At long last socialism

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Finance Minister with a common touch
Three banks and a common touch

After Nicolás Maduro’s State of the Union speech yesterday, one of the first things I did was try and fetch information on Venezuela’s new Finance Minister, Rodolfo Marco Torres. Apparently he was a military man, and after a stint at the Banco del Tesoro, he headed the state-owned Banco de Venezuela, and then the Banco Bicentenario – in fact, he headed all three at the same time. In all these posts he apparently did reasonably well, i.e., he didn’t completely wreck the place like one would expect from a chavista bureaucrat.

Marco’s Twitter account doesn’t strike me as particularly offensive. He does not appear to be a friend of Jorge Giordani, nor of Nelson Merentes, so he is kind of a middle-ground bureaucrat … no fire-breather, but not entirely rational either.

Ultimately, though, it’s not about Marco Torres (“Marco” is his last name – copy editors take note). Marco or no Marco, the people involved have ceased being relevant.

What happened yesterday is that the government doubled down on the insane economic policies that, in case you have not heard, have brought growth to a standstill, fueled inflation, generated unprecedented scarcity, and has sent the black market into overdrive.

In other words, what we are getting from now on is more socialism. There will be little play with the private sector, other than tinkering with the country’s banks in order to shore up the government’s finances. Yes, Cadivi is dying and shifting to other bureaucracies, and yes, some kleptocrat named Alejandro Fleming will now give out cheap dollars at BsF6.30 (very few, 6.30 is dead). Yes, they now say they will set profit margins for every single economic activity in the country (they can’t, they really can’t).

Ultimately, they didn’t announce any changes yesterday. The more things change, the more Maduro and his gang stay the same, incapable or unwilling to shift the dynamic in the country. They are almost literally re-shuffling the deck chairs while the boat plunges toward the sea floor. The government is not budging, so it remains incredibly vulnerable to even the slightest dip in oil prices.

The government used to like to say that they needed to “build socialism.” Well, after yesterday it’s safe to say socialism is here to stay for a while.

Scarcity, corruption, overbearing regulations, black markets galore, little to no press freedom, isolation in various forms, continuous depreciation of your purchasing power … all while a few powerful members of the elite enjoy the perks of the government’s petro-checkbook.

Socialism has indeed arrived.