| ||This great expanse of oil derricks indicates how much the discovery of oil in 1920 transformed Venezuela’s economy. Since then, the country has lived to the tune of the price of a barrel of oil. In 1972, Venezuela found Eldorado; soaring oil prices put the country at the top of the Latin American league in terms of earnings per capita and economic growth. But the price fall of 1983 took the Venezuelans by surprise and showed how much they had come to depend on black gold. This bonanza gave rise to a form of capitalism founded on speculation, rather than on the enterprise and the desire to create wealth. Moreover, despite government efforts, the rural economy never managed to recover. A sizeable middle class certainly sprang up, but oil wealth, which was unequally distributed, has done nothing to reduce inequality: a third of the population cannot afford to buy basic foodstuffs.
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