Latin America

Further Down the Revolutionary Road

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After winning a vote to eliminate term limits, Hugo Chavez has decided to ramp up his Bolivarian revolution, despite a massive loss of government revenue due to falling oil prices and recent spike in inflation. This week he threatened the remaining independent media outlets in the country, ordering his deputies to create an enemies list of opposition journalists:

"Every mayor, in every city council must make an analysis. How many radio stations are there? What is the content of the programs? Every governor in his or her respective state must do the same analysis. Let us draw a map of the media war. With respect to the newspapers, how many newspapers are owned by the oligarchs in Aragua state, in the municipality of Zamora? There is also a media war on the Internet. There is a daily battle. I beg you to put at the forefront of this battle,"

After the media, it's those sinister industrial food producers Chavez wants to bring to heel, predictably blaming them for the widespread shortages of meat, rice, and milk that have plagued the Venezuela in recent years. The country's largest food producer, Empresas Polar, was briefly occupied by government forces this week and threatened with wholesale expropriation if it didn't lower prices on rice—just days after the government took over the American company Cargill for the same reasons. So why are these companies failing to produce? Because, as every economist outside of the Miraflores palace knows, price controls create shortage:

Chavez's clash with the food companies, demanding they produce cheaper rice, came less than three weeks after he won a referendum on allowing him to run for re-election and marked his first nationalization in seven months.

The move shows he is likely to continue his combative style as the OPEC nation, faced with tumbling oil revenues that form the backbone of its economy, slowly begins to feel the effects of the global economic crisis… [Chavez] accuses the food industry of skirting price controls and failing to produce enough cheap rice. The recent moves to tighten the government's grip over food supplies are criticized by the private sector and many economists who say it could contribute to food shortages.

Full story here.

Update: Maria Conchita Alonso, who starred with Sean Penn in the classic gang film Colors, sounds off on the Milk star's Oscar and his love affair with Hugo Chavez.