“I always think a woman looks better when she just runs her fingers through her hair and lets it dry naturally. It’s just an idea I have.” When I heard this quote from Venezuelan leader, Nicolas Maduro I had to laugh. But the situation in Venezuela is anything but a joke. The economy is in a sorry state today. The collapse in oil prices, which account for over 95% of its exports, is part of the reason, but the malaise goes much deeper than that. There is nothing in the shops, and the Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation has informed that only 20% of the drugs that doctors require are available. Meanwhile the country’s currency is pegged officially at 6.35 bolivars to the dollar, but on the street, a dollar will buy over 900 bolivars, according to the website Dolartoday. The International Monetary Fund expects inflation to reach nearly 160%.
Of course if you believe if you believe the former Economy Czar Luis Salas, a sociologist. In a 2015 pamphlet called 22 Keys to Understanding the Economic War he wrote:
“Inflation does not exist in real life. When a person goes to a shop and finds that prices have gone up, they are not in the presence of ‘inflation.”
Salas does not believe that excessive printing of money causes inflation – an almost universally accepted tenet of economics. He insists prices rise primarily because corporations seek excessive profit margins. I have been critical of the dismal science, but maybe sociology is not the answer. Salas, though, has mastered left-wing rhetoric such as speculative-parasite-vulture capital or global war of the planetary plutocracy. He was sacked five weeks after taking on the job. That is quite an achievement; Salas is too ignorant of economics even for Venezuela’s President Maduro! As Socialism for the Twentieth Century comes to grinding halt, I thought it would be a good idea to look at some of the quotes by the Nicolas Maduro:
1) “Do you want to have a fatherland or toilet paper?”
What is about communism and toilet paper? This is what happens when you put price controls. You get a double whammy. On the one hand, if a good is cheaper then people will demand more. At the same time, producers will not be willing to supply a good if it is priced below cost. The rest is commentary.
2) “Cilia and I keep 50 chickens at our home. It’s time to start building a new culture of production.” and “I call Venezuelan Youth to move to the country to build the revolution by harvesting potatoes.”
I’m really glad to hat Nick and Cilia, the first lady are into self-sufficiency, but he seems to be channelling Chairman Mao.
3) “They inoculated Commander Chavez with that illness to get him out of the way, and create a situation of destruction for Venezuela and its independent revolution.” “We have the intuition that our Commander Chavez was poisoned by dark forces that wanted him out of the way,”
So, Maduro claims that Chavez was given cancer. I’ve heard some wacky conspiracy theories before, and this one is right out there. Chavez died of prostate cancer, which is as far as I know is medically impossible to give to someone.
4) “We know that our commander ascended to the heights and is face-to-face with Christ. Something influenced the choice of a South American pope, someone new arrived at Christ’s side and said to him: ‘Well, it seems to us South America’s time has come.”
Maduro claimed that after Chavez died that he must have been the one that influenced the decision to make Francis the pope. Nicolas Maduro was raised as a Roman Catholic, although he is said to be a follower of the late Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba. This must have helped him find Chavez’s spirit.
5) Suddenly a teeny little bird entered and flew around me three times. It landed on a wooden beam and began to whistle, a beautiful whistle. I stayed there looking at it and also whistled. ‘Well, if you whistle, I whistle.’ So, I whistled. The little bird looked at me strangely. It whistled for a short while. Flew around me once and left, and I felt his [Chavez’s] spirit.”
6) “Sometimes I come at night, sometimes I sleep here [at Chavez’s grave], often. You don’t even realize it. The neighbours sometimes realize.”
Now, that’s just creepy
7) “Similar questions were posed to Allende as to me. Allende was told that he blamed everything on a conspiracy, on the economic crisis, that he blamed the high inflation that sabotaged him on the United States, and that he was frequently accusing the little lambs of Nixon and Kissinger of a coup. But everything became known later.
I have no doubt that the Americans are capable of engaging in dirty tricks. This is a massive Waste of time and money. The role of the United States was disgraceful, but Allende’s policies would have led Chile to the ruin anyway, as I pointed out in Roast pigeons in the mouths of comrades.
So there we have it. It would be wrong to single out Maduro without mentioning the man who came before him. In my previous post about Chaveznomics, I made a point of not attacking the democratic credentials of Chavez. I don’t think that Chavez was a dictator. What he was was an opportunist. He was an incredibly charismatic figure. A lot of the problems that came from Venezuela came from the fact that he was trying to win elections, and he did that by giving stuff away – televisions, microwaves, refrigerators and homes. He did make improvements but this was completely unsustainable. Government policies which prioritise consumption over investment will show good economic signs at the beginning. But they will be followed by an inevitable decline and generally disaster. It led to corruption and ultimately left the country without any money after having made so much during these years when the oil prices were high. Chavez’s highly interventionist impoverished Venezuela’s masses while the oil revenue was there he managed to continue with the policy. The anti-capitalist policies in Venezuela have worked so well that the number of companies in Venezuela has now shrunk to a fraction of what it once was. That will reduce capitalist exploitation, won’t it? However, according to Salas, Venezuela is still too capitalist.
But I leave the rest of my vitriol for what Nick Cohen described as the radical tourists who have been deluded pimps for Venezuela. Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Seumus Milne, Ken Livingstone, Sean Penn. In Spain we have Pablo Iglesias, who might even be Spain’s President in two weeks. Here is the blurb for Venezuela: The Movie:
Venezuela has “redistributed wealth and power, rejected western neoliberal orthodoxy, and challenged imperial domination”. Seumus Milne
“Hated by the entrenched classes, Hugo Chavez will live for ever in history. My friend, rest finally in a peace long earned.” Oliver Stone on the day of the leader’s death
“Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle” David Sirotta, writing in 2013
Will these people learn? I very much doubt it. It would be nice to see a little bit of intellectual humbleness from these people. No, they will move on to their next fantasy project. There is no accountability here.