mortality in 1999 was much lower than the rest of Latin America. It is much harder to reduce your numbers when they start out at a lower place. For example, the infant mortality rate in the US in 1998 was 7.2, and in 2003 it was 6.9 (different years, but the same time span as above, see This means that the US only decreased its infant mortality by 4.2 %, when Latin America’s reduction was 13.3% !?! Oh my God!

You percentages are misleading.

I don’t know where your illiteracy data comes from. UNESCO has certified Venezuela as illiteracy free:

“UNESCO special envoy Maria Luisa Jauregui said ‘we visited the classrooms and centers used in the literacy campaign in Venezuela, and it is only fair to recognize the political will and efforts made to teach one and a half million people to read and write.’ UNESCO supports Venezuela's literacy goal, she said, adding that ‘Venezuela is the first and only country to meet the commitments adopted by the region's governments in 2002 in Havana to drastically reduce illiteracy.’"

IPS-Inter Press Service
October 28, 2005, Friday
BYLINE: By Humberto Marquez
LENGTH: 854 words

Posted by MarkJ | September 18, 2007 2:30 PM

Dear dave,

Given that you believe Venezuela is rapidly morphing into a Bolivarian social utopia, why aren't you typing your posts from Caracas?

Posted by dave | September 18, 2007 2:42 PM

"I haven't heard of anybody in government discussing even sending him a sharply-worded note"

I guess you haven't heard about the US role in the coup attempt and the attempted destabilization of the country through the oil lockout.

Now that I read about this a little more, it seems as though the Constitution in Venezuela allows for private schools, but they must abide by a national curriculum. If this is so, I change my mind. Private schools should not be allowed to violate the constitution. I have a copy of it at home. I'll have to see what it says...

Posted by boqueronman | September 18, 2007 3:17 PM

According to 2003 published Central Bank figures the literacy rate in Venezuela was 84.73% in 1980, 90.90% in 1990, and 90.90% in 2000; the percentage of school age population attending school was 58.23% in 1980, 62.31% in 1990, and 64.12% in 2000. To go from those levels to "UNESCO... certified Venezuela as illiteracy free" in 6 years is... amazing. Unfortunately, my kids have already graduated from our inferior U.S. schools. If not, I'd be packing them up and moving down to get some of that miracle potion known as "21st Century Socialism." Hallelujah, brother!

Posted by dave | September 18, 2007 3:18 PM

The number you give for the average number of houses built per year from 1990-1998 is greater than the year with the maximum number of houses built in that period according to El Universal. How is that?

Also, this is what public housing used to look like from pre-Chavez days:

Similar to US housing projects; namely, crap.

Here is what the Chavez government builds:

Quite a difference.

Posted by dave | September 18, 2007 3:23 PM

About that picture of government housing before Chavez. If you look closely, those buildings are just shells. After putting up the shells, they realized that they were made so poorly that they would not be able to hold up the walls. So now they stand there as is, unused. I wonder if these units were included in the pre-Chavez government figures?

Posted by docjim505 | September 18, 2007 4:07 PM

Um, dave, I'm not unclesmrgol.

Posted by Gringo | September 18, 2007 5:45 PM

@ Dave:
Regarding the housing statistics.
Go to . (Venezuela Chamber of Construction) Click on sectoriales, then documentos, then El déficit y la producción formal de viviendas. (05- 2006) . These are figures for construction of housing units, PUBLIC PLUS PRIVATE. Yours were only for PUBLIC. The CVC presentation’s public sector construction of 8766 units for 2004 statistic is the same as your graph. I have not yet found independent documentation for your graph from government sources- which may reflect more on my searching abilities. These figures from the CVC can be corroborated from this El Universal article which states that “Chavez’s government had the worst year for housing units constructed, with 8,111 in 2003, compared with 91,979 when Carlos Andrés Pérez was President in 1992.” ( my translation. ) BTW, 1992 was the year in which El Chávez, the lover of Democracy, had a bloody coup attempt against CAP. Guess El Chávez didn’t like all that housing construction going on.

The stats cited in the El Universal article correlate well with the CVC stats.

Regarding infant mortality and the like, the point is as follows. According to El Chávez and his minions, Venezuela’s situation was horrible before he assumed power, and that he has improved things tremendously. The facts contradict both those points.You correctly pointed out that before El Chávez took power, that Venezuela already had an infant mortality rate better than average for Latin America. Contrary to what El Chávez and his minions claim, by education and public health standards, El Chávez inherited a country in fairly good condition. Thanks for proving my point
BTW when compared with Spanish speaking countries in LA that had better IM than Venezuela, Venezuela’s improvement was comparable to theirs. Precisely my point.

(World Bank Development Stats online- I have access to an online DB via a public library).

Muy pocos de los Pendejos Sin Frontera han pisado tierra Venezolana. El Chávez es un milico más, con $70/ barril. Lo que los PSF quieren para Venezuela nunca aguantarían para sus propios países.
And you, David?

Posted by eaglewings | September 18, 2007 6:15 PM

Sorry but the supposed 'coup' lasted three days. Tell me it takes six years for a dream socialist utopia to get over a three day affair. That says more about the incompetence of this tin pot dictator than anything else. As for the oil strike that was about a month before Chavez strong armed into the oil fields and put his own people into place. They are now running the companies into the ground. Oh, why isn't there development? Well maybe the oil companies don't like the threat of having their wealth taken from them for zero cents on the dollar? Just like the socialists here would cry foul if the US gov't took over their homes and businesses but didn't give them a cent for it.
Chavez is following the path blazed by Mugabe and Stalin and Pol Pot and Ceaucescu and Castro, and Khomeini, every other illiterate ignoramus commie to ever darken the door of civiization and if his people let him, he will turn Venezuela from an oil exporting reasonably prosperous state, into an oil importing, economically comatose satrap.

Posted by Don Miguel | September 18, 2007 7:25 PM

"So what do the Venezuelans think about all this? Unfortunately, from my long-range view, they appear to be, by and large, pretty happy with it. As long as Chavez can stir up the nationalist fervor, that seems to be all that matters to them. Latin America. Sigh."

You must be using a microscope for your "long-range view." I have family and friends there from different economic levels and they all say the same thing: IT SUCKS! Everything has been going downhill (especially in the last couple of years) economically, politically and socially. Crime in Caracas is at records never approached before while food and goods are often in short supply due to price controls. One friend lost her education job because she wasn't a Chavez supporter and was shipped off to some menial crap job in the boonies. What was once a world-class oil industry has been run into the ground and the country’s infrastructure is becoming Cubarific. I've never heard a single person not on the Chavez payroll say they were "pretty happy with it" -- quite the contrary.

Posted by Joel V. | September 18, 2007 8:34 PM


Have you been to Venezuela? Especially lately? My sister and brother-in-law (avid far left socialists currently working for NGO's in Tibet) recently went to a friend's wedding in Venezuela. They had both been there in the early 90's, and were excited to go again as it was now Chavez's Venezuela. I jokingly told them to "kick a socialist and steal some oil for me" as they got on the plane. On returning, I asked what they thought. They were very uncomfortable, and admitted they were very discouraged by what they saw. The infrastructure sucked, service was terrible and the people didn't seem to give a crap. They said they wouldn't care to go back any time soon. Also, locals at the wedding in REAL conversations aided by a bit of alcohol weren't happy at all with the state of their country or with their "democratically" elected leader. However, it is still one of my brother-in-laws goals to visit Cuba before Castro dies LOL.

So...have you been? Maybe you have, and had a completely different experience. If not, maybe you should book your tickets so you can either strenghten or abandon your views on said subject.

Posted by dave | September 18, 2007 8:54 PM

Oh, your sister didn't like it there? That settles it. I take back everything I ever said about Venezuela. Kill Chavez! Let's invade!

Posted by dave | September 18, 2007 9:16 PM

Here's the relevant part of the constitution:

"Article 107: Environmental education is obligatory in the various levels and modes of the education system, as well as in informal civil education. Spanish, Venezuelan geography and history and the principles of the Bolivarian thought shall be compulsory courses at public and private institutions up to the diversified cycle level."

I certainly have changed my mind. Private schools also have to follow the constitution. If Chavez ignored the constitution, he would be no better than Bush.

The constitution enshrines education as a human right. That certainly does not fit with American values:

"Article 102: Education is a human right and a fundamental social duty; it is democratic, free of charge and obligatory. The State assumes responsibility for it as an irrevocable function of the greatest interest, at all levels and in all modes, as an instrument of scientific, humanistic and technical knowledge at the service of society. Education, is a public service, and is grounded on the respect for all currents of thought, to the end of developing the creative potential of every human being and the full exercise of his or her personality in a democratic society based on the work ethic value and on active, conscious and joint participation in the processes of social transformation embodied in the values which are part of the national identity, and with a Latin American and universal vision. The State, with the participation of families and society, promotes the process of civic education in accordance with the principles contained in this Constitution and in the laws."

Posted by Gringo | September 18, 2007 9:50 PM

@ Dave

Housing stats (when you see the CVC website, you will see it is hard for linking)

CVC Inventario de vivienda
Google this and from the first two hits you will get the housing units construction stats that I got from the Venezuelan Chamber of Construction ( the presentation I got them from were for 1990-2005). (NOT Chamber of Commerce. My mistake) These are for PUBLIC PLUS PRIVATE construction. Yours are for only PUBLIC construction. Apples and oranges.

Google el Universal esperando techo for similar housing construction stats. However, these are in Spanish. (The CVC presentation does not show many separate government-only construction stats, as opposed to a line graph, but there is exact agreement for 2004 with the graph you cited from El Universal.)

A previous posting has been held up for being well-linked, so I will repeat myself with this observation. El Chávez, that lover of democracy, had his bloody coup attempt in 1992. As 1992 had the highest number of housing units constructed, in excess of 90,000 (The first two hits disagree w the El Universal figures slightly for 1992), one might conclude that coups don’t affect housing construction and maybe a motive behind El Chávez’s coup was that he didn’t like the construction of so many housing units. ( just joking)

I stand by the figures.
You percentages are misleading. ( infant mortality)
Not at all. The Chavista theme, parroted enthusiastically by the PSFs, is that Venezuela was badly off with regard to health and education before El Chávez took over, and that Venezuela has made great progress under El Chávez. As you have pointed out, the truth of the matter is that Venezuela already had infant mortality rates that were better than average for Latin America. BTW, the World Bank Development figures show that the Spanish speaking countries in Latin America that had a better Infant Mortality rates than Venezuela, in 2000(Argentina ,Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Cuba, Panama ,Uruguay), reduced their infant mortality rates from 2000-2005 by 13.9% (World Bank) compared with Venezuelan figures of 12.6% (World Bank) to 13.3% (INE). I am misleading? Only to a Chavista PSF!

Repeat after me: 1) Venezuela had fairly good health and education statistics before the advent of El Chávez, and 2) Venezuela’s performance in these areas since the advent of El Chávez, is comparable to other countries in Latin America. IOW, when it comes to health and education, contrary to his claims and those of his minions, El Chávez is NOT the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I don’t know where your illiteracy data comes from. UNESCO has certified Venezuela as illiteracy free: …….October 28, 2005, Friday

HAS IT? El Chávez and his minions so declared, but I have not found where UNESCO has so declared. Repeat a lie often enough, and it gets believed.

( I got the data from World Bank Development Development Data, DB accessible from my public library. UNESCO has similar data.)

Sue Williams is the Chief of UNESCO Press Relations Section. She sent a letter to El Universal in July. " ‘ Regarding illiteracy indices, I can confirm Unesco neither has declared nor will declare any of its member states free from illiteracy. However, it does acknowledge the progress made.’

Further, Williams added that in 2005 the number of illiterate people in Venezuela was 1,166,409.”

Repeat a lie often enough, and it gets believed.

@David, boqueronman
Son muy pocos los Pendejos sin Frontera quienes han pasado por tierra Venezolana. Don Miguel y Joel yo conocemos Venezuela y Venezolanos. Y ustedes? The fact that many of those commenting against El Chávez have direct experience with Venezuela: might that mean something? OTOH, true believers cannot be dissuaded.

Posted by Norm | September 18, 2007 9:58 PM

I wonder what Sean Penn thinks of all this??????

Posted by Joel V. | September 18, 2007 11:15 PM


My sister and brother-in-law had great memories of Venezuela...pre-Chavez. They are far left libs and thought they loved Chavez too...until they went and saw the changes with their own eyes. I don't agree with any of their politics, but I trust what they relayed. My brother-in-law grew up in the States, Venezuela and other South American countries, and China. They're well traveled and well educated. Five years ago they were living in Albania. Four years ago in China. And the last two in Tibet.

I ask again...have you been to Venezuela? If so, before or after Chavez or both? I find it curious you didn't answer the question and retorted like an emotional 12 year old girl.

Posted by docjim505 | September 19, 2007 5:55 AM

Sounds like Venezuela has a good plan for education in principle.

I happen not to think that education is a "right". It is certainly useful (!) both to the individual and the society, but it is no more a "right" than the right to own a dog.

O' course, I'm sure we could have a spirited discussion about the change in the meaning of the concept of "rights" in America, from something given by God (cf. Declaration of Independence) to something guaranteed and paid for by the state.

Posted by dave | September 19, 2007 7:48 AM

The data from the CVC website still doesn’t match the public housing figures I found. In a couple years El Universal has more public housing built than the CVC total for public and private housing combined, which is not possible. I think my graph shows that Chavez is doing very well with the construction of public housing, considering the effects of the oil lockout (yes, I mistakenly mentioned the coup attempt instead of lockout, you should have been able to figure out my point), and also considering the quality of the public housing being built, as in the pics I showed. So if your point is that less private housing is being built, I don’t really care. There are many factors that might be the cause of this, and it may not be due to the evil Chavez. If you are saying it is because of a bad economy, I think I can argue that.

Infant mortality:
If you do not understand my point, then I cannot help you. If the only thing that matters is percentage decrease, then you are saying that Venezuela is a better place live in than the US, since Venezuela decreased their infant mortality rate by 13.3% in the same amount of time that the US only decreased their rate by 4%. I guess Venezuela wins that comparison.
When I see statements like this, what should I think. Are they lying?:

"An Associated Press-Ipsos poll conducted this month found about 74 percent approve of Chavez's handling of health care, based on interviews with 2,500 registered voters nationwide."
The Associated Press
November 24, 2006 Friday 7:18 PM GMT
Cuban doctors and new clinics are no cure-all for Venezuelan health care

I will accept that Venezuela is not literacy free, but from UNESCO’s comments, they are doing better than the rest of Latin America. It is significant when you are the leader in fixing a problem, especially if you were already in a good position to start with, but I know you cannot understand that concept.

“The fact that many of those commenting against El Chávez have direct experience with Venezuela: might that mean something?”

No, it means nothing. The preferences of a few people means nothing. It’s totals that matter. You can find 8.1 million people in Venezuela that disapprove of Chavez. It does not matter, because I can find 18.9 million people that approve of him. The ratio between those two numbers determines what matters in a democracy. But I am very impressed that you know Spanish.

So do you think that Chavez should follow the constitution and require that private schools teach the elements that are stipulated in the constitution? If he ignored the constitution, wouldn’t he be a dictator? Do you think that the MSM could have mentioned that Chavez’ “threats” were actually statements that private schools should follow constitutional law? Does that have a different ring to it?

"I ask again...have you been to Venezuela?"
A while ago, but it means nothing, because I knew none of the language back then, didn't talk to anyone about politics, and even so, it would not matter because of what I said above. So I have no real direct experience in Venezuela. Does it matter? No. Have you been to Iran or Syria? If not, do you still have an opinion about it? How so? I have Iranian coworkers that may tell you things about Iran that might be different that what you think about Iran now. If I tell you those things, will you change your mind? I think not.

Posted by dave | September 19, 2007 8:48 AM

"the change in the meaning of the concept of "rights" in America, from something given by God (cf. Declaration of Independence) to something guaranteed and paid for by the state."

The "rights" mentioned in the Bill of Rights came soon after the Declaration of Independence. Do you believe the "rights" listed there are really "rights"? Do you think the right to an education is not a "right", but all of the rights listed in the Bill of Rights are?

Posted by dave | September 19, 2007 10:06 AM

The kid who got tasered yesterday lives in Weston, which is also called Westonzuela, because so many people from Venezuela live there who are "escaping from chavez's political regime":

So they come to the US and get tasered. Funny. I can picture the headlines if it happened in Venezuela.

Posted by Gringo | September 19, 2007 11:20 AM

@ Dave the PSF of Captain’s Quarters

yes, I mistakenly mentioned the coup attempt instead of lockout, you should have been able to figure out my point
No, I am not a mind reader. If you are going to write, get your facts before you write. Stream of consciousness is not an appropriate technique for presenting coherent arguments on political matters.

I will accept that Venezuela is not literacy free… etc. etc.
Belying your previous claim. If you are going to write, get your facts before you write. Also note in the article you cited, UNESCO never stated that Venezuela was illiteracy free, contrary to your claim. Chavistas did so, not UNESCO.
You then change the goalposts.

I do not understand why you bring up the US in the discussion of Infant Mortality. I compared Venezuela to its peers. That would be Latin America, overall and also to high performing Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America. I did not bring up the US. You did. With regard to public health, Venezuela should be compared to its peers in Latin America. The US should be compared to other developed countries. Apples to apples, oranges to oranges. As I have previously pointed out, Infant Mortality is a commonly accepted benchmark in discussing performance of public health. Thus I brought it up.


Getting stats on Venezuela is not an easy matter. Also note that government sites are a maze.
You cite only one graph, taken from an El Universal article (author Mayela Armas H., Jan15 ’07), which you got from the comments section of a website. I have found several sources that corroborate the housing stats in the CVC presentation. ( see my Google). ( CVC presentation: , sectoriales, documentos, El déficit y la producción formal de viviendas. (05- 2006)) . Also note that the CVC presentation cites government sources.

The El Universal article “Esperando Techo” ( Oct 1,’06) cites annual housing construction stats that agree exactly with the CVC stats for 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2003. That says to me that El Universal, a trusted newspaper, agrees with CVC stats.

The CVC presentation does not have exact government housing construction stats except for 2004 and 2005. For 2004, its figure of 8766 agrees exactly with the El Universal figures you cite. For 2005, the CVC presentation has government housing construction stats that do disagree with your source: 21,443 versus 41,564 in El Universal. CVC is for units finished during 2005. At the same time, the CVC presentation also has a slide which says for 2005, that 32,193( public plus private) housing units were finished during 2005, and that 89,241 units were in process of construction at the end of 2005. From another CVC, presentation, one finds that of the 89,241 units in construction at the end of 2005, 60,370 were public. These CVC figures were done in the first half of 2006. Complete 2005 figures had not rolled in yet, probably. All this says that the discrepancy between the CVC and El Universal stat for 2005 government housing units completed has to do with incomplete stats et al, NOT with the integrity of CVC stats.

The point I made, that comparing construction of housing units, public plus private, before El Chávez assumed command and since El Chávez assumed command, one finds that construction is greatly reduced, is a valid one. PERIOD.

I think my graph shows that Chavez is doing very well with the construction of public housing, considering the effects of the oil lockout..

From the El Universal article which has the graph you cite: “A pesar de la mayor cantidad de fondos, las metas no se han cumplido.” In spite of greater funds ( oil from ~$10 to ~ $60), the plans (housing) have not been achieved. ( my translation)

From the El Universal article which has the graph you cite: “En el período 1999-2002, el Gobierno anunció planes de viviendas que implicaban la construcción de 60.000 soluciones anuales, sin embargo, las metas tuvieron un cumplimiento de 40%.” For 1999-2002, the government announced plans for building 60,000 units annually, but only 40% of its goals/plans were fulfilled. ( oil lockout began December 2002)

From the same artricle: “Luego en 2005…se anunció una meta de construcción de 120.000 unidades (viviendas del Gobierno central y entes descentralizados), al final solamente se terminaron 34%.” In 2005 a plan of construction of 120,000 housing units was announced (units from the central government and smaller government entities), but at the end only 34% of the plan was reached.( Refer to the 41,564 in the graph.)

So if your point is that less private housing is being built, I don’t really care.

Posted by dave | September 19, 2007 11:42 AM

Less houses are built per year after Chavez than before. That's wonderful. So why is Chavez preventing people from building new houses? Does he have his goons come and tear them down?

"If you are going to write, get your facts before you write."

So here is one of your facts:
"This gives a reduction in infant mortality rate from 2000-2005 of 12.6% for Venezuela and 13.3% for Venezuela."
How can Venezuela have a reduction in infant mortality rates of both 12.6% and 13.3% at the same time? What kind of a fact is that?
When reading this, I was able to quickly understand what you wanted to say by using my brain. I understand that things like this happen because we are writing on a blog, and not a manuscript ready for publication. You do not have the ability to do this. If I had known, I would have been more careful.

Also, do you have any opinion on the subject of the thread? You have not said a word about it. Do you think Chavez should require that private schools follow constitutional law?
The only course that is required to be taught by the Venezuelan Constitution that could be construed as "indoctrination" is "Principles of the Bolivarian thought". This is one course out of an entire elementary program. Unless they're using mind altering drugs, I don't think this one course can brainwash the kids, especially since the course would be taught mostly by opposition members in the wealthy schools, and I am sure they can tweak the required course as they see fit. So why won't the private schools simply teach the one stupid course? Propaganda, of course. Look at all the headlines! Chavez is brainwashing students!

In the US, states regulate private schools, and often require certain courses as well. For instance, in PA private schools are reuired to teach:

"... civics, including loyalty to the State and National Government..."

The US teaches children to be "loyal to the State and National Government", but that is not brainwashing. "Principles of the Bolivarian thought", however, is. Hilarious.

Posted by dave | September 19, 2007 12:42 PM

I looked at your "Esperando Techo" article. The article goes on and on about Chavez' failure to fulfill his promise to make housing a priority. Like yourself, it cites numbers for both private and public housing.
I understand that the Chavez government is in control of how much public housing is built, because he is the head of the government, and the government is in control of building public housing. For the life of me, I cannot understand how Chavez is responsible for private home construction! Can you explain this to me?
When you look at public home construction, which is the chart I showed initially, I think Chavez is doing well. Unless you can show me that Chavez goons are running around tearing down private housing, you are an idiot.

The only thing you have shown me is that private home construction is down under Chavez, which is not something under his direct control, and is certainly not earth-shattering. If this is the worst result of the Chavez leadership, I think he is doing well.

Posted by Joel V. | September 19, 2007 3:11 PM


I merely thought it would be interesting to see if your beliefs sprung from personal experience in the country and of the political leader you so vigorously defend here, or not. I thought it might mean more to you knowing the personal experiences came from two individuals who felt very much as you seem to now about Chavez and Venezuela. Your suggestion that personal experience "means nothing" is simply...simple. Of course it means something, a lot more something than the data you cling to. Data is for basement dwellers.

I firmly believe in experience. I recently went to Malawi, Africa for the month of June. On my own dime, mind you...not with some NGO government or "charity" dollars. Spent 2 weeks in the slums outside Lilongwe, and 2 weeks at a rural orphanage. Talked to everyone I could get an honest opinion from. Saw lots of shiny U.N. vehicles in gated complexes, doing nothing. Saw lots of beat up range rovers and vans owned by Christian and Muslim groups doing actual "dirty work". Came home and have been working to network Engineers Without Borders with some of the people and needs I witnessed. Working on a charitable event to raise money to construct a Center for Children with Disabilities, as I saw this was a need. My opinions about Malawi changed nearly 180 degrees after the experience of don't tell me "it doesn't mean anything".

I think I'm going to quit wasting my time with you, as you appear to be at the intellectual level of the typical college kid who takes a few political science courses and by junior year is pretty sure they know it all, or maybe an adult who just never grew out of it.

Posted by Gringo | September 19, 2007 4:44 PM

@Joel V.
I am in agreement with you. Read the previous postings between Dave and myself. Anyone who is unable to realize that a government sets economic policies, such as interest rates, income taxes, property taxes; and that in addition these policies in effect set the inflation rate, and when that same government has also nationalized various enterprises, that JUST POSSIBLY a government might have an influence on private sector construction activity, is beyond explaining to. Not to mention that many government actions over the last nine years tended to asphyxiate the private sector- such as price controls in the face of massive inflation.

When Dave gives a puerile response like this:
Less houses are built per year after Chavez than before. That's wonderful. So why is Chavez preventing people from building new houses? Does he have his goons come and tear them down?
There is no point in responding to such a childish statement.
If the Pendejos sin Fronteras went to Venezuela, instead of praising Hugo from afar, I wager that many of them would change their tunes- if they actually talked to the people instead of taking a political pilgrimage such as the Sandalistas did 20 years ago. The view of Latin America that I cultivated in the "progressive" university environment did not survive my living and working in Latin America.
Nor did my former "progressive" view of Latin America survive extensive library research. The PSF view of Latin America in general does not survive extensive research.

Posted by dave | September 19, 2007 6:09 PM

I thought you would be unable to answer my questions relating to the subject of this thread. You seem to be stuck on construction being THE measure of the effectiveness of a government. OK, well lets look at construction overall, and not just whatever slice of it that you can find where the Chavez government is not doing well. Here are figures from the Central Bank, the first one has numbers from 1993 to 1999, and the second has numbers from 1999 to 2007:

Let's consider the pre to post Chavez turnover to be the first quarter of 1999. Let's look at the construction numbers from the 1st quarter of 1999 and compare them to the first quarter of 2007. We see the following cumulative growth in construction: 45.9%

Now lets look at the pre-Chavez years. When we compare the first quarter of 1993 to the first quarter of 1999 (I realize that this is only a 6 year time span compared to an 8 year time span for the Chavez years, but the data only goes back to 1993. It is reasonably close), we see the the pre-Chavez years had a cumulative *decline* in construction of: 31.4%

In the pre-Chavez years, construction declined 31%, and in the Chavez years, it has grown 46%. How do you interpret that? I guess it's not overall construction that matters, but only the number of private homes that are built that reflects a governments economic policies, right?

You are an idiot.

I added that for a reason. Now, in your response, you can ignore all the construction data I brought up, quote the part where I said "you are an idiot", call it "puerile", call me a pendejo, and claim victory. Have fun.

Posted by Joel V. | September 19, 2007 6:39 PM

Dave & Gringo,

I've enjoyed reading the posts between the two of you. I don't have a lot to add, as it is clear that both of you are much more knowledgable and invested in this particular topic. My main point...that experience matters a whole lot more than government or biased agency data, still stands.

The one thing I would add is that focusing on education statistics or housing data or infant mortality rates for recent time periods misses the long view completely.

The gist of it all is this: When dictators (benevolent as they claim to be) take power, the long term future of the country will be bleak. Chavez can be as well intentioned as he wants (I don't think he is). Chavez can shift assets from the private sector to his government...which for the short term increases the assets he is able to spend on things like housing, education, health care, infrastructure, (himself), etc. But in the long term, the assets dry up. This has been proven over and over again throughout history. Government controlled assets do not perform at the levels of productivity and innovation as do free market assets. Government and business in a democracy act as a check and balance on each other. Some may say business currently has too much influence on government here in the U.S., and they may have a point. But I am certain that when business gets wholely absorbed by the government of a dictator, there is no check or balance and eventually self-interest by the politicians leads to corruption and the assets of the country disappear. Then, the check and balance of violence...a coup attempt for example, rears its head. Chavez is clearly putting Venezuela on a path to Hell, even if in his mind that path is paved with good intentions.

Oh, and "Pendejos sin Fronteras"...that's classic. I'll have to remember that one. :-)

Posted by dave | September 19, 2007 7:53 PM

"When dictators...take power"

How many electtions does he have to win before you stop calling him a dictator? Even if you don't agre with him or trust him, do you believe that Chavez should be in power if the majority of Venezuelans want him to be?

"Government controlled assets do not perform at the levels of productivity and innovation as do free market assets."
What about corporations? Walmart's economy is bigger than 161 nations. Would you consider the structure of corporations such as Walmart to be a free market, or a top down dictatorship? I think it is a dictatorship. Does it "work"? Sure it does. I am not saying I am in favor of dictatorship, but I think it is incorrect to say government controlled, or top down stuctures cannot compete, That's what corporations are. Walmart is pretty much run by the guys in the boardroom. IMO, the opposite is desirable. A "parecon", if you know Michael Albert. I believe Chavez is taking steps in that direction with the formation of community councils. In order to get from one system to another, the interim needs strong leadership, however.

"good intentions"
Do you have an opinion on what world leader has "good intentions"?

I do value personal opinions, but only from people I know well and trust. Some guy on a blog doesn't qualify. I know someone well who has lived in Cuba for several years, and everything he says is the polar opposite of what the Captain would say. Same with Iran. I don't know anyone similar who has experience in Venezuela. Sure, I would like to get the opinion of someone I know. But your stories of your sister mean about as much to me as my stories would mean to you, which is why I refrain from person anectdotes and stick to verifiable facts. I think those are also useful.

Posted by Gringo | September 21, 2007 8:01 AM

PSF is a term that Venezuelans created.

The move on education is just one more salami tactic this year, which began w the enabling law ( just like Adolf).

Private vs. public. Some government run entities can be well-run. PDVSA WAS well-run.Gvt-run phone companies? When I was working in Argentina, a landline from the gvt. owned phone company cost ~$2000 in current 2007 $,with a wait of a year. Similar horror stores for Ven, which privitized in 1990s and then Hugo renationalized this year . Good for internet spying, to control the telecom co.

Google daniel venezuela for a good discussion on the proposed changes in the consitution.

Similarly, Caracas Chronicles has a good essay on the Petrostate, which shows that the government handing out oil funds did not begin with Hugo.

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