Has Poverty in Venezuela Fallen or Risen Under President Hugo Chavez?


Richard Moore

This article provides another example of Matrix vs. Reality.

In this case, as in many, the Matrix (that which 
"has appeared in scores of major newspapers") 
does not actually lie, but presents information 
in such a way as to imply the opposite of reality.


Original source URL:

     The full paper is available in pdf format at
[also in text form at 

     Has Poverty in Venezuela Fallen or Risen Under President Hugo Chavez?

     By Mark Weisbrot
     t r u t h o u t | Press Release
     Thursday 25 May 2006
New paper looks at data, corrects misreporting.

     Over the past year, the statement that 
poverty in Venezuela has increased under the 
government of President Hugo Chávez has appeared 
in scores of major newspapers, on major 
television and radio programs, and even journals 
such as Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy. These 
statements have only rarely been contested or 
corrected. [See Appendix to the paper] for 
samples of this misreporting on poverty in 

     An Issue Brief released by the Center for 
Economic and Policy Research looks at the numbers 
and concludes:

   *  The household poverty rate was thus reduced 
by nearly 5 percentage points, or 12.9 percent, 
from 42.8 percent in the first half of 1999 (when 
President Chavez took office) to 37.9 percent in 
the second half of 2005. Since the economy has 
continued to grow rapidly this year (first 
quarter growth came in at 9.4 percent), the 
poverty rate is almost certainly significantly 
lower today.

   *  There is no evidence that the Venezuelan 
National Institute of Statistics has changed its 
methodology, so these numbers are directly 
comparable. The most recent figures are about 
what would be expected as a result of the rapid 
economic recovery.

   *  Most of the erroneous reporting on this 
issue results from using numbers gathered in the 
first quarter of 2004. These numbers reflect 
sharp increase in the poverty rate caused by the 
severe economic downturn of 2002-2003.

   *  Since the preliminary poverty numbers for 
2005 were released in September 2005, it is not 
clear why the out-of-date, early 2004 numbers 
have continued to be widely used. The early 2004 
numbers quickly became out of date because of the 
rapid growth of the Venezuelan economy in 2004 
(17.9 percent) and 2005 (9.4 percent), which 
pulled millions of people out of poverty.

   *  The reduction in poverty noted above, since 
1999, measures only cash income. This, however, 
does not really capture the changes in the living 
standards of the poor in Venezuela, since there 
have been major changes in non-cash benefits and 
services in the last few years - for example 
health care is now provided to an estimated 54 
percent of the population. The paper looks 
briefly at the impact of these changes.


     Castañeda, Jorge G., "Latin America's Left 
Turn," Foreign Affairs, May/June 2006.

     Corrales, Javier, "Hugo Boss," Foreign Policy, January/February 2006.

     The Center for Economic and Policy Research 
is an independent, nonpartisan think tank that 
was established to promote democratic debate on 
the most important economic and social issues 
that affect people's lives. CEPR's Advisory Board 
of Economists includes Nobel Laureate economists 
Robert Solow and Joseph Stiglitz; Richard 
Freeman, Professor of Economics at Harvard 
University; and Eileen Appelbaum, Professor and 
Director of the Center for Women and Work at 
Rutgers University.


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