Sunday, 14 September 2014

Venezuela, September 2014

Things have continued to deteriorate, there is nothing new there. Still, let's try to see what can come next. Before that, we can recapitulate a little bit.


  • The government has to pay a lot of money it got for its bonds in October. There is a lot of discussion about whether it will default but most consider it won't default on foreign banks' obligations, it will "only" default on Venezuela's population.
  • The government is desperately trying to sell CITCO, one of its chicken of the golden eggs, one that is more dear than its share on Ruhr Öl it sold some years back. That money will go to pay what is due in September
  • Repression goes on unabated: small student protests in Caracas and Barquisimeto were met with detentions. In poor areas were opposition people distribute flyers, they are being detained even if distributing flyers as they are doing is something allowed by law. 
  • Nationalized companies keep deteriorating. The article you see here in Spanish is just a tiny example of one single problem at one single company, Venvidrios (formerly Owens-Illinois of Venezuela). The same company has many other problems and the same goes for every single company that was taken over by Chavismo.
Oil prices have kept more or less around the $100 barrel level since 2011. In fact, they are lower than at the maximum of 2012. Even if the current OPEC price is just 4.6% lower than two years back, that's already ominous news for an incredibly corrupt and utterly incompetent regime as that of Maduro.

So...





  • repression will increase for every opposition action
  • opposition actions will be harder to organise as a lot of highly skilled young people who were taking part in these actions are emigrating
  • the security agencies will infiltrate in a much more thorough way the opposition groups, planting anything, provoking the most stupid
  • more tension will increase among the military at the border because some part of the smuggling business has to be "controlled". Still, the main change here will be a shift from non-military smugglers to military ones and higher prices of petrol and other products on the Colombian/Guyana/Brazilian/Trinidad side because the Venezuelan military need more money
  • At the end of this year, some time in November or beginning of December, mayors Scarano and Ceballos are supposed to be set free. This will be a new moment of tension and Maduristas will try to throw them in jail as soon as possible or neutralize them by going fully against their private businesses (Scarano is a construction company owner) or against their relatives.
  • Governments of neighbouring countries will remain silent as long as they see they can keep the positive trade balance with Venezuela and/or get their money back from debts Venezuela has with them.

All in all, this looks very bleak for the opposition. And yet: the government's popularity, already rather low, is deteriorating further. The regime is running on borrowed time.



Sunday, 7 September 2014

Treibsand in der Karibik

Ach, Venezuela: ich habe Schwierigkeiten, einen Ausdruck zu finden, der den Prozess beschreibt, in dem sich das Land befindet. Venezuela sinkt. Seine Lage schleppt vor sich hin. Es taumelt nur so. Es versinkt unaufhaltsam. Die ganze Infrastruktur fällt auseinander. Die Mangelwirtschaft wird akuter. Viele Sektoren sind paralysiert. Wichtige Oppositionsführer sind im Gefängnis, die Studenten, die monatelang protestiert haben, müssen nun immer wieder vor der Polizei erscheinen, um nicht festgenommen zu werden. Nur die Schurken scheinen richtig aktiv zu sein. Dieser Zustand kann sich aber schnell  ändern, denn der Regierung geht das Geld aus.

Maduro ist seit April 2013 an der Macht. Die Tabelle unten zeigt, wie viele Minister er seitdem gewechselt hat. Das Staatsoberhaupt ist ahnungslos, die Einstellung ist aber genau dieselbe wie zu Zeiten des verstorbenen Caudillos: Minister ständig wechseln, um zu sehen, ob es irgendwie gelingt. Mehrere Ministerien haben 3 Minister in 17 Monate gehabt. Das Handelministerium hat sogar vier Minister gehabt: Alejandro Fleming, José Salamat Khan, Dante Rivas und nun Isabel Delgado. Das Land hat sehr seltsame Ministerien wie das Ministerium der Volksmacht für die Elektrizität (es gibt ein anderes Ministerium für Energie) und das Ministerium für die revolutionäre Verwandlung von Caracas, das in Wirklichkeit eine parallele Lokalverwaltung ist, um die Arbeit des oppositionellen Bürgermeisters Ledezma zu torpedieren. Es gibt auch zwei Ministerien für Verkehr und eins für die Gefängnisse (wir sprechen nicht vom Ministerium für Inneres, Justiz und Frieden). Zuletzt wurde aber das Umweltministerium abgeschafft.

Rafael Ramírez, ein sehr inkompetenter Mann, ist weg von seinen verschiedenen Wirtschaftsposten. Er muss auch die Leitung von PDVSA verlassen. Er wird jetzt Außenminister. Diejenigen, die ihn bei der Wirtschaftspolitik ersetzen sind aber Militärs, die genauso inkompetent sind wie er. Asdrúbal Chávez, Cousin des verstorbenen Caudillos ist der jetztige Vorsitzende von PDVSA.

Vor kurzem erklärte Maduro, man habe einen neuen vereinigten Fonds geschaffen, der die sagenhafte Summe von....$750,000,000 hat. Das ist nichts für ein Land mit fast 30 Millionen Menschen, die fast alles importieren. Anscheinend ist das meiste Geld, das Venezuela aus dem längsten Erdölboom seiner Geschichte bekommen hat, einfach verpulvert.

Minister Venezuelas seit April 2013


Ministerien 19-4-2013 7-2013 9-1- 2014 15-1-2014 30-1-2014 27-3-2014 4-4-2014 17-06-2014 02-09-2014
Angelegenheiten der Uramerikaner Aloha Núñez







Frauen und Gleichberechtigung Andreína Tarazón







Tourismus Andres Izarra







Sport Alejandra Benítez
Antonio Álvarez





Verteidigung Diego Molero Carmen Teresa Meléndez Rivas






Handel Alejandro Fleming

José Salamat Khan Dante Rivas


Isabel Delgado
Kommunikation & Information Ernesto Villegas Delcy Eloina Rodríguez Gómez






Ausländisches Elías Jaua Milano






Rafael Ramírez
Revolutionäre Verwandlung von Caracas Francisco Sesto Ernesto Villegas






Lebensmittel Félix Osorio





Hebert García Plaza Yván José Bello
Kultur Fidel Barbarito






Reinaldo Iturriza
Gesundheit Isabel Iturria Francisco Armada





Nancy Pérez
Straßenverkehr Juan de Jesús García Haiman El Troudi






Wasser- und Luftverkehr Hebert García Plaza





Luis Graterol Caraballo Giuseppe Yoffreda
Bildung Maryann Hanson
Héctor Rodríguez Castro





Verwaltung Wilmer Barrientos
Hugo Cabezas


Carlos Osorio

Landwirtschaft Iván Gil






José Luis Berroterán
Elektrizität Jesse Chacón







Arbeit María Cristina Iglesias
Jesús Martínez





Planung Jorge Giordani





Ricardo Menéndez Prieto
Industrie Ricardo Menéndez
Wilmer Barrientos

José David Cabello


Wissenschaft Manuel Fernández Meléndez







Gefängnisse María Iris Varela Rangel







Inneres Miguel Rodríguez Torres







Umwelt Dante Rivas Miguel Tadeo Rodríguez





x
Erdöl und Bergbau Rafael Ramírez Carreño






Asdrúbal Chávez
Kommunen Reinaldo Iturriza






Elías Jaua Milano
Wohnungen Ricardo Antonio Molina Peñaloza







Universitätsbildung Pedro Calzadilla
Ricardo Menéndez Prieto



Jason Guzmán
Wirtschaft Nelson Merentes


Rodolfo Clemente Marco Torres



Jugend Héctor Rodríguez
Victor Clark





Sunday, 31 August 2014

And the strategy is...

And now Maduro explains the finger print thing will be for the border regions and the state supermarkets only. What does that mean? It will be incredibly difficult to buy chicken, milk, flour and other products in private shops as the street vendors will buy their lot there. People with a real job will have to buy the goods to the street vendor for several times the state price. This is particularly bad for those who are opposition in Venezuela. The rich regime honchos do have their maids to do the shopping for them.

Maduro's conundrum: more than half a million strong


Shortages became so bad that the Maduro government started to look for a new emergency patch, as usual. It came with the idea of the fingerprint machines to limit the amount of products people can buy...or perhaps it was the fingerprint company that came up with the idea. In any case, the government doesn't deal with the reasons of the shortage economy but tries, once more, to mitigate the consequences of its mess. There is a rumpus about this but it comes mostly from the better off to hard-core opposition lower class in Caracas. A lot of the poor - at least for now, at least that's what I get as input from outside the capital - think the fingerprint thing might be a solution, even if not optimal. There is another group that is completely against the machine and for different reasons: those who work in the black market.
GDP: Venezuela, one of its kind

Shortages have to do with distortions in the supply and demand chain, whether we talk about socialist countries with central planning or a pseudo-socialist country with a mixed economy and full government intervention and harassment of the private sector not in the hands of the revolutionary "elite". In any case, the main reason why shortages exist are price controls that prevent supply and demand forces from working as they should. This reason is further worsened in Venezuela by the collapse in local production. Blogger Francisco Toro will say local production wouldn't collapse if prices were right, even if producers were Chavista functionaries taking over. I am not so sure of that. I can see what is happening to Owen Illinois in Venezuela: they are not that subject to price controls but production is collapsing, the higher echelons now are simply using the company as plundering ground. Besides, state bureaucracy in Venezuela simply puts too many trammels for any productive activity.

In any case: low prices trigger higher demand. This, in turn, entices some groups to hoard goods  for sale at the black market or to be smuggled to neighbouring countries. If the pricing issue were tackled, local production would improve and hoarding would collapse. 

Now, let's imagine the finger print scheme is implemented as announced as the system doesn't collapse totally, as Bruni foresees

A lot of the military profit from smuggling. Because they are the ones trying to prevent smuggling, things shouldn't change so much for them: the military would get a higher share of the smuggling flow, small border smugglers will have to look for other alternatives. Things would definitely change for small independent smugglers and some of them will be out of business. What will happen with the countless illegal vendors, in Venezuela the largest share of "informal workers" (who often live much worse than unemployed in Europe)?

The little ones will see their profits drop. They are the ones you see queuing up with their families in front of supermarkets everywhere in the city to buy as much as they can and resell for a living at 4, 5, 10 times the price of the product. According to official figures from 2012, more than half a million people work as illegal street vendors, in Venezuelan Spanish "buhoneros". My educated guess is that today over 1.000.000 people live off from selling things on the streets. A good chunk of those things they sell are goods you will need to show your finger print to get.

Then there are the bigger fish: those who have developed  mafia networks and work directly with supermarket workers to get products by large lots and who sell those products to the small street vendors. It will be interesting to see what happens with them.

My guess now is that a new level of corruption will appear within the system so that the big fish keep getting their lots.



Sunday, 24 August 2014

Wenn Idioten ein Land regieren: Venezuela 2014



Die neuen Maßnahmen der Regierung Maduro könnt Ihr hier lesen.

Ich will nur ein paar Kommentare hinzufügen.

Der jetzige Finanzminister, der Mogul Rafael Ramírez, hat eigentlich nie Wirtschaft studiert. Er ist ein Ingenieur, dessen Onkel ein bekannter Guerrillero gegen die demokratischen Regierungen Venezuelas war. Sein Onkel war einer der Gründe, warum Ramírez im Jahr 2004 der Vorsitzende der staatlichen Erdölgesellschaft PDVSA wurde. Mehrere seiner Verwandten haben dort sehr hohe Positionen bekommen. Ramírez ist auch Energieminister...obwohl alle Minister Maduros vor kurzem gekündigt haben - kündigen mussten. Nicolás Maduro will in den nächsten Tagen neue Minister ernennen, zum vierten Mal seit April 2013. "Die Reise nach Caracas" ist die neue Version der Reise nach Jerusalem.

Venezuela befindet sich in einer Rezession und das als einziges Land in Südamerika. Die Regierung weigert sich aber seit Juni, Daten zur Inflation und zum BIP zu veröffentlichen.

Rafael Ramírez und einige seiner Verwandten in der staatlichen Erdölgesellschaft PDVSA
Die Lernmitteln, die ein venezolanisches Kind für ein Jahr Schule nötig hat, kosten ungefähr 8000 Bs. Das ist etwas mehr, als was ein Dozent in einem Monat verdient.

Drei Soldaten haben einen Journalist umgebracht. Es handelt sich um einen Überfall, nichts politisches. Dieses Verbrechen ist aber kein Einzelfall. Die Militärs sind die schlimmsten Schurken der Republik - zusammen mit den Polizisten - nicht alle, natürlich...aber viele.


Saturday, 23 August 2014

Food for thought about crime


The results of this Swedish study are not surprising to me. A lot of social workers won't like those results. A lot of conservatives will see their believes confirmed.

I think one needs to further analyse the initial correlations that came out of this research. In any case, it is worth keeping an open mind. 

I wouldn't be surprised if a similar study would bring similar results for Venezuela, in spite of Venezuela having such a different environment as Sweden. The crucial thing would be: what can we do about it?



Saturday, 16 August 2014

Repression in Venezuela - slowly sinking state August 2014


The government got yet another regime-critical programme out of the air. Fewer and fewer media outlets have anything critical to say about the government.

Recently several Europeans asked me what was going on in Venezuela. They hadn't heard anything after April. I told them: the main leaders are in jail and thousands of students have to report to the cops every week.

Here you can read more about that (in Spanish). By the way: both links are from Notitarde, one of the few remaining newspapers to dare criticise the regime.

The government will keep increasing repression. It doesn't have another plan for the simple reason most of the high ranking officials are thugs, criminals with a lot of skeletons in the closet.

The rest of the world won't lift a finger: countries have either a nice trade surplus with Venezuela or, in the case of the USA or China, they think regime change would create more headaches for them.

The Central Bank of Venezuela, completely under control of the executive, hasn't published its inflation or GDP figures since May. It is completely paralyzed just as Maduro and Diosdado are paralyzed out of fear of losing power and out of ignorance about how to manage a country.

The opposition that is not in prison? It is in a mess. None of our politicians wants to go to jail like Leopoldo López.

In a coming post I will try to get a little bit deeper into what kind of GDP Venezuela will finally get for 2014. We have already said ECLAC's latest estimate is -0.5%, which seems to a lot of people an incredibly optimistic figure.