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Friday, 10 January 2014

Crackers In Caracas

“Welcome to the USSR” …. That’s the sign they should put up at Simón Bolívar International Airport, aka Caracas International airport in Venezuela. It seems to be a country run by idiots, with an ideological bias that only an ex-terrorist could have come up with. Venezuela has been run under a ‘democratic dictatorship’ (at least no one has never proved that the elections aren’t basically fair), in which the late ‘populist President “Hugo Chavez”, led a Socialist (or 'Communist' as his critics would claim), government from 1998 until his death in 2013 - only to be succeeded by his deputy 'Nicolas Maduro', and its fair to say that things have not gone especially well during that period.

Chavez - From Soldier - To Arrested Coup Plotter - To Demagogue

Certainly, initially the oil rich governments policies of the state seizing private assets under the ‘Bolivarian’ ideology and policies, were popular with ‘the masses’, but of course it takes several years before the butchers bill comes back … essentially Communist in thrust, the state seizures of assets (often without full compensation), and ‘setting prices’ for shop goods and services, cost little to anyone except those dispossessed. Well as any fool should know by now, you can’t buck the markets. So when they fixed the price of many essential items from milk right through to toilet paper, allegedly to counteract against ‘profit-hungry private companies’ aka 'Inflation' (officially running at around 50%, but unofficially it is much higher), then it should have come as no surprise that supplies of these items suddenly ‘dried up’, and now, whenever a rumour of a delivery of the rare products passes around, there are mile long queues of people trying to get them.

There is also now the almost obligatory 'official currency exchange rate', set by the government, and its illegitimate twin, but almost as ‘official’, ‘black market’ rates set by people, which just like in the old USSR, offers a vastly different rate of exchange. This ‘economic model’ is very similar to that in Cuba and is being closely mirrored by the Argentine government, with much the same results.

Recently, President Maduro ordered a chain of electronic stores called ‘Daka’ to 'slash' their prices, accusing it of 'defrauding ordinary people' – needless to say all the ‘cut price items' sold out (many to be later sold on the black market for considerably more i.e market rates), leaving the store empty of stock, and no longer able to restock – so likely to go bust. But rather than be chastened by this failure, the government has said it will extend the policy to other sectors.

Of course in this Socialist Paradise corruption is endemic, and having to pay bribes to everyone from the police to public officials to get any service is 'normal'. All this of course is almost a mirror of the old USSR and its Eastern European Empire …. But strangely (or perhaps not), no one seems to have learnt any lessons from history, and so now this ‘El Presidenti’ rules by decree, and the country collapses in to lawlessness, with the Venezuelan capital having the reputation of being one of the most violent cities in South America (and when you consider the rivals include Bogotá, and Mexico city, that’s some reputation!).

Ironically the President's creation of a ‘sub-Ministry for Social Happiness’ to tackle the problems, may actually prove to be the last laugh of a strange regime, if the next elections are actually free and fair, or maybe not, because if the moral of the story of this, and similar governments in Gaza, Iran, Zimbabwe, its surely that when the masses get to vote, they can be bought by populist demagogues time and time again.

The Who's song "Won't Get Fooled Again" .... actually was wrong. We can be fooled time, and time, and time again, apparently.

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