Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Venezuela's current problems

"Venezuela is Latin America's biggest exporter of crude oil and has the world's largest petroleum reserves." - Brian Ellsworth and Andrew Cawthorne, Venezuela death toll rises to 13 as protests flare Reuters 02/24/2014

One of the issues that often gets a very out-of-context play in reporting on Latin America is inflation.

For US or European publics, a 10% inflation rate sounds horrendous. But inflation rates are often higher in Latin American countries that is routinely the case in the US and Europe. Or, I guess for the US and Europe we may now need to say that inflation was "routine prior to deflation setting in."

In any case, "lowflation" is not a problem in Venezuela right now. They do have an inflation problem.

Mark Weisbrot writes about a technique that the Maduro government started using this year to restrain the inflation there, SICAD II is Important Step Toward Resolving Exchange Rate Problem in Venezuela CEPR 04/10/2014:

This is particularly important right now because opposition leaders who have called for the overthrow of the government have pointed to 57 percent inflation and widespread shortages of consumer goods as justification for (often violent) street protests over the past two months. Although the protests have failed to attract the working and poorer people who are most hurt by the shortages, they are still a major complaint – as is inflation – for most Venezuelans.

As recently as two years ago, in the first quarter of 2012, the exchange rate system wasn’t causing any crisis. The economy was growing at a healthy pace and inflation was falling, coming in at an annual rate of just 10.1 percent in the first quarter. However, in the fall of 2012 inflation began to rise and so did the black market rate for the dollar, which went from 12 BsF per dollar in October of 2012 to a peak of 88 in late February 2014. To many people it seemed like Venezuela was suffering from an "inflation-depreciation" spiral. This is a situation where the domestic currency loses value against the dollar, causing inflation, which then causes the currency to fall further, and so on. In extreme cases such a spiral can end in hyperinflation, and government opponents (including much of the domestic and international media) promoted the idea that this is where the economy has been headed.

Of course hyperinflation was never a real threat – and still isn't -- but the relation between the rising cost of the black market dollar and the inflation rate was a serious problem. [my emphasis]
SICAD II (SICAD=Sistema Complementario de Administración de Divisas) is an exchange rate system that, as Weisbrot explains, seems to offer some practical hope of moderating inflation generated via the black market exchange rate.

Capital controls are not simple. But the lack of capital controls that the neoliberal gospel demands can be ruinous, as well. As examples from Mexico to Argentina to Greece and Spain illustrate.

Also in Venezuela, far-right protests and street blockades continue:

Desprendieron barandas y cerraron la avenida Guajira con C2 Panorama 14.05.2014

Detenido en protestas de Las Mercedes hijo del gobernador de Guárico Últimas Noticias 13.05.2014

Al menos 90 estudiantes fueron detenidos por la GNB en protesta en Altamira El Informador 14.05.2014

80 detenidos en protesta opositora en Caracas Últimas Noticias 14.05.2014:

Ya en el lugar, un grupo de manifestantes violentos comenzó a lanzar piedras y fuegos artificiales contra la fachada del ministerio de Turismo y fueron dispersados con gases lacrimógenos por grupos antimotines que, de inmediato, realizaron la masiva redada.

Pero cuando los camiones con detenidos intentaban trasladarse por la avenida principal del municipio Chacao, donde se han desarrollado la mayoría de las protestas opositoras, un grupo de vecinos obstaculizó su tránsito al grito de "¡Suéltenlos!".

Venezuela cumplió más de tres meses de protestas opositoras con reclamos por la violencia criminal, la detención de estudiantes, la inflación anualizada de 60% y la escasez de productos básicos como café, leche o azúcar, que han dejado un saldo de 42 muertos y más de 800 lesionados, así como centenar y medio de denuncias de tortura.

[In the location, a group of violent demonstators started to throw rocks and fireworks against the façade of the Ministry of Tourism and were dispersed with tear gas by groups of riot police who who suddenly made a massive raid.

But when the vehicles with those arrested tried to pass the main avenue of the Chacao district, with the majority of the opposition protests have taken place, a group of neighbors blocked their passage with the cry of, "Release them!"

Venezuela has had more than three months of opposition protests with grievances over criminal violence, the detention of students, the annualized inflation of 60% and the shortage of basic products like coffee, milk or sugar, which has left a balance of 42 dead and more than 800 wounded, as well as 150 denuciations for torture.]
And formal talks between the government and the main opposition groups united in the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) have been proceeding, though the far right led by Leonardo López and María Corina Machado have been boycotting them. This week, MUD announced they were "freezing" participation in the talks until the Maduro government shows more concrete responses. (MUD exige al Gobierno hechos para reactivar el diálogo El Universal 14.05.2014) The practical effect of this declaration is unclear to me at the moment.

Maduro: Yo no me voy a parar de la mesa de diálogo Últimas Noticias 14.05.2014

Here is Nicolás Maduro talking about the dialogue process and various projects his government plans, Maduro: Yo no me voy a parar de la mesa de diálogo Últimas Noticias 13.05.2014:

Machado has been in Canada in recent days promoting the far-right effort to overthrow the elected government of Venezueala. (María Corina Machado sostuvo reunión privada con Canciller de Canadá El Universal 07.05.2014; Canadian Parliament welcomes former Deputy Machado El Universal 05/08/2014

There continue to be real concerns about torture in Venezuela, as expressed by Amnesty International, for instance: Amnistía Internacional preocupada por situación en Brasil y Venezuela Últimas Noticias 13.05.2014; Amnistía Internacional acusa a los gobiernos de América de adoptar un enfoque hipócrita respecto a la tortura AI press release, 13.05.2014.

Recent violence that appears to have come from the radical far-right opposition includes the assassination of a state intelligence chief (Z.C. Dutka, Venezuelan Intelligence Chief Murdered, 11 Protestors Indicted after Thursday’s Mass Arrests Venezuela Analysis 05/09/2014):

Yesterday at noon, Rafael Celestino Albino Arteaga, 44, Vargas state chief of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), was shot dead by an unidentified male assailant in a shopping mall in the western city of Maracay.

Arteaga’s killer, witnesses say, pointed a gun at him with the apparent intention of robbing him. After Arteaga turned over all of his possessions, the man shot him twice and then fled.

This marks the second murder of a Venezuelan intelligence officer in recent weeks, the first being Eliecer Otaiza, ex-chief of CIDIP, the national intelligence agency that preceded SEBIN. Otaiza was found dead on April 27th, and his suspected murderer (now in custody) had clear political motives, official sources say.

Tags: , , , ,

No comments: