Hugo's Big Score

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It's election day in Venezuela—or as it's probably going to evolve, "Prelude to Months of Turmoil, Pressure and Fraud Claims Day." Much like in 2004, the opposition parties (more united than at any point since that year) are swooning from the success of giant rallies and claiming that they have polls showing them set to win. Even more so than in 2004, Chavez can point to public polls showing him set to whip Manuel Rosales like a rented mule. From a wrap-up in the UK's Independent newspaper:

Mark Weisbrot, director of the Washington-based Centre for Economic and Policy Research which has collated government data, said: "Chavez is going to win reelection because he has delivered quite a lot on his promise to share the country's oil wealth with the poor—which are the majority of the population. His anti-poverty efforts are certainly bigger than anywhere else in the hemisphere."

The neo-con blog PubliusPundit isn't having that. Unfortunately, its lead post on the election is about as useful as a handful of wishing dust. (Fake wishing dust; not that good stuff from 13 Going On 30.)

Likely scenario, according to the Maracuchos: Chavez will cheat on this election but won't be able to hold onto his victory for more than a few months. A secondary factor that will help push Chavez out is the coming collapse of the Venezuelan economy. Oil prices are down and production is down. Chavez is begging for oil production cuts to keep prices high and pressure off him to pump oil. A huge new oilworker strike is brewing in the east, which could take down 25% of Vz's production. Meanwhile, Chavez has pumped $9 billion into the monetary system in the last 30 days, making devaluation inevitable in three or four months. Capital flight going full blast out of Caracas right now. Market sources say it's 30% collapse coming, but other bankers in Caracas don't think the government will let it go down that far, more like 15%.

In a word: Unlikely. The opposition has gotten a lot smarter since 2004, and certainly any good opposition in a burgeoning tyranny should be ready to storm the barricades when the big man stumbles, but the Venezuelan opposition has a nasty habit of doing the storming before they muster any real public support. They kick and scream too wildly about a Chavez win and they're going to end up at least as hard off as the Mexican PRD.

I don't want to make a habit of linking to ZMag, but Chris Carlson has a useful alternative perspective to the "those masses and masses of poor Chavez voters don't actually exist!" spin.

NEXT: A Pre-9/11 Mentality

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  1. Ah, good old Weisbrot. I recall him giving the Elder Law lecture at the U. Illinois College of Law some years ago. The thesis of his speech was that Social Security wasn’t in trouble. Not really convincing to me, but nice enough fellow.

    And Chavez is going to win, by means fair and/or foul. Anyone who says otherwise has been smokin’ too much Oaxacan ditch weed.

  2. A strongman government does not necessarily end in disaster, so long as the strongman lagely respects private property rights and taxes with a light hand.

    However, Chavez does not do any of these things. He’ll screw it up like Castro did. Well, not as bad as Castro did. Castro did not undergo the critical media scrutiny that Chavez does. So Chavez will not be able to match Castro’s worst excesses. However, it will still be pretty bad.

  3. Well, if Chavez wins, he’ll end up destroying the Venezuelan oil fields. At least then maybe Venezuela will get off of its oil habit, for better and worse.

    David Weigel saw 13 Going on 30? I snicker at you, sir.

  4. David,

    Don’t feel bad about linking to ZMag. You should make a habit of putting your ideology aside and linking to anything that seems cogent and true. Do that often enough, and the libertarian label will fade. For a time, like a lapsed Catholic, you’ll feel insecure. Trust me, it will be a libertaion

  5. Chavez will win whether there is fraud or not. The independent polls have pretty consistently given him a substantial lead.

    This is natural because the oil money has allowed him to spend freely. Any government can be popular when it has money to throw around.

    When the price falls or the oil runs out, then there will be massive dislocation. The middle class will be largely destroyed and any rich who remain will be corrupt allies of the government.

    I hope there will not be a coup as Venezula promisses to be too good a bad example not to keep around.

    In other matters, I noticed that Chavez’ friend Castro is rumored to be dying of cancer. This will provoke much weeping and wailing on the left, but may open the door to change in Cuba.

  6. “I don’t want to make a habit of linking to ZMag…”

    Yes, because at a time when we have a government that claims extraordinary prerogatives in a vague war of indefinite length, occupies two countries hostile to our presence, accounts for half the world’s military spending, seeks to regulate free speech and the right to privacy generally, and tries to fashion our morals to its liking, ZMag and Reason will have no overlapping interests or content.

  7. Ashish — my thoughts exactly — don’t link to Counterpunch too much either, they carry loonie radicals like Jesse Walker and Paul Craig Roberts.

  8. Thanks for the link!

    For the record, I consider myself more libertarian than neocon, for what it’s worth.

    My pet causes are free trade, free markets, business formation, property rights, great big private sectors and lotsa oil drilling. When they happen naturally, without U.S. intervention, I am very pleased.

  9. its worth noting that Venezuela is far from authoritarian — there is a very free press, most of the private media is anti-Chavez and allowed to carry on freely. There are no political prisoners in Venezuela.

    Chavez is only doing what any politician would do with record oil revenue — the US government only hates Chavez not cause he spends money freely and utters the ‘S’ word to obtain support but that he is not in the US sphere or influence and has helped and aided several other countries in the region to drop out of or reduce the influence of the US by the election of populist/leftist leaders.

    Also I am no fan of Z magazine — they often have their head in the clouds even more than libertarians (if that is possible) but why the hesitancy to link to that article at Z magazine which makes a lot of sense (though I’m not sure if its true but still rational, logical) as opposed to apparently no problem linking to a neo-con site that comes across as LaRouche style bat-shit crazy?

  10. Thanks for dropping by, A.M. I’ll correct the way I characterize your blog.

  11. Aww, it’s ok, David. Thank you very much again.

  12. Had the 2002 coup never occured, and had the Bushies not fallen all over themselves to back it and recognize the “new” government, this election would have been much more competitive, because Chavez would have been that much less the hero, and his opposition that much harder to tar as traitors collaborating with a foreign enemy.

    Thanks, Director of National Intelligence Negroponte! Thanks neocons! Good job shooting Democracy in the foot! This, and your similar behavior regarding Haiti, is why I never trusted you when you claimed your Iraq adventure was about spreading democracy.

  13. Castro did not undergo the critical media scrutiny that Chavez does.

    there is a very free press, most of the private media is anti-Chavez and allowed to carry on freely.

    AHhhhh.

    Hold that thought!

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