The Cadivi Barricades

Quico Toro, the founder of this blog, wrote an OpEd for yesterday’s New York Times in which he ponders the reasons for the massive protests currently rocking Venezuela. His theory is that the protests are in defense of the right to free assembly.

There may be some truth to that. However, I think we are underestimating the extent to which economic expectations took a hit in the last few months.

Venezuela’s economy is not yet officially in a recession, but people are, increasingly, sharply worried about their future. According to surveys conducted around early October, the Gallup organization found Venezuelans increasingly concerned about their future well-being.

Gallup 1

For example,

  • In 2012, 57% of those surveyed said their lives were thriving. That number was down to 44% a year later.
  • In 2012, 22% of Venezuelans thought the country’s economy was getting worse. In 2013, the number surged to 62%. Only a paltry 12% think the economy is getting better.
  • Only 35% of Venezuelans think their well-being is getting better, a record low.
  • And then there’s crime – 80% of Venezuelans feel unsafe walking their streets late at night.Gallup 2

All this points to bread-and-butter issues behind the protests. The economy is the pits, crime is unbearable, and that’s why people are mad. Still, there is something missing … If this is how people felt in October, why now? Why weren’t they hitting the streets a few months ago? Why … always February?

A perceptive friend of mine may have hit the nail in the head. Talking to her yesterday, she told me something that made a lot of sense.

“I think,” she said, “this all has to do with the end of Cadivi. Up until December, things were really bad, but you could still count on your cupo, your folder, and your raspaíto to make a quick buck. Take a subsidized trip abroad, buy a bunch of stuff to bring back home, or charge the credit card for cash, bring the cash home, and you earned a fortune. Now, Cadivi is a lost dream. It’s dead. The drama with the airlines means ticket prices have skyrocketed. There is an increased sense that the days of free Cadivi cash are gone forever. The end of this bubble … is really difficult for many middle-class Venezuelans to accept.”

This makes a lot of sense to me. Cadivi played such a huge role in the life of middle-class Venezuelans, its death should not be underestimated. For years, it was many people’s main source of income. Now, that’s gone, and we’re coming crashing down to Earth. It’s effect on people’s pocketbooks is enough to trigger a protest movement.

Everyone has their own story about what’s triggering the protests, so I’m going to stick with this one and make it my own. If you agree, we can just call these the Cadivi Barricades.