Venezuela's opposition to socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro this week has called on the Organization of American States to help them oust him, Time reports.
At the same time, President Obama is continuing to (bombastically) refer to that nation's economic and political troubles as a threat to U.S. national security, renewing a similar declaration made last year:
The Obama administration first issued the executive order against crisis-hit Venezuela in March of last year…
In renewing the order, the president mentioned the same list of abuses cited last year: persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence and human rights violations….
In renewing the measure, Obama reiterated that the situation in Venezuela constituted an "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States" and that he was declaring a "national emergency" to counter that threat….
The "national emergency" declaration is a tool U.S. presidents possess that allows them to impose sanctions on a country under certain circumstances and go beyond what Congress has approved.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week from Venezuela's agricultural sector, bedeviled by crime and bad government. Fausta's Blog has some meat from that if you are blocked by the WSJ paywall:
Agricultural production in Venezuela had already been hobbled by the socialist government's land confiscations and price controls, which often force farmers to sell at a loss. As domestic food production dropped, Venezuela turned increasingly to imports. But with oil prices plunging, the country now has fewer petrodollars to purchase food abroad.
The problem is compounded by Byzantine currency controls that make it more difficult for private companies to access the dollars needed to import food. And many products that are produced here are smuggled to neighboring Colombia to be sold for big profits. The resulting scarcity has helped fuel the world's highest inflation and produced long lines at supermarkets as people clamor for milk, meat, pasta and other staples.
Maduro intends to try to turn the army, still faithful to him, into a giant militarized bunch of farmers to try to turn things around on the food front.
Bloomberg Business notes, in a story based on an interview with opposition governor Henri Falcon, that Maduro is just doubling down on bad management and tyranny:
Maduro has barely acknowledged his electoral defeat [in Congress] in December, ceding little ground to the opposition. He's sidestepped congress' decisions through the courts and vowed to block its central initiatives, such as giving deeds to public housing residents and granting amnesty to dozens of jailed politicians and activists….
Temir Porras, who was a top aide to Maduro till 2013, said the government finds itself with few answers. "The problem of Chavismo is ideological: How do I face a situation like this without employing socially regressive policies?" he said in an interview….
In other words, socialism is a horrible failure; we are socialists, though, and just can't back down since any move that might actually get the economy working would be seen as "socially regressive."
The bizarre attitudes is rooted in what Foreign Policy this week identified as a politico-cultural possession by the spirit of dead autocrat Hugo Chavez:
….just over three years into his political afterlife, the ghost of Hugo Chávez is as inescapable as el Comandantehimself was in life. To his remaining supporters, he goes by many names: "the Giant," "the Eternal One," "Redeemer of the Poor," and even "Galactic Commander." ….
Images of the late president, or sometimes of his signature or his disembodied eyes, are ubiquitous in Caracas, Venezuela's capital. And he's not always alone. In colorful murals he can often be found hanging out with a veritable A-list of revolutionaries, including Che Guevara, Karl Marx, Simon Bolívar, and Jesus Christ…
This quasi-religious veneration of Chávez by his comrades is not known for its subtlety. In 2014, the government pushed an "Our Chávez" reboot of the Catholic "Our Father" prayer, which included supplications to "lead us not into the temptation of capitalism and deliver us from the oligarchy," thereby reaching new heights of pathos.
Various local religions, they report, indeed are already quasi-deifying Chavez. And why not? When his policies have lead to:
a nation of thirty million scavengers, desperately seeking rare food and medicines, and increasingly without electricity or running water. As a result, Maduro's government is increasingly reliant on the Chávez legacy as a justification for remaining at the helm. And, like any pre-industrial regime worth its salt, it knows that when the peasants are restless, a little medieval pageantry can perhaps set them right. Despite the country's collapsed economy, festivities are in the works to commemorate March 5, the official day of his passing.
In other political turmoil from Venezuela:
• Maduro's government is unsurprisingly launching an investigation into possible charges against opposition leader Henrique Capriles (who is leading a referendum campaign to oust Maduro) over alleged financial irregularities from his past post as governor of the Venezuelan state of Miranda.
• Students are in the streets protesting a Supreme Court decision that, according to the BBC, "curtailed the power of the opposition-controlled National Assembly to review government appointments of Supreme Court justices."
• The nation is still managing to make its debt payments, though no one expects it to be able to keep that up for the rest of the year.
• Venezuela's central bank is trying to sue, in U.S. District Court in Delaware, a website that publishes black market bolivar-dollar exchange rates, accusing it of being responsible for cyber-terrorism and destroying the bank's reputation (as it continues to "manage" ruinous inflation) and in fact being responsible for the inflation it tries to honestly chronicle.
In summation, as I wrote back in January, "Venezuelan socialism still a complete disaster."