Chavez : 1954 - 2013
Much can be said about Hugo Chavez, until yesterday Venezuela's President, but without doubt we can said that Chavez had a special charisma toward friends and foes, he survived for 14 years as an elected president. However, on more than a decade ruling he accomplish little towards building a future for Venezuela one of the riches countries on the American continent, on the contrary the country is in chaos, economically, politically and socially. What did he accomplish?, he did try to help the very poor people pouring money into social programs, but only to keep the people happy and creating an aura of Chavez "The Comandante" is our savoir, at the end the Barrio Adentro and Misiones some of its social programs were really mere handouts, today we have a very poor Venezuela, a paradox, been one of the most wealthy countries in the region, the facts are there and are very real, our oil production was in 1999, 3.200 million barrels per day, today barely 2.3 millions per day as per the last Platts survey. R.I.P Mr. President.
But let's see some of today's Op-Ed on Chavez.
Chavez the Popular Autocrat Leaves a Legacy of Ruin
The death of President Hugo Chavez marks the beginning of a perilous and hopeful moment for Venezuela and the Western Hemisphere.
There is no denying the impact of the charismatic ex- paratrooper, a plotter and survivor of coups who demolished Venezuela’s political power structure, won three elections with wide support and used the wealth from the world’s largest oil reserves to advance, across the Andes and beyond, his home- brewed ideology of “Bolivarian socialism.”
How long that incoherent ideology will survive its creator is an open question. The challenge now facing Venezuela and its neighbors is to ensure a peaceful transition to a new elected government. Under Venezuela’s constitution, an election must be held within 30 days. Given the supercharged atmosphere surrounding Chavez’s death -- just hours earlier, Vice President Nicolas Maduro blamed Chavez’s enemies for his cancer, and claimed that opposition groups were sabotaging the nation’s power grid -- the potential for unrest during the campaign looms large.
In last October’s election, Chavez used the tools of incumbency, including not just government largesse but also dominance of the news media and other soft authoritarian strategies, to disadvantage his challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski. That pattern will repeat itself, with the added uncertainty and tension that may come from rivalries between Maduro, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabelloand others within the post-Chavez camp.
It will fall to Venezuela’s democratic neighbors, led by Brazil and Colombia, to exert influence for a clean and lawful campaign. Any public pressure by the U.S. will be as ineffective as it is unwelcome -- in the short run, Chavez’s followers are likely to resort even more readily to anti-American invective to whip up popular support, as Maduro did the day Chavez died by expelling two U.S. diplomats for allegedly seeking to destabilize the country.
The disappearance of the larger-than-life Chavez does create more of an opening for the Organization of American States to call, if needed,for intervention~under the Inter- American Democratic Charter. It also provides an opportunity to defeat a cynical “reform” aimed at weakening one of the hemisphere’s human-rights monitors. Chavez, along with his ally President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, had led an attack on the OAS’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which had called attention to Venezuela’s authoritarian drift. In a measure to be taken up this month in Washington, they propose to cut funds to the judicial watchdog and particularly to its special rapporteur for freedom of expression, who defends liberty of the press and journalists. Some deft and forceful diplomacy could blunt that effort, which would weaken protection for opposition groups at a particularly bad time.
Seismic political upheaval in Venezuela, however, is neither imminent nor desirable. Not only are 20 out of 23 governorships in the hands of Chavez supporters (many of them former military officers), but over the course of his dozen years in power he built up a 125,000-strong militia, of whom 30,000 could be considered armed combatants. Having them pour out into the streets is in nobody’s best interests.
Instead, if moderate change is to come, it will be driven largely by economic necessity. Chavez’s policies, especially his most recent pre-election spending splurge, have led to growing debt, among the highest borrowing costs of emerging market countries, one of the world’s highest inflation rates, and widespread shortages of milk, meat, toilet paper and other basic goods. A recent devaluation will help government finances but make imported goods even more expensive and seems like a short- term fix.
Such economic tribulations didn’t seem to dim the adulation of Chavez’s supporters, who backed him repeatedly. His likely successors, however, may not have his “immediate friendliness and…homegrown charm” -- qualities that Gabriel Garcia Marquez singled out in calling Chavez “a natural storyteller.” And they probably won’t have as much money to mix with the magical realism. Starved of investment and milked to fund Chavez’s special projects, Venezuela’s state-run oil company produces one-quarter less oil than it did when he first took office.
In the days and months ahead, Chavez’s champions and critics will debate the extent to which his policies reduced poverty and inequality, and how accountable he should be held for the near-quadrupling of murders from 1998 to 2011, when more than 19,000 Venezuelans were killed (about the same as the total for the U.S. and the European Union combined). They may plumb the mysteries of Chavismo, including the wisdom of forging ties with Iran and Syria and giving away billions of dollars in oil each year to Cuba. But the luxury of mulling history’s verdict will be denied to whoever takes Chavez’s place, because the economic mess he left behind will demand all of his successor’s attention.
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Editorial by Bloomberg Editors
Bloomberg News Mar 5, 2013 10:17 PM GMT-0430
OBITUARY: Chavez death brings uncertainty to OPEC member Venezuela
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died Tuesday in Caracas after an almost two-year battle with cancer and 14 years of a dominating socialist presidency that leaves the country with the world's largest oil reserves mired in uncertainty.
The vociferous Chavez, 58, who once regaled supporters for hours in speeches and on his weekly television show, had not appeared in public after he underwent a fourth operation for cancer December 11 in Cuba. The only messages were sent through his Twitter account February 18 in which he said he had returned to Caracas. He remained in a military hospital, out of sight.
"We have returned to the fatherland. Thank you God!! Thank you beloved people!! We will continue with my treatment here," was the first of three tweets.
The only images of him had been photos released a few days before his return, showing a smiling Chavez with two of his daughters, and in one reading a recent edition of the Cuban newspaper.
The government had given a somewhat pessimistic medical report February 21, saying he still had respiratory problems and that his progress "has not been favorable."
Chavez disappeared from public view soon after he said December 9 that his cancer had returned and that he may not be able to serve a fourth term as president after winning re-election by a wide margin October 7. It was his first admission since being diagnosed with cancer in June 2011 that his medical condition may prevent him from staying in power.
Chavez leaves a country hit by economic problems including high inflation and large debt, despite the substantial revenue collected by oil exports. Venezuela turned to China in 2005 to help finance its expensive social programs, taking more than $38 billion in loans in exchange for oil supplies.
OIL WAS THE GREASE OF CHAVEZ'S SOCIALIST REVOLUTION
Crude oil has always been the grease of the political machine in modern Venezuela, but the Chavez administration took this to a new level. In the name of his socialist revolution, Chavez put into place a policy based on extracting the most money possible out of the country's oil reserves to use for social aid in poorer communities for his staunchest supporters. But the opposition and many outside analysts say his government's lack of investment in the industry has undercut its success.
Oil production in 1998, when Chavez took office, was about 3.2 million b/d. In 2011, that had declined to 2.991 million b/d, according to government figures, which most analysts say are inflated. Platts' most recent estimate for Venezuelan production was 2.32 million b/d in January.
Some analysts considered that PDVSA never recovered from a massive loss of human capital when the government fired 18,000 of its workers for taking part in protests against Chavez in 2002.
In 2007, Chavez led the country's second wave of nationalization -- the first was in the 1970s -- of its privately run oil fields, operated by some of the world's biggest oil companies. The country still faces 24 arbitration cases in the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes related to the expropriation. Although Venezuela started the process of pulling out of the ICSID in January, pending cases and any filed within a certain window will continue.
But several international operators with appetites for some risk -- including BP,Chevron, Total and Statoil -- continue to operate in Venezuela through joint ventures with PDVSA. Other state oil companies, especially those of China, also have extensive partnerships with Venezuela.
Other key oil policies included defending the need for international oil prices above $100/b as a member of OPEC and raising taxes several times on international operators -- with some of these earmarked specifically for social aid projects.
The relationship between Cuba and Venezuela -- and Chavez and the Castro brothers -- also marked Chavez's time. Venezuela pumped millions into Cuba in the form of cheap oil, payment for medical services and other aids, while Fidel Castro gave revolutionary credibility and served as a mentor for Chavez.
Chavez began his move into power as an activist military officer, founding the Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement on December 17, 1982. He led a coup against the then President Carlos Andres Perez in 1992, for which he served two years in prison before being pardoned.
He founded the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) political party, which supported him when he won the presidential election for the first time in 1998. The MVR later become the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
Chavez used his overwhelming popularity with a large segment of the population to push through a new Constitution in 2000 that gave him the right to run for reelection for a six-year term.
But his unpopularity with the business and upper classes of Venezuela led to him being temporarily knocked from power during a coup April 11, 2002, led by businessman Pedro Carmona Estanga, who is currently in exile in Colombia. A huge outpouring from his followers, plus backing from the military, let him retake power two days later.
In 2006, Chavez won reelection for another six-year term, which ends this year. But he was able to run again because of a change to the Constitution in 2009 which allows for indefinite reelection of the president. Some 56.4% of Venezuelans voted for this change in a referendum.
Chavez was diagnosed with cancer by doctor in Cuba in June 2011, where he also underwent two operations, four sessions of chemotherapy and six session of radiotherapy to remove a malignant tumor in his pelvic region. The government did not reveal the type of cancer Chavez had.
Chavez was born in Sabaneta, in the state of Barinas, on July 28, 1954. He was the son of two teachers, Hugo de los Reyes Chavez and Elena Frias de Chavez. He had four children -- Rosa Virginia, Maria Gabriela, Hugo Rafael and Rosines.
By Mery Mogollon, email@example.com
Edited by Carla Bass, firstname.lastname@example.org
Caracas (Platts)--5Mar2013/533 pm EST/2233 GMT
The New York Times
In the End, an Awful Manager
IN Caracas, Venezuela, you could tell a summit meeting mattered to Hugo Chávez when government workers touched up the city’s rubble. Before dignitaries arrived, teams with buckets and brushes would paint bright yellow lines along the route from the airport into the capital, trying to compensate for the roads’ dilapidation with flashes of color.
For really big events — say, a visit by Russia’s president — workers would make an extra effort, by also painting the rocks and debris that filled potholes.
Seated in their armor-plated cars with tinted windows, the Russians might not have noticed the glistening golden nuggets, but they would surely have recognized the idea of the Potemkin village.
After oil wealth, theatrical flair was the greatest asset of Mr. Chávez, the president of Venezuela since 1999, who died Tuesday from cancer. His dramatic sense of his own significance helped bring him to power as the reincarnation of the liberator Simón Bolívar — he even renamed the country the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
That same dramatic flair deeply divided Venezuelans as he postured on the world stage and talked of restoring equilibrium between the rich countries and the rest of the world. It now obscures his real legacy, which is far less dramatic than he would have hoped. In fact, it’s mundane. Mr. Chávez, in the final analysis, was an awful manager.
The legacy of his 14-year “socialist revolution” is apparent across Venezuela: the decay, dysfunction and blight that afflict the economy and every state institution.
The endless debate about whether Mr. Chávez was a dictator or democrat — he was in fact a hybrid, an elected autocrat — distracted attention, at home and abroad, from the more prosaic issue of competence. Mr. Chávez was a brilliant politician and a disastrous ruler. He leaves Venezuela a ruin, and his death plunges its roughly 30 million citizens into profound uncertainty.
Mr. Chávez’s failures did more damage than ideology, which was never as extremist as he or his detractors made out, something all too evident in the Venezuela he bequeaths.
The once mighty factories of Ciudad Guayana, an industrial hub by the Orinoco River that M.I.T. and Harvard architects planned in the 1960s, are rusting and wheezing, some shut, others at half-capacity. “The world economic crisis hit us,” Rada Gamluch, the director of the aluminum plant Venalum, and a loyal chavista, told me on his balcony overlooking the decay. He corrected himself. “The capitalist crisis hit us.”
Actually, it was bungling by Chávez-appointed business directors who tried to impose pseudo-Marxist principles, only to be later replaced by opportunists and crooks, that hit Ciudad Guayana.
Underinvestment and ineptitude hit hydropower stations and the electricity grid, causing weekly blackouts that continue to darken cities, fry electrical equipment, silence machinery and require de facto rationing. The government has no shortage of scapegoats: its own workers, the C.I.A. and even cable-gnawing possums.
Reckless money printing and fiscal policies triggered soaring inflation, so much so that the currency, the bolívar, lost 90 percent of its value since Mr. Chávez took office, and was devalued five times over a decade. In another delusion, the currency had been renamed “el bolívar fuerte,” the strong bolívar — an Orwellian touch.
Harassment of privately owned farms and chaotic administration of state-backed agricultural cooperatives hit food production, compelling extensive imports, which stacked up so fast thousands of tons rotted at the ports. Mr. Chávez called it “food sovereignty.”
Politicization and neglect crippled the state-run oil company PDVSA’s core task — drilling — so that production slumped. “It’s a pity no one took 20 minutes to explain macroeconomics to him with a pen and paper,” Baldo Sanso, a senior executive told me. “Chávez doesn’t know how to manage.”
Populist subsidies reduced the cost of gasoline to $1 a tank, perhaps the world’s lowest price of petrol, but cost the state untold billions in revenue while worsening traffic congestion and air pollution.
Bureaucratic malaise and corruption were so severe that murders tripled to nearly 20,000 a year, while gangs brazenly kidnapped victims from bus stops and highways.
A new elite with government connections, the “boligarchs,” manipulated government contracts and the web of price and currency controls to finance their lavish lifestyles. “It’s a big deal here when a girl turns 15,” a Caracas designer, Giovanni Scutaro, told me. “If the father is with the revolution, he doesn’t care about the fabric as long as it’s in red. Something simple, $3,000 — more elaborate, $250,000.”
Mr. Chávez summoned journalists to Miraflores, the presidential palace, to extol his achievements. But even the building betrayed the nation’s anomie, with its cracked facade, missing tiles, a whiff of urine from the gardens. The president’s private elevator, a minister confided, leaked when it rained.
Mr. Chávez’s political genius was to turn this record into a stage from which to mount four more election victories. An unprecedented oil bounty — $1 trillion — made him chief patron amid withering nongovernment alternatives.
He spent extravagantly on health clinics, schools, subsidies and giveaways, including entirely new houses. Those employed in multiplying bureaucracies — officials lost track of fleeting ministries — voted for him to secure their jobs.
His elections were not fair — Mr. Chávez rigged rules in his favor, hijacked state resources, disqualified some opponents, emasculated others — but they were free.
As Venezuela atrophied, he found some refuge in blaming others, notably the “squealing pigs” and “vampires” of the private sector whom he accused of hoarding and speculating. Soldiers arrested butchers for overpricing.
His own supporters increasingly blamed those around him: by 2011 you could see graffiti with the slogan “bajo el gobierno, viva Chávez” — “down with the government, long live Chávez.”
The comandante, as he was known to loyalists, used his extraordinary energy and charisma to dominate airwaves with marathon speeches (four hours was short). He might blow kisses, mobilize troops, denounce the United States, ride a bike, a tank, a helicopter — anything to keep attention focused on him, not his performance.
Distraction came in numerous forms: denouncing assassination plots; a farcical nuclear deal with Russia (eventually abandoned); exhuming Bolívar’s remains to see if he was murdered; praising or assailing guests.
I experienced the power of his performance firsthand in 2007 when, as The Guardian’s Latin America correspondent, I appeared on his weekly show, “Alo Presidente,” in an episode held on a beach. Invited to ask a question, I asked whether abolishing term limits risked authoritarianism.
The host paused and glowered before casting the impertinence out to sea and making it a pretext to lambaste European hypocrisy, media, monarchy, the Royal Navy, slavery, genocide and colonialism.
“In the name of the Latin American people I demand that the British government return the Malvinas Islands to the Argentine people,” he exclaimed. Then, after another riff on colonialism: “It is better to die fighting than to be a slave!”
On and on it went. Christopher Columbus. Queen Elizabeth. George Bush. In vain I responded that I was Irish and republican, and that European monarchy was irrelevant to my question, which he had dodged. This provoked another tirade.
It was theater. As the cameras were packed away, and we all prepared to return to Caracas, the president shook my hand, shrugged and smiled. I had been a useful fall guy. No hard feelings. It was just a show.