Editorial Collective of El Libertario
Venezuela. The crisis: understanding the causes, assigning blame and suggesting solutions

While we are still suffering from the impact of the problems which had
intensified towards the end of 2009, such as the fraudulent
’Bolibourgeois’ bankers and the ongoing malaise throughout public
services, a host of measures recently undertaken by the government signal
a bitter start to 2010 for Venezuela. Firstly, there was the
implementation of a bulky devaluation, sure to increase inflation and
submerge a large sector of the population in misery. Next came the
announcement of electricity rationing throughout Greater Caracas - as had
been the [i]de facto[/i] case in the rest of the country - only to
subsequently be suspended due to the uproar and conflict it caused, but
now pending its reintroduction when the conditions are more permissive.
Let us, therefore, start with a brief synopsis of the characteristics of
the current crisis:

- The Bolibourgeois bankers’ fraud: the last decade has been an era of
bonanza and great fortune for the financial sector, thanks to generous
subsidy from the state, whose traditional monetary policy has done nothing
but work for their benefit. It is precisely because of this that the
sector became the focus of rapacious speculation on the part of the
Bolibourgeoisie (Fernández Berrueco, Zambrano, Arné Chacón, Pedro Torres
Ciliberto and the rest of the gang), leading to its unabashed pillaging,
with the public support of its official supervisors such as the Banking
Superintendent and the National Values Commission (governmental
organisation which oversees national capital, similar to the Department
for Business, Innovation and Skills in the UK - translator), encouragement
that eradicated any sort of nostalgia for Caldera’s (Chávez’ rightwing
predecessor - trans.) government and the financial crisis of the 90s, not
to mention the previous eras of speculation and con tricks within the
banking sector.

- The macro-devaluation: this is a measure taken at the demand of the
International Monetary Fund (IMF), who publically applauded it. It’s a
part of the classic neoliberal prescription that is administered by the
IMF, who granted the Venezuelan state a loan in 2009. Through inflation,
the devaluation will favour the financial sector and international
investments in the country, while inevitably slashing workers’ salaries in
real terms. The President subsequently announced - as a palliative - an
increase of the national minimum wage by 10% for 1 March and then 15% more
for 1 September. This decision, however, is derisory and ultimately
debunks the myth that our minimum wage is the highest in Latin America: it
will decrease by 62.3% with the fall of the Bolívar, due to the fact that
55% of all goods and services are acquired at the so called "petrol
dollar" rate (4.3BsF/US$1).

The official excuse is that it will make the national economy more
competitive, and therefore overcoming its ’rentier’ history; the sort of
foolish assertion that could only be accompanied by an unfettered
capitalist agenda. A media spectacle has been organised in order to
provide a distraction, with the governmental institutions in charge of
consumption attempting to convince us that what is happening is a spiral
of speculation, rather than inflation. At the same time, certain business
sectors have accepted the devaluation but haven’t responded, either due to
having an accumulation of goods, or merely being slow. The opposition -
in both its rightwing and social democratic forms - has restricted itself
to characterising the measure as an attempt to increase liquidity for
electoral purposes. They are right in this, of course, but they fail to
acknowledge its real motivation, being - as it is - a condition put in
place in order to favour capital and the state.

There is also another pernicious event to consider, in relation to the
manipulation of the exchange rate, administered by the Currency
Administration Commission (Cadivi in its Spanish initials - trans.).
Cadivi has seen various cases of corruption, such as the example of the
Micro Star business, in which Eligio Cedeño and Gustavo Arráez, both
Bolibourgeois, ended up being embroiled. These fraud cases are nothing
but a continuation of a trajectory of clientelist democracy in this area,
more so since Cadivi bears the legacy of the sadly-remembered Recadi
(Cadivi’s predecessor - trans.) from the 80s.

- The electricity problem: the electricity crisis emerged as a sequel to
the lack of maintenance of the production and distribution plants, as well
as the failure to invest in the 29 thermoelectric plants required as a
response to the increase in demand, of which five have been completed and
only three are in operation (to partial capacity). Moreover, the Planta
Centro (the largest thermoelectric plant in the country) has been
abandoned, and the proposed four dams in Alto Caroní - in the south of the
country - were never built. These projects have been fertile ground for
corruption and idleness, yet the government attempts to excuse their
problems with reference to the meteorological phenomenon of El Niño, a
hypothesis that has been roundly dismissed by experts. Meanwhile, the
country has to endure sacrifice in indefinite power cuts (with the
exception of Greater Caracas, for the moment), improvised suspension
schedules, irreparable damage to the electrical equipment and the
paralysation of other services (health, education, telecommunications,
etc) and human loss, all generated by the negligence of the state.

_The developmentalist, extractive and rentier capitalist model has failed!_

What is going on is a definitive demonstration of the inadequacy of the
model implemented after 23 January, 1958 (the date of the uprising against
military dictator Pérez Jiménez - trans.), continued by the current
government despite its supposed objective of "breaking with the
orientation towards ’puntofijismo’" (the practice of encouraging an
oil-reliant economy, the staple of Venezuelan politics since Pérez
Jiménez’ toppling - trans.). The state has prioritised the export of
fossil fuel energy; we have been desperately dependent on oil due to the
demands of a globalising economy. Of every US$100 exported in the last
year, $93 have come from hydrocarbons. PDVSA has become a financial
collection centre, even with reduced production and more seriously, its
partial compromise due to its enormous debts. Coal extraction continues
in Zulia state, despite being an environmental disaster, representing an
aggression against the Wayuu, Barí and Yukpa peoples. The integration of
Venezuela into the IIRSA (Infrastructural Integration of the South
American Region) is a test of the ability of "chavismo" to submit to the
dictates of international power. Equally, the permanent vacillations with
Colombia over the Proyecto Mesoamérica (previously known as the Plan
Puebla Panamá), in which gas from the two South American countries would
be delivered to southern and western US via Mexico and Central America,
demonstrates the current regime’s collaborationist intent as concerns
international capital, and simultaneously, an offensive disinterest in
preventing the planet’s destruction.

The productive sector is at its most limited due to unemployment, which is
massaged in official figures thanks to the "labour flexibility"
instrumented by the state, which contracts workers for a few, scarce
months in order to give the impression of generating work. Agriculture is
bankrupt despite the stridency given to the redistribution of lands, the
supposed endogenic development and dietary self-sufficiency promoted by
official propaganda. If we add to these vicissitudes the high crime
levels, inflation, lack of housing, the deterioration of public health and
the growing demand for private policies in public sector contracts, we can
conclude that the government is absolutely incapable of resolving its most
fundamental problems.

_Faced with disaster, let’s construct alternatives from below!_

The continuation of democratic populism - installed with the fall of Pérez
Jiménez - has been guaranteed by Hugo Chávez, who, with a charismatic and
messianic leadership style, has tried to preserve himself with a symbiosis
of populism, militarism and Stalinism. Following the decadence of the
"adeco-copeyana" era (the 40 years between Pérez Jiménez and Chávez, in
which two parties - the social democratic AD and the Christian democrats
of COPEI - dominated national politics - trans.), starting with Black
Friday in 1983, continuing with the "caracazo" of 1989 and the attempted
coups of 4 February and 27 November 1992, the military figure emerges like
a ring to the finger of established power, for whom a military leader has
been of use for more than a decade now. However, we reckon that this
particular "caudillo" is now on the descent owing to his woeful
administration, bringing with it the subsequent loss of governability.
Just like what happened in the case of Carlos Andrés Pérez (who was
sacrificed when there was a decline in his leadership), it’s possible that
both national and international interests will prepare his successor, as
has always been the case in Venezuelan politics. Of course, this will be
neither easy nor without conflict, for the political parties and other
forms of portioning power that are offered by the social democrat and
rightwing opposition only confront Chávez with a view to assuming control
of Venezuela and the rent of its oil. They have no positive responses to
the needs and demands of the popular majority.

With ourselves at such a difficult juncture, the alternative is certainly
not to be found within the electoral circus that will be offered to us
this year (parliamentary elections are due to be held in November time -
trans.), but in the development of popular social networks,
self-organisation and the autonomy of society’s various sectors, with
their own agendas and struggles. We call for the organisation of
manifestations of the genuine desire to be free and equal in every
possible space, in solidarity with base-level, independent organisations
of workers, women, peasants, indigenous, the young, the cultural sector
and all who find themselves socially excluded, in order to begin the
search for the emancipation of our society.

The Editorial Collective of El Libertario
www.nodo50.org/ellibertario - ellibertario@nodo50.org

[Translator: Alan J.]