Ideological Rigidity -> Mismanagement -> Corruption -> Repeat

1980s Romanian Joke: “Q: Do you know what they used to light houses with before they had candles? A: Electricity!”

My usual process when I sit down to write for a foreign audience is to ask myself: what features of the Chávez era are entirely evident to Venezuelans but hard to fathom for outsiders? To the extent that I manage to chip away at those lacunae, I think I’m doing my job.

This week, over on the IHT, I try to get at the multiple feedback loops between ideological rigidity, mismanagement and corruption, and the way they cripple the government as it tries to manage a complex 21st century society.

The now-chronic electric crisis is, when you think about it, a perfect illustration of that:  the problems created by ideological rigidity (in the form of frozen electric rates) are amplified by a basic inability to manage a complex technological system and then deepened by corruption, turning what ought to have been a tricky-but-resolvable problem into an administrative quagmire that the government then has to patch up a realazo limpio.

It’s probably mission impossible to try to illustrate that in 700 words. But what can I say? I enjoy a challenge…

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  1. It’s like “Chavez (Hugo), Chavez (Argenis), Chavez (Asdrubal): a hopefully not Eternal and defintely not Golden Braid.”

    Very good article, in any event.

  2. Good article, Quico, too bad that I was going to write about diesel for FP. Now, what do I write for FP? I thought we agreed I was gonna talk about the diesel thing …

  3. The problems started when the government nationalized the electric sector in 2007.

    While nationalization in 2007 added to the problems with electricity, government-caused problems with electricity started years before. The incoming Chavez government did not follow recommendations that had been made by 1998 regarding building additional electrical infrastructure such as the Alto Caroni dams:

    The Alto Caroni dams was a hydroelectric project for building four dams in the Upper part of the Caroni River (Guri is in the lower part). The four dams were in an advanced stage of design and practically ready to be started when Chavze arrived in power. They were Tayucay (1.800 MW), Eutobarima (2.700 MW), Aripichi (2.800 MW) and Auraima (2.700 MW) for a total of 10,000 MW in new generation capacity.

    It was Jorge Giordani, named czar of Venezuela’s economy last night after ruining it for eleven years, who argued then that Venezuela had energy for 500 years and that the Alto Caroni was not an option that should ever be needed. Giordani, an electric engineer as an undergraduate, said that the environmental impact of these dams was too large and instead the Government should focus in the use of thermoelectric power plants that use gas. However, the Tocoma project in the lower Caroni was never canceled, it was delayed and it was not until 2006 that the bidding was opened to begin the excavation of the dam.

    By the summer of 2008, Planta Centro near Puerto Cabello was in a state of extreme disrepair, neglect which appears to have been the product of years of mismanagement. How long had Cadafe been running Planta Centro?

  4. “The now-chronic electric crisis”. “The ongoing chronic food shortages”. “The always escalating murder rate”. “The ever getting rich boliburgeses”. “The never ending stream of lies told by the government”. “The expected electoral fraud”. “The dream world the opposition lives in”.

    Now – here is your homeworl. Only one of the phrases above is true. If you8 get it right then you are not living in a drem world.

    Only a few days to go now – what are you going to do with another 6 years os Bolivarian Socialism? What will the size of the defeat be – I guess at least by 3 million votes in favor of Chavez.

  5. I don’t disagree with your final analysis. But for me the gas pipeline project doesn’t stand out (yet) as being particularly bad. There are many many many examples of well managed countries who haven’t been able to bring in large infrastructure projects on time or budget. $350m for a cross country pipeline seems very cheap to me. You can argue there was poor planning and I’d agree, but from my perspective I think you’d be very lucky to get that pipeline in for anything less than the current estimates, if not considerably more.


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