Every day since I landed in Colombia a month ago, I’ve felt very much at home. Even the caleño sun reminds me of Valencia. I’ve been pampered by the world’s best hospitality. I’ve been fed a staggering variety of food every-freakin’-where I go. Supermarkets are home to at least nine different kinds of potatoes, a gazillion tropical fruits; and all the chicken, beef and beans you can wish for. At affordable prices, too!
I can’t believe it: this is outright paradise, almost pure joy. The only times my conversations with Colombian brothers and sisters take a sad turn is, of course, when they realize my costeño-sounding accent hails from a bit further East.
“Oh my God, Venezuela… I’m… I’m sorry for what you’re going through.”
“That Chávez was a true jueputa, wasn’t he? He really messed you up.”
“Parce, Colombia has no shortage of problems, but I’m glad nobody like Maduro is running the show here.”
President Juan Manuel Santos agrees with his street paisanos, and just published a powerful piece detailing how the two countries’ economies have diverged:
But, like Reagan and Gorbachev, [Chávez and I] decided not to criticize each other’s preferred models – in our case, twenty-first-century socialism versus the Third Way – and, instead, to let history deliver its verdict. With this mutual understanding, we remained cordial until Chávez’s death in 2013.
Now, history has finally spoken, and the verdict is conclusive. Colombia has grown well above the Latin American average in recent years, and inflation stands at less than 4%. Moreover, Colombia has become an increasingly attractive investment destination, as it has made great strides in poverty reduction, job creation, infrastructure development, and education reform.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s economy has contracted by nearly 40% under the weight of large debts and the world’s highest inflation rate. Some 82% of Venezuelans are now impoverished. There is a chronic scarcity of foreign currency, medicines, and food. Malnourishment is rampant. The maternal mortality rate in hospitals reportedly increased fivefold in 2016, while the infant mortality rate has increased a hundredfold. The temptation to migrate elsewhere in search of a better life is growing.
A nation brutalized for over 50 years by armed pro-Fidel groups waging war against society and trying to take over government is looking much better than her sister, where the pro-Fidel group actually got to power and has been making policy for just under 20 years.
History has indeed spoken. Colombia is an alternate Venezuela where communism didn’t ruin things. I’m ecstatic it exists. I’m eternally grateful for their genuine solidarity.
Can we turn the ship around now, please?