What Chávez Needs to Accomplish

TRNN has a video which deals with what Chávez needs to accomplish during his next term. The first question Paul Jay asked was why he had not already accomplished it. I decided this was worth posting here because of the parallels between Chávez and Ortega.

The first point being made is that the youth don't have a personal reference point for seeing what has (and has not) been accomplished because they didn't live in pre-Chávez Venezuela. The discussion covers how Chávez has been rejected by many who have moved up from poor to middle class, primarily though benefits of the Chávez administration.

Also of interest is what Chávez is trying to do that are already in place in Nicaragua. In particular, having a national police force rather than more corrupt local police.

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In the end they need to stop

In the end they need to stop restructuring voting districts, stop buying voters (gifts, housing, credits, cash, government employment, etc.) indirectly or outright, and start delivering similar results that are economically feasible to continue.

Chavez's election year spending sent the Venezuelan economy to a 20%-of- GDP budget deficit. To put that in perspective, the Obama-U.S. always remained under 10%-of-GDP deficit, even while forecasts called for a mass-exodus of wealthy people and the virtual end of the economy. Chavez apparently won by 10 points (no international election observers invited since 2006). Yet, it is worth noting that while Chavez allegedly had his most successful social and political plans implemented, his opposition has grown from 35% to nearly 46% (2006 to 2012). Given the parties, this is huge.

The video segment at least addresses the fact that his opponents can no longer (actually, they never were) the party of the rich. That argument doesn't work when the country is poor and there is massive voter turnout. It is debatable if the growing lower-class anti-Chavez sentiment really is due to those he helped adopting the world view of the class above them (per the video segment), and thereby rejecting the presumed opponent of that class. While voter aspirations can be assumed, this argument doesn't make that much sense given the brief timeline and political nature of all media in Venezuela. After all, if you want to know why poor and working class people voted against Chavez, one option is for a reporter to simply ask some of them (they are quite vocal); another option is to ask the director of a website founded and led by socialist editors all in favor of advancing Chavez and his policies (as done in the linked video segment).

The inteviewee at least admits the truth in his commentary on crime: Chavez and team believed, until the facts were indisputable (one would assume), the standard political line that inequality causes crime. Hence, reduce inequality and you will reduce crime. When inequalities were greatly lessened (and they were), crime was also skyrocketing in Venezuela. There is no escaping the numbers in Venezuela. 2011 was a record year, with nearly 20,000 killings (55 per day), tied to a rate that pegs them double drug-torn Colombia and nearly 5x that of Mexico – and 50% more than in the U.S. For comparison, there were 4,500 murders the year Chavez took office. Were Venezuela a failed state, the numbers would not be terribly surprising. But, since the newly re-elected President is a decade+ into the Bolivarian Revolution, the numbers seem inexplicable.

Chavez cannot reduce the violence with a new "People's Guard" alone. The impunity that reigns in Venezuela is not tied only to municipal policing it is also tied to the judiciary and all levels of government – all areas his party controls. Corruption and incompetence are less noticeable when the oil money is flowing and it is in sectors where government success is difficult to quantify. Mush less so on things easier to quantify, like a murder rate. It will come back to the economy. Chavez has many impressive accomplishments. Problem is, they came at an insane price tag and they are often not tied to a cultural or managerial change in the government itself – and so they can only continue as long as there is near limitless government funding. What gets funded, and what corruption goes with it, is what fuels the opposition – and Chavez's answer is more funding, which yields more corruption. While it was a nice 10point victory, 10 points is the same amount the opposition grew last time around.