08 August 2010

What to make of Chavez huh?

Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s President, has plenty of critics, who often focus on his style (not least his interminable unscripted chat show, Alo Presidente), and in many ways he does fit into the tradition of the Latin American caudillo (the ’strong man on horseback’). But Venezuela certainly seems to be getting something right on inequality. According to the highly reputable UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, it now has the most equal distribution of income in the region, and has improved rapidly since 1990.

That is Duncan Green.

Meanwhile, Ed Miguel, Hsieh, Ortega and Rodriguez, find that:

In 2004, the Chávez regime in Venezuela distributed the list of several million voters whom had attempted to remove him from office throughout the government bureaucracy, allegedly to identify and punish these voters.  We match the list of petition signers distributed by the government to household survey respondents to measure the economic effects of being identified as a Chávez political opponent.  We find that voters who were identified as Chávez opponents experienced a 5 percent drop in earnings and a 1.3 percentage point drop in employment rates after the voter list was released.

It seems like opinions on this guy are so politicised it is difficult to get any kind of objective economic read.


Anonymous said...


Philip said...

Is this the same ECLAC that gave us dependency theory? Chavez is less of a traditional caudillo (though there are plenty of similarities) and more of a traditional Latin American leftist-populist, in the style of a Peron.

On a more constructive note, Chavez is plainly a clown, though on the other hand some notable achievements have been made by his government. There are questions about their sustainability, especially due to the way implementation has been carried out. But Chavez is also not the one-dimensional villain he is sometimes made out to be, and he is certainly not a dictator, as some suggest. I would also say that using equality as the measure of a better society is somewhat one-dimensional. Judgments are always likely to be political, but that's fine, because development is by its very nature political.

Derrill Watson said...

Are Chavez supporters likely to be richer than the average? If so, this is all one story: political persecution of one group reduces country inequality without producing anything really good. If not, though, then inequality is down despite one factor working to increase it.

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