Monday, January 21, 2008

Milk, drugs and Uribe

Alo Presidente brought us two things yesterday: personal insults against Uribe and a 36% increase in milk price. Plus a bonus of new threats about farm seizures and bank nationalizations. Surely international economic trust is going to soar and investments will start pouring in, food scarcity will be solved and we will all live in peace and contentment.

Chavez keeps showing mental and emotional distress: how else can one explain yesterday's new outbursts in his weekly peroration? His endorsement of the FARC, a disaster that might be second only to the closing of RCTV, seems to perturb Chavez more than expected. So he attacks the guy that he thinks made him commit such stupidity even though that guy, Uribe, had warned him repeatedly that the FARC were never to be trusted with anything. This time, upset because Colombia government refuses to go in the gutter where Chavez loves to roll himself, Chavez, determined to get a reaction, any reaction, uttered such insults that we wonder if Colombia and Venezuela relations will ever be able to mend as long as Chavez or Uribe are in office. The insults were big enough that BBC Mundo reported them in full. They included choice words such as "mafiosi" and "coward".

The outburst of Chavez, missing a great opportunity to remain silent, come from renewed accusations that Venezuela has become a platform for drug trafficking. In spite of all the ships coming from Venezuela caught with kilos or tons of cocaine, besides the US complaining that its radars detect more and more unregistered flights leaving Venezuela, Chavez decides to deny it all. Thus instead of the sensible
shutting up and investigating, Chavez decides to accuse the US and Colombia of smearing him. Well, considering just the amount seized in ships coming from Venezuela, and by various countries, we must wonder whether Chavez is that ill informed, or as the US indirectly implies, Chavez is an accomplice. After all, when you befriend the FARC you also befriend their drug dealing activities and looking at the haggard Chavez of these past few months, he might even be working at the testing labs.

Unfortunately for Chavez, his elephant in a china shop sense of timing, brings these declarations while Uribe is in a "good will" tour of European capitals, where he hopes to have France, Switzerland and others mediate between the FARC and his administration. Reading today Chavez words in these countries papers will be enough to strengthen Uribe's case in front of, say, Sarkozy, that Chavez has gone from being a possible mediator to become part of the problem.

Back at the ranch, in front of so many setbacks that are increasingly difficult to manage, and impossible to cover, Chavez starts yet a new internal offensive. Apparently he sensed, finally, that the empty milk shelves have played a role in his referendum defeat (the hallaca effect). So he decided to do what he should have done long ago, acknowledge that his inflation is affecting the production costs of milk producers and gave then a 36% rise. Right off the bat this will be insufficient because after a year of official inflation at 22.5% the best that these producer can expect is to break even. But to aggravate matters Chavez is on the verge to forbid outright the sale of milk processors (cheese makers or condensed milk makers) as these people might be willing to pay more for milk than the official price (cheese went up by 50% since November). In a stupendous populist moment he said that all the milk should go to "el pueblo" and that he could not care less if there was no more condensed milk in Venezuela. That we might end up with neither milk nor condensed milk of course is not crossing his feverish mind.

And to tie it all up nicely he said that any producer that smuggles milk to Colombia should have his land seized (BBC English here). I suppose that his military must have told him that a war against Colombia was a sure deal, for Colombia. So he does the next best, beat Colombia on a proxy war on Venezuelan farmers. I wonder who is the real coward here....

But Chavez is also a great visionary. Perhaps sensing that his milk policies will not work anyway if anything because he has incompetent folks to run the new operations, he decided to repeat once again that any opposition victory in the coming regional elections will bring Venezuela to civil war. If negative campaign is already at such paroxysm 10 month before the first ballot is cast for Caracas mayor we can shiver at what this campaign will be.

-The end-

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