Translated by Javier Liendo
“The nerve, a lack of respect for people’s intelligence” Nicolás Maduro.
He wasn’t talking about himself, sadly. The whole cadena this Monday was dedicated to the activation of a Centralized System of public procurement, which was old news. Nicolás insists on talking of a real economic emergency but takes no measures to resolve it; he prefers to improvise clever phrases about what he’s learning, as if we had a lot of time.
“We have to produce everything, both in the countryside and in the cities […] it’s a crime to keep importing things we can produce here,” he said excitedly, because producing is a question of will, not of infrastructure, raw materials or budgets. He made a summary of the progresses of his economic cabinet in: 13 engines, 36 sectors and plan 50; honoring Ezequiel Zamora’s memory, repeating the phrase “Free land and men” in a city that ended the first month of the year with 474 bodies admitted into Bello Monte morgue; with 67 violent deaths reported only this weekend. There’s no freedom when violence rules.
The World Health Organization declared the situation with Zika an international public emergency. Margaret Chan restated that a coordinated response was necessary to fight against the virus, because the cases of microcephaly and other congenital deformities and neurological symptoms have increased. Up to now, the virus is present in 23 countries. On this matter, Alejandro Gaviria, the Colombian minister of Health, estimated that 650,000 cases of the virus could affect his country this year while also criticizing Venezuela for “what’s known as epidemiological silence […] there are no systematic reports of the information.” There could be more people affected by zika here than in Colombia due to that silence.
Freddy Ceballos, president of the Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation spoke again this Monday about the debt the Government has with the sector, the lack of raw materials and supplies, adding that 85% of drugstores in the country risk bankruptcy. To Ceballos, the National Assembly’s recent decision to declare a Humanitarian Emergency in the country could make use of international mechanisms to get help: “If there’s international humanitarian help, the Government can’t deny it,” he said. You might find it amazing, but the Minister of Health’s only response so far has been to open the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org for any request for medicines, without estimating response times, conditions, or anything like that.
So exhausted is the rentier state model, that Eulogio Del Pino launched his tour in Russia, where he met the Minister of Energy, Alexander Novak, to talk about oil prices. The summary of the meeting is that, if Venezuela manages to arrange meetings with oil-producing countries (whether they’re in OPEC or not,) Russia will be there. Was a trip that expensive necessary for that kind of result? Del Pino’s tour will continue through Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Maybe Del Pino doesn’t read Forbes magazine, which states that the question for Venezuela is not whether there will be a default, but when; that PDVSA and the government it finances will end up bankrupt. According to their estimates, with oil below $30, Venezuela would have to use 90% of its exports income to pay debt obligations to local and foreign creditors, with international reserves at minimum levels, the decrease in net assets; with Nicolás showing that he doesn’t understand the magnitude and the roots of this crisis and a default thought to be the greatest known in Latin America after Argentina’s in 2001. They add that we’ve lost a quarter of our GDP in three years and inflation rates are bound to get worse. All cute.
Minister Gustavo González López, who hasn’t made a single statement about the use of grenades in regular crimes, the crime rate making Caracas the most violent city in the world, or the festival of firearms in a prison in Margarita, spoke to express his indignation for the huge corruption of the Government’s food supply lines. He thinks the chiefs of the Food Corporation and Abastos Bicentenario are upside-down Robin Hoods, taking food from the poor to give to the rich.
Since he’s so worried about shortage lines, he might’ve mentioned that the shortage of rice will get worse, because the cultivated area in the present sowing cycle barely covers 27% of what was expected, so we would need to import more than 70% of what’s needed. The lack of supplies and problems with the irrigation system explain this severe issue. There’s not enough rice, we don’t have and won’t have dollars to buy more, which means hunger. But official media found it more important to talk about how Venezuela took on – for a month – the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council.
“This crisis is an opportunity, a great opportunity that we have,” Aristóbulo Istúriz said once the presidential cadena had ended, a way of taming the proportion to the crisis that they keep ignoring by drowning it in hopeful messages with a New Age tint. It’s more important to honor Zamora’s moustache than it is to take responsibility the mess they’ve made; for chavismo, symbolism comes before what’s urgent. Cynicism must have an end too.