Photo: PolítiKa UCAB
In 2010, Chávez dons the Marxist-Christian garb. For the first time, people started banging pots in protest during his speech in a public event in El Valle. NGO Control Ciudadano denounced that several soldiers were registered in PSUV, violating the Constitution, with the CNE and the National Assembly refusing to open proceedings over this situation. The symbolic remains of Manuela Sáenz were placed in the National Pantheon beside Simón Bolívar’s. Rejection against Chávez reached the final of the baseball championship between Caracas and Magallanes: people protested from their seats with RCTV flags, along with the slogan “1, 2, 3, Chávez, you’re out!” Actually, he still had a few strikes left as president.
The national electrical power crisis grew worse due to lack of investment and maintenance for national distribution networks, on top of the severe drought which lowered water levels in all dams. Caracas was favored in detriment of the rest of the country and a water rationing plan was imposed which did nothing to prevent outages. Alí Rodríguez Araque is appointed energy minister. He decreed the electrical emergency and ordered the purchase of thermo-electrical plants (most of the installed systems didn’t work well). The workday for public employees was reduced, along with the activity in Guayana’s basic companies. There was 20-hour outage in Lechería which was memorable because Cadafe said that an iguana was to blame. The rains returned and the dams were replenished, but hardships continued.
The depreciation of the bolívar fuerte
Announced on January 8th, Chávez declared that the Bs. 2.15 exchange rate, which remained in place since 2005, would split into two rates between Bs. 2.60 (only for State imports) and Bs. 4.30 (for travelers and misc imports.) The measure was baptized as “Red Friday” mirroring the “Black Friday” that the country experienced in February, 1984. The measure was deemed necessary but abrupt. People started purchasing every product they could find, so as not to lose half their savings’ worth. Chávez also decreed that there could be no mention of the black market dollar on media outlets, but the government announced that they would enter that market through bonds and currency purchases, creating a third rate to acquire dollars.
Several other companies
Starting the year, the National Assembly declared the “public use and social interest” of the hypermarket chain Éxito (later Abastos Bicentenario), owned by French group Casino; Chávez signed the expropriation decree but later accepted Casino’s proposal to purchase 80% of their shares in Cativen (owner of both Éxito and Cada).
Several buildings in downtown Caracas were expropriated, along with Polar warehouses and the food company Monaca, while the Santa Inés University was nationalized. The next step was the forceful takeover of the companies Envases Internacional, Venoco and Aventuy; the expropriation of the company Industria Nacional de Artículos de Ferretería as well as nine shops, 11 oil drills belonging to Helmerich & Payne (H&P) and Agroisleña, main distributor of farming products. Chávez also expropriated the branch of Owens Illinois; Sidetur (he seized all of its assets) and textile company Silka. He also ordered the forceful acquisition of Sambil Mall La Candelaria and 19 unfinished residential complexes.
150,000 tons of expired or decomposing food were discovered within PDVAL containers, a crime that was a consequence of excessive purchases, problems in national ports and in distribution. The National Assembly refused to discuss the matter, the trial was postponed all year long and the Administration merely removed PDVAL from PDVSA’s management. There were only three arrests. The rotten food also had an impact in the Food Program for Schools, which saw difficulties in 18 states, diminishing the food coverage and increasing school desertions. A ship was sent back from the Dominican Republic with 1,500 tons of food, it was sent as humanitarian aid for Haiti and had decomposed in the meantime. Despite the scandal, the FAO declared that the country was “on the right track in the fight against hunger,” although we lost a few ranks in the Human Development Index.
The National Assembly appointed two new CNE board members, Socorro Hernández and Tania D’Amelio. The Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) managed to agree on single candidates for 17 states. Once more, chavismo’s electoral campaign was full of enormous opportunism and the CNE no only ignored the complaints of NGO Ojo Electoral, but also threatened to remove their monitoring credentials. With over 65% turnout, the AN ended up with 98 PSUV lawmakers; 65 from the opposition and 2 from PPT. Notably, the reform of the Framework Law on Electoral Processes altered the amount of seats obtained for the amount of votes for each party: 52 seats were chosen based on the system of proportional representation and 110 based on the the party list system.
Franklin Brito’s death
49-year old agricultural producer Franklin Brito died after an eight-month hunger strike waiting for a compensation for his property rights, after six years of conflicts before State institutions. His immolation was dismissed by the Prosecutor’s Office as the act of a lunatic.
Photo: El Guardián Católico
The were protests for power outages, food shortages, the dwindling budgets for universities and even, for Conatel’s decision to exclude RCTV Internacional from the offer of cable TV providers.
Reaching the Internet
The protests moved to social media and the government took it as another scenario of confrontation. Chávez declared that the Internet couldn’t be free, but a week later he called on his militancy “to wage the digital communicational battle.” The ministers of Communication and Education inducted children and teenagers as “Communicational guerrilla commandos,” paid for it with public funds, who would spread “the Revolution’s truth.” Chávez created his Twitter account to receive complaints and, due to the overwhelming amount of unattended needs, he created Misión @Chávez Candanga to process them.
During his speech in the meeting of world leaders in Copenhague, Chávez accused the Netherlands for allowing the U.S. to use their lands in the Caribbean as military bases. In Mexico, he faced down Uribe Vélez, remember the phrase? “Be a man and stay to debate face to face,” and he replied with a “Go to hell!”. Aleksandr Lukashenko, José “Pepe” Mujica and Vladimir Putin all visited the country. They all left with a replica of Bolívar’s sword. But no subject was so talked about as the presence of paramilitary groups in Venezuela (FARC, ELN and ETA). In a long tour (Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Syria, Belarus, Libya, Argel and Portugal) Chávez signed numerous agreements of economic, social and political cooperation, so many that the opposition demanded that they be reviewed in detail.
In order to control the FX exchange market, the government intervened and shut down several stock exchanges; they penalized the parallel dollar and offered State-issued bonds to acquire currency bypassing Cadivi. The State didn’t have an adequate offer for the billions of dollars that the market required to reactivate imports and other economic activities. The BCV approved a system of daily dollar actions at a Bs. 5.30 rate (Sitme), with monthly limits per company ($300,000), requiring natural persons to open an account in dollars abroad to access the system. Venezuela closed 2010 with 26.9% inflation, the highest in Latin America for the fifth year in a row and the second highest worldwide, despite rising oil prices. The GDP contracted by 1.9% and the black market dollar, which opened the year at Bs. 6.30, closed at Bs. 9.14.