Venezuelan socialist strong man Hugo Chavez is reported to have had cancer surgery in Cuba (how freakin’ bad is it when you have to go to Cuba for treatment).
The usually vivacious Chavez, 56, confirmed in a stern speech on Thursday he had surgery in Cuba to remove a cancerous tumor and was receiving more treatment. He said he needed time to recover before returning to Venezuela to run his self-styled revolution.
A fiery critic of the United States, Chavez will miss events marking Venezuela’s 200th anniversary of independence from Spain. He had to cancel a regional summit planned for the momentous July 5 date.
Markets have generally reacted positively to news of Chavez’s health problems, on the presumption they improve the chances of a more business-friendly government.
The last sentence says it all. If ever there’s been a person to ruin the economic health of a country, it is Hugo Chavez. He’s now vulnerable. And as the article says, there’s a power vacuum forming and in most cases that’s not a good thing – in this case, it could be a good thing:
"Political vacuums are rarely to be encouraged, but this one could lead to a slowdown in public spending and could raise the likelihood of an opposition victory in the next elections, and thus a less confrontational governing style," said Richard Segal, an emerging markets analyst at Jefferies in London.
An interesting situation. And the longer he remains in Cuba, the shakier his position in Venezuela becomes. Nothing would do the world and Venezuela more good than to see another revolution which ousts him from power and returns the country to a real democracy and market based economy.
Hugo Chavez is really interested in pulling his good friend Moammer Gahdafi’s bacon out of the fire. Did I say bacon – how insensitive of me. Let’s just call it “fat” and leave it at that.
Yes, Hugo is good buddies with the guy who is in the middle of doing whatever he can to hold on to power to include bombing his own people. And, of course, Chavez is also using it as an opportunity to blame the US and divert attention from the atrocities his good buddy is ordering committed daily:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has called for an international good will commission to mediate in Libya; in contrast the U.N. Security Council over the weekend voted for tough restrictions and possible war crimes charges against the Libyan regime.
On Monday, Chavez said Gadhafi, "has been my friend and our friend for a long time," in remarks broadcast on Venezuelan state television.
And in comments made on Thursday, Chavez described alleged preparations to invade Libya as "a madness, and in front of that madness, as always, the Yankee empire that tries to dominate the world, at the cost of fire and blood."
You’ve got to love a guy who can delude himself so completely. He’s the prototypical autocrat. And he’s watching tyrants very similar to himself falling one by one.
And you have to laugh at how lame it is when he tries to push it all off on "the Yankee empire”, when we’ve got an administration that has been mostly silent about everything and was so timid that it sent a commercial ferry for its evacuees instead of using the military. Yup, “the Yankee empire” is just dyin’ to lay a little “fire and blood” on the world.
So Hugo Chavez, now the head of the dictator protection league, peddles his “peace plan”, with an eye to keeping a mad man in power.
Yeah, that ought enhance his reputation.
Iran is again upping the ante in the game of brinksmanship it is playing with the US and the rest of the Western world. It’s latest move? An agreement with the anti-US regime in Venezuela to base medium range ground-to-ground missiles there.
Iran is planning to place medium-range missiles on Venezuelan soil, based on western information sources, according to an article in the German daily, Die Welt, of November 25, 2010. According to the article, an agreement between the two countries was signed during the last visit o Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Tehran on October19, 2010. The previously undisclosed contract provides for the establishment of a jointly operated military base in Venezuela, and the joint development of ground-to-ground missiles.
At a moment when NATO members found an agreement, in the recent Lisbon summit (19-20 November 2010), to develop a Missile Defence capability to protect NATO’s populations and territories in Europe against ballistic missile attacks from the East (namely, Iran), Iran’s counter-move consists in establishing a strategic base in the South American continent – in the United States’s soft underbelly.
Some of us are old enough to remember the Cuban missile crisis of the Kennedy era and the fact that we went to the very brink of nuclear war to prevent the USSR from establishing missile bases in the US.
Of course the USSR was a nuclear power at the time and so the possibility of nuclear weaponry being a part of those missiles was both real and likely. Iran, on the other hand, isn’t yet a power with nuclear weapons (or so say it and the rest of the world). But it is anticipated that they will soon have that capability.
So, if the report is true will the US allow the establishment of such missile bases in Venezuela? And with the possibility of the regime in Iran developing nuclear weapons, the possibility they’ll “share” them with Venezuela has to be taken serious. The agreement apparently allows Iran to establish a military base there manned by Iranian missile officers, soldiers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The base with be jointly occupied by Venezuelan military as well.
And then there is this bit of ominous news about the agreement:
In addition, Iran has given permission for the missiles to be used in case of an "emergency". In return, the agreement states that Venezuela can use these facilities for "national needs" – radically increasing the threat to neighbors like Colombia. The German daily claims that according to the agreement, Iranian Shahab 3 (range 1300-1500 km), Scud-B (285-330 km) and Scud-C (300, 500 and 700 km) will be deployed in the proposed base. It says that Iran also pledged to help Venezuela in rocket technology expertise, including intensive training of officers
Not only that, it is through Venezuela that Iran is planning to bypass UN weapons sanctions as well:
Russia decided not to sell five battalions of S-300PMU-1 air defence systems to Iran. These weapons, along with a number of other weapons, were part of a deal, signed in 2007, worth $800 million. Now that these weapons cannot be delivered to Iran, Russia is looking for new customers; according to the Russian press agency Novosti, it found one: Venezuela.
Novosti reports the words of Igor Korotchenko, head of a Moscow-based think tank on international arms trade, saying that if the S-300 deal with Venezuela goes through, Caracas should pay cash for the missiles, rather than take another loan from Russia. "The S-300 is a very good product and Venezuela should pay the full amount in cash, as the country’s budget has enough funds to cover the deal ," Korotchenko said. Moscow has already provided Caracas with several loans to buy Russian-made weaponry, including a recent $2.2-mln loan on the purchase of 92 T-72M1M tanks, the Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems and other military equipment.
If Iran, therefore, cannot get the S-300 missiles directly from Russia, it can still have them through its proxy, Venezuela, and deploy them against its staunchest enemy, the U.S..
So, thus far, this is what the US’s “unclenched fist” has brought. A move by Iran – whether admitted or not – to establish a way at striking at the US should the US strike Iran. Additionally, it has found an ally to help it avoid weapons sanctions and obtain advanced weaponry that would help protect it’s nuclear facilities from air strikes through a proxy (of course, training and maintenance and parts may be difficult to obtain should Venezuela buy them and send them to Iran).
Iran has obviously not been sitting idly by while the West contrived to choke it off from the weaponry it wants. Additionally it has found a way to make any strike on their facilities much more risky for the US.
Anna Mahjar-Barducci of Hudson New York (Hudson Institute) concludes:
Back in the 1962, thanks to the stern stance adopted by the then Kennedy administration, the crisis was defused.
Nowadays, however, we do not see the same firmness from the present administration. On the contrary, we see a lax attitude, both in language and in deeds, that results in extending hands when our adversaries have no intention of shaking hands with us. Iran is soon going to have a nuclear weapon, and there are no signs that UN sanctions will in any way deter the Ayatollah’s regime from completing its nuclear program. We know that Iran already has missiles that can carry an atomic warhead over Israel and over the Arabian Peninsula. Now we learn that Iran is planning to build a missile base close to the US borders. How longer do we have to wait before the Obama administration begins to understand threats?
Her points are dead-on. The unclenched fist, as we predicted, has caused the aggressors of the world to decide to push the envelope. Believe it or not And why not? There’s no penalty evident for doing so. As mentioned here at QandO, 2009 would be a year that the bad guys watched the new guy on the block and assessed him (weak or strong?). If they decide he’s a weak sister, they will begin to test him in 2010 and 2011. North Korea is right now in the middle of doing that and, as this deal indicates, Iran (nor Venezuela) has absolutely no fear of the US’s reaction to basing missiles capable of hitting the US mainland in Venezuela. And START does nothing to address this situation, obviously. Yet that’s the administration’s current priority.
The phone is about to ring at 3am. You have to wonder when it does if it will just go to the answering machine.
Strongman Hugo Chavez says the flooding in Venezuela that has resulted in 70,000 homeless and 32 deaths is easy to understand. It’s the result of “criminal capitalism” and it’s effect on the world’s climate:
"The developed nations irresponsibly shatter the environmental order, in their desire to maintain a criminal development model while the immense majority of the earth’s people suffer the most terrible consequences," he said on Venezuelan television Sunday.
You may be wondering why this sort of stupidity is even worth mentioning. It is worth mentioning because it is a sterling example of the nonsense that has been precipitated by AGW scaremongering that I discuss below. This is a dictator’s excuse, however absurd it sounds, for his regime’s inability to control the flooding in his country.
"The world’s powerful economies insist on a destructive way of life,” he said on Sunday. "And then refuse to take any responsibility."
I’m sure it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what taking "responsibility" would mean. In the past this would be viewed as another in a long line of failed socialist dictators who, because of their crippling of their country’s economy, have rendered unable to cope with natural disasters. But with the convenient excuse of AGW to pin the blame on, and by extension the richer nations, shifting the blame is a natural.
Any bets as to whether this will be a topic in Cancun?
That’s right – even at their lowest ebb right now, Obama’s are better numbers than Hugo has (although Harry Reid would probably kill for Hugo’s numbers):
In a survey last month, Consultores 21 found that only 36 percent of Venezuelans approved of Chavez’s performance, a seven-year low.
Any guess why? Yeah, I know, a real stumper. Let’s channel Bill Clinton’s campaign message for a minute. Ah, yes, there it is – "it’s the economy, stupid." Do you know what the Venezuelan economy looks like right now?
The Economist magazine provides statistics weekly on 57 nations, from the United States to Estonia. Its most recent report forecasts that gross domestic product in Venezuela will decline by 5.5 percent in 2010. Next worst is Greece, with a 3.9 percent decline. Greece, of course, came close to defaulting on its debt earlier this year, and analysts at Morgan Stanley worry that Venezuela is moving in the same direction.
“Our new baseline of at least three years of economic contraction suggests the risks to Venezuela’s ability to honor its international financial commitments may be on the rise,” wrote Daniel Volberg and Giuliana Pardelli in a June report, at the same time predicting that GDP will fall by 6.2 percent in 2010. “While most of Latin America, in line with the globe, has been in recovery mode since last year, Venezuela has seen an intensifying downturn in activity,” they added.
So that’s GDP, the single best measure of economic health. When it comes to inflation, no one is close to Venezuela. Consumer prices are already up 31 percent for 2010 and are expected to rise more by year-end. Only two of the remaining 56 nations monitored by the Economist are suffering double-digit inflation: India and Egypt, both with 11 percent price increases.
Venezuela’s stagflation is all the more remarkable because, as the No. 8 oil-producing nation in the world, the country should be benefiting handsomely from high oil prices.
And it most likely would be doing so if it didn’t have an idiot who thinks socialism works at the helm.
Chavez has spent a lot of time, however, consolidating the organs of government power under his control and stomping out any opposition media in an attempt to keep Venezuelans in the dark (and not just from the rolling blackouts that plague the country) as to what is happening. But economics have a way of running those sorts of blockades when the reality of them sets in on the populace:
But even a news blackout would not prevent Venezuelans from knowing firsthand what is happening to their nation’s economy. Retail sales were down 12 percent in the first half of the year; sales of food, beverages, and tobacco in specialty stores were off 30 percent. Chavez slapped on permanent exchange controls to prevent “the oligarchy from taking U.S. dollars and depositing them in banks around the world.” But like most such controls, they have only panicked investors and businesses and led to more capital flight. Figures from the Central Bank of Venezuela showed $9 billion in capital outflows in the first half of the year.
Venezuelans go to the polls tomorrow in a similar situation to the US – midterm elections and a ruling party that has proven to be inept and corrupt. It is parliament they’ll be voting for. And given the shape of the country, the censorship, inflation, crime (Caracas is more dangerous than Baghdad) and economic disaster Venezuelans have been experiencing the opposition does indeed have some "hope" for "change".
Whether Hugo actually allows that, of course, is another matter altogether.
We could have told him that 50 years ago:
Fidel Castro told a visiting American journalist that Cuba’s communist economic model doesn’t work, a rare comment on domestic affairs from a man who has conspicuously steered clear of local issues since stepping down four years ago.
Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, asked if Cuba’s economic system was still worth exporting to other countries, and Castro replied: "The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore" Goldberg wrote Wednesday in a post on his Atlantic blog.
The state controls well over 90 percent of the economy, paying workers salaries of about $20 a month in return for free health care and education, and nearly free transportation and housing. At least a portion of every citizen’s food needs are sold to them through ration books at heavily subsidized prices.
Of course the "Cuban model" only “worked” while the USSR existed. It was essentially based in heavy subsidies paid Cuba by the USSR for being its main proxy in the Americas. And the USSR’s woes most firmly underlined the problems with a centralized demand economy run by the state. Even so, Cuba continued on along that vein even after their greatest benefactor and financial supporter collapsed like a wet paper box. Now, finally, after pushing Cuba into poverty, Castro admits socialism is a bust.
China, while still totalitarian, recognized the economic problems soon enough to avert a similar disaster by loosening up economically. Cuba and North Korea, though, have continued to use the disastrous economic model and are basket cases (Cuba has instituted some modest economic changes, but not enough to break the dependency on the state the government of Cuba had ingrained on multiple generations of its population).
Of course Castro’s admission comes to late for the people of Venezuela who’ve been roped into a Cuba-style socialist government by strong man Hugo Chavez. Predictably, the Venezuelan economy is in shambles.
You have to wonder how many more ruined economies it will take before the socialists of the world (or wannabes) recognize that their brand of government and economics is a disaster and has probably ruined more lives than any other economic system in history.
That socialist paradise created by Hugo Chavez has a new failure to add to its long list of failures – the failure of the government to provide the population with protection and security. Venezuela has become the murder capital of the world:
In Iraq, a country with about the same population as Venezuela, there were 4,644 civilian deaths from violence in 2009, according to Iraq Body Count; in Venezuela that year, the number of murders climbed above 16,000.
Pretty convincing numbers if you ask me. Iraq is war torn and has car bombs going off all over the place and yet there were almost 4 times the deaths in Venezuela the same year. When you look at the numbers over the whole of Chavez’s rule, they’re mind boggling:
Venezuela is struggling with a decade-long surge in homicides, with about 118,541 since President Hugo Chávez took office in 1999, according to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a group that compiles figures based on police files. (The government has stopped publicly releasing its own detailed homicide statistics, but has not disputed the group’s numbers, and news reports citing unreleased government figures suggest human rights groups may actually be undercounting murders).
There have been 43,792 homicides in Venezuela since 2007, according to the violence observatory, compared with about 28,000 deaths from drug-related violence in Mexico since that country’s assault on cartels began in late 2006.
Imagine that – we know a drug war is being waged in Mexico and we know the level of violence it has spawned, especially near the border. Venezuela has suffered almost twice the number of deaths as have occurred in the Mexican battle with the drug cartels.
In fact, the homicide numbers look more like those you’d find in a war. It points to a system that is either badly broken, turning a blind eye or incompetent – or perhaps a bit of all three.
More than 90 percent of murders go unsolved, without a single arrest, Mr. Briceño-León said. But cases against Mr. Chavez’s critics — including judges, dissident generals and media executives — are increasingly common.
Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda, a state encompassing parts of Caracas, told reporters last week that Mr. Chávez had worsened the homicide problem by cutting money for state and city governments led by political opponents and then removing thousands of guns from their police forces after losing regional elections.
Chavez has spent years wooing the poor as potent electoral allies in his bid to remain in power:
During his 11 years in power, Chávez has cast himself as their champion. He often takes to the airwaves to tell Venezuela’s most humble that “no one loves you like I do” and warn them about being shunted aside by the “squalid bourgeoisie” if he ever loses power.
The government has plowed millions into healthcare, education and subsidies. According to the United Nations, Venezuela is a regional leader in reducing the income-gap between the rich and poor.
But other parts of the economy are stumbling badly, making even some of his most loyal supporters grumble.
In 2010, this oil-rich country will join earthquake shattered Haiti as the only economy in the Americas that will see its gross domestic product shrink; inflation — expected to exceed 30 percent this year — is eating away purchasing power; and crime is rampant.
As you can see Venezuela is also the regional leader in killing not only its citizens but its economy. And his base is indeed grumbling:
Ana Sanchez, 54, runs a government-subsidized day care center in the Simón Rodríguez sector of Caracas. She said she hasn’t received the funds in more than six months.
In the past five years, she has been mugged three times and her family has quit getting together in the evenings for fear of crime.
“We are living through terrible times,” she said, as she looked for clothes at the market. “It didn’t have to be this way, but the whole tortilla got turned.”
The change is not sudden. For the last two years Chávez has seen his popularity slide, said Saul Cabrera of the Consultores 21 polling firm. The latest polls show just 36 percent of Venezuelans approve of the president’s performance — the lowest figure since 2003, when Chávez survived a strike that decimated the economy.
A poll by Hinterlaces shows similar results — 65 percent of the population thinks the country is headed the wrong direction. But dissatisfaction does not always translate into votes, said Oscar Schemel of Hinterlaces.
The opposition has failed to inspire the poor or provide a coherent or “believable” proposal, he said.
The opposition there sounds like the GOP here. And the fact that Chavez has actively shut down opposition press. But there are cracks showing up in the foundation of Chavez’s support:
But even in the 23 de Enero neighborhood, there are signs that Chávez’s support is cracking, said Manuel Mir, the neighborhood campaign coordinator of the Un Nuevo Tiempo opposition party.
In the past, neighbors have torn down campaign tents, threatened opposition candidates and intimidated supporters, he said. During regional elections in 2008, the party had to hold its meetings outside of the area for fear of reprisals.
Now, they are meeting inside the community, he said. People are opening their doors for opposition candidates.
“This time a lot of people are dissatisfied. There are problems with basic public services and crime,” Mir said. “People think now may be the time for a change.”
Sounds like Venezuelans are wanting real change as much as many Americans. But Chavez runs the electoral process, pretty much owns parliament, and has stuffed the courts with his supporters. Pushing him out of power is not going to be an easy thing. But as the situation continues to deteriorate, and even his base of power begins to notice, he may find it very difficult to hang on. Unfortunately, having watched Chavez over the years, my guess is he’ll end up being carried out of office feet first rather than willingly giving it up.
When government doesn’t want to pay a bill, you have little recourse except the courts in most law abiding countries.
In the dictatorship that is Venezuela, not only does the government not pay the bill, but it takes you means of livelihood to boot for daring to attempt to collect what you’re owed. Such is the fate of one American owned country which tried to collect on its debt.
Venezuela will nationalize a fleet of oil rigs belonging to U.S. company Helmerich and Payne, the latest takeover in a push to socialism as President Hugo Chavez struggles with lower oil output and a recession.
The 11 drilling rigs have been idled for months following a dispute over pending payments by the OPEC member’s state oil company PDVSA. Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said on Wednesday the rigs, the Oklahoma-based company’s entire Venezuelan fleet, were being nationalized to bring them back into production.
The reason they weren’t presently in production is the Venezuelan government refuses to pay them for $49 million for past services.
Of course the government of Venezuela has devised an excuse for what would be grand theft in any other law abiding society:
Ramirez said companies that refused to put their rigs into production were part of a plan to weaken Chavez’s government,
“There is a group of drill owners that has refused to discuss tariffs and services with PDVSA and have preferred to keep this equipment stored for a year,” Ramirez told reporters in the oil producing state of Zulia. “That is the specific case with U.S. multinational Helmerich and Payne.”
Interestingly, we here have the opposite problem. Venezuela’s government is trying to get drilling rigs into production and has resorted to nationalized theft to do it.
We have a government trying to take drilling rigs out of production, and is prepared to ignore court rulings to the contrary and do so by executive fiat.
In all the hype about the McChrystal story and the focus on the Gulf spill, you may have missed this story about Hugo Chavez’s continued destruction of the Venezuelan economy:
Venezuelan army soldiers swept through the working class, pro-Chavez neighborhood of Catia in Caracas last week, seizing 120 tons of rice along with coffee and powdered milk that officials said was to be sold above regulated prices. “The battle for food is a matter of national security,” said a red-shirted official from the Food Ministry, resting his arm on a pallet laden with bags of coffee.
How dare they not heed price controls? Meanwhile, in the ultra-efficient state machine bureaucracy, things are going swimmingly:
Critics accuse him of steering the country toward a communist dictatorship and say he is destroying the private sector. They point to 80,000 tons of rotting food found in warehouses belonging to the government as evidence the state is a poor and corrupt administrator.
120 tons confiscated. 80,000 tons allowed to rot. You can do the math.
“We are bringing order to prices,” Trade Minister Richard Canan told Reuters during the Catia raid. “There are traders who are taking these products to the black market … That is a crime and our government will continue to target these stores.”
Food prices are up 41% this past year. Price controls. If you don’t think you’re paying enough now, try them.
I just can’t help it – not that this is surprising or unexpected.
Venezuela’s economy is in trouble despite the country’s huge oil reserves. Blackouts plague major cities. Its inflation rate is among the world’s highest. Private enterprise has been so hammered, the World Bank says, that Venezuela is forced to import almost everything it needs.
This is socialism working again. Yes, yes, we’ll hear the naysayers claim that it “really isn’t socialism”, but of course, it is and, like all other attempts throughout the world and history, it is a dismal failure which has made the lives of the citizens of Venezuela worse, not better. Venezuela’s economy has contracted 3.3% in the past year.
Jose Guerra, a former Central Bank economist, says state intervention in private businesses is hitting the economy hard.
“The government is nationalizing, expropriating, or confiscating,” he says. “They are not creating new wealth; this is wealth that was already created.”
And, as expected, the government is badly mismanaging what it confiscates and nationalizes. Cities endure 4 hour blackouts daily, many during business hours.
This is not the way it was supposed to be. Venezuela is one of the world’s great energy powers. Its oil reserves are among the world’s largest and its hydroelectric plants are among the most potent.
But these days, Venezuela is being left behind: The rest of Latin America is expected to grow at a healthy rate this year, according to the World Bank.
Guerra, the former Central Bank economist, says the government must reconsider its policies — and drop the statist socialist model that Chavez adopted.
“The government has to consider that the socialist point of view is not so good for the economy,” Guerra says. “Chavez believes in the old-fashioned socialism. This kind of socialism is dead, definitely dead, it doesn’t apply to any country in the world.”
Of course it should be “dead, definitely dead” to the world, but it isn’t. Ignorant people like Chavez always believe that the myth of socialism and the supposed “social justice” it promises are workable solutions to what are the inequities and unfairness they see in a capitalist system. And when they finally grab power, they attempt to impose the promises of the myth with predictable results.
Of course, when committed this deeply, you don’t expect such a person to admit they’re wrong, but, instead to double down. Hugo Chavez doesn’t disappoint:
In a recent speech, Chavez acknowledged the economic troubles, but he said he wasn’t worried.
Instead, he spoke of a worldwide capitalist crisis, which he said provided a marvelous opportunity for Venezuela to push a new model.
Oh yeah, given the wreck that was Venezuela’s economy before the “capitalist crisis”, I’m sure there are untold numbers of countries just can’t wait to sign on to the “Venezuelan model” and all it promises:
The grill at Landi Nieto’s burger joint still works: It runs on gas. But customers eat in the dark, Nieto says, if they venture out at all in the first place.