Sunday, 18 April 2010

From uncle Sam to uncle Hu

The Chinese era

The people of what is now Venezuela have been ripped off on a massive scale since the first time civilizations with very different levels of technological development - Arawaks, Caribs and Waraos on one side and Europeans on the other - met in the Land of Grace. The rip-off has never stopped. Venezuela is now just getting into a new stage: the Chinese era. As fellow blogger Miguel has been writing, the Venezuelan government is in need of cash and due to its erratic policies it is not getting the right response as fast as it needs. Now it has been able to sign a series of agreements that would give the cash-strapped government 20 billion dollars in loans from China. That is 20 billion more for Chávez. Venezuela's debt with China has been going up very fast in the last years. Chávez had also signed a $16 billion deal with China in 2009. Loans are not bad. The problem is who is doing what with that money.

Chávez said "we know that when we assume this compromise, both governments and republics and their respective political regimes are here to stay". I wish someone could ask Chávez what he meant by that. We won't have the chance to do that as Chávez won't get into open debates or interviews with real journalists. I wish we could at least get the details about the contracts signed now.

If you watch the video in the link above you will see how even the Chinese get surprised by the supine way in which Chávez calls them "friends" time after time. As usual when Venezuelan leaders have friends abroad, they will become real amigos. The government claims there will be joint companies that will benefit Venezuela. We know how the Chinese-Venezuelan "computer enterprise" (Lang Chaon on the Chinese side and the Venezuelan government on the other) ended for Venezuela: China was supposed to build computers in Venezuela and get Venezuelans assembling computers for the first time. In reality Venezuelans had been assembling imported parts since the late does not really take much to do that. The only difference was that they were doing it without a government pretending that to be a big deal. If you are interested in finding out what we got from that computer company venture, try to look for "Lang Chao Venezuela" in your favourite search engine. Or save time: there is nothing since the announcements 3 to 4 years ago. We know how the technology transfer went for the "Bolivarian satellite": Venezuela bought the technology and the Chinese got the money.

An old story

There have always been Venezuelans working rather for foreign interests to the clear detriment of their fellow citizens: the native Americans who sold slaves to the Dutch and English for rifles, the native Americans who led the Spanish invaders to the conquest of the Caracas Valley, the Amos del Valle who were usually interested in maximizing their gains without any interest for the people and the country they got their fortunes from, the heads of state of 'independent' Venezuela who signed deal after deal that turned out to be disgraceful for Venezuela and very profitable for European powers and then for the United States.

Unfortunately, the counter-reactions have turned out to be fatal as fatal: Cipriano Castro and some short-lived lefty movements came to nothing or just lead to more chaos, loss of lives and capital.

The ones talking about how to protect Venezuela's interests tend to take economic credos as absolute truths, whether they are right or left.

On one side we have thus:

- people who believe in economic rules as if they were physical laws, who think economics is like mathematics and who are convinced in the power of the invisible hand even when it is gives them the finger
- people who think we need to have complete free trade getting towards us to develop even if absolutely no developed country ever reached development without some forms of protectionism and state support (not the US, not Japan, not any European country)

They turned out to become what lefties call compradores.

On the other we get a similar lot. We get

- people who believe supply and demand can be abolished by decree or even revolution
- people who think any country can be autarchic
- people who deem themselves as irreplaceable
- people who secure their power by using corrupt and otherwise inept thugs who have no idea of sustainable development.

We haven't got governments as the Norwegians got them in the late XIX and early XX century, governments that carried out very intelligent policies of national development, governments that offered interesting investments to foreigners while securing the middle and long-term technology transfer and capital control by nationals, implementing honest and transparent procedures and heavily investing in real education (not education as in "título de licenciado o doctorado"). We haven't done what the Japanese did during the Meiji period by bringing to the country top scientists and teachers, by developing local industries and controlling what kind of "free trade" we want - as US Americans, Germans, Japanese and Swiss did and still do.

Someone's going to pay for it

Chávez is desperate for money. He wants to win as many seats in the September elections as possible - at absolutely any cost. Nothing better for him than getting money from a country that does not ask questions about human rights.

We will have to pay for the money he is getting now anyway.

I wish we Venezuelans could learn a little bit about how the rich made it: USA, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Norway.

The sad thing is once Chávez is gone chances are huge that we will keep having governments that keep getting into unfavourable deals to Venezuela because the rulers are incompetent, because they keep defending some vested interests, because they prefer above all to be popular than to develop the country on a long term basis. Unless we radically change the way we think about sustainable development, we will keep running from Uncle Sam to Uncle Hu to Uncle Hans to Uncle Sam again.

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