Friday, May 18, 2012

Economy and election in Venezuela

Here is another indicator of why Hugo Chávez will be hard to beat in October's presidential election:

Venezuela, South America’s largest oil producer and a founding member of OPEC, experienced economic contractions of 3.3 percent in 2009 and 1.4 percent in 2010, before expanding 4.2 percent last year. 
Of the 30 countries that have already reported first quarter growth, Venezuela’s was the fourth fastest after China, Latvia and Indonesia. The 5.6 percent expansion matched that of Kazakhstan, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 
Net income for Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the state oil company, surged 42.4 percent last year to $4.5 billion as the average price for the country’s crude oil rose to a record $101.06 a barrel. The price averaged $112.04 in the first quarter, according to preliminary figures by the Oil Ministry.


He's ahead in every poll (though the margin varies widely according to who is reporting) and when oil money keeps rolling, it is even harder to put a dent in his solid--if not spectacular--approval ratings. Thus far his health and lengthy absences, not to mention secrecy, do not seem to be affecting the presidential race much. If he can maintain an image of recovery and a semblance of energy, those issues may never matter.

11 comments:

Otto Rock 9:17 AM  

add in paucity of opposition

Justin Delacour 4:49 PM  

Indeed, the Venezuelan opposition has never really learned how to make inroads among waivering supporters of Chavismo. Choosing a pretty boy of Venezuela's old economic establishment as your candidate is never going to be a game-changer.

Anonymous,  7:36 AM  

"A pretty boy of Venezuela's old economic establishment" is a rather dogmatic description. The opposition candidate Capriles has been elected repeatedly since 1998 for his opposition to Chavez, his lack of ties to the old political parties and his willingness to embrace social reforms. He cites Lula as a role model. He is a descendant of immigrant Jews, 39 years old, and chose to enter politics to combat Chavismo rather than exile, not exactly the poster boy for the old way. Of course I don't know whether he can win, the odds are certainly against it, but the issues of corruption, crime and inflation are very important to voters. Lastly, to point out a diction error--a waiver = a surrender of a privilege, an exception. To waver = to vacillate between choices.

Justin Delacour 1:39 PM  

Obviously you don't know the meaning of the term "dogmatic." That Capriles comes from a super-rich family is common knowledge among Venezuelans. The fact that he's also Jewish is wholly irrelevant. The point is that, independently of what one might think of Capriles' politics, his candidacy does nothing to change the image of the Venezuelan opposition as a group that represents the interests of the privileged. Given that the Venezuelan opposition has been in the political wilderness for quite a long time now, one might think that it would be a bit more interested in altering its image.

Anonymous,  8:30 AM  

I know perfectly well he comes from the upper class. He is not necessarily from the old order though. This apparently is a distinction lost on your subtle mind. Likewise, he is not Jewish but a descendant of jewish immigrants through his mother. He is a practicing Catholic. The relevance though is that the Chavista thugs have repeatedly used anti-semitic smears against him. One practical definition of dogma might very well be your declaration of its irrelevance before considering the facts that you misstate.

Justin Delacour 3:33 PM  

"The relevance though is that the Chavista thugs have repeatedly used anti-semitic smears against him."

"The Chavista thugs"? So your argument now is that all Chavistas are not only thugs but also anti-Semitic?

I'll let others be the judge of who's using dogma here.

I have little doubt that there are some misguided souls within the ranks of Chavismo who have made anti-Semitic statements (as anti-Semitism is not all that uncommon in Latin America), but to suggest that Chavistas in general are anti-Semitic suggests to me that you're not really interested in reasoned analysis.

If anybody has made anti-Semitic statements against Capriles, those statements should be condemned. Nevertheless, your point has no bearing on anything I've written here. The point was was that Capriles' candidacy does nothing to change the image of the Venezuelan opposition as a group that represents the interests of the privileged. You've yet to offer one serious argument as to how anything I've written here is dogmatic.

Anonymous,  6:42 PM  

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/ap/
politics_topics/2012/Feb/17/
jewish_group__chavez_foe_a_target
_of_anti_semitism.html

Anonymous,  6:57 PM  

Clearly you must be desperate. Are you willing to accept that your so-called fact "he's also Jewish" is not a fact at all? Or do you deny Capriles the right to proclaim his own self-identity as a Catholic?

When confronted with inconvenient facts you resort to altering my argument. I never said "all" Chavistas were thugs nor anti-semitic. The dogma remains your characterization of Capriles as a poster boy for the old economic order.

I will leave it to readers to determine whether you are dogmatic. In my view the only thing I ever see you "waivering" about is how hard to attack people who disagree with you. I pity your students.

Justin Delacour 7:35 PM  

Once again, anonymous, you've failed to offer any argument at all as to how I'm being "dogmatic" when I make the simple case that Capriles' candidacy does nothing to change the image of the Venezuelan opposition as a group that represents the interests of the privileged.

Anonymous,  8:01 AM  

To wit: 1) Capriles identity does not fit the profile of the "old order" in his identity, 2) Capriles' politics are a response to Chavismo not a desired restoration of the pre-Chavez political system, 3) Capriles is interested in social reforms and winning over the disadvantaged as an explicit campaign strategy, 4) he wants to combat crime, corruption and inflation from a democratic, capitalist and rule of law perspective. All of these reasons are visible in my post on why you are dogmatic in your thinking but you choose not to acknowledge it. Or you distort the reasons.

Do I think that the Chavez political machine will paint him as nothing more than a poster boy of privilege? Yes, they already have and you are just echoing the message here. Rich kid. I get it. You have provided a fine service to the president for life, Justin.

Do I think he will win? I have doubts given the power of the state, the price of oil and the nature of populism. I think Venezuela's populism may have to implode before a new system can be initiated. In the meantime I think he is quite public spirited and courageous in trying to make the opposition's case in a different way. Capriles could easily be living and working in Panama City, Miami or New York and waiting the whole thing out. He would still be a rich kid.

Justin Delacour 12:24 PM  

Do I think that the Chavez political machine will paint him as nothing more than a poster boy of privilege?

I would suggest that you set your ideology aside for a moment and deal with one simple political FACT. Independently of what you or I think of Capriles' politics, the reason the Chavista political machine has no difficulty painting Capriles as a poster boy of privilege is that Capriles comes from an extraordinarily wealthy family and simply looks like a rich kid. From the very first time I saw a picture of Capriles as the young and stylish Barruta mayor in his white baseball cap, it was obvious to me that the Chavistas would have no difficulty painting Capriles in the way that you describe.

If the Venezuelan opposition doesn't want its candidates to be painted as poster children of privilege, perhaps it should consider cultivating other kinds of leaders.

Now, if you want to split hairs over whether Capriles is from the "old" economic establishment (as opposed to just the plain economic establishment), you're welcome to waste your time in doing so, but the reality of Capriles' image will remain.

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