We, in the West, tend to focus too much on political appearances. Not that I am trying to excuse Ahmadinejad (often reported in these pages as Ahmadinejerk), but at least he is showing more ideological consistency than Chavez does. And he might be doing, at least on the economical aspects of his rule, more of the needed right stuff.
I wonder what Chavez will think of this New York Times article where it is clearly shown that if Iran and Venezuela share an anti US stand, totally irrational at least in the case of Venezuela, that is pretty much where the basic similarity ends. The article explains to us that now that Ahmadinejerk/jad has defeated his opposition from both sides he has embarked in an economic plan to curtail a whole bunch of subsidies in Iran. And he seems to be getting away with it, which is worrisome for the West as it can only strengthen the position of Iran at any nuclear negotiation table.
We are not talking here of cosmetic measures, of a little financial tweak here, a little savings there. The Iranian regime has in the past few moths almost multiplied by 4 its gas price, tripled the price of bread and put a significant cost on water. And hold tight: privatizations of state held industries is in the cards!
Now compare this to what Chavez has been doing with an economic situation which might be significantly worse than the one in Iran (official inflation in Venezuela is more than double the official inflation of Iran). A couple of weeks ago Chavez not only backed down on an increase in sales taxes (good, for once!) but even a meager 20% increase in electricity rates was postponed (even though the bulk of chavismo electorate does not pay electricity as it merely steals it). In Iran electricity went up three times, if we are to believe the NYT report.
Certainly from a distance it is not for me to decide whether the measures were good for Iran. But what I can tell you is that the lack of measures are bad from Venezuela. In particular the subsidy in gas price which varies according to accounts but which is generally estimated at 9 billion US dollars! Imagine what Venezuela could do if that gasoline subsidy were to be reduced even by a third alone! The savings would be a number in the range of the budgets for education or health care, and that portion right now goes, literally, up in smoke, instead of refurbishing all the Venezuelan hospitals.
Thus Chavez good brother friend, Ahmadinejad/jerk is showing himself to be quite the little neo-liberal and if he succeeds and along the way gets some agreement with the West over his nukes, well, ask me if he is going to worry about Venezuela when we go down under once and for all. Chavez should be told that recent converts to the benefits of austerity are the most fanatics and the less likely to show sympathy for the Chavez plight coming from his irrepressible wastefulness.