Emigration, Remittances and CLAP: Maduro’s Three Crutches

We could argue that there’s a powerful triad keeping the government in power. Decreasing population, money sent in by the diaspora and gubernamental handouts. It seems to be working, but for how long?

Photos: EFE retrieved

Many, both inside Venezuela and abroad (Nicholas Casey of the The New York Times, for example), ask themselves with reasonable incredulity: “How is it possible that Maduro maintains control of Venezuela, in the midst of such a socio-economic crisis?”

I think he’s had three very useful crutches: emigration, remittances and CLAP.

I think he’s had three very useful crutches: emigration, remittances and CLAP.

It’s difficult to calculate the number of Venezuelan migrants since 1999 (let alone 2012 or 2017), so some organizations make approximations. Consultores 21 says that at least 4 million Venezuelans had left the country by December 2017, and the International Migration Organization states that 944,880 Venezuelans have left these last two years. Moreover, to those still in Venezuela, it’s very clear how the whole country loses people daily: driving in Caracas is a piece of cake today, because there’s no traffic (caused by a major lack of parts and batteries).

The consequence of emigration is more simple than tragic: with fewer people in the country, you have less protests for food, medicines and public services, less political activists and financial supporters; in fact, you have to distribute less products to maintain the country at peace. Less people, less problems for chavismo.

Of course, if more people leave the country, you have more remittances to friends and relatives at Venezuela, meaning there’s more folks inside who could actually face scarcity and hyperinflation. According to Datanálisis, 9% of those in Venezuela receive remittances (you could argue that the government itself is interested in a cut of this pie).

Less people, less problems for chavismo.

The third crutch is the CLAP system: if you can control the distribution of scarce and expensive food, giving what you decide to give, you have a very good tool to maintain control—people can’t protest if they’re waiting for the CLAP to eat. Also, according to Datanálisis, 50% of Venezuelans have received a CLAP box at least once, and 20% of the population receives CLAP boxes regularly.

That CLAP system, by the way, has its own limitations in its control, as our own Anabella Abadi explains.

There are other tools of social-engineering (hyperinflation, scarcity, crime and fear), but emigration, remittances and CLAP boxes are being very efficient right now. For how long? Calculations are a difficult exercise in this context, but I think time plays in chavismo’s favor, precisely because of the aforementioned system: less people to keep in check, less mouths to feed, more remittances. Benefits all around.

A Cuban strategy of high (and perverse) efficiency.