At 24 hours from the start of the festivities, we can put together a few thoughts.
It does not matter who the looted store owner were
El Nacional economy journalist Blanca Vera Azaf is strikingly wrong when she so lightly points out in a string of tweets that the
Unos boliburgueses enchufados tenían negocito con altos funcionarios del gobierno que les vendían electrodomésticos importados (1)
— Blanca Vera Azaf (@bevavera) November 10, 2013
The psychological damage is there to stay, be it a store owner chavista or not. I can vouch myself from by errands yesterday that escualido store owners in Las Americas mall knew that Daka was regime associated which did not stop them from being outraged. Even a woman working at a small cart stand selling waffles was near hysterical at what she considered a plain robbery. This was an attack to private property and people who work truly for a living understood that perfectly.
See, shop owners know that whether you inherit, create or steal the money to open your shop, it takes hard work to keep it afloat. Maybe the owners of Daka were from middle eastern origin, maybe they got started with sweet exchange deals with the regime, but their stores were well kept, they had supplies, they created jobs, etc.... Shop owners of Venezuela understand at gut level that the way to punish the owners of Daka is not by stealing their goods, but by sending tax auditors and levy the necessary fines and taxes. Besides, the price argument is not a good one: nobody forces you to buy in a store. It is up to the customer to do the leg work and compare stores and prices. Only particularly dumb chavistas can content themselves with one product, one quality, one store, one price.
Blanca Vera Azaf should know better than stress such distinctions which play straight into the hands of the regime......
The bolibourgeois (and Cabello) are on the defensive
But since the stores most hit at first were the bolibourgeois ones (the less linked ones were hit yesterday late, as an afterthought of the regime it seems) we must also accept that a large part of the play was done by one chavista sector hitting on another one. What is remarkable in the strategy chosen is that it has NOTHING to do with socialism but all with mafia wars. Had the seizure been "socialist" we would have seen an expropriation, a militarization from the start, etc... more legalism in short, more "el pueblo" organization. What we saw was a crass destruction of the economic might of one group that displeased the other with a whole bunch of opportunists picking the remains.
Maduro and whomever pushed him (Giordani) are true ignorant
We can argue that ignoring the consequences of yesterday may be willful (I want to end capitalism) or the product of ignorance (but I only wanted to punish the bad guys). What we cannot argue is that there will be huge negative consequences that apparently they cannot see, and even less understand if they could see.
When Maduro announces that it wants the Internet providers of Venezuela to censor pages that publish the black market rate of the US dollar we can only be astounded at the stupidity of the man. In no particular order:
- Maduro ignores how Internet works, that all eventually gets to be known sooner or later, even inside China.
- Maduro thinks that the "overpricing" of Daka et al., is due at the owners being directly influenced by reading such pages. The same idiotic argument that pushes some people to want to censor comics because it induces kids to commit crimes.
- Maduro and Giordani truly think that they are doing great and that if the currency has gone from 1 to 0,01 in 15 years it is not because of their lousy policies but because they have been sabotaged all along. Never does it cross their minds that if it were so easy to sabotage an economy Al Qaeda would have bankrupted the USA long ago.
- Maduro and Giordani apparently do not know that all regimes that pretended to control all NEVER could avoid the existence of some form of black market, not even the efficient Germans in occupied Europe during WW2.
What matters the most in Venezuela is the economy
Yesterday Daka seizure covered more expectations than the regime could hope for. The timing of the measure which certainly had a relation with covering electoral bad numbers, Capriles received by the Pope and the march convoked by the opposition yesterday has blown in their face. Indeed, all other news were shut up, EVEN that a Miss Venezuela did get yet another International beauty pageant. Everybody from tweeter to store owners in Las Americas talked about the looting and only the expected chavistas tried to put a good spin on it. I am willing to go on record that overall the result is bad for the regime, that it will not gain them much votes if any, because people that loot probably cannot be bothered to vote to begin with and know very well that whether Maduro remains in office or Capriles wins, they are more likely to preserve their loot under Capriles than a Maduro than cannot control the terrible crime wave that could tomorrow steal their loot. As for "el pueblo" what it really wants to know is whether there is somewhere milk to loot.
The electoral campaign numbers are bad
What Maduro et al. tried this week end is a clear reflection of their polling numbers. Barely a month before an election that you claim you will win you do not need to pull such a stunt (and only one of the many stunts pulled such as declaring December 8 the day of Chavez remembrance). Such a reckless call to "clean up the shelves" by Maduro only proves that he is indeed afraid of losing the majority vote IN SPITE of all the electoral cheating coming our way. Which can only mean one thing: in chavista polls the opposition must be leading by more than 5% which is in my past estimation what the electoral cheating bonus is worth.
From my political contacts this week, and I did not visit them for poll numbers as I know how fickle and imprecise these are this time around, the Metro Caracas numbers look very good, even in the Libertador district, the jewel in the crown for chavismo that even a divided opposition may take, if barely. But I was told of some surprising numbers in the hinterlands that may confirm that next December 9 a large majority of the Venezuelan population will be ruled by opposition mayors. Chavismo can still take comfort that the way districts are organized in the country they are still significantly ahead in the total number of mayors but these ones will have a novelty: the overwhelming majority in the local councils they enjoyed before will not exist anymore. In short chavismo is going to lose its main patronage tool after the central administration, a large majority of town-halls. In fact, a solid showing in those councils could make it very difficult to activate the plan B, to develop "comunas" to weaken mayors elected for the opposition.
The worse may actually come to pass for chavismo: the local elections may turn out to be a plebiscite on Maduro and this creep is helping them to become so! He may regret Daka in a few weeks.
Even the campaign finances are bad
Another thing that we can get confirmation of with the Daka looting is that the regime does not have the means to buy votes the way it used to do under Chavez. Usually at month of any election under chavismo the regime had already occupied all the main public locations to plaster its propaganda. This time around they are rather late when they should have been earlier than usual. Also the ubiquitous "fairs" where chavismo will distribute goods are much rarer and, I was told, less provided than in the past. That Maduro decided to loot Daka for electoral purpose can only mean that indeed, they do not have all the money they would love to have.