I never cease to be impressed by the deep denial that still exists in some people as to Venezuela being a military dictatorship. Sure enough, there are "elections", a civilian "president" is the one "ruling", you can travel if you can find an airplane ticket, you still can read this blog though more and more the regime practices blocking certain pages, there are "so few" political prisoners, the hundred of thousand people that emigrated out are simply not genuine patriots, etc.
Fortunately for those that still do not understand that dictatorships in the XXI century are of a very different species than the earlier ones, Maduro first day with his new toy should be the beginning of enlightenment. Even among the opposition: this Saturday finally Capriles has called for protests all around the country. About time.....
There is no need to go much in the details of the two new laws signed today: they are, as expected, designed by the regime to control more the economy and punish those it wants to punish. The laws, as the ones to be published in the next months, are mere excuses that make the task easier in finding motives to crack down. As all such type of laws they will not work out, and in the end they never worked in any country. They are mere examples of laws that a dictatorship emits, nothing more, nothing less. What is more interesting is how the regime bends backward further, if it were possible, the constitution.
One law is to promote corruption. Through this law Maduro creates a Centro Nacional de Comercio Exterior or National Center for Foreign Trade. Maduro's reported words are rather confusing. Apparently now if you want to import anything you need to pass though that CNCE and sign a contract that proves you will use the dollars approved as intended and that you will be willing to be monitored in all your operations. We can sort of deal with that, it is just a more centralized CADIVI where those who have the power to grant the dollars, corrupt or not, will remain in similar posts. Not only this will not stop corruption, it will only make it a little bit more circumvented and thus only increase the price of bribes that you will need to pay to get access to dollars to keep your business running.
Where Maduro loses us is with his announcement is that dollars that are approved will have to be deposited in a local account instead of being transferred to your directly to your provider as it should be the case. How do I transfer dollars from my account to my provider if 1) I cannot have an account in dollars inside Venezuela and 2) there is a currency control exchange that forbids me such transfers? Is this a circumvented way to force providers to "invest" in Venezuela? A disguised devaluation as such transfers could be taxed? Was it just yet another idiotic misunderstanding of Maduro?
The other law, as expected, was to tie together a series of previous laws that will allow the regime to fix not only prices but also how much you are allowed to make in your business. In short, it is the law that is going to destroy large sectors of the economy that require flexibility in their earnings (seasonal character, for example) or that sell few large ticket items that need large margins to sustain business in between sales. Maduro claims that this law decree will stabilize the economy. He may be right, it will be base line stability.
Now, if this does not reek enough of dictatorship, let me add that Maduro wants to give the price and earning control law a character of "organica" which does not mean at all wholesome and organic. In Venezuelan legal tradition there are the so called organic laws which need to be voted by 2/3 of Parliament and can only be modified with a 2/3 vote. The intention is to approve through such laws what the institutions of the country should be, things that are dangerous to change according to the whim of any government. In other words organic laws are in principle the laws that are used to implement the constitutional provisions as to how is the country organized, and NOT necessarily how it is run since this requires more flexibility to account for changes in economy or society.
Thus the beauty of this Maduro initiative: a president that stole his election in April, that is, 1) who does not have 50% of the electorate behind him, 2) has used a 3/5 vote of an assembly which has been obtained courtesy of gerrymandering, blackmailing representatives and firing others, 3) this 3/5 by the way representing LESS votes of the people in 2010 than the 2/5 sitting across the aisle, to 4) get a law that in the future can only be modified by a 2/3 vote even if it was in practice voted in with a spurious 3/5. And he will get his wish because he only needs the high court, TSJ, to validate the new law as such. Of course, a high court that has violated the constitution so that Maduro can become president is certain to grant him his wish.
Now, if with this you still think that Maduro is not a dictator then please, do not read this blog anymore. Though, of course, you may be able to read it for only a few days more, until the regime blocks my page or something.