World in View: Science in Venezuela

From the May-June 2019 issue of News & Letters

When Brazil’s national museum burned down last year, with the loss of countless artifacts and decades of scientific research, it reflected very badly on the former Workers Party government. The museum had suffered years of neglect and physical decay.

Now an important article in Scientific American (Feb. 15, 2019) describes the deterioration of scientific research under the regime of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. Efforts were made to popularize science in the early years of Hugo Chavez’ government. But in his later years, and much more so under his successor, Maduro, science has been neglected.

One member of the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research said, “The level of deterioration is really impossible to imagine.” Buildings are falling apart, subscriptions to scientific journals have been allowed to lapse, and salaries have declined to the point where many scientists have been forced to take other jobs.

This was happening as the Venezuelan national economy cratered due to its dependency on one commodity, oil. As former science minister Nuris Orihuela Guevara stated, “The Bolivarian project completely lost its original course.” The neglect of science is one more reason for the demise of the “Pink Tide” of socialist governments in Latin America that once promised real change.

–Gerry Emmett

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