By Ricardo Fuentes-Ramírez
Retrieved from http://www.populareconomics.org
A burning street barricade (Roberto Gil)
The violent opposition protests that erupted during February 2014 in Venezuela are difficult to comprehend relying only on the mainstream media. One of the main sources of this difficulty is the significant number of exaggerated, manipulated, or uncorroborated social media postings. These postings are best exemplified by the number of images from police brutality from other countries that are shared claiming they are from Venezuela in order to discredit the current government. Steve Ellner’s article on Green Left and Pablo Vivanco’s article on BASICS News are recommended in order to give some context on these protests and their aftermath. However, another complicated subject is the economic problems that are mentioned as the causes of these protests, specifically inflation and basic good shortages. Therefore, it is useful to go over some articles that discuss these issues in more depth.
Inflation has always been a problem in Venezuela. As Gregory Wilpert explains, during the 1990s, annual inflation rates averaged around 50%. However, under the Chávez government the trend was finally turned around, with inflation going down to an average 22% per year. Nevertheless, it has continued being a problem. The main cause of inflation is having an oil-based economy. Wilpert explains, “Venezuela receives an influx of petrodollars that basically come into the economy and raise the level of wages and raise the level of prices in a way that heats up inflation.” What the media fails to mention, as Tamara Pearson has emphasized, is that “the government regularly (once or twice a year) increases the minimum wage to match inflation levels, or higher than them, and the informal sector increases its prices to match inflation as well,” so “people’s purchasing power has actually increased significantly under the current government.” In other words, even though there is inflation, Venezuelans’ purchasing power is actually increasing, not decreasing.
The other issue mentioned is shortages of basic goods. Many news sources have tried to give the impression Venezuelans are close to starving. However, as discussed by Ryan Mallet-Outtrim, “food consumption increased by 80% between 1999 and 2011,” while the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization “awarded Venezuela for halving hunger within its territory between 1990-1992 and 2010-2012.” Similarly, Oliver Levingston notes “Venezuela’s average caloric intake has gone from 91% of recommended levels in 1998 to 101.6%” so “the average Venezuelan went from being under-fed to exceeding their recommended calorie intake within the space of decade.” Nonetheless, it is true that basic goods like corn flour, milk, and toilet paper are in and out of stock at unpredictable rates. So while Venezuelans aren’t going to be out of flour for more than a few days, you can’t plan to bake a cake next week because maybe there won’t be any (See Pearson’s The Scarcity Diaries).
So what’s behind this occasional scarcity? Is it just bad government policy? Not exactly. In fact, scarcity is mostly fueled by deliberate actions taken by wealthy Venezuelans, which as the government has denounced, are nothing less than an economic war waged against the people. As Levingston explains, private food producers and importers deliberately hoard and engage in investment strikes in order to undermine support for government policy. As evidence of this practice, Levingston mentions some of the numerous cases of government inspectors discovering tons of hoarded food. In early 2008, 13,000 tons of hoarded food were found in two weeks of state inspections. In March 2009, the government nationalized a rice-processing plant after it found 18,000 tons of rice hoarded in warehouses. He adds further evidence lies in the fact that scarcity moves so closely with the electoral calendar, it is difficult to argue it is not, at least in part, by political design. As an example, he mentions one of the periods of greatest shortages were the months prior to the December 2007 referendum. Similarly, “in the lead-up to April 2013 elections, scarcity and disinvestment skyrocketed,” and between the two general elections from November 2012 and June 2013, more than 40,000 tons of hoarded food were uncovered.
In terms of wealthy Venezuelan importers, these usually take advantage of the government’s currency controls in order to acquire US dollars at low rates with the pretense of importing goods for consumption in Venezuela, but instead sell these dollars in the black market. Of what they actually import, as Wilpert explains, between 30% to 40% is smuggled out of Venezuela. Furthermore, what they do offer in stores for consumption in Venezuela is overpriced at black market exchange rates, instead of the exchange rate at which they actually imported it. Tamara Pearson gives the actual example of what she calls one of her few vice foods: Pringles. At the rate at which importers acquire dollars from the government, Pringles should cost close to $2.20. However, they mark up the price according to the rate at which they are selling dollars in the black market, so they actually sell for $15.70! Thus, these wealthy Venezuelans fuel both inflation and shortages in the country.
Why are rich Venezuelans sabotaging their own country? Since the election of Hugo Chavez, and continuing with the presidency of Nicolas Maduro, government policy has been designed to democratize not only the political structures of the country, but the economy as well. The poor Venezuelan masses, for the first time in history, have benefited from the country’s vast resources; they have had substantial access to education and health care, and they have been politically empowered, both through traditional political structures as well as new ones, such as the innovative Communes. As the poor working masses have been empowered, the rich have been proportionately disempowered. Thus, wealthy Venezuelans have engaged in political and economic war, through the media and through their resources, to avoid further democratization of Venezuelan society. In a nutshell, that is what’s going on Venezuela.
Retrieved from venezuelanalysis.com
Days before this year’s Miss Venezuela competition, the collectives Faldas en Revolución (Skirts in Revolution) and the Movimiento Revolucionario de Ciclismo Urbano (Revolutionary Urban Cycling Movement, MRCU) issued public statements calling for a boycott of the pageant, criticising it for promoting “capitalism”, “patriarchy” and “consumerism”.
Earlier this week, Maria Eugenia from the MRCU told Venezuelan media that the country needs to rethink how it views beauty.
“[Miss Venezuela contestants] are slaves of beauty standards that thousands of girls want to fit into year after year,” Eugenia stated.
In Venezuela, beauty and capitalism go hand in hand. Venezuela has won more major international beauty competitions than any other country, and Venezuelans spend millions of dollars each year on beauty products. On average, Venezuelan women spend around 20% of their salaries on beauty products, making the country’s beauty industry among the most profitable per capita.
Venezuela’s obsession with beauty has a long history, and remains strong today. However, opposition to events like Miss Venezuela is growing.
The placard reads “don’t exchange your dignity for the crown”. (Pacha Catalina)
“Miss Plastic Surgery” (Pacha Catalina)
“Imposed beauty is a weapon that only serves self mutilation.” (Pacha Catalina)
“Free and fighting woman without a sash and crown”(Pacha Catalina)
“A woman who respects herself doesn’t need approval for her actions.”(Pacha Catalina)
[Could also be translated as “A woman who respects herself doesn’t need approval of her measurements” -thepointistochangeit]
“Enough of the construction of bodies submitted to Capital” (translation by thepointistochangeit)
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON OCT 11TH 2013 AT 5.24PM IN VENEZUELANALYSIS.COM
By TAMARA PEARSON
Merida, April 2nd 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The latest GISXXI poll shows that most Venezuelans want to “continue Hugo Chavez’s project”, and that 55.3% of Venezuelans will likely vote for Nicolas Maduro in the upcoming elections.
The poll, by the Venezuelan public company, was conducted between 18 and 23 March, and surveyed 1500 people on the public’s response to Chavez’s death, and their attitudes towards the candidates for the presidential elections to be held on 14 April.
Support for Maduro and Capriles
If the elections were held during the dates the survey was conducted, Nicolas Maduro would receive 55.3% of the vote, and Henrique Capriles 44.7% of the vote. However, 66% of poll respondents believe that Maduro will win the elections, compared to 17% who believe Capriles will.
52% of respondents felt Henrique Capriles’s behaviour following the news of Chavez’s passing was very bad or bad, 30% thought it was very good or good, and 13% thought it was regular. In terms of Nicolas Maduro’s behaviour after the news, 60% thought it was very good or good, 25% thought it was very bad or bad, and 12% thought it was regular.
When asked to indicate whether Capriles or Maduro would respond better to certain issues, the spread was roughly 25% believing Capriles would handle them better, and 55% believing Maduro would. Maduro got the highest results for the issue of housing (62%), then roads and transport (58.6%), while Capriles’ highest result was 26.6% believing he would handle cost of living/inflation, and the issue of food scarcity better.
In terms of Maduro’s and Capriles’ personal traits, respondents were asked to agree or disagree that each of them are nice, sincere, honest, represent change, can unify Venezuelans, are competent, have the necessary authority to govern, are capable of making difficult decisions, are brave, and are energetic.
Of those, Capriles’ least represented trait was sincerity (30% believing he is) followed by honesty (32%), and most represented one was energetic (49%). Maduro’s least represented trait was nice (49%), followed by sincere (53%), and most represented was also energetic (68%).
60% of respondents believe a victory by Maduro would be in the country’s interest, compared to 26% for Capriles. 74% of all respondents are following the information about the elections with a lot of interest, compared to 20% with little interest, and 6% with none.
78% also believe that the 14 April elections are more important than the presidential elections held on 7 October.
Response to Chavez’s death
When asked if they were surprised by President Chavez’s death, 56% of respondents said yes, and 42% said they did expect the news.
In terms of their immediate response to the news, 26% of respondents said they made a phone call, 25% said they cried, and 20% did “nothing in particular”. 12% told their friends or family the news, and 5% turned on the television or radio. Only 1% responded by buying things from the supermarket.
On hearing the news, 39% of respondents felt sadness or love, 16% felt worry or fear, 14% were surprised or confusion, 11% “nothing in particular”, and only 1% felt relief, tranquillity, or hope.
In response to the question “Is the opinion you have now of Chavez different to the one you held prior to his passing?”, 48% said their opinion was the same, 43% that it was higher, and 6% that it was lower.
Responding to certain phrases, 75% agreed that “Chavez will enter history as one of its greatest liberators”, 71% agreed that “now the most important thing is to continue President Chavez’s project”, 40% agreed that “without Chavez there’s noChavismo” and 20% agreed that “with the loss of President Chavez the end of the revolution has arrived”.
On whether Chavez’s passing was an important event for the country, on a scale of 1 to 10, 100% of respondents answered with a 10.
Analysis of the results
The director of GIS XXI, Jesse Chacon, analysed the results. He said, “There’s no scenario where the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles could win. In the best of cases he could get 46% of the vote, if he managed to disassociate Maduro from Chavez, demobilise Chavismo and increase opposition participation”.
“On the other hand, if Maduro manages to deepen his connection with Chavez, his politics, and the transition to socialism, he could reach 57% support and leave Capriles with 42%,” Chacon said. However, he added that it is “very difficult” to reverse tendencies in just two weeks.
Chacon also predicted slightly less participation in these elections compared to the October presidential elections, at 74-78% compared to 81% in October. He said it was likely there would be greater abstention by those supporting the opposition.
“It would be difficult for there to be a migration of votes by those who support Capriles towards Maduro, and vice versa. Abstention is more significant,” he said.
“Chavismo has focused its strategy on showing that Maduro is the person who will continue the legacy of Chavez, and the opposition has tried to disconnect him [from Chavez] and bring about confrontations, in order to change the current electoral psychology which favours the candidate of the Bolivarian revolution,” Chacon said.
Further, he argued that the opposition “understands that Chavismo is the dominant political identity, and is hegemonic in Venezuela, that’s why they try to compete within the values of Chavismo in order to penetrate its social achievements, its heroes, and its symbols”.
PUBLISHED ON VENEZUELANALYSIS.COM APR 2ND 2013 AT 2.30PM
By EWAN ROBERTSON
Retrieved 2/18/13 from venezuelanalysis.com
Mérida, 18th February 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez returned to Venezuela in the early hours of this morning after over two months in Cuba recovering from cancer surgery.
“We’ve arrived once again to the Venezuelan Homeland. Thank you God! Thank you beloved people! We’ll continue treatment here,” announced Chavez on Twitter when he arrived in Caracas airport at 2.30am this Monday morning.
The Venezuelan head of state had been in Cuba recovering from an operation in the pelvic region undergone on 11 December, in what was his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months.
In another tweet Chavez also thanked the Castro brothers, Cuban president Raul and former president Fidel for their support, as well as his medical team, declaring, “We will live and we will overcome!”
Fidel Castro also wrote a letter to Chavez before his departure from Havana, in which he referred to the stage reached in the Venezuelan president’s recovery.
“A long and agonising wait, as well as your astonishing capacity for physical resistance and the total dedication of a team of doctors…were necessary to achieve this objective,” he wrote.
Upon arrival Chavez was taken to the Dr. Carlos Arvelo military hospital in Caracas, where he will continue treatment as part of his recovery.
On Friday the first images of Chavez since his operation were released, which showed the Venezuelan president smiling and reading, while an official statementconfirmed that he temporarily had difficulty speaking due to having a tracheal tube in place for respiratory insufficiency.
This morning, Venezuelan communication minister Ernesto Villegas argued that the official information given on Chavez’s recovery had been vindicated as accurate against voices in international and Venezuelan private media which had sought to speculate on the president’s health.
“He’s back, he’s back, he’s back,” said Villegas in an interview on public channel VTV, continuing, “the ominous voices- those who were calling into question the information emitted by the national government with respect to Chavez’s health, are defeated”.
Villegas added that “intense mechanisms were activated to delegitimise, to call into question all of the information that was being given, including by echoing the most atrocious versions [of Chavez’s state of health]”.
The minister also said that Chavez “ordered at all times that the country was informed on the progress of his treatment,” and that the government had given 30 official updates on the president’s clinical progress during his stay in Cuba.
Venezuelan vice president Nicolas Maduro called on people to gather around the country to celebrate Chavez’s return.
By dawn a crowd had already gathered outside the Dr. Carlos Arvelo military hospital in Caracas to show their support for Chavez. By midday there were large gatherings in most of the country’s main plazas.
Maduro also confirmed that the leadership of Chavez’s party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), would be meeting today to discuss the party’s political strategy in the new circumstances.
PUBLISHED ON FEB 18TH 2013 AT 11.10AM
Venezuelan News Agency. – President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that on January 10, 2013 he will deliver the second Socialist Plan of the Nation to the National Assembly, during the ceremony of his inauguration as President for the period of 2013-2019.
He recalled that the Constitution provides that in the first year the Head of State must submit to the National Assembly his government plan, to be discussed, approved or rejected.
“I aspire to deliver the plan, without missing a single day, the first day,” he said in a press conference at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas.
He also mentioned that from that moment the government will initiate the creation of the different mechanisms of consultation, participation and design through which the proposals of the people in the social, economic and political spheres will be recollected. Chavez invited Venezuelan opposition to join in this task.
He stated that criticism will also be received. “To review all of that and go on preparing, with coherence and feasibility, the second Socialist Plan of the Nation (…) To begin, at once, with the new year, progressing in the economic, in the social. To move forward, improving, renovating, relaunching many projects. ”
Venezuela will have a ministry with power for follow-up and control
Moreover, President Chavez said that in the coming days the Ministry of the Office of the Secretariat will be transformed into a ministry with power to follow up and control in government management, on a national and local level.
He indicated that this initiative is a result of the fact that one of the major flaws in his government was the lack of follow-up on plans and programs.
“I have great faith that a ministry, a system of follow-up and control, will allow us to achieve one of the most urgent goals of the new cycle: increasing efficiency in the management of government,” he said.
Chavez claimed victory in elections this Sunday, October 7 with the support of 8,062,056 voters, i.e 55.14%, while his main opponent, Henrique Capriles, reached 6,468,450 votes (44.24 %). The new president will assume the Presidency, for the period 2013-2019, on 10 January next year.
Retrieved 10/09/12 from http://www.psuv.org.ve/portada/presidente-entregara-10-enero-segundo-plan-socialista-nacion/ and translated by thepointistochangeit.org