Sunday, June 03, 2018

Venezuela From The Left

This is fascinating in its own way. An article in Monthly Review tries to look at the food crisis in Venezuela in a more people-centered and nuanced way. "Nuance" turns out to be largely a combination of inaccuracies, omissions, and odd logic.

For example it begins with:

[t]he three national elections of 2017 demonstrated a strong show of support for the continuation of the revolution under its current leadership. 

To put it mildly, this is difficult to support empirically given the authoritarian moves of the government.

The authors argue that food lines are not nearly as bad as the international press claims because there are at least some things left on the shelves.

For while precooked corn flour has gone missing, corn-based porridge has remained available; milk powder disappeared from the shelves, but fresh dairy products like cheeses can still be found, and so on.

The authors argue that an involuntary diet shift is a positive thing--foodies would be jealous (I am not making that up. It is in there). And of course the source of the shortages is not the Venezuelan government but the United States by "using the revolutionary potential of the masses to frighten the middle class." There are references to "elites" but not much recognition that the government and elites are often one and the same--the article suggests that such elites are just agribusiness leaders rather than Chavistas lining their pockets. There is no discussion about policy making, with a particularly glaring omission of any reference to currency controls.

A more nuanced analysis would start with two assertions. First, first shortages are entirely bad under all circumstances. Second, the government of a given country is primarily responsible for food shortages. Don't rationalize food shortages and people waiting in lines.


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