Weisbrot Goes To Caracas, Sees Improving Nation
Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 26, 2014
Mark Weisbrot went to Caracas earlier this month, and here’s some of what he saw:
Major media outlets have already reported that Venezuela’s poor have not joined the right-wing opposition protests, but that is an understatement: it’s not just the poor who are abstaining – in Caracas, it’s almost everyone outside of a few rich areas like Altamira, where small groups of protesters engage in nightly battles with security forces, throwing rocks and firebombs and running from tear gas.
Walking from the working-class neighborhood of Sabana Grande to the city center, there was no sign that Venezuela is in the grip of a “crisis” that requires intervention from the Organization of American States (OAS), no matter what John Kerry tells you. The metro also ran very well, although I couldn’t get off at Alta Mira station, where the rebels had set up their base of operations until their eviction this week.
So who are these rebels with their burning-tire barricades and oil-slick roadway impediments? Venezuela’s 1%, who ironically enough have done well under the Chávismo they so bitterly hate:
These people are not hurting – they’re doing very well. Their income has grown at a healthy pace since the Chávez government got control of the oil industry a decade ago. They even get an expensive handout from the government: anyone with a credit card (which excludes the poor and millions of working people) is entitled to $3,000 per year at a subsidized exchange rate. They can then sell the dollars for 6 times what they paid in what amounts to a multi-billion dollar annual subsidy for the privileged – yet it is they who are supplying the base and the troops of the rebellion.
The class nature of this fight has always been stark and inescapable, now more than ever. Walking past the crowd that showed up for the March 5 ceremonies to mark the anniversary of Chávez’s death, it was a sea of working-class Venezuelans, tens of thousands of them. There were no expensive clothing or $300 shoes. What a contrast to the disgruntled masses of Los Palos Grandes, with $40,000 Grand Cherokee Jeeps bearing the slogan of the moment: SOS VENEZUELA.
So why is John Kerry running around poor-mouthing Maduro and Company? Many reasons, among them the still-powerful Cuban exile presence in Miami; these people hate Castro and anyone allied with Castro, so Chávez and now Maduro have made it to their permanent Poop List.
But if Kerry or the Miami Cubans pushing him around think that the Bolivarian revolution is going down anytime soon, they have another think coming:
Perhaps Kerry thinks the Venezuelan economy is going to collapse and that will bring some of the non-rich Venezuelans into the streets against the government. But the economic situation is actually stabilizing – monthly inflation fell in February, and the black-market dollar has fallen sharply on the news that the government is introducing a new, market-based exchange rate. Venezuela’s sovereign bonds returned 11.5% from 11 February (the day before the protests began) to 13 March, the highest returns in the Bloomberg dollar emerging market bond index. Shortages will most likely ease in the coming weeks and months.
Of course, that is exactly the opposition’s main problem: the next election is a year-and-a-half away, and by that time, it’s likely that the economic shortages and inflation that have so increased over the past 15 months will have abated. The opposition will then probably lose the parliamentary elections, as they have lost every election over the past 15 years. But their current insurrectionary strategy isn’t helping their own cause: it seems to have divided the opposition and united the Chavistas.
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