Monday, 28 August 2017

Banana republic indeed: inflation in Venezuela


Prices in a village in August 2016
These pictures from a village in the province, a place where food situation is much better - or less horrible - than in Caracas.

Prices in real life do not follow a linear function. Prices for perishable products that are seasonal tend to fluctuate a lot. Still, these pictures show you how dramatic things are getting. This is as good as it gets in Venezuela: you could get there a kilogramme of tomatoes in August 2016 for 450 Bs. Last month you had to pay 4000. Back then you could get one kilogramme of onions  for 800 and now you need to pay 3500. Back then a broccoli would set you back 700 bs. Last month you needed 6000 Bs. I do not have a picture from this month but the situation is much worse. Still, the overall for fruits and vegetables in the countryside seems to be less than 500% but this is one of the cheapest places in the whole region. As economics outside Stalin's imagination dictates it, chances are prices there will escalate as soon as more people find out about it.

If you are a taxi driver in a secondary city far away from Caracas, you get about 25000 to 30000 Bs a week. You can buy a kilogramme of meat with that.

Discussing this with government officials is pointless. They are beyond anyone, isolated in their mafia system, some still thinking they are some kind of revolutionaries.



Prices in the same place in July 2017, a few weeks before the farce election 




Prices for several vegetables and fruit in August 2016 and July 2017

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Un venezolano sobre Rusia y sus medios (I)


Me he interesado en Rusia desde que era un chico. Mi interés tiene un origen cultural: me fascina la literatura clásica rusa, me encanta el idioma ruso y me ha parecido muy interesante aprender sobre una región tan diferente de Venezuela, mi país. Al contrario que la gran mayoría de los venezolanos que se interesó por Rusia a partir de los ochenta, jamás tuve simpatías por los sistemas políticos que han prevalecido allí.

Tengo amigos rusos. Estos viven en Rusia y fuera de ella. He ido al país y he tratado de entenderlo en la medida de lo posible. 

Hoy leo con interés y tristeza pero sin un atisbo de sorpresa un artículo de la ONG Levada. El artículo haba sobre dónde en los rusos sus noticias.

Levada, como muchas otras ONGs, está en la mira de las autoridades rusas, que obligan ahora a todas las organizaciones que puedan ser críticas de una u otra forma al gobierno actual a declararse "agentes extranjeros". Esto es casi como declararse espías-mercenarios de los extranjeros.

La organización realizó una serie de encuestas hace unos meses y preguntó a los rusos de ciudad y pueblo qué noticias veían en la tele.

La gran mayoría sigue las noticias de tele del Primer Canal, de Rossija 1 y de NTV Ruso. Un dos por cien de los rusos ve las noticias del canal Dozhd', que presenta algo de críticas. Un 5% ve Euronews en ruso...noticias ligeras de la UE. Un 1% ve BBC en ruso. Un diez por cien no ve tele. Algo que uno tiene que tomar en cuenta: el gobierno de Putin le ha hecho la guerra a Dozhd' desde hace tiempo. Muchos proveedores de televisión por cable lo retiraron de su oferta y ahora este canal es visto ante todo por Internet si se paga. En cualquier país pocas personas van a pagar por el derecho a ver un canal a menos que ya tenga un deseo muy grande de verlo. 

Tengamos en cuenta algo: pese a toda la autocracia que impera en Rusia, ese país está siendo gerenciado de una manera muchísimo mejor de lo que está siendo gerenciada Venezuela. Los rusos aun (aun) pueden surfear con bastante libertad en la red y ver esos canales como Dozhd', al menos si viven en la ciudad o tienen buena conexión de Internet. También pueden comprar un diario crítico como Novaja Gazeta, aunque este cueste el doble de lo que cueste un Izvestia. Pueden comprar los libros de Svetlana Aleksiévich, al menos si viven en una de las grandes ciudades o lo encargan en ozon.

Si hay algo que me ha llemado la atención en los últimos tiempos es la división entre mis conocidos en Rusia y los que están fuera: los que están en la Federación Rusa básicamente tienen muy poco interés en las noticias de política o son putinistas. Los que están fuera se interesan mucho más en seguir el acontecer político en Rusia y fuera, pero también tienden a ser más críticos del sistema que tiene su país de origen.




Cubans and Russians and the military in Venezuela


If there are two things I still find missing in the reports about Venezuela under the Chavista dictatoship are 1) the role that both Cuban and Russian secret services are playing in the land of Grace and 2) the way Maduro, like his predecessor, the caudillo Chavez, is trying to make the military take over the economy of Venezuela in the same way as it is done in Cuba

Let's face it: the day Venezuela's regime falls is the moment when the Cuban dictatorship starts to crumble as well. The moment Venezuela's regime falls is the time when Russians lose almost all of their clout in the American continent.

It is time for us to make these relations as transparent as possible, to discuss them publicly in Venezuela, to challenge time after time the role of these powers.

SEBIN, Chavista "intelligence" service: just a tool for narco generals and foreign powers
Here you can read an interesting article about how the average Cuban sees Venezuela. As for the average Russian, I can tell you: he is as badly informed. I will write a bit more about that in my next post.



Friday, 28 July 2017

For journalists who hate economics

OPEC barrel price evolution. In red: dollars. In blue: 1998 dollars
If you read in English and you want to learn how to do some real investigative journalism on Venezuela, you should read people such as Alexandra Ulmer, Keyal Vyas or Girish Gupta.

If you want something very superficial, you should read something like BBC news in English, particularly if the journalist is a native English speaker. It is really amazing how the British organisation can make news about Venezuela sound so trite.

We constantly hear and read sinking oil prices are the major cause of Venezuela's collapse. 

We can read about that on BBC here and here.

But this is highly inaccurate. Yes, prices do have a role to play on the hardships Venezuela is going through now. Still, a much more important reason for the misery is the sheer corruption and incompetence of Chavismo. This is something BBC journalists do not seem to grasp because they do not seem to take their time to learn about the long term evolution of Venezuela's economy and society. For them, it seems, there is not much time to try to understand what exactly were the conditions in Venezuela in 2007, in 1998, in 1992 and much less before that.

The BBC work in Venezuela resembles more or less like this: they interview a state employee, they interview some opposition economist or politician, they quote one, they quote the other and they do not care or are not given the time to do proper research, listen to more nuanced, more complex reports, try to understand at least the basics of how economies function. The way BBC reports on Venezuela I simply cannot imagine their journalists ever have taken a look of more than 1 second to a chart showing the evolution of life expectancies in several Latin American countries across decades or GDP growth in Venezuela since 1962 or even less trying to analyse what kind of things Venezuela was exporting in 1998 apart from oil and what it does now or what kind of education programmes there were in the sixties, eighties or now.

If you take a not too short sighted view of the matter you will soon realise oil prices now are still higher than they were in the late nineties, shortly before the military coup monger Chavez got elected...and yet living conditions now are considerable worse than back in 1998. The average price for a barrel of OPEC oil in 2017 is around 49.77 dollars. That is about 33.75 dollars of 1998. Back then Venezuela was getting less than 13 dollars for a barrel. Even if we accounted for population growth: Maduro's government should be getting more money than the government of Caldera II. What a lot of foreign journalists still fail to see is the sheer amount of corruption and utter incompetence that have thrived in the Chavismo years. Chavismo will probably make Mobutu's regime look like "nearly Swedish standards" on accountability.

Yes, for many decades the popularity of Venezuelan presidents has gone up and down according to oil prices. Oil prices enabled Chavez to have available more social programmes than what presidents had in the decade that immediately preceded him, when we had the longest oil recession. Still, the loss of popularity has more to do with the level of plundering that has taken place in Venezuela.




Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Venezuelas Referendum von 2017

Gestern sagte Nicolás Maduro, daß er sich Sadam Hussein ähnelt. Das sollte ein Witz sein, als er bei einer Veranstaltung der Militärpolizeit ihren Uniform anzog.

Die venezolanische Opposition organisiert ein Referendum am 16.07. Die Frage, die da gestellt werden, sind klar:

1) Lehnen Sie die gesetzgebende Versammlung ab, die von Nicolás Maduro ohne vorheriger Zustimmung des Volkes einberufen wird?

2) Verlangen Sie von den Streitkräften und allen Beamten die Beachtung und Verteidigung der Verfassung von 1999 und die Unterstützung der Entscheidungen der Nationalversamlung?

3) Stimmen Sie der Erneuerung der öffentlichen Gewalten gemäß Verfassung, der Durchführung von freien und transparenten Wahlen und der Bildung einer Regierung nationaler Einheit zu, um die verfassungsmässige Ordnung wiederherzustellen?

Der Wahlrat, der völlig dem Regime unterordnet ist, hat als Reaktion zu diesem von ihm nicht akzeptierten Referendum die Durchführung von 'Wahlübungen' am selben Tag angekündigt.
Die Militärs und Staatsbeamten werden in diesem Rahmen alles unternehmen, um das Referendum zu boykotieren.

Die Militärs, die seit immer in Venezuela die Wahlprozesse "bewacht" haben, werden nichts unternehmen, um die Regimekritiker - die große Mehrheit der Bevölkerung - bei det Durchführung des Referendums zu schützen. Ganz im Gegenteil, sie werden die Sturmabteilung des Chavismus bewaffnen. Überall im Land befürchtet man, daß die Paras Zivilisten angreifen, die teilnehmen werden am Referendum.

Die Chavistas werden sehr wahrscheinlich vor allem in den Provinzen gewaltsam werden. Da gibt es praktisch keine ausländischen Journalisten oder Diplomaten.

Venezolaner werden am Sonntag in der ganzen Welt gegen das Regime agieren. In Deutschland wird das Referendum in 16 Städten organisiert werden.

Hier mehr Infos auf Deutsch, auch über das Referendum in der BRD.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Children's foes


There is a new index about children's wellfare. Not surprisingly, Venezuela now offers children a worse standard of living than almost any other country in the Americas. Venezuelan children are now worse off than those in a lot of African countries.

That is very much unlike when I grew up in Venezuela's Caribbean.

This reports shows children are more likely to be murdered in Venezuela than in most American countries but for Honduras.

Venezuelan underaged girls are more likely to become pregnant than almost anywhere else, as I wrote already a couple of years ago.

Chavismo has to go away.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Chavista elite abroad


Venezuela was for most of its history a country of immigrants. Two periods stand up as big exceptions to this. The first was the war of independence and the second the long economic collapse that started to be felt in the nineties of the XX century and that is reaching increasingly terrible levels at this very moment.

Now there are Venezuelan communities in almost every country on Earth, something someone would nave found hard to believe 30 years ago. An awful lot of highly qualified Venezuelans live from Canada to Norway, from Argentina to Australia. Venezuelans are also emigrating by plane or bus and even in boats, like desperate Cubans, trying to reach Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire.

But there are the other Venezuelans, the ones who have become very rich in the so-called Bolivarian revolution. When most Venezuelans have no access to dollars, the socialist boligarchs travel abroad in all luxury.

Venezuelans have decided to bug them. We could recently see on social media how the daughter of communist minister Rodriguez is approached by other Venezuelans in Bonti beach, Australia, and asked whether she doesn't feel something for what is happening in our country. The former defense minister gets caught in a restaurant in France and gets booed. Another former minister of Chavez has to get out of a restaurant in Doral, Florida, after Venezuelans recognise him and shout at him 'thief, get out'.

Bear in mind this: Venezuela has a foreign currency control that only promotes corruption.
If you are Venezuelan and you live in Venezuela you can only afford to travel abroad if you are richer than 99.5% of the population or someone abroad finances you.

Let''s see where boligarchs have been spotted abroad:

Former defence minister eating out in Paris, her children study there

Former minister Vázquez Orellana eating out in Miami

A well-known singer tweeted that the daughter of current defence minister Vladimir Padrino was spending some money in a posh area of Madrid

If you know of other cases, please let me know, preferably with a good url.