The final moments of Quico’s "el loco comemierda" post left me wanting more. He wrote,
"But remember: it’s the economy, stupid. It always is. More than the crazy ranting, more than the cadenas and the power blackouts and the crime, it’s the government’s performance on the economy that drives people’s perceptions of whether it’s doing a good job. And as we head into September’s election, the government keeps digging itself deeper and deeper into the economic hole it’s in."
The natural conclusion, the one Quico failed to draw, the one we think about deep down but never dare to say, is the most obvious one: the government’s destructive mishandling of Venezuela’s economy is a golden opportunity for us.
I know, I know… it’s not right.
People are suffering. Industries are closing. Poverty, crime and scarcity are on the climb. The noose on private property, free enterprise, and economic potential is so tight, you can feel the insides of Hugo Chávez’s knuckles tickling your tonsils. There is nothing positive in that.
But at the same time, all the warnings, all the arguments we gave about the misguided policies of the mid-2000s have come true.
When Venezuela was in the midst of a petro-dollar orgy, the government and its apologists would boast of very high growth rates, falling poverty rates, and just good times in general. Many people, particularly those of us that grew up reading the old tale of the grasshopper and the ant, warned of how the chavista model was simply unsustainable.
I vividly remember one particular discussion between Quico and a PSF, where Quico summed up chavista economic policy as "find something valuable under the ground, and sell it for an incredibly high price." Nonsense, PSF’s would scoff.
Well, the chickens have finally come home to roost. Instead of saving our temporary prosperity, we spent it all away in silly subsidies and populist measures, and now the government is in the pickle we all predicted it would be, facing the realities every populist government has had to face, and making all the wrong choices.
It is with trepidation that we talk about the economic crisis. If we are honest, we must recognize that part of this trepidation is fear of being misunderstood, fear of coming across as callous vendepatria souls, more interested in short-term political gain than in the health of the fatherland, fear of being that guy constantly hoping the other guy fails.
But deep down, a part of us is happy.
Happy because any day in which common sense trumps chavenomics, any day basic economic logic proves us right, any day the government’s own mistakes come back to bite its prominent ass, any day the same apologists conclude that, after 11 years in office, Venezuela does not have a development strategy … is a good day for us.
But it’s something we can’t really say, can we? That’s why you see people like Luis Ignacio Planas grimly describing the annihilation of the Venezuelan economy as if he was speaking to the guy about to cut his balls off with a machete.
In reality, the opposition should see this as one big, candy-wrapped, chocolate-coated opportunity. Just like the recession in ’92 was a godsend for Bill Clinton, just like the ’08 meltdown pushed Barack Obama across the finish line, so too can this disaster help our side … IF we know how to play it.
The electorate is lonely, dejected, disappointed with how the country is going. The ball is in our court. It’s up to us to not screw it up and choke.
But let’s not think negative thoughts. If every crisis is an opportunity, then this mega-crisis is one mammoth political opportunity, so we should savor it while we can. And while we’re at it, let’s say to ourselves, with a smile, what we can’t, what we don’t really want to say to others:
"We told you so."