Thursday, January 14, 2010

A cornered regime, bereft of ideas and talent. Or something else?

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.


  1. Charly4:18 PM

    Daniel, we should always look at the bright side. In this case with bad news snowballing with no end in sight means that His Nibs will have to announce bad news in the future, hence less cadenas. That is great news.

  2. Boludo Tejano5:27 PM

    I was initially shocked at your speculations, but upon due reflection, I saw your point.

    The point about your speculation is that when looking at Chavez over the years, while he may be almost be guaranteed to make decisions that hurt the economy, he will always look to exert initiative to increase power. There's always something going on. More power is to him, always a good thing, which is why he always seeks to increase it. Say what you will, he is very good at increasing his personal power. It is therefore logical that he will use the electricity crisis to increase his power.

  3. Boludo

    let's not forget that Venezuela is a Cuban colony and there is always their input in any decision. They never think about what is best for Venezuela.

  4. I think Chavez is a fox.

  5. marc in calgary7:05 PM

    Not enough electricity to power all the voting machines?

    I truly hope this is one comment you are completely wrong on.
    However, is there anything that Hugo has done in these 11 years that has not been to consolidate his power?
    He owns this crisis.

  6. I'm guessing that the rationing will be back. THe effects of the first cuts showed they had no idea where each circuit led, and therefore many unintended consequences manifested themselves.

    Look for "test blackouts' that will be the only way for them (or anyone, for that matter) to figure out what switch in what substation turns off which circuit.
    Then you will see a rationing scheme. It is inevitable that rationing has to occur, unless the gods of rain smile upon us.

  7. Daniel: I'm having a little trouble accessing Google, so this is just a test message. Please publish if it comes up. Thanks. Martin

  8. I vote for the complex option.In the radio program by Ivan Ballesteros, he interviews many disenchanted Chavistas often from the barrios.The theme that always comes up is that they attribute the source of their complaints to those who surround Chavez who are making a mess of it in spite of Chavez's good intentions of helping the poor people.

    Starting to fire ministers will play right into that version, creating the expectations that now that Chavez has wizened up about these people, things are really going to improve.

    The only question will be what excuse will Chavez come up with next time ?He is on the defensive so he will be looking for cover ups and not real solutions.


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