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Venezuelan Hunger Grows

By Alexandra Beech,

Recalling why Hugo Chavez became president, it is tragic that Venezuela is the only country in Latin America where hunger is rising, according to the latest study by the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, entitled The State of Food Insecurity in the World. Even countries like Haiti have shown showed an improvement, reducing hunger from 65 percent of the population in 1990 to 49 percent in 2001. Jamaica’s hunger level declined 5 percentage points to 9 percent. Neighboring Bolivia, (where 22 percent of its population suffers from hunger), has reduced its hunger rates by 4 percent during the past ten years.

Venezuela, however, is the pathetic story in Latin America. Between 1990-92, 11% of the country’s population was undernourished. Between 1995-1997, that number jumped to 16%. Even with unbridled social spending, Chavez has failed miserably at meeting the basic needs of the poor, even though his vow to combat poverty won him the presidency in 1998. Between 1999 and 2001, the number of undernourished people in Venezuela grew to 18%, even as world oil prices rose to unprecedented highs.

It is unacceptable that humans should go hungry in a country with vast oil and natural gas reserves.

However, Chavez has only used the poor to remain in power, throwing them bones and scraps while their plight worsens. Had he truly cared about the poor when he entered office, he would have created responsible and sustainable social programs from the start. Nearly five years later, we would we witnessing the fruits of those efforts. Instead of wealth creating for the poor, however, Chavez has increased inflation, forcing Venezuelans to consume 16% less food. Instead of creating jobs, he forced thousands of businesses to shut down. Instead of creating prospects for a prosperous future, he forced tens of thousands of Venezuelans to flee, looking for jobs and security elsewhere. Instead of creating innovative educational opportunities for the poor, he produced the extremely irresponsible Plan Bolivar, which squandered millions of dollars which ended up in private pockets, while showing little benefits or results.

The reason that 60% of Venezuela’s poorest sector doesn’t support Chavez is because hunger and admiration only lie in one bed for so long. Eventually, albeit slowly, the Venezuelan poor have realized that his words are not producing tangible benefits in their lives. Those who support him say that the new Cuban doctors are providing aspirins and care. But is that program feeding the undernourished, or even the thousands of Venezuelan doctors who are unemployed? You can’t feed one part of the population and ignore the other, because eventually everyone starves.

On this day of Thanksgiving, I give thanks to God that my family is well-nourished. I also ask Him for those who have nothing to feed themselves today. I ask Him for those who are victims of irresponsible politicians, both past and present. I ask that those in present and future leadership positions around the world realize that one person with an empty stomach is one too many.


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