--------------------------------Any reader of this blog has known this for years....
13. (C) Levitte observed that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is "crazy" and said that even Brazil wasn't able to support him anymore. Unfortunately, Chavez is taking one of the richest countries in Latin America and turning it into another Zimbabwe.
And there is no surprise that the French officials also knew that even if they did not mention this in public. Why would the French think that of Chavez, besides the obvious reasons? Because the French have lost a lot of business and have been robbed blind and because they know very well that whatever has been taken from them is doing bad, really bad on occasion, and deteriorating fast in the other cases. A short list (note, I mention "sources" but they merely confirm what is now vox populi in papers like Tal Cual):
- The jewel in the crown of French business in Venezuela was the once upon a time gleaming Caracas Metro system. In spite of all the warnings made by the French the Chavez regime has not taken good care of the Caracas Metro, has refused to invest properly and has used the Metro as a way to graft through the Brazilians who are now in charge of building the new metro stations. Needless to say that the current catastrophic conditions are not a surprise. Yet, wen finally the regime realized that something had to be done, early last year, it was an inexperienced Spanish company that got the deal for renovation, even though they had no access to French technology, and as far as we know, had not made any attempt at dealing with he French. Sure enough, nothing much has been done, the Metro kept degrading and now my sources confirm that the Spaniards are trying to work out a deal with the French who are now setting their conditions (and asking for additional money to the one already spent by the Spaniards with no result on sight).
- The French group Casino was establishing successfully a distribution network in Venezuela though hyper markets EXITO and lower sized neighborhood CADA. When Mercal and PDVAL roved to be failures Chavez simply took over EXITO and CADA although there are efforts to retain some French management participation. My sources told me that CASINO will not get air price, that corruption is already present, that efficiency is down, etc, etc....
- The giant Lafarge group had cement factories in Venezuela. Those were taken over two years ago. Today there is a shortage of cement in Venezuela EVEN THOUGH we are in recession and construction is way down from two years ago. You draw your own conclusions. But another contact told me that the top of the line ovens left by the French are out of order because of reckless usage.
- And let's not talk about all that France has lost in the oil business and how Venezuelan conditions are so bad that even the collaboration still attempted cannot prosper. I have no sources there but we only need to read the oil entry numbers in the US and elsewhere to confirm that decline of Venezuelan oil exports.