In a brilliant piece in last week’s print edition, The Economist goes through the parade of horribles haunting Venezuela since day one of 2017. As expected, this year is already making 2016, the worst year ever, look like a lost Golden Era.
Starting with the unbearably shitty performance of last year, they note what we Venezuelan economists are already used to: officials have stopped reporting basic statistics more than a year ago, and no one knows if we’ll ever see those figures again.
Nonetheless, going on leaked BCV data, they suggest the country’s GDP contracted 18.6% last year, and inflation topped 800%; alongside with the estimate of their Intelligence Unit (they saw GDP falling 13.7% YoY), the figures suggest that Venezuela endured one of the all-time worst collapses in economic activity worldwide, much sharper than the one suffered by Greece at the height of the Euro crisis. Even so, their figures are still more conservative than the estimates of the warmest voices in VennyLand.
They don’t see any changes for better with the new chairman, vintage marxist ñángara Ricardo Sanguino.
Perhaps the sacking of long-time BCV President Nelson Merentes was a punishment for allowing the leaks, the authors suggest in an illustrative example at the center of the piece. Maybe it was due to the disastrous attempt at demonetization carried out late last year. In either case, scapegoats are increasingly scarce, and Maduro showed little consideration for a long-time chavista insider long seen untouchable.
So, pretty much in line with our view, they don’t see any changes for better with the new chairman, vintage marxist ñángara Ricardo Sanguino; nor with Ramón Lobo, the country’s new Economic VP and Sanguino’s younger partner and fellow ex-PSUV MP.
The Economist goes deep into the contradictions that have become tragically prevalent in our society this year: The economy is in a death spiral? Let’s add more controls! The poorest Venezuelans have borne the costs of the government’s criminal incompetence? Let them rot in a line for a plastic decoy! More than three-fourths of society publicly oppose the government? Let’s cling onto power more tightly! The government wants dialogue with the opposition? Let’s launch an ‘anti-coup’ commando and send some opposition MPs to jail for no reason!
Just when you start to question the sanity or strategic implications of this travesty, they go straight into the money (emphasis added):
Mr Maduro appears to be making two bets. The first is on disarray among the opposition. Divisions within the Democratic Unity alliance, a grouping of many parties, are widening as their efforts to defeat chavismo falter. It lacks a leader who can appeal to poor Venezuelans who feel betrayed by the regime’s empty promises.
Mr Maduro’s second hope is that oil prices will bounce back. They have already recovered from $21 a barrel in 2016 to $45. But PDVSA has been so badly managed and starved of investment that it will struggle to reap the benefits. (…) Mr Maduro vows that 2017 will be the “first year of the new history of the Venezuelan economy”. That will not shorten the passport queues.
Now, next time you see Nicolás Maduro tirando un paso on a government-mandated live broadcast, try not to think about how much of a clown he looks. Think about how all he wants is for time to go on, the cracks in the opposition unity to widen and crude oil futures to keep grinding higher, so he can stay in power for longer.
And keep blasting those tunes and busting those moves. Ugh.