The Opposite of Credibility

Remember the plan to raise gas prices announced during the Memoria y Cuenta address? Nicolás Maduro sure doesn't.

Once every great while – it really doesn’t happen often – the Venezuelan government will have a decent policy idea. During his State-of-the-Union style Memoria y Cuenta speech, for instance, Nicolás Maduro actually announced his government would raise gasoline prices from the current, batshit crazy level of basically-zero.

It wasn’t much of a bone thrown to the dogs of sanity, but hey, when you have to sit through three hours of crazy, any gesture in the direction of basic rationality is welcome.

So what’s happened with that since? Exactly nothing. At all. The topic was talked about once then quickly forgotten.

Nor is it the first time. According to Efecto Cocuyo’s tally, Maduro has made similar noises at least five times in the past, stretching all the way back to December 2013. At this point, no es que si me vas a subir la gasolina, es que si quieres que te cuente el cuento del gallo pelón.

In retrospect, though, the signs were all there. There was no detail in the original announcement: no timeline, no figures, no revenue projections, no new price levels, no communication strategy, no plan.

Right after his electoral drubbing on December 6th, Maduro said he would ask military officers to return to military duties, reserving the civilian posts in the government to, um, civilians. Again, not exactly earthshaking, but, y’know, a move in the right direction. Then…nothing.

One month later, Maduro announces a new cabinet strewn active duty military officers in charge of agriculture, lands, fishing, food, borders, the interior, justice, housing, electricity and – of course – defense.

It’s genuinely hard to figure out why this happens. At times Maduro seems to be knee-capping his own credibility purely for sport. How else do you explain this pattern?

Maybe I’m missing it, but I just don’t see in what imaginable world announcing you’re going to do these things and then not doing them holds any kind of political advantage for him.

Is this a question of indecision? Does he just fail to think through the consequences of these decisions? Or is it that he lacks the power to actually carry out things he’s announced? But then how can he have the power to announce them in the first place? I’m genuinely mystified.

One thing I know: this sets him apart from Chávez. Say what you will about that guy, but one thing you can’t deny: when he announced a policy, he pretty much always carried it out.