One of the dramas of regimes that range between autocratic to totalitarian is that the big leaders have a hard time in getting good help. I mean, they can easily attract through power, money, or both, people capable of doing all the nasty things required for the beloved Supremo to remain in office. But that is all. Professional people, experienced people, people aware of their own value, have a hard time putting up with the tantrums and bad manners of the leaders of such regimes and prefer to exile themselves or to stick to some low management job and spend their lives in discretion, waiting for better days. In general the result is countries that on the surface seem to work well enough but who are in fact very fragile and with time simply start crumbling. Nobody cares enough for things to be done as they should be, or worse, nobody in charge has an idea what to do. When that last situation occurs, these deficient bureaucrats manage to survive by doing the only thing that really matters: praise and suck up to the beloved Father so it really does not matter much whether trains run on time or not.
Nazi Germany never lived enough to allow us to see that crumbling; nor Fascist Italy whose fascism was a tad lighter. But given enough time these countries would have met the fate of the Soviet Union or Cuba: rotten to the core countries that were holding together because nobody knew what to replace them with. Even the vaunted German work ethic would have crumbled eventually just as it did in Eastern Germany 40 years after Hitler.
Chavez is of course no exception to that rule, and in fact this decomposition, considering the complex ways of the modern world, might start sooner than expected and evolve faster than what Chavez would ever surmise, if we can imagine him realizing that fact of life. In real life if Venezuela is still holding together today it is because of high oil prices that allow all of us to put up with the regime. What do the middle class cares about lousy roads when Chavez allows them to buy new cars at an unexpected pace? Why do the lower classes care whether they can find a real job when a “beca” allows them to eat without having to work much? The capable folks are leaving the country in droves, or if they do not do so it is simply because they have too much to lose in Venezuela and are trying to weather the chavista storm. The rest is trying to figure out a way to suck top the regime either through a grant or through the CADIVI travel money, the best deal around as the very overvalued Bolivar makes traveling dirt cheap.
The sycophantic bureaucrat
The reason for the mismanagement of Venezuela is that people trying to make a political career under Chavez are very aware that the main requirement is the demonstrable loyalty to Chavez, much more than whether they can run the ministry where they were named to. Not to mention that in the musical chair game that the government has become, there is no point really in trying to make programs function efficiently, or even with a goal: the only programs that Chavez cares about are the political programs, and even those are not working too well if we judge from the birthing pains of the PUSV.
The very nature of Chavez stops him from recruiting good help, even good ideologues. Other dictatorships for some reason managed to hire a few talents. Under Perez Jimenez, when dictatorship were rather the norm in LatAm, many who were not involved in politics did not mind working for the regime. After all, that one did not had the ideological charge that chavismo carries. But today there is no one of managerial value in the government. Of political and thuggish value, we can find plenty of them such as CNE cheat extraordinaire Jorge Rodriguez turned hard core partisan vice president.
Centro Internacional Miranda
One thing that could help Chavez try to manage better the country, besides the many Cubans that surround him, would be to have at least a directing plan for Venezuela. But, unbelievably, he does not really have one yet. This is not really surprising considering that his only real aim is to stay in office until he dies or kingdom comes, whichever comes first. Besides a vague XXI century socialism there is really nothing to compensate for the management failures he is besotted with. But even as he tries to set up some ideological system, with the help for example of such things as the Centro Internacional Miranda (CIM), he is met failure.
The CIM was set by Chavez to try to create a think-tank to flesh out some his Bolivarian Socialist XXI Centuried pseudo revolution. He has gathered some luminaries of the radical anti-global left, mixed together with an assortment of opportunists. When we read the list of members we find such nullities as Hector Navarro, former universities minister and now science minister who is unable to explain clearly the proposed time change or the story of the Venezuelan Nuclear Reactor at the IVIC.
Another one is the ineffable Eva Golinger, failed US lawyer of dubious legality and who has decided lately to draw lists of alleged traitors to expose then to public knowledge for doing, supposedly, what she is doing herself vis-à-vis the US from where she is a citizen. Her initiative was so crass that within chavismo there were enough people to stop her for the time being, at least. From Chavez defender to snitch, her intellectual transformation was complete.
A few days ago, in one of the comments, I discussed one of these curious characters, Haiman El Troudi. The observation was that he had no idea how the laws of the market worked. We could forgive him for not believing in the market and trying to bring it down. But we cannot forgive him of being so ignorant of his adversary. His interview in El Universal is for all to read so as to be in awe at how ignorant and shallow El Troudi is.
But the CIM has tried to attract something of better caliber. At least they manage to attract Marta Harnecker, who has the merit of consistency through a now rather long career with a few books under her arm. Not that it is a guarantee that her books are any good, but at least she has something to show for the money Chavez is giving her through the CIM. In fact, she has even moved to Venezuela, which tells us a lot about the improvement of her finances from just the sale of her books.
From the US there has been some luck. If anything the dashing Peter McLaren of the UCLA does offer interesting shots. From his Wikipedia page we also learn that he is a Leo which might explain some of the pictures we find of him through the Internet. There is also Chesa Boudin who the CIM lists as the son of political prisoners when in fact his parents were at least half criminals not afraid to kill people for the cause. People like them are called terrorists these days. At least Boudin was a Rhodes Scholar which might make him the brightest of the whole CIM lot (or indicates that the Rhodes Scholar system ain’t no more what it used to be.) One thing is certain, Chesa Boudin of anti war, anti jail US was certainly not hired to crusade about the awful jail situation in Venezuela. Though at least I was told that he has complained about that horror in one of his books.
Juan Carlos Monedero
But the one that takes the cherry has got to be Juan Carlos Monedero. I have reviewed him a while ago when Tal Cual did trash him thoroughly after an interview he gave them. In particular how good he was at dodging tough questions, while he was showing that in fact he had not much of an idea about what he was doing. No, the amazing thing is that after the Tal Cual trashing one would have thought that he would have learned his lesson and stay clear of opposition journalists interviews. But no. Today he does that again. El Universal publishes and interview of Monedero where we can read amazing things such as:
“We do not have models, it is a socialism that we will have to invent” where he confesses that after all the money that Chavez has given the CIM they still do not know what they are doing;
“there are possessions that are public: electricity, water, food, health, education, banks. I believe that these things are public objects and cannot be understood as goods. It is a silliness that capitalism has planted” where he admits that 90% of the things that touch our everyday life must be controlled by the state;
“I believe that it is a barbarism that there are difficulties to accede to essential goods because its production and distribution are privatized. I believe that some conflicts with certain companies are inevitable since they have, in a cruel way, traded with essential elements for human development. For me those companies are enemy of the humanity and I do not have pity for them.” Which reveals that he does not know much of Venezuela recent history and how those same private companies allowed Venezuela to escape hunger in the 60ies by allowing though private production and distribution food and drink to reach distant corners in Venezuela, a success that some other countries in LatAm can only wish to achieve, while it also reveals that even if these companies have never done him any arm he is willing to be the avenging angel; now the Polar company knows that its days are counted.
There is no need to expand further on the primitive, if not even reactionary mind set of folks like Monedero who are proposing exactly what they are fighting, except that they want to replace the “corrupt capitalists” by “corrupt bureaucrats” which somehow through a magical 15 years education process [almost sic] will become honest and efficient bureaucrats. In the end the people will get screwed anyway but by then Monedero will be far away, probably back in capitalist Spain where he will find out that social democracy worked out much better than the model he helped setting up in Venezuela.
Fortunately El Universal also ran an interview from a real economist whose reading compensates happily for the dismal performance of Monedero, once again shown for the fraud he is.
It is quite something to read the Monedero words. He must be of the Elena Ceausescu school of scientific economy. People who must herd cows, harvest beans in Venezuela, or Cuba, are only going to be efficient if there is something for them in it. In fact it is quite clear for the reader that Monedero has no idea what is it to etch a living wielding a machete under the tropical sun, or being a buhonero (even though Monedero sees these one daily when he goes to his offices in Torre Anauco). Someone should be kind enough to let him know that Mercal relies a lot on the private sector to keep at least some of its shelves full, that sometimes Harina Pan might be missing at Central Madeirense but can be found at Mercal. However we can be sure that Monedero will have no problem sending peasants e-mails on how to harvest their crop in a socialist non egotistical way.
You know what? The scariest thing of the constitutional reform is that if Chavez gets away with it then we will fall into he hands of people such as the CIM and we will not even be able to expose them on newspapers anymore. Meanwhile we are left to wonder how much this jester court costs Chavez.