Losing the love for the poor


It's not her fault
It’s not her fault

Last week’s numbers from the Encuesta de Hogares, showing a sharp rise in the number of poor people in Venezuela, is a strong indictment of the chavista economic model.

To take just a single example: 67.4% of Venezuelans qualified as “not poor” in the second semester of 2008, and 67.9% qualify in the second semester of 2013. The number has barely budged. In the last five years, there has not been any progress in poverty abatement in Venezuela – and this is according to official figures.

Sort of puts the argument that “Chávez has helped the poor” into a different light, doesn’t it?

Let’s face it – what has happened in Venezuela in the last fifteen years is that an economic model was put in place whereby extraordinary oil rents were re-distributed recklessly and unsustainably to the poor … for a while. That has now ended, and we are close to the place where we started.

Seriously – when in the course of a single year 1.8 million people went from not being poor to being poor, can you really make the case that chavismo has helped the poor? I mean, seriously chavista apologists, poverty … is a losing issue for you, so … just … shut up.

If poverty is a losing issue for chavistas, it does not automatically make it a winning issue for the opposition. I noticed this in my recent trip to Venezuela.

There is an alarming trend amongst some of my hard-core opposition friends, one that perhaps you have picked up on as well. It has to do with the attitude with regards to the poor.

A few years ago (around 2006 or so), if you asked opposition people if there was anything good about Chávez, they would say that at least he had put the issue of poverty front and center. People would reflect on the forgotten masses left behind by the old regime, and conclude that their newfound empowerment was a good thing, a lesson Chávez had taught us all.

There seemed to be a consensus that tackling poverty was the number one issue both chavistas and non- had to face. Never again, we all seemed to think, should we take poverty for granted.

Now? Well, let’s just say that goodwill towards the poor is harder to find that cooking oil.

Many people I spoke to view “the poor” as being guilty of the mess the country has become. They see the poor as having been empowered, and then turning around and giving that power to a bunch of crooks and nitwits. They go to the store to find basic items missing, and they blame the poor for leading the country toward a disaster just so they could get their hands on a social program or a government job.

The “poor” are the GNB goons hurting our kids, the colectivos terrorizing our neighborhoods. Much of the goodwill toward those less fortunate initially generated by chavismo has been replaced by the class hatred it now constantly preaches.

This is a shame. It has never been clearer – chavismo has used the poor as a political flag without really doing anything substantive to help them. The poor are hurting under Maduro pretty badly.

In light of that, are we going to be the ones to take up the flag of the poor?

For that, we need to stop blaming them for what is happening.