Enchufado chronicles

0
Plugged in and happy
Plugged in and happy

I just got back from a short trip to Maracaibo.

One of the many things that struck me (more on that in future posts) is the extent to which the enchufados hold the key to Venezuela’s future. I don’t know if it was the fact that I was in a border town overrun by pimpineros, bachaqueros, and other assorted –eros, but I had never fully grasped the extent to which the country’s economic policies respond to the needs to distribute rents to the various cronies living off the government.

Economic distortions are there not because of ideology, but because doing away with them threatens the very people that sustain this weak government. I discuss it some more in FP’s Transitions blog. The value added:

Enchufados play an important role in Venezuela’s power dynamics. Many of the government’s nonsensical economic policies are made to ensure they continue reaping the rents from their positions of power — and stay out of the government’s hair. All of Venezuela’s distortions benefit someone, and with the government’s plummeting popularity weakening its grip, it needs to keep these power players happy.

Distortions keep bureaucrats busy collecting bribes and reaping the benefits of their power. The rents public employees collect “on the side” keep them off the streets, where they would normally be protesting against their low wages. Likewise, the benefits from the black market keep the military happy. And business people making money off of the government are less likely to conspire against it. Add all this up and it becomes unlikely the government will eliminate currency or price controls: They may be causing scarcity, but they are needed in order to keep the enchufados happy.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thi basically summarize Venezuelas reality about a possible coup. The high ranks are so durty they will never risk to allow someone in power who might prosecute them, the middle ranks are partially disrty too but they want to play with the high ranks and they know the only way to do ti is through this administration. The lower ranks are not able to do anything.

  2. Yes, the country’s economy is deeply dysfunctional, distorted beyond recognition to serve all the vested, entrenched interests that make Chavismo, high and low, the Boligarchy, the enchufados, and one may even add a lumpen strata to this mix when considering all the grossly inefficient ‘social programs’ designed to keep the lower half of the population on board and in check (misiones, subsidized food basics, etc.).

    My personal guess is that the situation is actually worse than one can possibly imagine, even factoring the fact that one knows that it is actually worse than one can possibly imagine. The reason for that is the consumption binge that oil and the illusion of eventual creditworthiness (of Venezuela towards foreign creditors) have allowed to finance. It has allowed Chavistas to paper over the rot over the past decade, preventing a timely reaction. And now, it’s rooted in, everywhere, from electricity to water to healthcare to … everything. Climbing out of this wall is going to be a crushing task.

    The saddest part of it all is that, most likely, the only way to get rid of this entrenched system of power, this architecture of social control, is for the country, not just Chavismo, to fully collapse, the only way to get a clean reset. Otherwise, even if the PSUV somehow surrenders the keys peacefully at one point or another, the structure of Chavismo will still be in place throughout the bureaucracy, and any attempt at gradual reform will fail.

    The good news, perversely, it that once all retainers have taken their share, what’s left to actually run the country amounts to very, very little. Hence, its current sorry state. But shake those parasites away, one way or another, and there’s suddenly a lot more resources available to run the country.

    • Unfortunately, the attitude of “throw the bums out” is what brought in Chavismo and got us to this point…

      • Oh, it’s not “throw the bums out”. The parasites are too entrenched. And they won’t let elections stand in the way. Anyway, the current course of events has very little to do with politics and is completely out of anyone’s control.

        What’s going on is, at best, a lot more like chemotherapy : nearly killing the body/country to starve the cancer of Chavismo to death. The irony that it’s Chavismo itself which is administering the chemotherapy to itself. And it cannot change course. As Juan saw in Maracaibo, the wrecking of the economy is constitutive of Chavismo. It’s its very reason to exist and the only way it can perpetuate itself.

  3. I really liked your account. There is the great part about the visit. And there is the sudden feeling that you are going to totally lose it if one more enchufado steps in front of you in a lineup, or ploughs into you with their SUV, or just stinks up your elevator with their enchufado-ness, while you are just trying to get from point A to point B.

  4. Agreed, and unfortunately there are many opposition people who are enchufado as well, making them not likely candidates for too much righteous anger.

    It’s a mess, and I agree with whoever said hitting bottom has to come in order to rid the country of these self centered idiots.

    • firepigette: ” … hitting bottom has to come in order to rid the country of these self centered idiots.”

      That’s not true for several reasons, but I’ll just name two. A) there really is no bottom; B) there is a way to take their support away, but there is another set of idiots that needs to be willing to change its offer…

  5. It only works if the enchufados follow trickle down principles and share with non-enchufados (although that makes everyone an enchufado just some more than others). Because in the end the hungry masses are not blind or stupid, they will come after you and introduce you to the guillotine.

  6. Chavista looting is merely the end state of what Venezuela has been developing ever since the oil price boom began in the 1970s.

    The gasoline subsidy (which puts probably half of Venezuela on the take) antedates Chavez by decades.

    Parasitical regimes have been swept away in the past (e.g. the French Revolution, which began with the wholesale abolition of feudal dues and privileges, sinecure offices, obsolete taxes (and their collectors). That worked because the underlying economy still functioned.

    Venezuela is in much worse shape, because between the oil jackpot and chavista mismanagement, there is little left in Venezuela except parasitism. It is so widespread that only a fraction could ever be eliminated at one go, Much of it is in the form of people who get paid for no real work, or for very bad work. This class is large enough to be a major political obstacle.

Leave a Reply