Front-page story in the NYT today: Chávez, Seeking Foreign Allies, Spends Billions
The Center of Economic Investigations, an economic consulting firm in Caracas, issued a study recently that said Mr. Chávez had spent more than $25 billion abroad since taking office in 1999, about $3.6 billion a year, while First Justice, a leading opposition party, put the figure at $16 billion, based on Mr. Chávez’s own declarations.
As the NYT article shows,
There is little doubt, however, that the spending has won Mr. Chávez stature and support abroad. For Argentina, the debt purchases helped President Néstor Kirchner, Venezuela’s left-leaning ally, to pay off that country’s $9.8 billion debt to the International Monetary Fund, ending Argentina’s stormy relationship with the group.
In Cuba, Venezuela has supplied nearly 100,000 barrels of cut-rate oil per day — a deal Cuba repays with doctors and other services — making Mr. Chávez a benefactor on a par with the Soviet Union, which once bankrolled Castro’s economy.
In the Bronx this past winter, Citgo, a subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, provided heating fuel at a 40 percent discount to some 8,000 low-income residents of 75 apartment buildings.
Hugo’s continuing to squeeze oil companies: Chavez hardens grip on Venezuela resources
APR. 3 5:44 P.M. ET President Hugo Chavez has tightened his grip on Venezuela’s energy resources, following through on threats to punish international companies that resist government control of the nation’s oil fields.
Venezuela seized two oil fields from France’s Total SA and Italy’s Eni SpA after the companies failed to comply with a government demand that operations be turned over to state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said Monday
The Economist‘s forecast is glum as far as economic prospects, but Hugo’s trying to bankroll his way into other countries’ politics, therefore the continuing pressure on oil producers, his main source of income:
Mr. Chávez is “spending considerable sums involving himself in the political and economic life of other countries in Latin America and elsewhere, this despite the very real economic development and social needs of his own country,” said John Negroponte, the American director of national intelligence, in February at a Congressional hearing in Washington.
Antonio Ledezma, an opposition leader and one of the president’s more determined foes, said the policy’s aim was to build “a political platform with an international reach.”
The obnoxiousness, the uncouth talk about lapdogs, and the disrespectful behavior of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez was apparently enough to affect Mexican voter sentiment – boosting the anti-Chavez right – as Mexican voters decided they had no intention of being pushed around.
Will Hugo’s money make his candidate win the Mexican elections?
We’ll find out next July.
Update, Wednesday 5 April Democracy at risk: Venezuela’s ChÁvez is shackling the press
Now, Chávez and his government are moving systematically to undercut press freedoms and silence press criticism of his lurch leftward. A Venezuelan congress and judiciary effectively controlled by Chávez are enacting laws and regulations that criminalize dissent. “Social responsibility” laws are being used to impose de facto censorship on radio and television news and commentary. A tangle of new arbitrary laws, decrees, regulations and rules is being put in place to stifle press criticism and give Chávez and his revolution an ever freer ride in the media.
While Chávez’s critics in the press are hounded and harassed, Chávez gets an average of 40 broadcast hours a week, unchallenged by critics, to harangue Venezuelans.