The title of this post is in fact deliberately misleading because it would be too easy to describe the regime as such based on a simple reading of last night brutal 180º turn on electricity shortages.
Just as it happened with the shopping malls shut down to save electricity, the application of the new electricity rationing plan did not even last 48 hours. True, it was so stupid, so harebrained a scheme that we all knew that its application could not last long. But barely 24 hours?
Something stinks here. Let's speculate at some of the possible reasons.
-- The electricity minister was really that incompetent. True, he was. But was he truly alone in deciding all of these rationing schemes? There is no talent left in chavismo except a few guys for cheap politicking. But surely there must have been some staff left somewhere that should have suggested that a few more days were needed to design a proper rationing plan. Or is nobody left that knows that even under socialism 2+2 = 4?
-- The problem is way worse than what even the government knew. This is the charitable speculation. The people in place, used to consult only with Chavez or those in his tight circle, acted accordingly. They did not know or did not take into account the economic problems that would be generated with these plans. Eventually the reality of the situation and the consequences of their plans reached the upper regime staff and they realized that they needed to go back to the drawing board. Hence the violent U-turn of last night (by the way, not announced in cadena!, just as the rationing or the devaluation were not announced in cadena!!!!). On this speculation let me link to the latest Caracas Gringo report on the Guri situation.
-- The government is using the crisis for some somber political purpose. We must also consider that. After all the electricity crisis could be an excellent excuse to shore up Chavez sinking fortunes, make people forget about devaluation and inflation for just long enough until Chavez works his way out of the political hole he set is foot on. In September, inflation, devaluation and rolling electricity cuts will have made such a dent in chavismo fortunes that a divided opposition could even gain a thin majority in the new National Assembly (note: deep social problems can also divide chavismo, let's not forget that as the PPT or even the PCV might decide to go solo at the last minute!). Which scenarios must we consider?
The simple one. We are in such a crisis that we cannot do elections right now. There is not enough electricity to activate the voting machines. Elections are postponed sine die.
The harsh one. Chavez has dictatorial powers temporarily voted to him while he deals with the crisis. A referendum could be considered and with the scare factor could well pass, even if threadbare. In short, a "legal" coup.
The complex one. To deal with the crisis, a Chavez that presents himself as a victim of people who did not tell him the truth can ask for either a new constitutional reform, or a self created recall election or some other electoral tool that he could still win in February but not in June. It could work out. As such we can look upon the firing of the newly created electricity minister, or the measure to revoke the mall closings last month as a way to make Chavez look as the nice guy while ministers are fired. More evidence comes from such elements as Chavez not daring to announce the devaluation in cadena or even the resignation of Chacon over the banking scandals. The non-use of cadenas is so telling of a secretive somber strategy!
So there you have it, food for thought.