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Hugo Chavez: Circling the Drain?

The Venezuelan would-be dictator has put his country in an accelerating economic collapse.

by
Dan Miller

Bio

January 22, 2010 - 12:00 am
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Although it had been suggested that Chávez might personally shoot at passing clouds from the presidential mansion using equipment provided by weather experts in Cuba, that seems not to have worked. Still, none of this is the fault of El Presidente:

[Chavez and] the government … [have done all they could] to alleviate the crisis … including sending air force jets to fire “rays” into clouds in an attempt to induce rain. Pilots had been “risking their lives” doing this for months.

Chávez … blamed the “Fourth Republic” — the era before his own advent on the scene … for deficiencies in the power system. They were to blame for making the country dependent on the Caroni Basin for over 70 percent of its power supplies. If the Opposition had its way, the earthquake in Haiti would be his fault, he said.

Blaming El Niño and excessive consumer usage is absurd:

… when one sees just one photo of the broken down turbines at Guri or at Planta Centro Power Station or reads the reports warning of the gravity of the situation that different specialists have been submitting for years.

It’s been only slightly more than a decade — less than a fleeting second in geological terms — since Chávez came to power, so he may have a point.

It seems probable that a tipping point has been reached, and that the consequences of inadequate electric power may be disastrous for the economy — unless the Air Force cloud bombardment with “rays” works or unless Chávez imports “Native American rain dancers from New Mexico or Arizona, or ask[s] indigenous Shamans from the Amazon to wake up the rain gods.”

Desiring that his countrymen not be distracted by these domestic problems, El Presidente continues to strengthen Venezuela’s military presence on the border with Colombia:

Chávez secured a $2.2 [billion] loan from Russia during his visit to Moscow last September for the purchase of 92 T-72 main battle tanks, an undisclosed number of Smerch multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), and a variety of air defense systems, including the advanced S-300 complexes.

All of this is said to be necessary because the United States is preparing to attack Venezuela to steal its oil. Still, Chávez recently indicated that he would like to have a dialogue with the United States, which may take him up on it. Chávez accused the U.S. on January 17 of occupying Haiti on the pretext of delivering aid (France made a similar claim). Chavez claims that on January 8, Venezuelan fighter jets drove a U.S. observation aircraft from Venezuelan airspace back to the Netherlands’ Caribbean islands. Now, the Netherlands is in on the scheme along with the United States and Colombia (where, unlike in Venezuela, oil production is now the highest in a decade). “The perceived threat of U.S. intervention has become a central element of Mr. Chávez’s political discourse and a rallying cry for his supporters.”

Despite his and Venezuela’s substantial problems, El Presidente has the situation well in hand. He has demanded that socialist soap operas replace capitalist soap operas on national television:

“A while ago, I was in Cuba and they broadcast soap operas there, not capitalist soap operas but with a social content, socialist” soap operas, Chávez told a group of filmmakers and scriptwriters guested on his weekly radio and television show, “Alo Presidente.” “I’m going to ask that we make socialist soap operas (in Venezuela), instead of capitalist ones.”

“We can also make good movies,” he added. “Not capitalist movies that are poison and incite our children to take drugs and even push them into crime.”

Not content with soap opera entertainment, Chávez has commandeered even cable television facilities for his lengthy and frequent cadenas. Hence, “when the harried Venezuelan worker comes home, s/he will not be able to escape Chávez through the solace of soap operas and silly game shows.”

What does all this mean? Venezuela is spiraling at an accelerating pace down the toilet under el Presidente Chávez, with all the drama of a “capitalist” soap opera. His ties with Iran are unlikely to do Venezuela any real good, the situations in Argentina and in Chile can’t be to his liking, and his reverses in Honduras have probably weakened him as well. His influence in Latin America is fading and he rather clearly needs to do something — just about anything — on the domestic front to avoid even a minor victory by the opposition parties. However, the domestic problems are out of control and despite the disorganized state of the opposition parties it seems unlikely that Chávez will succeed.

As Chávez put it in an article on January 18, “Homeland, Socialism, or Death!”

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Dan Miller graduated from Yale University in 1963 and from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1966. He retired from the practice of law in Washington, D.C., in 1996 and has lived in a rural area in Panama since 2002.
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