World Bank President Robert Zoellick said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s “days are numbered” economically and politically and that the region should prepare to move into a new era of democracy on his eventual exit.
Zoellick spoke last night at the Organization of American States in Washington where the Inter-American Dialogue, a policy analysis group, held a reception celebrating its 30th anniversary. He said countries dependent upon Venezuela’s aid like Nicaragua and Cuba will face difficulties if subsidies are cut, which may pave the way for rapid policy changes.
“Chavez’s days are numbered,” Zoellick said. “If his subsidies to Cuba and Nicaragua are cut, those regimes will be in trouble. There will be an opportunity to make the Western Hemisphere the first democratic hemisphere. Not a place of coups, caudillos, and cocaine — but of democracy, development, and dignity.”
Venezuela sends Cuba about 100,000 barrels of oil a day in exchange for more than 20,000 doctors who work in state-run Venezuelan clinics. Nicaragua also receives oil from Venezuela, through the Petrocaribe agreement, which is repaid over as many as 25 years and can include food and textiles as payment.
The cost of the project has ballooned since its inception. Last month Chavez announced a further $51.7 million to the already-budgeted $78 million. This in a country that is plagued by crime and poverty, though has the roughly-$100-a-barrel price for its oil to thank for keeping the economy off its knees.
The election is scheduled for October 7; Reporters Without Borders condemns attacks on media ahead of election in Venezuela.