“The economic mismanagement of Venezuela’s socialist revolution… has led not only to a currency crisis but to skyrocketing inflation and a shrinking private sector,” writes commentator Tim Padgett:
The country as a result is experiencing chronic shortages of basic goods like eggs and toilet paper. To stimulate imports, the central bank has supposedly (there’s that word again) been channeling almost a billion cheaper dollars to select Venezuelan business sectors.
The only problem: those industries, according to a Reuters report this week, say little if any of that money has actually gotten to them. It might have been diverted to shadowy shell companies, which the Maduro government blames on “right-wing speculators.”
But Venezuela watchers say it’s more likely, given the Chavista regime’s own well established reputation for corruption, that we’re watching Recadi redux. Maduro seems to have sealed his image as inept, uninspiring and incapable of fixing the economic and social crises, including South America’s worst violent crime.
“Considering this is money controlled by the state,” says Javier Corrales, a Venezuelan politics expert at Amherst College in Massachusetts, “you have to wonder where else the money could have gone to. Government cronies and members of the ruling party are pretty strong suspects.”
Maduro’s plans to use fingerprint machines at airports in an attempt to root out no-shows who buy tickets to bypass currency controls, is the latest symptom of Venezuela’s economic chaos, The Washington Post reports.
The approach of municipal elections on December 8 “will require fresh, frenetic efforts and ever more inventive allegations of conspiracy and Gringo-bashing in order to rally dispirited Chavistas,” writes Ray Walser, executive director of the Americas Forum:
Venezuela teeters on the edge of permanent crisis. Economic disorder, a polarized electorate, crime and narco-activity and erratic leadership create permanent stress. These results are reflected in Maduro’s baseless accusations, recurring fulminations and periodic bouts of dreaded “Gringophobia.” Little relief or hope for a cure is in sight as long as Venezuela’s downward spiral continues.
Since the death of Hugo Chávez, government leaders have repeatedly called for unity, urging their followers to stick together at all costs against a common foe, The New York Times reports. But there are growing signs that the message is not getting across as severe economic problems, including soaring inflation and shortages of basic goods, make many loyal Chávistas waver.
Maduro’s recent expulsion of three-US-diplomats, alleging plots of economic sabotage, was widely interpreted as the latest of a series of stunts aimed at “periodically spicing up his populist-leftist platform with anti-American rhetoric and actions” and as a further sign, says the Stratfor analysis group, that Maduro is increasingly anxious about maintaining the Bolivarian regime.
The expulsion of the diplomats, which the State Department quickly reciprocated, ought to lead to a correction of [U.S. policy], says says The Washington Post. The United States should do nothing to abet Mr. Maduro’s implosion; it also should do nothing to prevent it.
“It is abundantly clear that Maduro sees conspiracy theories as his key rhetorical strategy for explaining his government´s shortcomings,” says David Smilde, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America. “At least with the electricity crisis, polls show that less than 5% of the population believe him. The majority puts the blame squarely on the government.”
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles accused Venezuela’s “incompetent” president of bankrupting the nation in an increasingly radical blame-game over the OPEC member’s economic distortions, Reuters reports.