Thursday, January 26, 2006

Venezuela is without doubt the new Mecca of the Left cries the BBC excitedly,

"It's obvious why Venezuela is such a magnet for tens of thousands of visitors," comments the leather-elbowed Professor Edgar Lander, one of the main organisers of this year's World Social Forum in Caracas. "The revolutionary process being carried out by the government here has captured the imagination of the world."

Err right, i guess that'll be why Venezuela is still mired in abject poverty despite sitting on a trillion barrels of oil.

Some facts
Total population: 23,000,000
* World’s 5th largest oil exporter, yet 80% of population in poverty
* Population making below $1 a day: 15%
* Unemployment rate: 17%
* 3 out of 10 Venezuelan children live in severe poverty
* 176,000 children are beggars
* 50% of children 0-6 years are undernourished
* 4.5 million children are in need: 48,000 are prostitutes, 600,000 left school, one million work
* Fewer than 50% complete secondary education due to a chronic shortage of schools

Still, despite an onslaught of tree-huggers, darjeeling tea-sippers and we-are-the-worlders, not even Professor Lander can stop a market forming.

"The Chavez T-shirt is my bestseller, I've sold six shirts within the space of an hour. I'm making a profit of $7 per item." says Luz Castillo, who owns a little stall next to the conference centre for the Caracas World Social Forum without a trace of irony.

God bless him.