Dr. Sanity has a terrific post,
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” – attributed to Mark Twain
One of the dissonant rhymes of history is at this moment taking place in Venezuela. If you listen closely, you will be able to hear the repugnant sounds of a familiar oppression in Hugo Chavez’ “socialist paradise.”
He is clamping down on the press; he is nationalizing all the industry; he is threatening jail to anyone who opposes him. Things are beginning to fall apart, so the solution for thugs like Chavez is to just get more control. As once was pointed out to Darth Vader in a similar context, I believe, “The more you tighten your grip, the more people will slip through your fingers.”
Dr. Sanity is right on the money.
The only thing I disagree with is this,
Awash collectivist fervor, it won’t be long before the Venezuelan people will begin to realize they have been conned by an expert.
While a significant number of Venezuelans realize they have been conned, and many are wanting to leave (so much so that Doral, an area of Miami, is now Doralzuela to the locals), Hugo’s core constituency, which is found among the large underclass of what by all criteria should have been a rich country, will take a very long time, if ever, to wake up to reality.
First of all, they see Hugo as “people like us”. While Hugo, unlike Lula of Brazil, didn’t rise from the underclass, Hugo has convinced them that he is one of them.
The prior Venezuelan administrations failed to turn oil money into a means of developing its most valuable resource, its people. And the people know it.
Chavez also knows the power of nationalistic propaganda in Latin America, which goes hand-in-hand with anti-Americanism. It goes like this:
[Insert contry’s name here] is THE country, and the USA wants to take over [Insert contry’s name here]’s assets, and will invade.
In Venezuela’s case there’s the oil, so of course this feeds into the fallacy. That the USA borders with one of the largest, most prosperous, most resource-rich countries with one of the most educated populations in the world, a country which has oil, and that country is so sure that the USA’s not going to invade that it, for all practical purposes doesn’t have an army that amounts to much, would never cross the mind of the afflicted with anti-American paranoia.
Additonally, Latin American politics, not just Venezuelan politics, have traditionally been based in the politics of envy. Marxist ideology, with its belief that “the rich are rich because they make us poor” and many variations on this theme, is the mothers’ milk of this mentality.
Then there’s all-oout propaganda, and repression of dissenting views: Hugo is silencing dissenting views little by little
Meanwhile, the government has vastly expanded its own media holdings. It runs three national TV channels, as well as Telesur, an international news channel set up by Mr Chávez as an answer to CNN. It recently bought CMT, a small Caracas channel, to broadcast Telesur at home. It has pumped money and other resources into “alternative” and “community” media, most of which are dependent on the state and are unlikely to adopt a critical stance.
Mr Chávez this month relaunched his weekly “Hello President” programme as a 90-minute nightly radio show, with a TV version once a week. Promising “exclusives” in every edition, he used the first to announce a new decree against “hoarders and speculators” with six-year jail terms for offenders. He also regularly obliges all TV and radio stations to broadcast his rambling speeches live.
And let’s not underestimate the power of never wanting to admit one is wrong. The more insecure a person, the more difficult it is for them to admit they are wrong. Hugo’s constituency is not only psychologically insecure, but in most precarious economical and physical straits. For Hugo’s core constituency to admit they are wrong would mean the collapse of all they hold dear, at least for now.
Meanwhile, Hugo continues with his arms race: Venezuela buys more arms than Iran and Pakistan
Venezuela has spent more than four billion dollars on arms purchase that include rifles, ships, helicopters and planes in the past two years. This transforms the country into a large weapons buyer, leaving behind big purchasers such as Iran and Pakistan.
What should the USA do? For starters, off-shore drilling, drilling in ANWAR, and encougaring conservation in the USA will decrease dependence on Venezuelan oil – the source of Hugo’s riches.
Encouraging free trade with friendly Latin American countries, and abolishing all agricultural subsidies and tariffs in the trade with those countries will boost their economies and ours.
Hugo knows that prosperity is his enemy. Let’s encourage prosperity, then.
Update: Chavenomics 101