Unsettling violence in Mexico over the past year and a half has understandably provoked the question: is Mexico becoming a failed state? In our current edition of Foreign Policy, Sam Quinones argues that -- with more deaths due to drug violence than all U.S. deaths in Iraq since 2003 -- Mexico's chaos is spiraling out of control.
While we bear responsibility for our problems, the caricature of Mexico being propagated in the United States only increases the despair on both sides of the Rio Grande. It is also profoundly hypocritical. America is the world's largest market for illegal narcotics. The United States is the source for the majority of the guns used in Mexico's drug cartel war, according to law enforcement officials on both sides of the border.
Back in October, Krauze told Foreign Policy much the same thing. While he worried about Mexico becoming a narco-state, he maintained that the government was in control:
There are many municipalities that are clearly under the rule of the drug traffickers, and that’s frightening because of course they kill the journalists and they corrupt everything. There is a danger [of Mexico becoming a narco state], but it’s still an embryo.
Read FP's the full interview with Krauze, as well as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent Michael Sanders, here.
I'll start with the bad news for anyone with a pet guinea pig: this blog post is not about pets. It's about food staples -- the guinea pig being a major one for Peru, with 65 million of the critters eaten each year. In addition to genetically engineering the perfect pig, Peru celebrates its culinary tradition in splendid a guinea pig festival.
Alas, despite a bull market at home, exporting the creature has proven difficult in a world where guinea-pigs are at times more associated with cages and hampster wheels than with fine cutlery. But now from the blogosphere a rather brilliant suggestion: export to China. No qualms about pet vs. platter there. And guinea pigs are remarkably economical -- at just $3.20 to feed half a dozen people. Sounds like guinea pigs are a recession proof (even countercyclical) market. I'm investing now.
Hat tip: Double Handshake.
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images
As Bart Beeson wrote for FP, El Salvador's President-elect Mauricio Funes bills himself as a moderate leftist in the mold of Brazil's Lula da Silva, even though his party was once an armed guerilla group. So far, as McClatchy's Tyler Bridges writes, Funes seems to be following through.
Yes, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was the first to call to congratulate him on his victory, but Funes will be making his first official trip to Brazil rather than Venezuela and he met with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon at the American embassy in San Salvador yesterday.
It's still early of course, but it's looking like the first Latin American leader elected since Obama took office might be one he can work with. Could Chavez be losing his touch?
Jose CABEZAS/AFP/Getty Images
Former Mexican foreign minister and noted Latin American politics scholar Jorge Castañeda has a piece in this week's Newsweek, positing the fairly explosive theory that the two senior Cuban officials fired by Raul Castro this month were plotting a coup against the Cuban leader with the assistance of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. It's a fascinating piece complete with palace intrigue, betrayal and coded messages hidden in baseball metaphors. But is any of it true?
CNN.com has a lengthy piece today featuring the baffled reactions of Cuba-watchers to Castañeda's theory:
Robert Pastor, who served as a Latin America National Security adviser for President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s, returned Saturday from a weeklong visit to Cuba. Pastor said he wrote Castaneda a letter upon his return expressing his disbelief in Castaneda's contentions.
"This is Jorge at his most creative," Pastor said Tuesday.
Louis A. Perez Jr., a Cuba scholar who has written 12 books on the nation, also expressed his doubts.
"Where is this coming from?" Perez asked. "I operate with the idea that there has to be some standard of plausibility. Is there discontent in Cuba and was Lage seen as the heir apparent? Yeah, that's the conventional wisdom since last year. But that there's a conspiracy between Lage and Perez Roque? I don't think so. It would be helpful if the people who write these reports cross the barrier of speculation."
Castaneda freely offers that he has no proof, calling his thesis "informed speculation."
"I have no way to substantiate any of this," he said by telephone Tuesday from Mexico City. "I have no evidence of it."
To be fair to Castañeda, "informed speculation" is probably the best we're going to get in terms of Cuban political analysis at the moment. His theory seems as good as any of the others (It is a bit strange that Chavez hasn't publicly commented on any of this yet.) and at least it has the virtue of being entertaining.
Last week, my colleague Greg and I prepared a photo essay, "Spring Break Gone Wrong?" about how a recent U.S. State Department travel alert about drug-related violence in Mexico might have some college students rethinking their spring break plans.
But, really, how worried should Americans and other tourists be? The violence is limited to specific areas of Mexico, and the victims have primarily been people involved in the drug trade (which, by the way, exists to feed Americans' demand for drugs). In fact, it appears that in Mexico, the biggest danger young American college students face is themselves -- and their poor judgment. The State Department's travel information about Mexico states:
Alcohol is implicated in the majority of arrests, violent crimes, accidents and deaths suffered by U.S. citizen tourists.
(It also states that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death, but doesn't say what fraction involve alcohol.)
The video above, Spring Break 2009: Have Fun/Stay Safe, made by the U.S. Consulate in Mérida, Mexico, has an employee saying, "Ninety-five percent of the injuries that we see involve impaired judgment, reduced ability to respond to a situation because of drugs or alcohol."
So really, people, behave yourself around alcohol, and follow these seven pointers from the video:
As new president elect Mauricio Funes celebrates his victory in El Salvador, the world will be watching for answers to the inevitable question: has another Latin America country just turned to the Left?
The immediate answer is: yes. The victorious FMLN party claims deep Marxist roots -- having emerged out of an alliance of rebel groups from El Salvador's bloody civil war in 1992. FMLN appealed to voters who are fed up with poverty, crime, and the inertia of a decades-in-power ruling ARENA party. The party fell hard for Obamamania to get its point of "change" across.
But just how radical is the FMLN? That's a much more interesting thing to ponder. Funes himself is a moderate, but others in the party are less so. During the campaign, the now president elect stressed his business friendliness, and intention to keep up a strong U.S. relationship. But CATO analyst Carlos Hidalgo is still concerned. In a podcast last week, he said that high-ranking FMLN party members (including the Vice President) were intent on dismantling market reforms, dropping out of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and emulating Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution. That could undo gains including the near-halfing of poverty since the end of the war, Hidalgo worries.
Watch and wait, it seems. For now, as Bart Beeson writes for FP, the victory is exactly that for a country long troubled by civil conflict. Everyone seems to agree no matter how far left the FMLN may be, it's better that they've taken their revolution out of the jungle and into voting booths.
After the Gordon Brown debacle, you would think the White House would put a little more thought into planning for visits by visiting heads of state. But Brazil is already grumbling about the treatment of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who will sit down with Obama this weekend and is the first Latin American leader to visit the White House under the new administration.
Silva aides said the trip was pushed forward from Tuesday because of the St. Patrick's Day holiday - making Latin America once again look like an afterthought. Then, the White House announcement misspelled his name as "Luis Ignacio" and put "Lula" - a nickname that decades ago became a legal part of the Brazilian leader's name - in quotes.
I'm sure he'll feel better when he gets his DVDs.
I know Obama's got bigger things to worry about, but there is a whole office of protocol that's supposed to take care of these things. If they can put together a Stevie Wonder concert, they should be able to arrange White House visits from the world's most important leaders with a little more class than this.
I haven't really been paying attention to this year's World Baseball Classic, but my interest was piqued when I saw that the Dominican Republic, which supplies 10 percent of Major League players and which -- despite being A-Rod-less -- sports by far the WBC's scariest roster, was knocked out of competition after being defeated twice by the Netherlands, whose big league stars consist of...um...Sidney Ponson. (He's from Aruba.) I know that playoffs are a crapshoot and weird upsets can happen (Australia beat Mexico too!) but honestly, what's up with the DR?
Another thought: It's a rare event when a wealthy country like the Netherlands beating the tar out the Dominican Republic is covered as a feel-good Cinderella story. What does Parag Khanna think about all of this?
Al Bello/Getty Images
Forbes released its annual billionaires list today and not surprisingly there are a lot fewer of them. One interesting new name did manage to sneak onto the list this year. Joaquin Guzman Loera of Sinaloa, Mexico, is tied for #171 on the list with an estimated fortune of $1 billion.
Guzman's industry is euphamistically described as "shipping," but "El Chapo" is actually Mexico's most infamous drug lord and has a $5 million bounty on his head. Guzman is the first trafficker to make the list since Pablo Escobar in 1993.
FP's new photo essay has more on Mexico's ongoing drug violence.
Raul Castro made some big changes in a cabinet shake-up in yesterday. The Cuban president consolidated ministries, appointed loyalists, and sent some of Fidel's former confidants packing. The message seemed clear enough: I'm the Castro of the family now. Or, as Jaime Suchlicki, a Cuba expert at the University of Miami, told me, "Power is in the hands of Raul... Fidel is not relevant."
While the reorganization was likely a domestic calculation, there are
several points worth flagging for Cuba watchers beyond Havana's ports.
First, it is increasingly clear that the military -- Raul's closest ally -- will be the winner in his government. Top posts went to uniformed allies of the Cuban president, only adding to the stronghold grip that the military has over the economy, controlling over 60 percent.
One department in the recent shake-up is telling: agriculture. High food prices and shortages have fueled discontent in recent months. So Castro has put food production squarely in military hands. Just six months ago, Raul Castro allowed peasants to borrow land from the government for cultivation -- a measure he hoped would spur both public and black market supplies. Now, he wants the military to bring even more "efficiency" to cultivation. "He wants to try to increase food production to calm down the Cuban people, who are upset," says Suchlicki.
Is the move one step further towards talks with the Obama Administration? Or perhaps a signal that Fidel's health continues to decline? I can't tell you the answers, but at least now we know who to ask: While Fidel strolls in the park, Raul is running the show.
FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images
Over the years, a lot of people have wanted Venezuela's loquacious president Hugo Chavez to just be quiet for a minute. The King of Spain even said "shut up" to his face one time. Now, even Chavez's own doctor wants him to pipe down. The president will not be silenced though:
"I am a little affected by the intensive, continuous and permanent use of this cannon I've got here and the doctor has told me not to talk," Chavez said to audience laughter.
Chavez immediately responded that silence was not the best medicine for him.
"I said 'listen friend, do what you can but how am I going to follow this treatment?' Three days without talking? I lasted one, not even one," Chavez said at the start of a television show he presents every week.
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images
In his first on-the-record meeting with the media, held Wednesday, CIA Director Leon Panetta discussed the destabilizing effects of the global economic crisis. After he expressed particular concern over potential trouble in Argentina, Ecuador, and Venezuela, the Argentines are not happy. Yesterday President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner summoned the U.S. Ambassador to discuss the CIA director's comments, and speaking at a news conference, Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana had this to say:
We consider the statements an unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of our country, even more so coming from an agency that has a sad history of interference in the internal affairs in the countries in the region."
While economists are predicting that Argentina's GDP will contract next year, none of them seem to be forecasting this sort of doomsday scenario. Ambassador Earl Wayne claims that Panetta's statements do not reflect the U.S. government's official position, but rather the CIA chief was merely recounting the opinion of a "foreign source." Even if that is true, it's hard not to get the feeling that the CIA is once again causing trouble in Latin America.
Paul J. Richards/GETTYIMAGES
Two days after Venezuela celebrated the passage of a referendum to remove term limits, the country still seems to be shaking off a hangover. Analysts the world over are mulling over the Venezuela's rising inflation, alarming debt burden, and perceived fiscal shortfall as oil prices fall to dismal lows.
Putting it more frankly, a former Venezuelan central bank official says the country is headed for certain stagflation. "A model based on the state entrepreneurial role is being depleted," he told El Universal. Rough words for a President who has nationalized the oil industry, among others, and may soon do the same in banking.
But if the markets say anything, it is that Chavez will simply have to start reigning in his popular but extensive spending -- something he'd avoided doing until the votes were cast. The country's currency rose on precisely those hopes yesterday.
From the looks of it, Hugo Chavez did indeed enjoy the hell-of-a party in Caracas on Sunday night, celebrating his big win. Good thing. One of the catchier slogans of the campaign, "Oh, ah, Chavez no se va!", is Venezuela's reality: Chavez isn't going anywhere. Is he sure it's a job he wants anymore? La recesion, tampoco, no se va...
Photo: THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images
Hugo Chavez: destroyer of Venezuela or savior of the country's poorest? Whichever you believe, after Sunday, it's very possible that Chavez could be around to stay for another 10 or 20 years.
Venezuelans go to the polls Feb. 15 to vote on a referendum over whether to lift term limits for their president and other public officials. Chavez has called the referendum the crux of his self-titled bolivarian revolution. The opposition decries his increasing grip on power.
On the eve of the event, FP is featuring arguments from both sides. Check out Lucy Conger's take on how crashing oil prices could stop Venezuela's international ambitions in their tracks. Meanwhile, in an interview, two pro-Chavez legislators say that the fate of their country depends on Chavez. Off to the polls!
Photo: JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images
A group calling itself the Armed Movement of the North has apparently begun issuing communiqués threatening subversive action against the Mexican government and foreign-owned companies in drug violence-wracked northern Mexico:
In the communiqués, issued Jan. 1 and 24, the group claims to have members in five northern states: Durango, Sonora, Baja California, Chihuahua and Coahuila. The latter two border Texas....
The communiqué added that the group is made up of students, professionals and workers, mostly from urban areas, with the goal of "defending the sovereignty of the Mexican people over the aggressions of foreign capital, imperialism and the abuse and injustices of the current government."
The communiqué said that the group will not launch an armed uprising against the government but instead will focus on forming small independent "cell groups" that would be "infiltrated into the institutions of the state."
Mexican authorities are downplaying the risk saying that the groups claims about itself are unverifiable. Given what Mexico has on its plate right now, let's hope it stays that way.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez reportedly told an interviewer that former Polish President, Solidarity leader, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa has been banned from entering the country to speak to a student opposition group:
Chavez instructed authorities on Tuesday to ensure that Walesa does not enter Venezuela, which is preparing for a Feb. 15 referendum on a proposal to lift term limits for all elected officials.
Chavez made the comment after an interviewer suggested that Walesa had received a new invitation.
Granted, Walesa has turned into a bit of a blowhard in recent years, (a Polish friend once told me that he can only stand to read Walesa speeches after they've been translated into English) but the role he played in Eastern Europe's struggle for democracy is legendary. Chavez just put himself in some pretty bad company by denying him the right to speak.
Photo: JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Wen Jiabao was one thing, but Fidel Castro?
Today's "Reflections of Comrade Fidel" (in Spanish) column is a fun one. In it, the communist leader blasts the Obama adminstration and congressional Democrats for their protectionist tendencies (Translation assist from Blaine Sheldon):
To please the unions that supported them in the campaign, the U.S. House of Representatives, dominated by the Democrats, launched the extremely protectionist slogan 'buy American products', which throws aside a fundamental principle of the World Trade Organization: that all nations of the world, large and small, base their dreams of development on the exchange of goods and services, for which, however only the largest and those of natural wealth have the privilege to survive.
When Fidel Castro is lecturing the U.S. government on the principles of international capitalism, you know that something strange is afoot in the new world order.
Photo: ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images
So much for weaning ourselves off dependence on foreign energy sources.
It turns out Bolivia has almost half of the world's supply of lithium, and President Evo Morales wants to cash in. As the movement towards producing battery powered vehicles gains momentum, analysts expect demand for the element to grow with it. Unfortunately, a huge portion of these reserve are in a single country, run by a president with a penchant for nationalizing major commodity industries and an aversion to the United States. This could cause major problems for car makers as they seek promote new models such as the Chevy Volt and a plug-in version of the Ford Escape. As one local leader puts it:
We know that Bolivia can become the Saudi Arabia of lithium."
That doesn't sound promising.
Two new Castro death-watch developments today: first, a new photo has been released of the Cuban leader meeting with meeting with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez. In the picture, the track-suited Castro looks healthier and seems to have gained a bit of weight since his last appearance, suggesting that reports of his imminent death may have been exaggerated.
Second, in his new "Reflections of Fidel" column, Castro praises Barack Obama for closing Guantanamo Bay and reflects on his "intelligent and noble face," but predicts he will not see the end of Obama's first term:
I have shortened my "Reflections," just as I resolved to do this year, in order not to interfere or get in the way of the comrades of the Party and state as they make constant decisions about objective difficulties stemming from the world economic crisis. I am fine, but I insist, none of them should feel constrained by any of my Reflections, the seriousness of my condition or my death.
I am reviewing the speeches and materials I have elaborated over more than half a century.
I have had the rare privilege of observing events over such a long period of time. I receive information and meditate calmly on the events. I don’t expect to have that privilege in four years, when Obama’s first presidential term will have concluded.
Photo: Government of Argentina
The inauguration of Barack Obama wasn't just the event of the day in the United States. It received above-the-fold coverage in countries all over the globe, as Jan. 21's front page of the United Daily News in Taipei, Taiwan, above, shows. To see more Obama-blaring newspaper front pages from Namibia to Israel to Poland and more, check out this week's photo essay, "The Inauguration Heard 'Round the World," which features images obtained from the Newseum.
Hugo Chavez, following in the footsteps of "Blogger Fidel" Castro, today debuted a new newspaper column which will be regularly syndicated in several Venezuelan papers. With a translation assist from FP Web Developer Blaine Sheldon, here are some highlights from Chavez's first effort. He starts with a baseball metaphor:
The hardest lines I gave as a baseball player were always to the right side.Now, on the field of politics and revolution, these lines that today begin, will go to all sides with the equal force.Only now they go with the force of ideas, of conviction, of patriotic passion.
Barack Obama's inaguration doesn't seem to have dampened Chavez's enthusiasm for Yanqui-bashing:
The other road, in which the colonial Yankee sympathizers want to take us, would condemn our country to disability, to smallness, to a historic tomb; it is the road of capitalism and its political expression: the “bourgeois democracy.”We, the independents, go forward with the oath to which our leader Simon Bolivar made in Monte Sacro, August 15, 1805. We, the patriots, have a project, we carry a flag…Them, the colonialists, do not have an oath, they have no project, no flag. Or, better said, as we have seen in diverse activities of the Yankeee sympathizers, their flag backwards and upside down, of seven stars and not of eight as the mandate of Bolivar in Angostura, says everything—they represent the opposite of the country, they are the antithesis, they are the anti-Venezuela, they are the anti-Bolivar. They are the negation. They are the anti-homeland.
All of this is leading up to an appeal to voters to support a February 15 referendum that would allow him to extend his term as president:
Those who want the country, come with me!Those that come with me will have the country!
In truth, nothing in the column departs much from the familiar tropes of Chavez's rhetoric. Though it's possible that like Castro, he will soon tackle more esoteric subjects. In any event, his debut was still better than Bono's.
Renato Pérez Pizarro of the Miami Herald's Cuban Colada blog has a round-up of recent signs that Fidel Castro's health has taken a serious turn for the worse. Castro hasn't written his regular newspaper column since Dec. 15 or been photographed since Nov. 18. His friend and ally Hugo Chavez says he is unlikely to ever appear in public again. Perhaps most significantly, the leader who never spoke for five minutes when five hours would do, didn't make any public statements for the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution and released a very un-Fidel-like one sentence statement.
South Florida police are already discussing post-Fidel celebrations with local Cuban community leaders. The signs are certainly there right now, though I remember similar preparations being made during Castro's stomach surgery in 2006 and no one ever got rich betting against Castro's ability to hang in there. The 11th U.S. president since Castro took power will enter office next week and I have a feeling he won't want to miss it.
When President-elect Barack Obama and Mexico's President Felipe Calderon met today in Washington, the subject matter was as hot as the tortilla-soup they ate for lunch. Mexico is in the midst of a heated drug war that threatens to rip the country apart. The United States sends extensive aid to its southern neighbor to help out. But as the Council on Foreign Relations' Shannon O'Neil points out for FP's The Argument, the United States also supplies the demand for drugs, the money to pay from them, and the weapons that ratchets up the violence.
Then, there is immigration, where more than one politician has gotten burned. President Bush was among them, and even mentioned immigration in his nostalgic press conference today. Bush's proposal was beaten down brutally in Congress, before it died a quiet and unlamented death. NAFTA was also rumored to be on the table, too, with Calderon pressing Obama not to review the trade agreement, as the president-elect had promised on the campaign trail.
Both men left praising the others' efforts, and vowing closer cooperation. Both countries are economy focused, and now is no time for spats on trade. Mexico's economic growth is forecast to shrink from 2 percent to 1.8 percent, driven largely be the shrinking demand for Mexican products on Obama's side of the border.
Next up for Calderon: meeting with U.S. Congressional leaders and with World Bank President Robert Zoellick. Next up for Obama: proving his partnership with Mexico will last past lunch.
Photo: Martin H. Simon-Pool/Getty Images
Call it a virtual thrown shoe at the United States. Yesterday, 33 countries in Latin America met in Brazil to discuss regional cooperation and the financial crisis. Here's the flying one-two punch: The summit condemned the U.S. embargo on Cuba, blamed the United States for the financial crisis, and refused to let the northern neighbor attend. Ouch.
Like Muntadar al-Zaidi's famous act of protest, the shoe flew -- but may have missed the mark ever so slightly. Leaders were dismissive of Bolivian President Evo Morales's call for the region to expel U.S. ambassadors unless the Cuba embargo was lifted. And though host Brazil asserted its regional dominance, bickering prevented solid agreements on trade issues and further regional cooperation.
By the way, the strained shoe analogy is not entirely mine. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva found the metaphor too good to pass up -- threatening to throw his slipper at Venezuela's Hugo Chavez if he overspoke his podium time.
And then there were the instructions to press: "Please, nobody take off your shoes."
Photo: ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images
That's how bad it's gotten in Mexico. A U.S. security consultant who claims to have helped resolve over 100 kidnapping cases was himself kidnapped in northern Mexico last week.
Coahuila state law enforcement officials who were not authorized to be quoted by name said Batista had been giving talks to local police officials and businessmen on how to prevent or avoid kidnappings.
They said he apparently was snatched from a street outside a restaurant.
The Web profile of Batista _ later removed from ASI's site _ described him as "the primary case officer for all cases throughout the Latin American region."
If an anti-kidnapping expert isn't safe, who is?
Reading the latest headlines from the Rod Blagojevich scandal, David Carr sees the danger a downsized Chicago Tribune poses to American politics:
In a city and state where corruption is knit into the political fabric, a solvent daily paper would seem to be a civic necessity. But if another governor goes bad in Illinois — a likely circumstance given the current investigation and the fact that the last governor, George Ryan, is serving six and a half years on corruption charges — what if the local paper were too diminished to do the job?
Good question. Here's another one: What if thousands were being killed in an armed conflict that directly impacted U.S. security, and no U.S. reporters were there to cover it?
While much of the U.S. media and political establishment has been ignoring the ongoing drug violence in Mexico that has claimed almost 7,000 lives, severely weakend the Mexican state, and involved 50,000 troops, reporters from the Tribune-owned Los Angeles Times have largely been driving the story.
The turmoil in Mexico is already not getting the coverage it deserves. Without steady paychecks for Times reporters like Tracy Wilkinson and Ken Ellingwood, the full-scale war being waged just across the border might not be noticed at all.
Photo: ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images
Ecuador, surely the first of many countries to do so in the months ahead, is defaulting on its debt. And who does President Rafael Correa blame for this parlous state of affairs? The lenders, whom he calls "monsters" whose loans are "obviously immoral and illegitimate."
In any case, here's a possible side effect of Ecuador's default: prices of bananas may go up. Seriously -- Ecuador is literally a banana republic, and agriculture is a business fueled by credit. And after this move by Correa, it's going to be awfully expensive to borrow money in Quito.
UPDATE: Felix Salmon says the default is "idiotic":
In the annals of idiotic political decisions, today's default by Ecuador has to rank pretty high. [...] This debt has already been restructured twice, and there's zero chance that bondholders will agree to it being restructured a third time. They know that Ecuador has the ability to pay, and they don't like being bullied.
Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Political scientist Gustavo Coronel, an oil expert and former member of the Venezuelan congress, believes the plummeting petroleum payouts will seal the fate of Hugo Chávez's Bolivarian dreams, thanks to the Venezuelan leader's habitual failure to invest in any form of state infrastructure.
Speaking at the Andes colloquium organized by the George Washington University and the Strategic Studies Insitute, Coronel explained just how deep mismanagement runs within the state-run oil sector. This threw me for a bit of a loop:
"Under Chávez the company [PDVSA] has lost about 500,000 barrels per day of production capacity, which amounts to a loss of income of about $30 to $50 million a day, depending on the price."Ouch. Today, a barrel of crude petroleum is at a mere $39 on the Venezuelan market, down from soaring highs of roughly $145 earlier in 2008. To Coronel, this reality merely exacerbates the "termites" that have been eating the regime from within.
Having taken these steps, Coronel predicts Chávez
will not only lose a constitutional referendum that would permit indefinite
reelection -- similar to the failed attempt to ratify the country's constitution by popular vote in December 2007 -- but also fizzle well before his current term runs out in 2012.
Whenever he's suffered setbacks in the past, Chávez has always promised to accept the situation 'Por ahora' (For now). Save a petro rally, por ahora might be a while.
Photo: JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images
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