A NYT piece on shortages in Venezuela told readers:
"Venezuela was long one of the most prosperous countries in the region, with sophisticated manufacturing, vibrant agriculture and strong businesses, making it hard for many residents to accept such widespread scarcities."
This may give the impression that Venezuela's economy was strong before Hugo Chavez came to power in 1998. This is not true. According to the I.M.F., per capita income was actually 11.8 percent lower in 1998 than it had been 18 years earlier in 1980. Since Chavez came to power per capita income has risen by 4.9 percent. While this is hardly robust growth, since it was accompanied by greater equality in the distribution of income there can be little doubt that most Venezuelans have fared better under Chavez than under his predecessors.
Source: International Monetary Fund.