Archive for ‘Washington Post’

June 9, 2011

Is Hugo Chavez an idiot?

By William J. Dobson

When I was in Moscow last year, I paid a visit to Boris Nemtsov, one of the leading figures of the Russian opposition. Naturally, I had come to Nemtsov to discuss Russian politics. But the conversation quickly turned to, of all things, Venezuelan economics.
Nemtsov has no love for Vladimir Putin and his regime. The Russian government has arrested him and thrown him in prison, and it strangles the political movement he leads. But Nemtsov saw one bright side: At least he didn’t have to live under the economic policies of Hugo Chavez. “Putinism will survive if oil prices are huge. Frankly, it is the same with Hugo Chavez, but Hugo is more stupid than Putin. Chavez nationalizes industries. He establishes price controls. Putin looks cleverer. He doesn’t touch the real economy much . . . he doesn’t touch small, average businesses,” Nemtsov told me. “Economically, he looks closer to Chinese authoritarians than to Hugo. Because Hugo has no ideas about the economy at all. He is a real idiot.”
Ouch. Harsh words. But then again, Nemtsov has the numbers to prove it. Venezuela was the only country in South America to see its economy shrink last year. By many reports, it now suffers from the world’s highest inflation. In 2010, Venezuela was the only South American country to have a negative balance of foreign investment. (It dropped by $1.4 billion.) The International Labor Organization says that Venezuela was one of only five countries in the region to see job growth fall. (The others were Barbados, Jamaica, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago.) Power outages, rolling blackouts, and water shortages have become common as state infrastructure crumbles. And, in perhaps the most stunning achievement, the state-owned oil company has reported falling profits — even as oil prices rise.
When I mentioned these and other signs of economic decline to members of Chavez’s political party last year, they scoffed. What I didn’t understand, they said, was that Venezuelans were some of the happiest people in the world. Okay, maybe. But I didn’t meet anyone happy about the shortages of basic staples like milk, sugar and meat. And I didn’t meet anyone happy about the fact that crime has reached epidemic levels. Experts estimate that there were more than 19,000 murders in 2009. It is hard to know the precise number because the government stopped publishing the figure after it began to soar.
But fortunately all of this is about to end. Chavez just announced that he is raising the minimum wage by 25 percent. He is also going to end unemployment by creating 3 million jobs in the next eight years. And he will build 150,000 houses this year and another 200,000 in 2012.
Of course, he has made these promises before. In 2005, he was going to build 120,000 houses. A government ministry later said 21,400 were built, less than 20 percent of the promised total. In fact, over the duration of Chavez’s time in office, the government builds an average of 12,500 homes a year.
But Chavez will reach his goal. Because his real goal isn’t meeting housing targets he has failed to meet before. It is to inject enough short-term cash into people’s wallets to raise his chances for reelection in 2012. Never mind that that cash will disappear from their wallets as the minimum wage hikes fail to keep pace with inflation. Indeed, Chavez’s newly announced measures will make inflation worse. But he isn’t concerned with that. As he told a crowd this week, “I have a year and a half more in this government, then six more in the next one.” That is Chavez’s main consideration. Six more years. Because, whatever he does to Venezuela’s economy, the man is no idiot.

By William J. Dobson  |  01:32 PM ET, 05/06/2011

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June 8, 2011

¿Es Hugo Chávez un idiota?

Por William J. Dobson

Cuando estuve en Moscú el año pasado, hice una visita a Boris Nemtsov, una de las principales figuras de la oposición de Rusia. Naturalmente, yo había llegado a Nemtsov para discutir la política rusa. Sin embargo, la conversación rápidamente cambio, de todas las cosas, la economía venezolana.

Nemtsov no tiene amor por Vladimir Putin y su régimen. El gobierno ruso le ha detenido y arrojado en la cárcel, y estrangula el movimiento político que dirige. Pero Nemtsov ve algo positivo: por lo menos él no tiene que vivir bajo las políticas económicas de Hugo Chávez. “El Putinismo sobrevivirá si los precios del petróleo son enormes. Francamente, es lo mismo con Hugo Chávez, pero Hugo es más estúpido que Putin. Chávez nacionaliza las industrias. Establece controles de precios. Putin parece más inteligente. Él no toca mucho la economía real… no toca las pequeñas empresas, el negocio promedio “, me dijo Nemtsov. “Económicamente, (Putin) se ve más cerca de los autoritarios chinos que a Hugo. Porque Hugo no tiene ni idea sobre economía. Él (Hugo) es un idiota real. ”

Ouch. Duras palabras. Pero, de nuevo, Nemtsov tiene los números para demostrarlo.Venezuela fue el único país en América del Sur que vió su economía disminuir el año pasado. Varios reportes de distintas fuentes indican, que ahora sufre la inflación más alta del mundo. En el 2010, Venezuela fue el único país de América del Sur tuvo saldo negativo en inversión extranjera (se redujo en $ 1.4 mil millones). La Organización Internacional del Trabajo dice que Venezuela fue uno de los cinco países de la región que vió caer el crecimiento del empleo (los otros fueron Barbados, Jamaica, Honduras y Trinidad y Tobago). Cortes de energía eléctrica, apagones y escasez de agua se han convertido en cosa comun ya que la infraestructura se desmorona. Y, tal vez el logro más impresionante, la empresa petrolera estatal ha informado de la caída de beneficios – aun cuando los precios del petróleo suben.

Cuando le mencioné estos y otros signos de declive económico a los miembros del partido político de Chávez el año pasado, se burlaron. Lo que no entiendo, dijeron, era que los venezolanos son de las personas más felices del mundo. Bueno, tal vez. Pero no me encontré a nadie feliz sobre la escasez de alimentos básicos como la leche, el azúcar y la carne. Y no me encontré a nadie contento con el hecho de que la delincuencia ha alcanzado niveles epidémicos. Los expertos estiman que hubo más de 19.000 asesinatos en el 2009. Es difícil saber el número exacto porque el gobierno dejó de publicar la cifra después de que comenzara a elevarse.

Pero, afortunadamente, todo esto está a punto de terminar. Chávez acaba de anunciar que el aumento del salario mínimo en un 25 por ciento. Él también va a acabar con el desempleo mediante la creación de 3 millones de empleos en los próximos ocho años. Y se construirá 150.000 casas este año y otros 200.000 en el 2012. Por supuesto, él ha hecho estas promesas antes. En el 2005, se iban a construir 120 mil casas. Un ministro del gobierno dijo más tarde se construyeron 21.400, menos del 20 por ciento del total prometido. De hecho, durante el gobierno de Chávez, el gobierno construyó un promedio de 12.500 casas al año.

Sin embargo, Chávez llegará a su meta. Debido a que su objetivo real no es cumplir con las metas de vivienda que no ha cumplido antes. Es inyectar suficiente dinero en efectivo a corto plazo en los bolsillos de las personas para aumentar sus posibilidades de reelección en el 2012. No importa que ese dinero vaya a desaparecer de sus carteras como los aumentos salariales ya que no pueden seguir el ritmo de la inflación. En efecto, las medidas recientemente anunciadas por Chávez harán que la inflación empeore. Pero él no esta preocupado por eso. Como le dijo a una multitud de esta semana, “tengo un año y medio más en este gobierno, y luego, seis más en el próximo.” Esa es la preocupación principal de Chávez. Seis años más. Porque independientemente de lo que le haga a la economía de Venezuela, el hombre no es un idiota.

Por William J. Dobson | PM ET 01:32 05/06/2011

July 1, 2009

Honduras’s Coup Is President Zelaya’s Fault

By Alvaro Vargas Llosa
Updated: Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Any time a bunch of soldiers break into a presidential palace, pick up the president and put him on a flight to exile, as happened in Honduras last Sunday, you have a “coup.” But, unlike most coup targets in Latin America’s tortuous republican history, Honduras’s deposed president, Manuel Zelaya, bears the biggest responsibility for his overthrow.

A member of the rancid oligarchy he now decries, Zelaya took office in 2006 as the leader of one of the two center-right parties that have dominated Honduran politics for decades. His general platform, his support for the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States and his alliances with business organizations gave no inkling of the fact that halfway into his term he would become a political cross-dresser.

Suddenly, in 2007, he declared himself a socialist and began to establish close ties with Venezuela. In December of that year, he incorporated Honduras into Petrocaribe, a mechanism set up by Hugo Chávez for lavishing oil subsidies on Latin American and Caribbean countries in exchange for political subservience. Then his government joined the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean (ALBA), Venezuela’s answer to the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, ostensibly a commercial alliance but in practice a political conspiracy that seeks to expand populist dictatorship to the rest of Latin America.

Last year, following the script originally laid out by Chávez in Venezuela and adopted by Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Zelaya announced that he would hold a referendum to set upa constituent assembly that would change the constitution that barred him from reelection. In the next few months, every legal body in Honduras — the electoral tribunal, the Supreme Court, the attorney general, the human rights ombudsman — declared the referendum unconstitutional. According to the Honduran constitution (articles 5, 373 and 374), presidential term limits cannot be changed under any circumstance; only Congress can modify the constitution; and political institutions are not subject to referendums. Honduras’s Congress, Zelaya’s own Liberal Party and a majority of Hondurans (in various polls) expressed their horror at the prospect of having Zelaya perpetuate himself and bring Honduras into the Chávez fold. In defiance of court orders, Zelaya persisted. Surrounded by a friendly mob, he broke into the military installations where the ballots were kept and ordered them distributed. The courts declared that Zelaya had placed himself outside the law, and Congress began an impeachment procedure.

This is the context in which the military, in an ill-advised move that turned a perfectly legal mechanism for stopping Zelaya into a coup, expelled the president. The fact that the constitutional procedure was subsequently followed by having Congress appoint the head of the legislative body, Roberto Micheletti, as interim president, and that the elections scheduled for November have not been canceled, is not enough to dissipate the cloud of illegitimacy that hangs over the new government. This factor has disarmed Zelaya’s critics in the international community in the face of a well-coordinated campaign led by Chávez to reinstate him and denounce the coup as an oligarchic assault on democracy.

That said, the international response, seeking to reinstate Zelaya without any mention of his illegal acts, has been highly inadequate. The Organization of American States, led by its secretary general, José Miguel Insulza, has acted like Venezuela’s poodle. At Chávez’s request, Insulza went to Nicaragua, where a summit of the anti-democratic ALBA group became the hemisphere’s political center of gravity after the coup. Insulza and other populist presidents said nothing about Zelaya’s dictatorial conduct leading up to last Sunday’s events and simply echoed Venezuela’s self-serving stance. Efforts by other countries, including the United States and many South American governments, to put some nuance into the public statements were neutralized by the spectacle unfolding in Nicaragua, which was widely reported across the Spanish-speaking world. It was sad to see Insulza suddenly remember his organization’s Inter-American Democratic charter in relation to Honduras — the same rules of democratic conduct that Chávez, Morales, Correa and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega have violated on numerous occasions while the OAS looked the other way.

The crisis in Honduras should bring to people’s attention this truth about Latin America today: The gravest threat to liberty comes from elected populists who are seeking to subject the institutions of the law to their megalomaniac whims. Given that scenario, the hemisphere’s response to Honduras’s crisis has undermined those who are trying to prevent populism from taking the region back to the times when it was forced to choose between left-wing revolution and military dictatorships.

Alvaro Vargas Llosa is the editor of “Lessons From the Poor” and director of the Center on Global Prosperity at the Independent Institute. He is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. His e-mail address is AVLlosa@independent.org .

March 6, 2008

Allies of Terrorism

Washington Post – Editorials
Allies of Terrorism
Wednesday, March 5, 2008; Page A20
The presidents of Venezuela and Ecuador are revealed as backers of the criminals who fight Colombia ‘s democracy.

LAST SATURDAY, Colombia ‘s armed forces struck a bold blow against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a group specializing in drug trafficking, abductions and massacres of civilians that has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and Europe . Raul Reyes, a top commander, and some 20 followers were killed in a bombing of their jungle camp in Ecuador , a mile or two from the Colombian border. The attack was comparable to those the United States has recently carried out against al-Qaeda in lawless areas of Pakistan, and it showed how Colombia’s democratic government may be finally gaining the upper hand over the murderous gangs that have tormented the country for decades.

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August 12, 2007

Washington Post: In Argentina, an $800,000 Puzzle

By Monte Reel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, August 10, 2007; A09

BUENOS AIRES, Aug. 9 — Days after authorities discovered a suitcase full of nearly $800,000 that had been taken on a private airplane carrying Argentine and Venezuelan officials, one of those officials has resigned and suspicions of a government scandal have grown.

A Venezuelan businessman was detained at a Buenos Aires airport Saturday when customs officials found $790,550 in undeclared cash in his luggage. The incident preceded Monday’s arrival here of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, leading to questions about the possibility of a link between the businessman and the Venezuelan or Argentine governments.

(…)
© 2007 The Washington Post Company
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August 12, 2007

In Venezuela, Chávez designs socialist state for 21st century

Agosto 12, 2007 Por: Martha Colmenares

 

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Claims the needs of workers put ahead of profits

By Juan Forero, Washington Post | August 10, 2007

CARACAS — At a sleek, airy factory built by Venezuela’s populist government, 80 workers churn out shoes — basic and black and all of them to be shipped to Fidel Castro’s Cuba, a leading economic partner.

With no manager or owner, the workers have an equal stake in a business celebrated as a shining alternative to the “savage capitalism” President Hugo Chávez constantly disparages.

“Here there are no chiefs, no managers,” said Gustavo Zuniga, one of the workers, explaining that a workers’ assembly makes the big decisions.

There is also no need to compete — production is wholly sustained by government orders.

© Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
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August 4, 2007

Populism For a Price

As increedible as this might appear, I still think there is some good in the politics Chavez do. As I have expressed before, the countries need to help each other, with the intention of stopping genocides, or helping the poor out of their misery, or to get rid of dictators (Fidel, Hugo, etc). Some of this efforts may not be recoverable in economics terms. However, they must be done. Without opportunity and justice for all, the world will never see peace. Chavez does what he does not for the good of the people – he would not do all other criminal acts if that was the case – but in this case, Morales seems to at least be giving away this money in a sort of less political tint way as Hugo does.

Bankrolling Morales’s Social Initiatives, Chávez Steers Bolivia From Washington
By Peter S. Goodman

ORURO, Bolivia

Allama-wool hat swathing his head, Santos Paredes took the floor with photos in hand — images of a half-built medical clinic in his village on the high plains of the Andes. Paredes, the mayor, entreated Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, for money to finish the job.

“I ask for your blessing,” Paredes said, laying the pictures across a red-velvet tablecloth as the president leaned in for a look. Morales was here to distribute aid supplied by his ideological kinsman, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

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