The big black hole "al norte del Sur"

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Find the missing piece
Find the missing piece

One of the things I’ve been doing this summer vacation is catching up on my academic reading. In doing so, I came across a paper by Santiago Levy and Norbert Schady, both at the Inter-american Development Bank, titled “Latin America’s Social Policy Challenge: Education, Social Insurance, Redistribution.”

Cool, I thought, let’s see what they have to say about Venezuela. As it turns out, very little!

In this paper, and in several others I have seen, Venezuela is simply not even mentioned. Aside from a few mentions of things we all know – inequality, energy subsidies – there is nothing on misiones, educational gaps, or other social policy indicators.

Now, I understand skipping Venezuela if you’re writing about, I dunno, stock markets, or about free trade agreements and what not. But social policy?

As far as I know, Venezuela has a lot of people, and it has a lot of social policy. Most of it is bunk, but it has it, or at least it claims it does. How can anyone analyzing “Latin America’s Social Policy Challenge” simply gloss over the Venezuelan experience?

This is particularly galling when one considers that Venezuela may be an outlier, but one that is not comfortable in that position. Our country has made the spread of its “model” one of the main goals of its foreign policy. The IDB can’t simply pretend chavismo doesn’t exist.

If chavismo has done things well, then say it. If they are screwing up, then say it as well. Don’t hide behind the fact that the statistical data available may not be to your liking – if you’re including Guatemala, for cryin’ out loud, you should be able to get reliable data from Venezuela.

We see this in summits, we see this in the foreign policy approach of many Latin American countries, and we see this in academic analyses: Venezuela is so screwed up, the country has so gone off the deep end, we should just pretend it doesn’t exist, much as we have done with Cuba the last fifty years.

It’s a cop-out, and it’s wrong.

1 COMMENT

  1. if you’re including Guatemala, for cryin’ out loud, you should be able to get reliable data from Venezuela.
    Reliable data from the Chavernment? Decime otro de vaqueros, chamo.
    I suspect that the silence regarding Venezuela is the realization that the data coming from the GOV is suspect. Ditto why neither Cuba nor Nicaragua are included.

  2. A country that wages war against its citizens would consider all information about public policies a state secret. I don’t think it is a decision of the authors to skip Venezuela data; it is due to the fact that the data does not exist and any reputable academic would not wing it.

    When correspondents report on Venezuela, their articles are sprinkled with “refused to comment” or “declined to be interviewed” in the space their reserve for official commentaries. No public servant dares to make comments for fear that those comments would anger the bosses.

    Given that information on public records is practically non-existing, we should seek it where it exists. The NSA has a trove of information about the shenanigans big honchos plot when they meet. Remember Aponte Aponte story about the Friday morning meetings with Jaua where they plot how to screw somebody that week? The NSA has records of those conversations. I am floating the idea of a petition to the US Congress to seek the release of those records into the public domain.

    • Carlos, something related to what you are saying occurred to me as all of this was unfolding, which is, if the NSA has all the regime’s communications tapped, which surely it does, and as a consequence, they have a pretty good idea of what is going on and what is going to go on with this regime, does that place any duty on the US government to warn? It may be ridiculous what I am thinking, and I am sure some secret but independent tribunal has considered this already, but you raise a good point about what to do about all that info just sitting there, now that it exists.

  3. Many of the international organizations are dependencies of the United Nations – And other international institutions – where information is supposed to be submitted by the participating (member) governments. If the government doesn’t submit periodic, standardized reports they are filed but not used for statistic analysis and official reports. Many other organisms and institutions use the said data and reports generated on the said data to generate further analyses. If data is presented in differing formats or using non conventional methodology for its collection IT IS NOT USED OR REPORTED.
    For example: Venezuela has no unemployment statistics, the Venezuelan Government reports an “occupancy index” that is not comparable to unemployment statistics of other countries. The said index is not based on the standard unemployment nor an extension of it. As such it cannot be used and it is not reported/used but it is archived.
    Venezuela hasn’t submitted a standard usable report to the WHO (OMS in Spanish) since 2006, neither has it presented believable information to the FAO. There is no way the numbers add up when you compare food imports/national production/national consumption/reported nutritional goals.
    Such non-standard “numbers” have been used extensively for propaganda purposes. From the literacy index, birthrate/birth/deaths, nutrition, per capita yearly milk consumption, corn/rice/sugarcane crops, inflation and many many others.
    Reading official data is a masochistic exercise on self-delusion.

  4. Hi. I have been following your chronicles regularly. Could you please email me the paper on urban poverty as mentioned in this article above. Thanks a lot.

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