Sounds like a whisper


Remember 1991?

Back then, you heard about signs of trouble from several quarters. One day it was an important intellectual such as Arturo Uslar Pietri warning about a coup, the next day it was a political operative saying the government needed to do this or that if it was to survive.

We all know how the story went.

The same thing happened in 2001. A strike here, mutterings about unhappiness in the barracks there. Trickle, trickle, trickle, and then the dam bursts.

That is how Venezuela has always operated. The unexpected … is never entirely unexpected.

I don’t know why I’m thinking about all those times now. I really don’t. Memory can be a fickle little beast.

Oh, well. February is just around the corner.

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  1. The PSUV, the FANB and the colectivos are making millions everyday, so the revolution works pretty well for them. Who’s gonna take them out? really, how can the pueblo face the government, the armed national forces AND the batshit crazy armed colectivos? sorry for being so pessimist but for me there’s no way out soon.

    Somewhere I read “Un país nunca toca fondo”, and the revolution still has a ton of cash, oil and even voters to keep destroying the economy and stealing zillions of dollars.

    • To begin with, the armed forces in Venezuela are not a monolithic bloc that is 100% behind the government.

      There are certainly those in the FANB that are in bed with the Cubans, and raking in cash hand over fist as they are involved in all kinds of corrupt practices ranging from over invoicing imports and liquidating dollars on the parallel market to drug smuggling, prostitution and other mafia style ventures.

      Then there are members of the armed forces that while they oppose what is happening, they keep quiet because they know it will end their careers.

      There are also those that believe in the “revolution”, but do not dirty their hands and are true to their beliefs and true to whatever decent ethical military code still exists. Not many, but they exist.

      The dirty, lowdown, Cuban Ass Kissing military are a decided minority, yet they are in positions where they control equipment and logistics and men.

      The rest, whether they believe in the revolution or not, are realizing that the moment to act is coming soon. They have no desire to see blood coursing in the streets, but will act against any non military actors that have weapons and are using them.

      Keep in mind also, that more and more of the “Chavista Pueblo” are seeing how food and other necessities are becoming scarcer as time goes by. There is grumbling and rumbling all over the barrios, as opposed to this same time last year.

      We are close to a tipping point. Time is running out on the government, especially since they decided to not implement the necessary economic measures that they should have a year ago.

      There will come a time, pretty soon, when those who are engaged in corruption will decide that the jig is up and it’s time to cut and run. When they do, the equipment, manpower and logistics will fall to others who will know what to do with them.

      As Juan said, February is right around the corner. January 23 is also right around the corner.

      I do not think it is mere coincidence that Capriles has chosen these days to begin to call for the people to take to the streets to peacefully manifest their discontent with how the country is being run.

      I am willing to bet Capriles and his folks have been in discussions with the FANB, since last year probably, and have decided that the time has come to “kick it up a notch”. The key is going to be to manage any transition within the bounds of the Constitution, which battered as it may be, is still the law of the land.

  2. From the following link…

    Welcome to the end of Phase III of pervasive Lat Am political/economic cycle…

    “Phase III: Pervasive shortages, extreme acceleration of inflation, and an obvious foreign exchange gap lead to capital flight and demonetization of the economy. The budget deficit deteriorates violently because of a steep decline in tax collection and increasing subsidy costs.The government attempts to stabilize by cutting subsidies and by a real depreciation. Real wages fall massively, and politics become unstable. It becomes clear that the government has lost.”

    • Excellent find, Roy. I downloaded the paper it linked to. I recall reading back in ’89, about a similar paper that IIRC The Economist had mentioned. I Googled “jeffrey sachs populist inflation” and got this paper on the first hit: NBER Working Paper : Social Conflict and Populist Policies in Latin America. This paper covers much the same ground.

      Interesting that in the article you linked to, the fall in real wages in Chile was most pronounced during the time Allende was still President. Your find. Macroeconomic Populism in Latin America, Dornbusch & Edwards My memory. Social Conflict and Populist Policies in Latin America, Sachs.

  3. Kind of OT… I just paid the property tax on my apartment. The total amount for all of 2015 was Bs.239.67. At the current free market exchange rate, that is somewhere around $1.50. At this rate, I suspect that the cost of collecting this revenue has exceeded the value of the revenue collected. Absurd!

    At this point, it feels like the country is just “going through the motions” of imitating “business as usual”, all the time sensing the futility of those actions.

      • I think you missed the point of my comment, which is that property taxes are too low. The low rates make as little sense as the cost of gasoline.

        • Good god, are the rates really that low? Or was it the result of the inflation this past year combined with administrative incompetence, and normally you would be paying more?

          If it’s the former, what’s the point of even having a tax?

          • And how much for car taxes ? Probably less than 1 $ using same exchange rate … wonder why there are so many potholes in your local neighborhood streets ?

  4. The government is waiting for the opposition to do anything to blame them for the current disaster. It is wise to lay low for now, be patient and wait for Chaverment to make the next move. If they take a sane measure it will be deeply unpopular and contradictory with Chavismo promises. If they do nothing and continue to slide they will be called out for lack of leadership in a matter of weeks.

    Chavismo will tear itself apart from Maduro if they want to remain a viable political force. How will it happen? If it is in the best Chavismo form it will be vulgar and probably violent.

    At that point Escualidos would have the high ground of whatever heap of rubble is left of the country.

    • The irony about what you wrote is that the ultimate fate of the country is probably out of both government’s and opposition’s hands by now. The country WILL collapse no matter what they do.

      • Marc,

        Do remember the Peruvian rebirth fathered by Fujimori, 25 years and still growing 🙂 Then there is Pinochet’s brutal reform of Chile, here again, still going after the ashes of 1973. Even Brazil, in spite of its current troubles, has a phoenix type of trajectory.

        I make no illusions of the brutality of these previous examples, and perhaps a lesson or two were learnt by the leaders to be from the mistakes of the above mentioned.

        • Certainly, such traumas can be pedagogical and make political leaders learn with past mistakes. Venezuela will probably be reborn stronger and on the right path. But it will collapse now. There’s just no way the status quo will remain for long. No way.

  5. Most arguments here assuming inertia will prevail ignore that pro-establishment groups (chavistas by name) include both idealists and less ideological elements within positions of power that care that things are falling apart. As the group of idealists, which includes eg Giordani followers, and the group which includes those who give a damn but are not diehard ideologues start to raise vociferous complaints calling for a revolution within the revolution, things might spin out of control. Question is how much those groups are willing to shake the boat and in which direction they might do so. You could for instance see a golpe by a diehard chavista leading to internecine warfare. Hopefully those calling for early elections will be favored, but I am not sure elections are going to calm the waters much.

  6. Juan, you are thinking about those times now because we are now repeating history again, and unfortunately, in Venezuela history does not repeat itself as farce, as Marx said about a revolution, but as another tragedy. You were right, and I imagine for you and others who were right, old enough to have seen the last time this happened, what is unfolding is not cause for any uplifting feelings of vindication but rather feelings one has when one realizes one has been somewhere before.

  7. It goes even further than that… Just last month I was reading “Estación de máscaras” (sequel to “Un retrato en la geografía”) by Arturo Uslar Pietri. The novel (published in the early 1960s) deals with the months before the 1948 coup, the proliferation of whispers and rumors about it, and how by that point, it all appeared to be a repetition: “…otra vez la mágica posibilidad del cambio inesperado… Podía contarle la vieja historia de lo que había sabido un año antes o diez años antes. Y bastaría apenas cambia uno o dos nombres, porque era la misma historia.” (problematic book, especially in its sexism, but very interesting in its depiction of Venezuelan political culture).


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