It's the economic war, stupid!


Ever since scarcity began, Venezuelans were presented with a new phenomenon: “economic war.” Hazily defined and poorly communicated, economic war basically says that someone – the opposition, private industry, the CIA, the Mossad, Uribe – SOMEONE is responsible for the long lines and empty shelves in Venezuela’s stores. That someone is … anyone but the government.

The latest incarnation of “economic war” points to “wholesalers.” According to the government, wholesalers are hoarding on consumer goods. The reason you can’t find cooking oil is becasue it’s stored in the warehouses of eeeeeeevillllll wholesalers. Once we do away with these folks, everything will be good.

Sadly, some in the media aren’t buying the “economic war” narrative. The latest media outlet to undermine the argument is none other than the Official Gazette of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Last week, a decree was published there saying the government was doing away with much of the paperwork needed to import: chicken, beef, pork, live cattle, milk, wheat, rice, sugar, corn, toilet paper, detergent, women’s sanitary napkins, shampoo, and medicine. In other words – pretty much everything you can’t find in the stores at the moment.

But wait … wasn’t all this stuff supposed to be hoarded up in the warehouses of the eeeeeeevillllll , eeeeeeevillllll wholesalers? If the problem of scarcity is in the distribution and not in the actual amount of stuff that makes it into the country, why so desperate to import stuff as fast as you can?

One of the many qualities of Hugo Chávez – and, yes, he had some – was his manic ability to stay on message and hammer it down until it was part of our consciousness. In doing so, he ingrained message discipline on his millions of underlings.

But message discipline seems to be one of the many things going missing in Venezuela these days.


  1. Juan, have you seen those government ads about the price of the gasoline? The ones that pretty much admit that they are fools for not rising the price yet and heavily implying they will. “[…] stay on message and hammer it down until it was part of our consciousness.” Is exactly what they will do with that.

    • And she knows all of this how? It’s a juicy bit of gossip, but I am not sure it is at all relevant, other than as a possible explanation for why Salazar flew the coop. In the end, does it really matter why he decided to defect?

      • Salazar flew the coop because his new wife does not want to join lines and not have sanitary napkins or detergent or harina p.a.n or …or…or…or.

  2. In a way, there is an “Economic War”. The Chavistas long ago declared war on the Laws of Economics, insisting that these did not apply to Venezuela. They may as well have declared war on the Laws of Gravity, since the attempt is as futile as the results are predictable.

    • Don’t think so. LAHT is more plugged-in than you know. GZ at 18, working as a waitress in one of the first pizza joints in Las Mercedes, was the girlfriend of a friend of mine, married to a daughter of a then-Minister of Defense, who used to pick her up at her place of work, often toting a Tommu gun (I kid you not), and with his military bodyguard. My friend went on to bigger and better things as a key intermediary in Ven armed forces materiel procurement, as did GZ in telenovelas, and, now, the pinnacle of power!

  3. By “economic war” I think they mean precisely that, interference by foreign and domestic enemies in the normal function of the economy in order to subjugate the Venezuelan people and appropriate their riches (=oil). It is a venezolano-centric perspective. At best, they could of course argue that the Venezuelan economy is the collateral victim of an oil glut due in part to the efforts of other countries to increase oil production.

    • “Economic War” actually isn’t a bad propaganda explanation for the limited-understanding Chavista hard-core base Now, “Economic Hunger” would/will be far more difficult to explain away.

    • It may make one’s struggle to find basic foodstuffs, or one’s wait in line for diapers, a little easier to bear when it’s framed in such a way. They may think are part of some huge war, pitting external and internal enemies against the “real” Venezuelan people. By enduring these hardships and loyally supporting the government, they are doing their part in the titanic struggle!

      Much better than the alternative….your government, the one you are devoted to and believe in, is actually completely incompetent and corrupt and really responsible for all of those hardships.

  4. Este peo se acaba el dia que la mate a coñazo limpio a los guevones de arreza, aristobulo y compañia cuando hagan una de sus “intervenciones”.
    Mientras tanto, estamos jodidos.

  5. Its an irresponsible and dangerous slogan, because, obviously, in a war, violence is permitted, and the regime has not been ambiguous about who it thinks are the appropriate targets of that violence.

  6. U.S. adds more Venezuelan officials to the list of revoked visas…

    And so the diplomatic tit-for-tat starts. I honestly don’t know if this is a wise move, or not. But it is interesting that it comes immediately in the wake of Maduro’s threat to break relations with the U.S. It seems as though they are daring him, or calling his bluff. It would seem insane for a country to break relations with its only customer that pays top-dollar for its only export. But then, little that this government has done recently appears sane.

  7. The economic war explanation is so lame and unconvincing that I wonder how dumb or fanatized you have to be to believe it .!! If Venezuelas population is on record as having an average IQ of 84 ( Cuba 85 ) and you think of the IQ distribution as forming a bell jar figure , then youd have to think that only the lowest part of the curve ( the dumbest of the dumb) would fall for it , what percentage of the total population could we think of as believing this trite explanation of their woes !!

    • 17%
      IQ curve centered at 84, stdev = 15 (the usual is centered at 100, stdev = 15)
      Area under the curve to the left of IQ = 70 = 0.1753
      Area under the curve to the left of IQ = 50 = 0.0117
      ‘To classify scores below 70, psychologists invented a nomenclature of retardation. Those with IQs between 51 and 70 were called morons. Morons had adequate learning skills to complete menial tasks and communicate. Imbeciles, with IQs between 26 and 50, never progressed past a mental age of about six’

        • you, not I, are making the association between chavistas and the “percentage of the total population could we think of as believing this trite explanation.” . In my opinion, evilness and stupidity are not correlated and the few people who insist that they enjoy waiting in line for food are speaking in bad faith, not in innocence.

          • Elsewhere in these blogs I made the point that one thing is to be naturally stupid and quite different is to fall for stupid thoughts because of ones embrace of stupid forms of thinking for reasons having to do with such form of thinking providing its devotees with feeling of morally glamorous self agrandizement .

            There are manichean and reductionistic discourses or narratives that inflame people sense of self righteous indignation agaisnt a demonized enemy as a means of feeding their own enthralling sense of epically moral superiority. Who become drunk by a self induced feeling of glamorous heroic anger by their adoption of certain dumb beliefs . Fascism , Communism , Islamic Fundamentalism are stupid in that they falsely but melodramatically misrepresent reality , their followers are not necessarily stupid by birth but by reason of their adoption of these sectarian beliefs . They are idiotized by their fanatic beliefs This comes from my interpretation of a phrase by Borges : “Las dictaduras fomentan la opresión, las dictaduras fomentan el servilismo, las dictaduras fomentan la crueldad; más abominable es el hecho de que fomenten la idiotez. ” …

            I do suspect that Chavez fanatics do include a large number of feeble minded people but also many people endowed with a normal intelligence who have become idiotized by their adoption of very stupid but emotionally enthralling ideas inspired by Chavez political discourse. .The fact that the average IQ in Venezuela is 84 may have something to do with the ease with which people in Venezuela have adopted Chavez mongrel creeds.

          • This is well put, BB. But I would add to the IQ considerations. That is, to explain why people gravitate towards movements that give them a sense of false superiority, built on whipped-up outrage towards a manufactured “bad man”, all this as a substitute for self-worth (self-discipline, and hard work), which these people have not, or perhaps cannot achieve through their own efforts, given their environmental and family circumstances.

            Clearly, this is a multi-pronged issue. And I find it fascinating to try to understand what lies beneath the surface, or in the background of those who seek to enhance their image (on the back of imaginary ogres) and their capacity to produce, in exchange for parroting a party line.

          • * those who seek to enhance their image (on the back of imaginary ogres) and to camouflage their incapacity to produce real goods and services, in exchange for parroting a party line.

          • Excelently put Syd !! This is at the core of the Chavistas motivation. !! Forget about all the rethoric and pugnatious gestures !!

          • Don’t have all the answers, BB, but have observed over many decades certain aspects of human behaviour. Those that suit the bolivarian dream profile were on display in 3 instances at two universities in northern latitudes, about a decade ago. I attended the events out of curiosity. In one, a leader of a Bolivarian Circle swooned over the “mantuano” schtick by Amy Chua’s “World on Fire” and defended Chávez, while her sidekick, Chilean-born-Cuban-wife-of-a-Cuban-apparatchik *journalist* marketed her noodle-thin interviews of communist leaders. Denial was part of both their schtick (“there are no political prisoners in Venezuela” and “that was no coup in 1992”). So, too, were clichés (one grad student countered a comment with “it’s the CIA” and one Sociology professor expressed rapture over the presentations). Aside from the twisted mental dynamics that I perceived in the room, I remembered my mom. Way back when, she told me that those with communist leanings tend to seek their innocent and not-yet-formed adherents on university campuses. I thought she was being paranoid. Evidently not.

          • Psychological projection: a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude.

          • Quite true , there is the old saying , “cada ladron juzga a los demas segun su condicion” , or Proust observaton in Au Recherche du temps perdue ” All floozies judge other women to be floozies” or the regimes penchant of accusing others of imaginary crimes or misdeeds which they themselves are inclined to perpetrate .

          • Envy and jealousy do a lot for that…and the same goes for those opposition members who are similar in character sometimes…..I know many in the opposition who feel absolutely superior .Feeling superior is a sign of it.

            Not everything is projection…projection is just one defense mechanism…a more primitive one is Denial, and we are seeing that one quite a lot.

    • Bill Bass,

      “Venezuelas population is on record as having an average IQ of 84.”

      I find that hard to believe in a country that has so many people that are so creative about inventing new ways to cheat the system.

      • Good point: IQ only measures certain skills. It fails to measure creativity. A child with a high IQ will likely become a bureaucrat, a cog in the wheel — which also goes for academics, a class of people that follow received wisdom and fight against original thinking, if only in order to protect their turf and to keep the loyalty of their financial backers.

        • Even animals can sometimes exhibit a certain practical slyness or raw sagacity (astucia animal) which doesnt mean they are particularly lucid in understanding of judging complex questions , that they are in human terms actually smart . In fact there are many forms of IQ and some people may be smart in some dimension of their lives and less so in others .

          I think that raw intelligence is one thing but that there is another quality in peoples intellectual temperament or personality which allows them to make a better or worse use of their natural intelligence , using a metaphor some people are dealt cards which arent that great but which they know to use with greater advantage so they are able to win a game against people which have been dealt better cards .

          This notion was brought home to me by a comment made by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr assessing FDR to be a man of ordinary intelligence but brilliant temperament which suggested to me the idea that one must distinguish between a persons natural intelligence and his ability and skill in making more adantageous use of that intelligence to achieve greater things by using it . .

  8. “Economic war” is simply that entity which the Cubans call “The Embargo”. Of course, in the case of Venezuela, there IS no embargo, so they had to change the name.

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