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EL ESPECTADOR

If Colombia's Poverty Is Not In The Data, It's On The Streets

Last month's optimistic reports of declining poverty rates in Colombia are a world away from reality.

Shantytown houses in Medellin, Colombia
Shantytown houses in Medellin, Colombia
Fernando Alberto Carrillo Virguez

-OpEd-

BOGOTA — The world's richest man could perfectly be described as poor. If he were poor in spirit, kindness, values, piety and affection, his would certainly be a life of misery.

This is an interesting subject, which I would discuss if I had the time and space. Instead, regarding the difficulty of emerging from poverty, I don't see it as "almost impossible," as El Espectador recently suggested in an editorial.

The reason why millions fail to emerge from poverty is, as they say, "rather simple."

Often one's degraded self-esteem sticks, resiliently if not stubbornly, to the state of poverty. I know of many who have extricated themselves from miserable conditions with effort and will, and with a constancy and discipline that both complement and counter our increasingly precarious work conditions and a grueling national reality (to which this newspaper seems oblivious, either out of cynicism or a deplorable naivety).

But the legal paths in Colombia to rise up out of poverty are clearly restricted, and the government offers little to help this population our of their dire predicaments. In that sense, I argue against the cited editorial's propositions on the complexity and "multi-dimensional" nature of poverty.

The peddlers on Bogota's Transmilenio buses, unchecked criminal activity in the form of muggings on streets and buses, thefts outside banks and in homes, child prostitution, extortion, and palpable poverty, all make a mockery of this government's boastful and noisy statistics on reducing poverty.

Permit me to be extremely skeptical of the official eloquence and veracity of its figures. Poverty is visible in Colombia: Every day it can be touched, felt, smelled, breathed in.

The government's superfluous, enticing figures on a nationwide decline in poverty figures are worth, well, not much, and deserve a muted response, not the media's cringing applause.

What is the basis for so much official satisfaction when the misery of the lowest classes is becoming more dense and penetrating every day? The fever is down, they say. Sure, it's gone right down to the gonads, threatening to turn the entire body barren and lifeless.

If only Dante could descend from his celestial abode to walk through the reality of modern poverty. He would relate with "real figures," the scope and painful grind of paupers' lives. He would surely observe the "limbo" between those socio-economic classes, and hopefully describe them in disinterested detail.

He would shed light on the stifling, infernal circles through which the desperate mass of the "socially mobile" seek to emerge. Pushing and shoving lest they fall into the lowest abyss, with its seething coal fires so far removed from paradise. Poor in spirit, and so much more.


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Will China's Zero COVID Ever End?

Too much has been put in to the state-sponsored truth that minimal spread of the virus is the at-all-cost objective. But if the Chinese economy continues to suffer, Xi Jinping may have no choice but to second guess himself.

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Cfoto/DDP via ZUMA
Deng Yuwen

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