Sometimes I think that the only person in Venezuela who thinks, or pretends to think that all is fine is Chavez. We could argue ad nauseam that things are more or less going good or bad, but anyone that has to drive through Venezuelan roads can see all the squatters here and there, all the industrial plants which have been now closed for more than 3 years, all the immense traffic delays due to deteriorated roads or people protesting, etc, etc... Maybe things are improving for some, but problems seem to be piling up. And I am not even talking about Venezuela having the highest inflation rate, by far, of Lat Am, or of the student unrest that does not show any sign of abatement as successful march succeeds another successful rally.
In front of mounting trouble Chavez did what he does usually: escape to Cuba for a few days. Now that Castro is healthy enough to discuss politics some, Chavez went to look for new inspiration. The results came today through a lengthy cadena, an unusual event on a Saturday and yet another sure sign of worries inside the government. So, trying to seize back the agenda held by the students, Chavez went on a new rampage of promises and threats:
* 200 socialist industries will be opened. Nobody knew that they were that many planned, if they were. But Chavez tells us that 200 will be opened and that we should not be afraid. Huh? Why would the opening of an industrial facility should be scary? Or is he subliminally trying to let us know that maybe some of these "socialist" industries will come from private sector take over? Sometime reassurances can be infinitely scarier than the initial statement! Apparently some of these industries will be in the weaponry sector as Venezuela will build its first grenades and rockets.
* No more decentralization. Time to go back to central planning at all levels. Not only projects from municipalities, states and nation must must be centralized from now on, but the administrative autonomy of state enterprises is over. Now a new centralized planning by strategic categories must preside over these state business (and the 200 new ones we assume).
* Forget about rejoining the Andean Community even if Uribe and Morales (strangely absent from the Havana conclave) asked Venzuela to do. Instead he invited them to join the ALBA, that COMECON for LatAm.
So there we have, a new sharp turn to the left is announced. Expect further drop in investments, further dollars escaping Venezuela, further inflation, further scarcities, further socialism of the good old days. No more of that bullshit of XXI century socialism, this is a sharp turn toward a more coherent communism Cuban style, the only thing that senile Castro can offer Chavez, and Chavez is stupid and ignorant enough to buy.
But this is probably doomed for the same failure as any previous plans. The only positive result of all of this for Chavez will be yet more power in his hands. We, the people, well, let's start discussing about ration cards as now the few stores who sell cooking oil, limit purchase to one liter per customer.
One who is not fooled at all is Zoellick, the nominee for the World Bank seat left vacant by Wolfowitz love life. In no uncertain terms he suggested that Chavez was welcome to leave the World Bank, that he was not needed there. Meaningless bravado? Or something deeper? In the latest Zeta Rafael Poleo suggests that actually the US is rooting for Chavez to act crazier and crazier on the economy (no link, sorry). Dark clouds are crowding over Venezuela as the fight against inflation is failing calamitously and as importations are increasing constantly while oil production remains a mystery. A bankruptcy of Venezuela would deliver Venezuelan oil to US interests without any need for invasion. Granted not this year or next, but soon enough at the very least privatization of PDVSA will be the only way for the government to bail itself out of the coming crisis.
But apparently a commie economy is not the only thing that Chavez brought back from Havana. Castro must have told him that he could not let the student movement get any more strength, that it was too dangerous at a moment where Venezuelan oil money was more necessary than ever to consolidate the nascent ALBA (or was that corpse like Cuba?). Elizabeth Burgos, fine connaiseur of the Castro dynamic duo, suggested as much in Zeta. Today announcement of Interior Minister Pedro Carroña, opps! sorry! Carreño I meant, that students should not get anymore any marching permit points out that way. All of this while hypocritically Chavez also said today that it was great to see students protest, that it was a proof of democracy. That students protest for the loss of democracy in Venezuela does not seem to have registered with Chavez...
As I have written long ago, Carreño has the psychological profile of a killer and lately we see this developing quite well. A declaration like today where he accuses the dissenting students of being fascists points out this way. It is clear that the recent actions of other killers like Bernal are showing that the government is getting increasingly impatient with a movement it cannot control and against which it is lacking any alternative strategy. Fascist simplistic ideas, even if disguised under commie economic talk, will tend to follow the course of violence. Carreño is now openly threatening the students. We will see....