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Friday, May 23, 2008


Barack Obama on Latin America

Barack Obama spoke today to the Cuban-American National Foundation. Naturally when the subject came to Cuba and political prisoners, he didn't mention the five Cuban political prisoners he'll have control over when and if he's President - the five Cubans unjustly held in U.S. prisons for attempting to stop the Miami-based terrorism against Cuba. When he talked about people living in fear of violence, there was naturally no mention of one of the sources of violence he'll be able to do something about when and if he's President - Luis Posada Carriles (a terrorist who is the hero of the people Obama was speaking to).

If I was amused by anything in his speech, it was this:

"Now I know what the easy thing is to do for American politicians. Every four years, they come down to Miami, they talk tough, they go back to Washington, and nothing changes in Cuba. That’s what John McCain did the other day. He joined the parade of politicians who make the same empty promises year after year, decade after decade."
He then proceeded to join the parade of politicians who make the same empty promises year after year, about how he's going to be the one to bring "libertad" to Cuba. His big change is to allow Cuban-Americans (not the rest of us second-class citizens) to freely travel to Cuba, which, it's worth noting, is the one change that is endorsed by the vast majority of the people he was speaking to, so it wasn't exactly a bold proposal. Any other changes, like the embargo whose purpose from the beginning was to bring about "hunger and desperation" among the Cuban people to force them to submit to American will, will await Cuba "changing" to our (his) satisfaction.

But if anything it was his briefer remarks on Venezuela which really annoyed me:

"In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is a democratically elected leader. But we also know that he does not govern democratically. He talks of the people, but his actions just serve his own power."
His actions "just" serve his own power, do they? Let's take a look at Venezuela under Chavez:
In 1998 there were 1,628 primary care physicians for a population of 23.4 million. Today, there are 19,571 for a population of 27 million. The Venezuelan government has also provided widespread access to subsidized food. By 2006, there were 15,726 stores throughout the country that offered mainly food items at subsidized prices (with average savings of 27% and 39% compared to market prices in 2005 and 2006, respectively).

The central government's social spending has increased massively, from 8.2 percent of GDP in 1998 to 13.6 percent for 2006. In real (inflation-adjusted) terms, social spending per person has increased by 170 percent over the period 1998-2006. But this does not include social spending by PDVSA (PetrĂ³leos de Venezuela, the state oil company), which was 7.3 percent of GDP in 2006. With this included, social spending reached 20.9 percent of GDP in 2006, at least 314 percent more than in 1998 (in terms of real social spending per person).

The poverty rate has decreased rapidly from its peak of 55.1 percent in 2003 to 30.4 percent at end of 2006.

Measured unemployment has also dropped substantially to 8.3 percent for June 2007, its lowest level in more than a decade; as compared to 15 percent in June 1999 and 18.4 percent in June 2003 (coming out of the recession).
Well, if those are the kinds of things Hugo Chavez sees as being part of "serving his own power," I'd say the American people can only hope our next President will want to just serve his (or her) own power in the same way.

For my response to Obama, see the post below this one.

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