Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Buying friendship in Latin America

Many have written about this before: Maduro is having a difficult time trying to pacify people, he doesn't have the charisma the caudillo Chávez had, he can't speak and so on.

The man recently met in Caracas with the representatives of Petrocaribe, to "strengthen alliances". Petrocaribe is basically an organisation whereby poor Caribbean countries receive cheap oil from the Venezuelan government for political support. You won't see Costa Rica in that club. What came from that meeting were more requests for more cheap oil, what certainly also took place was a series of meetings from Venezuelan Boligarcs to request absolute political support for the Venezuelan government.

Now, Maduro said he was going on a tour through Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay to "look for food". He said the shortages in Venezuela are part of sabotage from those wanting to stop the transition to socialism.

What is going to happen is this: Maduro will see the presidents of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina and he will personally assure them that the Venezuelan state will spend more money on food imports from those countries. That will rejoice a few in the South. He will expect in return a stronger political support and pressure from those countries against any politicians in South America who would dare support Venezuelans claiming for a real audit of the elections or who would in any way criticise the growing repression in Venezuela.

When Maduro accused the former president of Colombia, Alejandro Uribe, of conniving with the Venezuelan opposition to kill him, Colombia's current president and former Uribe protegé Santos remained rather quite. Only after much national pressure was Santos and his foreign minister compelled to say something about this. The reason for such passivity is clear: money. Colombia has a nice trade surplus with Venezuela and Santos does not want to take the country back to the time when Chávez drastically reduced imports from that country.Colombians remember that time just a couple of years ago and it was harsh for them.

Brazil left and right is happy with Venezuela's situation right now

Venezuela has currently a trade deficit with every South American country that counts. It can only keep its positive trade surplus thanks to the huge surplus it has with the United States of America. Even its favourable trade balance with China wouldn't be enough: Chávez got Venezuela into a lot of debt with that country to finance several elections, specially the one in 2012 and the Chinese are becoming more cautious.

Venezuela's currency - under a fixed exchange rate - has been highly overvalued for many years and yet the timid devaluation implemented by the government in February was meaningful enough for Colombians, Uruguayans and many others to get the jitters. And the reason is simple: Venezuela is just the easy pray no one wants to lose.

Maduro tried to revive the excitement old US naggers had with Chávez when he declared Obama was the chief of devils. Obama had very politely expressed his concerns for the state of democracy in Venezuela but that was enough for former AD-politician, former Causa-R politician and current government honcho Aristóbulo Istúriz to say - for the public opinion - that "Venezuela se respeta".

As I always say, oil prices are the Alpha and Omega of Venezuela's politics. And yet I don't want to jump the gun and see long-term patterns in oil prices. People keep doing that and they keep shooting themselves in the foot. Still, we can see prices seem to have stabilized around 100 dollars a barrel and that is not enough for the overtly corrupt Chavista government: Venezuela would need steadily rising prices just to avert a recession.

The Venezuelan opposition will be persecuted more fiercely now. But so far, it has been learning a bit - finally. If it can take the next step, there are chances in the middle term for a real change. To do that it needs to work on establishing a national network of information vectors around the country to tell people about the economic reality and basic democratic principles so foreign to petro-feudal Venezuela. It's about teaching people what an actual debate between parliamentarians or thinkers or just average people means in a democratic country. It's about teaching what sustainable development is - not just about planting trees but about economic and social sustainability. It's about what "decentralization" should be - not power to a local instead of a national caudillo but local decision making together with by direct accountability. The opposition also has to make clear Madurismo is destroying Venezuela's productive sector, that Venezuelan private producers are not inherently evil, as the government wants to make believe, and just need a transparent environment where the rule of law and fair play apply.

The opposition also needs to keep in touch with the outside world and let it be known that those that become friends with the current Venezuelan government and remain silent to human rights violations will soon pay with international scorn and later with economic losses.

More sources:
Colombian exports

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