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Not a 'Banana Republic'

By Bernardo Álvarez, Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the U.S.

Article published by The New York Times on November 10 , 2010. If anyone wants to reprint it, please visit original Web site.

Re “Our Banana Republic,” by Nicholas D. Kristof (column, Nov. 7):

In an otherwise excellent column about inequality in the United States , Mr. Kristof refers to Venezuela as a “banana republic.” Besides the problem of using such a degrading term — not to mention one so closely linked to foreign imperialism — it does not apply to Venezuela.

The term “banana republic” was coined to refer to small countries largely dependent on agricultural goods, ruled by a small and unaccountable elite and generally servile to American corporate interests.

Venezuela does not fit this billing. Known more for its oil than its agricultural goods, Venezuela is a vibrant democracy, unlike many of the traditional “banana republics” Mr. Kristof may have been thinking of.

On the issue of inequality, though, Venezuela may prove to be an example for the United States . Over the last decade, social programs begun by President Hugo Chávez have brought needed services like education and health to underserved sectors of the population.

Beyond a dramatic drop in poverty from 49 percent to 27 percent from 1999 to 2008, Venezuela has also seen inequality diminish, so much so that the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean ranked it highest for inequality reduction among 12 neighboring countries in the region.

Bernardo Álvarez Herrera

Ambassador of Venezuela

Washington, Nov. 8, 2010

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