Five Reasons Not To Worry About Hugo Chavez's Nuclear Ambitions

This blog caters to English speakers looking for information on Venezuelan politics. In that spirit, I feel I owe it to give my take on the widely reported news that Venezuela and Russia have signed an agreement for cooperation on nuclear energy.

The bottom line: it’s not going to happen. Why?

1. This is a government of incompetents. Recession. Inflation. Collapsing infrastructure. Blackouts. Rotting food containers. Abandoned plans for refineries. The Gasoducto del Sur. Need I say more? The man is a megalomaniac, and the Russians play along with the hope of scoring hefty commissions.

2. No time, no money. Building a nuclear power plant from scratch, with no prior knowledge of nuclear energy, requires many years and billions of dollars. Cash-strapped, electricity-rationed Venezuela is in need of solutions now. It is much easier to build natural gas or petroleum-based power plants. They’ve been talking about nuclear energy for years now, since at least 2005, and they have made zero progress. The plant will reportedly have 500 MW, but it has no location, and no expected date of completion. Oh, but you can bet it will have a high-falutin’ name very soon. If there’s one thing the fat man in the palace is good at, it’s naming and re-naming stuff.

3. The government has alienated what little human capital it has. As has been reported widely, the Chávez administration is at war with the scientific community. Chávez can import scientists, but how long will they last in Venezuela before they are robbed and kidnapped, and they beg to go back to their home turf?

4. Our neighbors are not concerned. There has been no reaction from the Colombian government, and no reaction from the Brazilian government. If they are not worried, why should anyone else be?

5. Hugo Chávez has no political capital left. As was demonstrated in the last Parliamentary election, the majority of Venezuelans reject the Chávez administration. If the elections were held today, he would lose. It’s looking increasingly likely Hugo Chávez will be out of a job in two years time.

There is a general consensus in Venezuela that this is yet another desperate attempt to hog the headlines on slow news days.