When my parents grew up,
I have always thought that Venezuelan problems came with the Arab oil embargo (no wonder Miguel’s blog is called “the Devil’s Excrement”). Oil prices were multiplied by four overnight. All of the sudden, there was so much money that the whole economy was distorted.
That was the time when many poor people from
It was a time of optimism and huge government programs. Excellent Universities were founded and ambitious scholarship programs to study abroad were put in place. Everybody had access to those programs and the subsidized Universities became a real social melting pot where the rich kid from
Somehow along the road, oil prices collapsed and the petro-economy did not sustain itself. The social and economic problems that were created by the massive arrival of petro-dollars got wider. Nostalgic of the good old days, Venezuelans re-elected the man that was in place when the bonanza started, Carlos Andres Perez, in a superstitious hope that he could bring back the good old days.
Perez was a man of his time. He understood that he could not use the same strategy this time around. He surrounded himself with young non-political professionals and started the hard job of fixing the economy. It was tough, the disappearance of some subsidies led to price increases. People from the slums got down to
Sadly, Venezuelan economic indexes were improving, a sign that the tough measures were making effect. Carlos Andres’ old foes helped by a sympathetic press found a reason to impeach him. The country lived at that time in a French Revolution like environment in which Perez and anybody that would defend him would almost be considered a traitor and be pointed out in public. The climate was so extremist that pictures of the Supreme Court judges that had voted against the impeachment appeared in the local press so that people would recognize them. I remember how I, who had never voted for Perez or AD (Accion Democratica, Perez' party), wrote on an e-mail a moderate view on how I disagreed with the situation. My mailbox was soon full of insults.
So, in the end, Venezuelans got what they wanted: they got rid of Carlos Andres and, in a few years, and after a suspicious pardon obtained from also former president, and Carlos Andres’ foe, Rafael Caldera, elected Hugo Chavez. He was a putchist but charismatic leader that, according to the people that voted for him, would lead
This time, they were not wrong.
For the worse.