Venezuela – Hugo’s New Shower Rules
Hugo Chavez and his socialist government have handled everything so well that they’ve decided to go green and show the world how it is done:
Turn out the lights, shorten the shower to three minutes, buy a portable generator.
That is President Hugo Chávez’s message to the citizens of energy-rich Venezuela, where the “socialist revolution” has brought power cuts, water shortages and collapsing public services.
Heh … Chavez actually did try to push the green theme in his radio address discussing showering and turning off the lights. But it was a facade designed to hide the fact that the infrastructure is collapsing. As you might imagine, that’s sparking more than a little unrest:
“We’re accused of wasting electricity, but the fact is the government didn’t plan, didn’t invest and didn’t carry out maintenance,” Aixa Lopez, president of the Committee of Blackout Victims, told the TV news channel Globovisión.
In fact, as with all marginal leaders, Chavez blames all of his problems on others:
In early 2007, after winning re-election, Chávez decreed the nationalization of those parts of the electricity industry still in private hands — notably the Caracas power company EDC. Since then, there have been seven national power outages. In most parts of the country, weary consumers have grown used to frequent, unscheduled blackouts lasting hours.
This month, the president admitted there was a crisis in both the power and water industries. This came on the heels of a similar admission regarding healthcare. He put the blame mainly on the El Niño phenomenon for producing drought — Venezuela is 70 percent dependent on hydro power for its electricity — and on consumers for their wasteful habits.
Much of his ire was aimed at shopping malls because, he said, they foment capitalist values. “They’re going to have to buy their own generators,” he threatened, “or I’ll cut off their electricity.”
Ordinary Venezuelans have been urged to use less water and turn off the lights. “Some people sing in the bath for half an hour,” Chávez told a recent cabinet session, broadcast live. “What kind of communism is that? Three minutes is more than enough!”
Formal water rationing has now been introduced, government departments have been told to reduce their electricity consumption by a fifth, and the president has created a new Electricity Ministry in a tacit admission that the state has failed to manage the power industry correctly.
In fact, both the Water and Electricity Ministry are in a shambles:
According to Víctor Poleo, who was deputy minister for electricity at the beginning of the Chávez era, despite huge sums of money allocated, little has actually been done.
“My guess is that of every $100 pumped into [electricity] generation and transmission since 2003, $75 has been stolen by the politicians,” Poleo said.
Venezuela is a oil rich state from which 90% of its foreign earning are garnered. Chavez called his socialist economy “bulletproof”. However, it is now deep in recession:
Worse still, its shrinking economy has done little to blunt inflation, which is running at close to 30 percent a year — around three times the regional average. And the economic downturn is having a predictable effect on the government’s popularity, just as it gears up to fight crucial legislative elections next year.
The latest data from polling company Datanálisis shows voters evenly split, for the first time since mid-2004, over whether the president has been good or bad for “national wellbeing.” Only 17.2 percent say they would vote for him if the presidential election were imminent — down from over 31 percent in September.
Of course, as the article points out, the opposition is “incoherent” and unable to provide unified opposition at this point. But those sorts of things have a way of rectifying themselves if the economic and infrastructure problems continue. Chavez may have figured out how to position himself to be president for life on paper, but remaining president for life with the problems Venezuela is now beginning to face (and may see compounding) may be tougher then he thought.