As everyone should realize, we are not a socialist society. We are a capitalist society. However, we are trying to move ahead towards a modern, democratic, humanist and socialist society. This means we have to struggle to get there through pacific political means in an environment still pretty much marked by the policies of the State Department and its allies (the EU, etc), by transnational corporations, and by main stream media and political rightist parties that share in our democratic institutions, such as the National Assembly.
Since the Washington Consensus, at the end of the eighties and beginning of the nineties, our economy was stripped of national production with some exceptions (i.e., Polar Corp.), and the efforts we have made so far to recover part of it have been largely fruitless because the combination of political conspiracy and corruption have proven to be quite efficient in obstructing our intentions.
The thousands of millions of dollars given to national and foreign “entrepreneurs” at a preferred exchange rate sustained by the State, have only serviced overpriced manufactures that allowed the importers to keep millions stashed in their bank accounts in the US and elsewhere. Of course, all this has sadly occurred as the result of the incapacity and/or the complicity of internal factors within the government itself.
A different story has occurred with social expenditure that, although we cannot say it is free of deals of corruption, has been monitored more and controlled better, thanks to which, we have expanded social services in the fields of access to nutrition (food), health, education, housing and special attention to abandoned infants, families and gender equality. Most investment expenses of the national budget go to the social sector.
Finally, the present government of President Maduro, has decided to create correctives for the economy to put aside the parasitic factors that eat the dollars brought to Venezuela by our oil industry, and in parallel, is adopting measures to control inflation which was boosted in the fourth quarter of 2013 with a wave of speculation and extraction of contraband (smuggling) at a scale never seen before in our history. In this scenario, prices will not be “controlled” by the market anymore. Now there are authorities and regulations that will hopefully allow the state to monitor prices in order to check costs and keep profit margins under 30%, which is still of course very high. To give details on how this new system functions, goes beyond the purpose of this explanation that is means to be concise, but let me tell you that if this works fairly well, I do not foresee difficulties in controlling the problem of inflation, in addition to making the right investments with sincere associates, for instance, with the foreign automobile industry and the national agroindustrial corporations and natural entrepreneurs. We have the capital for this purpose because every year a faucet of over one hundred thousand millions of dollars flows into the treasury of the Republic. All we need is good faith and legal restraints for those that fail to stay on track.
About the political situation: It is a fact that the Bolivarian Revolution has been under constant attack from the government of the US, its associates in the EU and the local traditional parties. The coup of April 2002, the oil stoppage, the 2003 violent street campaigns, the capture of 100 paramilitaries brought in from Colombia to attack the presidential palace and assassinate President Chavez, and now, the economic conspiracy that smuggles 30% of our food to Colombia and north to Brazil, inducing speculation and hoarding of consumer goods. And recently, a new conspiracy: to close streets and stop the circulation of vehicles and cause damage to public and private property.
The December elections clearly gave a handsome majority to the government, when the expectation of the opposition and external factors was the contrary, and additionally, President Maduro’s summoning of the rightist parties to join the fight against crime and to enhance internal production of goods and services offering proper support from the state treasury, led to an internal division within the opposition. These new facts made the opposition realize that prospect for it to seize power were drifting away very quickly, so they decided to put into practice plans they already had in their archives of conspiracy, something they had been preparing for some time but had not had the opportunity to implement.
That is, they decided to take to the streets, with roughly 2,000 people (students typically from wealthy families, youth sometimes from barrios paid or not, and cadres of their parties), in all cities. I am referring here to people gathering to create havoc often via violent acts, with the idea of damaging public property and producing death and injuries to Chavistas and their own partisans as well, all to generate chaos in the traffic of vehicles and pedestrians, but not intended to induce a coup from the militaries because they know the military is loyal to the Revolution.
The whole purpose is instead to get Venezuelans to fight each other, to provoke a civil war and gain intervention by the UN and the EU, and perhaps to have them authorize the US to send in the Marines. This is the reason you’ll find quick statements from officials of the UN and the EU very well associated with the sayings and demands of our local opposition and, of course, of the State Department.
However, I do not think any of this will happen, because politically, the Revolution and especially the public in support of it has learned to read scenarios and act accordingly, and will not fall in the trap. So, I figure the street riots will be carried out by the opposition alone, with containment (not combat, save from over zealous and disobedient elements who will be removed from the field and even prosecuted) by the police and National Guard and will fade away as has happened in the past with other such protests.
About crime which is of course relevant to people’s opinions. Crime escalated during the past 15 years for several reasons: a) we had 20.000 people under custody in jails before Chavez’s access to power (1999). During the term of President Caldera (1993-1998), a new Criminal Code Procedure was passed in 1997 but was only to be applied 2 years later, exactly in 1999 and, when that happened, more than two thirds of the people in jail were set free because, as the Code enacted, inmates with more than two years under custody without a proper trial solution, had to be made free to walk away; b) the paramilitaries in Colombia were retired from combat and a large number of them came to Venezuela to continue to kidnap, rob, and kill by contract (sicariato); c) the same elements also funneled drug into our barrios, d) we should not ignore, as well, paid crime for political reasons in order to create chaos; and e) in addition to all the previous reasons, we have the same number of prisons as before the Revolution to shelter a population of over 50.000 inmates we now have (because police are finally startign to do their job). This overcrowding creates situations of violence within the jails and penitentiaries, a problem that is now been solved by building nine new facilities and by the hastening of court procedures. With the presidency of Maduro, new policies have been created to fight crime and to recover youth from the ranks of delinquency. Every day, you find news of criminal gangs taken into custody or fallen in mutual combat, as well as of gangs that surrender their arms and accept reform programs through sports, music, skills, etc.
People should understand, as well, and it is only fair to say the many mayors of the opposition parties are efficient collaborators with these government policies, something that is occurring because of the dialogue initiated by President Maduro.
Corruption is another factor in current views. And in my opinion, this is the real Achilles heel of the Revolution. We have not been able to control this phenomenon and it is present at all levels. We have seen governors, deputies, ministers, justices, generals, many government officials and public servants, also judges and small employees engaging in corrupt schemes.
I can only speculate – there is no hard proof – but to me it appears to be caused by the heritage of the 30 years previous to Chavez when corruption was rampant, and the mistake of not realizing this would haunt us if not prioritized. People that now wear a red shirt and shout louder than others about their revolutionary commitment, also cadres that are not well informed and organized, often at least close an eye to acts of corruption, and at worst engage in it, to get economic support for their political career and circumstances. Additionally, there are those who have the sense that the Revolution can be defeated any time and so they must stash money in a chest, for potentially dire conditions to come. It is here where I feel the biggest peril lies and where we have to do our best to educate or if need be remove from positions of responsibility, or even jail, when appropriate, the rotten apples who are not few, by the way.