Hugo Chávez Rewrote the Textbook for Social Change: Activists should learn from both his successes and failures

The "Dutch Disease" is a term used by economists to describe how manufacturing and agriculture fall if a country gets a huge influx of money from petroleum sales, resulting in a stronger currency due to the exchange rate. For fifty years oil has made Venezuela the richest country in Latin America, but the poor people saw very little of that wealth. Chávez coined a slogan, “Venezuela now is for everyone,” that symbolized his use of petroleum wealth to help the poor. Many social welfare missions were begun, including subsidized food stores and free kitchens, free health care, educational programs, and the building of more than 700,000 houses for the homeless.

The gains in social justice have been dramatic. During the last decade, the percentage of households in poverty was reduced by 39 percent, and extreme poverty by more than half. Inequality, as measured by the Gini index, fell substantially, from 48.1 in 2003 to 39.0 in 2011.

The number of primary care physicians in the public sector increased 12-fold from 1999-2007, providing health care to millions of Venezuelans who previously did not have access. The mortality rate for children under five years of age, which according to the World Health Organization is one of the best indicators of overall health in society, has fallen by 33 percent in Venezuela since 1999 (from 22.1 to 14.9 deaths per thousand live births in 2013).

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