Crude oil fell below $52 a barrel for the first time in 19 months after a report showed that U.S. fuel consumption plunged to the lowest since April 2004.
Eventually he reached the grand stand where he was welcome by the top brass and a boat load of officers. It was rather disturbing to see so many military in the inauguration of a civilian president. I mean, the chiefs of staff and the top generals I can still see, but it was rows and rows of officers full decked and the civilian cabinet tucked away nicely and discretely. We are indeed in a military regime and these bastards did not even have to do a coup!
The Economist points out,
What unites the various elements of the “new era” is the relentless centralisation of all power in Mr Chávez’s hands. His supporters already hold all the seats in the National Assembly, because the opposition boycotted a legislative election in December 2005. He also controls the courts.
Now, he says, the central bank will lose its constitutional autonomy (though in practice this had already become a fiction). Other proposed constitutional changes will curb the powers of state governors and mayors, and remove the bar on the indefinite re-election of the president.
Mr Chávez also said that he would ask the assembly to approve an enabling law empowering him to introduce a raft of socialist measures by decree. These, he said, would be much more radical than a similar package in 2001, which sparked a three-year opposition campaign to unseat the president that included a failed coup attempt and a two-month general strike.
Many of these announcements came at a ceremony on January 8th to swear in the new cabinet. Behind Mr Chávez as he spoke was a 10-metre-high close-up of his own face and hands, reminiscent of a bishop blessing his flock. Along with the mounting personality cult is a change of language. The president sneered at those, including Catholic church leaders, who have wondered aloud what his much-trumpeted plan for “21st century socialism” really consists of.
The bishops, he said, should read Marx, Lenin and the Bible. “Christ was an authentic communist, anti-imperialist and enemy of the oligarchy,” he said. He added that he himself had been a “communist” since at least 2002 (at the time he claimed to want to “improve capitalism”.) It is the first time that he has publicly assumed that description. He signed off with a slogan (“fatherland or death, we shall prevail”) coined by his friend, Cuba’s Communist president, Fidel Castro.
As always with Mr Chávez, the rhetoric may run ahead of the reality. But the direction of travel seems clear. The “new era” will see less scope for dissent. A law already going through parliament will restrict the ability of non-governmental organisations to receive money from abroad. By closing down RCTV, which he dislikes because it supported the coup against him in 2002, Mr Chávez is sending a message to the rest of the media that they need to toe the line, or else.
The Miami Herald says Venezuela reels from Chávez’s hard left turn. The article starts by saying that
Venezuelans are hearing alarm bells as their country moves strongly down a leftist path led by President Hugo Chávez, who promised ”socialism or death” from the factories to the schoolyards when he was sworn in Wednesday to another six-year term.
Alarm bells? What were they hearing for the past three years? Ringing cell phones? As Miguel says,
Thus, even those that voted for Chavez a month ago still have no clue about what they voted for, except that the autocrat himself will decide it all.
More at Babalu.
Back to the Miami Herald, some think the good old days may be back:
What’s more, many of the changes proposed by Chávez, including nationalizing telecommunications and electricity industries, are really a return to the status quo of the 1970s and ’80s.
‘Many people will say, `I’m outta here!’ ” said Datanálisis director Luis Vicente León, referring to the fear of socialism. “But very few people will act on it. Why? Because they’re living in an economic bonanza.”
The economic bonanza is due to record-high oil prices.
Back in the 1980s the Venezuelan economy collapsed following the drop in oil prices.