Chávez imported, for a king’s ransom, tens of thousands of Cuban mercenary doctors—but let Venezuela’s hospitals die.
Rather than take the trouble to expand domestic production, he imported 70 percent of the bread he distributed to the people, without ever wondering what might happen if the price of a barrel of crude, now about $110, were to fall back down to near $20, where it was the year he came to power. This is the policy of the ostrich or the cicada. Very simply it is a policy of mortgaging the future.
And although the regime indeed provided work for many of those who had none, it has run up against that iron law of economics, which penalizes systems based on rent-seeking, widespread corruption, clientelism on a grand scale, and, last but not least, the creation of artificial wealth. Increases in the minimal wage, today about $250 a month, have, over 14 years, been overtaken by inflation. Half of the active population still just scrapes by, often by doing odd jobs on the margin of the formal economy. As a result, it is not unlikely that this long decade of oil-supported socialism will show a net deficit for those segments of the population who were supposed to benefit most (if at the price of renouncing freedoms that, like cancer, were supposedly imperialist exports) from the manna rained down on them by the profligate dictator.
May Chávez the man rest in peace.
But to pretend that the overall record of Chavezism has been positive is an insult to the Venezuelan people.