The bad news and the good news from down South
Mary Anastasia O'Grady, writing at the Opinion Journal, has both the bad news and the good news from Venezuela. The bad news isn't just Chavez's anti-Semitism, and his alliance with China, it's also his increasing buddy relationship with Iran. As O'Grady understatedly says, "[t]he end result is that the Iranian connection introduces a new element of instability into Latin America." The good news, in terms of the long-term success of Chavez's regime is the economic chaos he's imposing on his people (which is, of course, horrible news for his people, but they did vote him in):
That Chávez is making a hash of the Venezuelan economy while he courts international notoriety is no secret. There are shortages of foodstuffs that are abundant even in other poor countries. Milk, flour for the national delight known as arepas, and sugar are in short supply. Coffee is scarce because roasters say government controls have set the price below costs, forcing them to eat losses. The Chávez response last week was a threat to nationalize the industry. Property rights are being abolished. Last week, authorities invaded numerous "unoccupied" apartments in Caracas to hand them over to party faithful, part of a wider scheme to "equalize" life for Venezuelans. A bridge collapse earlier this month on the main artery linking Caracas to the country's largest airport, seaport and an enormous bedroom community is seen as a microcosm of the country's failing infrastructure. Aside from the damage to commerce, it has caused great difficulties for the estimated 100,000 commuters who live on the coast, Robert Bottome, editor of the newsletter Veneconomy, told me from Caracas on Wednesday. The collapse diverted all this traffic to an old two-lane road with hairpin turns and more than 300 curves. It is now handling car traffic during the day and commercial traffic at night, with predictable backups. With Venezuelan oil fields experiencing an annual depletion rate on the order of 25% and little government reinvestment in the sector, similar infrastructure problems are looming in oil. In November, Goldman Sachs emerging markets research commented on a fire at a "major refinery complex" in which 20 workers were injured: "In recent months there has been a string of accidents and other disruptions [of] oil infrastructure, which oil experts attribute to inadequate investment in maintenance and lack of technical expertise to run complex oil refining and exploration operations."It's amazing how long dictators can hang on despite the fact that they've destroyed the infrastructure and their people are starving -- North Korea is a sterling example of that fact. However, I don't think that Venezuela is another North Korea. Rather, I think the Chavez regime will implode within the next two years. The only question remaining is whether it will destroy itself before it has a chance to destroy any other country too.