Venezuela's Election Lunacy: Results and Consequences
With 96 of the 165 seats (58.1 percent) in the National Assembly, Chávez may well be able to continue much of his increasingly impoverished and increasingly disliked march domestically toward perfection of his Bolivarian socialism.
Chávez's decreasing impact internationally may continue regardless of the election outcome. It has had little if anything to do with his electoral legitimacy (he need only remain in power, and in many respects he has) and has depended on turning Venezuelan funds into hard currency and spending it externally. The Venezuelan economy is in shreds:
Inflation topped 25 percent last year despite government price controls on many foods and basic goods, and prices are already up 30.5 percent this year.
The government expects inflation to slow next year, and the opposition expects it to rise to 40 percent this year.
Unlike Cuba, Venezuela has vast natural resources useful to China, Russia, Iran, and other less than friendly countries with substantial power. In addition to lots of oil, Venezuela has natural gas and bauxite and (if she ever manages to get her electricity problems sorted out) the resources needed to make lots of aluminum. She also has iron ore, diamonds, and gold. China has increased her investments in Venezuelan natural resource exploitation substantially, promising twenty billion dollars for 2010. It seems more likely that China is doing this for strategic rather than for ideological or humanitarian reasons, but the economic benefits may help Chavez to continue to have a voice in Latin American affairs -- unless he decides to focus principally on improving his chances of reelection in 2012 and devotes most of them to domestic affairs. In any event, due to her natural resources, Venezuela and the rest of South and Central America could become foci of confrontation in any future war. Even if that doesn't happen, Venezuela has at least until recently been successful in getting allies to export her revolution:
Like Cuba, Venezuela may not have the economic heft to back up its revolutionary zeal, but it is finding useful friends of the revolution in China. In this time of need, Venezuela’s challenge lies in finding allies willing to cross the threshold from economic partner to strategic patron.
However, it has been suggested that Cuba has been changing and possibly making necessary strides away from communism. She is encouraging at least a limited private economic sector, particularly small business, and has announced that five hundred thousand government employees are being let go and that she will, "starting in October, issue 250,000 licenses for self-employment to help create private sector jobs for them." The government workers being fired amount to roughly ten percent of the government workforce. Guess who said this (hint -- it was a Cuban):
Without a sound and dynamic economy and without eliminating superfluous expenses and waste, it will not be possible to raise the living standard of the population nor preserve and improve the high levels of education and health care guaranteed to every citizen free of charge.
Without an efficient and robust agriculture that we can develop with the resources available to us -- without dreaming of the large allocations of the past -- we can’t hope to maintain and increase the amount of food for the population, instead of depending so much on importing products that could be grown in Cuba.
Without people feeling the need to work to be able to live -- if they are protected by excessively paternalistic and irrational state regulations -- we will never be able to encourage the love of work or solve the chronic shortage of construction, farm, and industrial workers; teachers; police; and other indispensable trades that little by little have been disappearing.
If we keep inflated payrolls in nearly every field of national life and pay wages that have no connection to results, increasing the amount of money in circulation, we cannot expect that prices will stop their constant climb, which reduces people’s purchasing power. We know that government departments and government-funded enterprises have hundreds of thousands of workers in excess; some analysts estimate that there are more than one million excess positions. This is a very sensitive issue that we should face firmly and with political sense.