It’s not hard to find criticisms of Hugo Chavez in this country. Their socialist experiment, we are told, is doomed for failure. The recent news of Venezuela’s currency devaluation and two-tiered exchange rate have some shrieking failure. Mike Shedlock, on his blog Mish’s Global Economic Analysis, had this to say,
Turn out the lights. The collapse of Venezuela is well underway. It will not be long before the country completely stops functioning, assuming you think Venezuela is functioning now.
I happen to think Venezuela is functioning. According to a recent study by the Venezuelan Institute of Data Analysis (IVAD), Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’s approval rating has dropped slightly, to 60.3%, from 62.4% last October. That’s about eight points higher than Obama’s approval rating here in the United States. Like the US and the rest of the world they are dealing with the economic crisis. However, unlike here in the United States where social spending is getting slashed across the board, “Venezuela’s 2010 Budget Maintains Social Spending…” According to Venezuela’s Minister for Finances and the Economy, Ali Rodriguez Araque:
The total budget for 2010 is 159.41 billion Bolivars (US $73.9 billion). Of this, 45.73% would be directed towards social spending aimed at poverty reduction and improving the quality of life for Venezuelans, Rodriguez announced.
The big question seems to be whether or not Venezuela can actually afford to continue its social spending in the wake of this economic crisis. In a previous post, Bob points out:
If you devalue the currency and make imports much more expensive, inflation will increase. Nationalizing a business does nothing to stop this. Nor does denouncing inflation.
Bob is probably right, but when I contrast our nation’s priorities during the bailout with those of Venezuela I’m left a bit envious. Where are the programs here to combat poverty, rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, create energy independence and the like? Whatever you think about Hugo Chavez, you should understand the Bolivarian Revolution underway there is much bigger than any one person. As I was researching for this article, I came across an interesting quote from Chavez’s brother Adan:
We conducted urban guerrilla work. But because of its clandestine character [of the Party of the Venezuelan Revolution] did not have contact with the masses. Furthermore they were very dogmatic and sectarian. like the MIR, it split and ended up disappearing. In order to achieve a revolutionary popular movement, which would allow the taking of power, one had to have a strong influence within the popular masses and have support within the Armed Forces.”
The dogmatic and sectarian nature of the Left in the US is something Bob has written about repeatedly here and I think in many ways the Bolivarian example offers clues on how we might move beyond that.