Welcome to the Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean. The top story in our hemisphere this week: the announcement of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez’s death. While the government has announced a presidential election for April 14th, don’t expect chavismo to give up power anytime soon.
The cult of adoration is now under way, which fills a need peculiar to Latin America, as Enrique Krauze explains,
In Latin America the need to turn politicians into secular saints is due to the distrust many feel for the region’s weak institutions and a worship for so-called men on horseback—heroes who come to the nation’s rescue, said Mr. Krauze. The region’s deep Catholic tradition of anointing and then venerating saints is also an important factor, he said.
When Congress finally decided in 2012 to allow people to obtain the salary information of its employees, it also required them to find the name of each employee and submit it online. In other words, if someone wanted the information on the legislature’s 25,000-strong work force, then that person had to independently identify them and submit 25,000 separate online requests.
If only it were that easy here in São Paulo. One clerk at the state’s high court, Ivete Sartório, was reportedly paid about $115,000 after convincing her superiors that she should be compensated for not taking leaves of absence. But when asked recently about her wages, a spokesman for the court, Rômulo Pordeus, said that Ms. Sartório’s “matriculation number” was needed to request the information.
When asked how any curious taxpayer could get that number, he replied that it was in Ms. Sartório’s possession, and that he did not want to bother her about it.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s lionization of his Venezuelan friend Hugo Chávez caused a political firestorm in the Islamic Republic, as doubts arose over whether the two countries could carry on their tight alliance now that Mr. Chávez is dead.
Decline in the production of oil (measured in barrels) during the presidency of Hugo Chávez, due to lack of investments.
of Venezuela’s total income comes from its oil industry. It has the largest oil reserves in the world. Under Hugo Chávez, production and income have both declined.
100,000 [per day]
Barrels of oil sold to Cuba every day, at bargain prices way below market value. Venezuela produces 2.8 million barrels a day.
Homicides registered during 2012, a record that can also be measured as 56 murders per 100,000 Venezuelans. It is the second highest murder rate in the world. Number one is Honduras.
Inflation in 2012. In the past seven years, Venezuela has had the highest inflation rates in Latin America, despite controls on prices and exchange rates.
Devaluation of the national currency (Bolívar), decreed in February 2013. Economic analysts forecast even greater devaluations in the near future if Venezuela fails to invest in its oil industry.
Millions of dollars Venezuela has borrowed from China in the past five years.
Number of businesses seized by Hugo Chávez during his 14-year dictatorship. These expropriations and the resulting growth of the government sector have not generated any wealth, but rather increased the overall poverty of Venezuela.
I’ll add another number: $2 billion
Hugo Chavez’s estimated net worth at the time of his death.
Which brings us to the tweet of the week,
My greatest regret at the passing of America-hating strongman Hugo Chavez, is that he didn’t live long enough to party with Dennis Rodman.
What is left, instead, after Chávez? A gaping hole for the millions of Venezuelans and other Latin Americans, mostly poor, who viewed him as a hero and a patron, someone who “cared” for them in a way that no political leader in Latin America in recent memory ever had. For them, now, there will be a despair and an anxiety that there really will be no one else like him to come along, not with as big a heart and as radical a spirit, for the foreseeable future. And they are probably right. But it’s also Chávism that has not yet delivered. Chávez’s anointed successor, Maduro, will undoubtedly try to carry on the revolution, but the country’s untended economic and social ills are mounting, and it seems likely that, in the not so distant future, any Venezuelan despair about their leader’s loss will extend to the unfinished revolution he left behind.
“Hugo Chavez was a tyrant who forced the people of Venezuela to live in fear. His death dents the alliance of anti-U.S. leftist leaders in South America. Good riddance to this dictator.
“Venezuela once had a strong democratic tradition and was close to the United States. Chavez’s death sets the stage for fresh elections. While not guaranteed, closer U.S. relations with his key country in our Hemisphere are now possible.”
Mr. Chávez’s death is a blow to populist governments in the region, including those of Bolivia and Ecuador, which he led in a perennial campaign against American hegemony. His death could have major economic and political repercussions for Cuba, which receives billions in virtually free oil from Venezuela.
Domestically, Mr. Chávez leaves behind a deeply divided country with an economy in disarray, barely kept afloat by high oil prices.
Previously posted as Breaking news: Venezuela’s high command is expecting news
1:40PM No announcement? Is this a trial balloon? What Maduro did today is talk about Chávez in the past tense, accuse “the empire” for poisoning him (Simon Bolivar was poisoned), and put the country on alert. Shortly after, he said there will be another announcement later today.
1:35PM Journalist Nelson Bocaranda tweets:
Impeccable script made in Cuba. Well articulated. Perfect for chavismo to believe to the letter. VERY DANGEROUS
El guión hecho en Cuba esta impecable. Bien articulado. Para el chavismo esta perfecto para creérselo a pie juntillas.PELIGROSISIMO