Down the Serranomics Rabbit Hole

Anatoly Kurmanaev dives deep into the basis of Alfredo Serrano's death-grip over economic policy-making. What he finds is...genuinely upsetting.

It’s been an open secret for quite some time that the real power behind economic policy making (or the lack thereof) in the Maduro Era isn’t even Venezuelan. But  and Mayela Armas still does a real service by diving into the weeds and actually reporting the crap out of the story of how a single Spanish lunatic with the president’s ear is keeping an entire country hungry,

In a move that underscores Mr. Serrano’s influence, Mr. Maduro chose to ignore a recent economic-reform plan that he had requested from the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, a left-leaning bloc co-founded by Venezuela.

The then-vice president for the economy, Miguel Pérez Abad, endorsed the plan, which called for direct subsidies to the poorest families, the elimination of foreign-exchange controls and a reduction of price controls, according to two members of a Unasur mission who worked on the plan.

“I thought it was a good proposal, very reasonable,” said José Antonio Ocampo, a Columbia University economist and former Colombian finance minister who took part in two preliminary meetings of the Unasur mission earlier this year.

But Mr. Serrano argued against the plan after Mr. Maduro asked the mission to present the proposals directly to the Spanish adviser in May, said one Unasur member at the presentation. Mr. Serrano said the plan omitted a tax reform and took away too much state power, according to the person.

Probably the thing that makes me angriest about this whole thing is Anatoly and Mayela’s confirmation that it’s Serrano who’s behind Maduro’s weird fixation with Urban Agriculture and the creation of the Ministry for Urban Agriculture — with a Serrano acolyte at the helm, naturally.

Look, I grow vegetables in my backyard, and it’s a lovely hobby. But the notion of Urban Agriculture as the lynchpin of an economic development strategy is so aggressively moronic, so patently at odds of even the barest of bare bones economic reasoning, so catastrophically unable to take on even the so-obvious-it’s-just-DUHHHHHH insight that it may not be such a great idea to center the economic activity that uses land most intensively (farming) in the area where land is scarcest (cities), the entire thing bursts the banks of ideological disagreement and becomes, to me, simply stomach-churning, like finding out the surgeon who’s been treating your gravely ill child doesn’t believe in modern medicine and has been bleeding him with leeches instead.

There are many, many people responsible for Venezuela’s descent into dystopia. But few bear a heavier responsibility than Alfredo fuckin’ Serrano and the lunatics who take him seriously.