Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Chavez until 2030

Chavez is accelerating the process of turning Venezuela into an oil-rich version of Cuba. He has now added insult to injury and publicly stated his intentions to stay in power until 2030. Chavez's plan depends on increasing his parliamentary force from 51% to 70% in December's parliamentary election, thus enabling him to draft a new Constitution.

In case you are wondering, yes, it is likely to happen. The use of Smartmatic machines in 98.5% of voting centres will probably do the trick.

You don't have to be a Libertarian to notice that freedom is dying in Venezuela.

Monday, September 26, 2005

MAS: Chavez-style dictatorship or back to the UDP

In my previous post I argued that an eventual MAS administration would soon follow into Hugo Chavez' steps and evolve into a Morales dictatorship. It seems, however, that that is not the only alternative. Periodist Cayetano Llobet argues that a Morales government would have more in common with the UDP administration than with the Chavez one, perhaps triggered by the televised assertion by one MAS leader that they would govern from the streets rather than the parliament or maybe by the fact that MAS encompasses several left-wing parties and social groups. Read Llobet's article here (in Spanish). Thus, he argues, there is no reason to worry.

UDP, of course, stands for Unidad Democratica y Popular, or Democratic and Popular Unity. This party was a coalition of several left-wing groups, among them the Bolivian Communist Party (PCB), Siles Zuazo's Revolutionary Nationalist Movement of the left (MNRI) and Paz Zamora's MIR. They won the 1980 election with 38.7% of the vote, 18 points ahead of the runner up. Because of the Garcia Meza coup, UDP would not govern until 1982. When they did, however, the many parties in the coalition proved the Unity was not so united after all, and the administration was responsible for Bolivia's most acute economic crisis. By 1982, GDP had dropped 10%. Inflation skyrocketed to more than 24000% in 1985 while debt-service payments consumed 70% of export earnings. Silez Zuazo tried several stabilization programmes, but each was the centre of a political struggle between the COB and the middle classes. Outnumbered by the parliamentary alliance between Paz Estenssoro's MNR and Banzer's ADN, Siles Zuazo ruled by executive decree, which only made matters worse, as he tried to please both sides (COB and middle class) of the struggle, effectively losing credibility in his efforts. So, Siles Zuazo administration collapsed by the end of 1984 and called for elections in July 1985, which gave place to Paz Estenssoro's historic fourth term and, of course, to decree 21060, which outlined Bolivia's entrance into a free market model.

As it is possible to see from this brief remembrance of the UDP, Llobet's tranquility is rather amnesiac. Why, exactly, should we not worry? Either possibility is deeply worrying for me - both as Bolivian and Libertarian.

In any case, be it an UDP-like administration or a Chavez-style dictatorship, one thing is clear: God save us from Morales.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Do Quiroga's blunders justify voting for Morales?

In the past weeks, since the parties have announced their candidates, I have heard of more and more middle class people growing disillusioned with Quiroga and Podemos and switching to the MAS ranks. The fact that Quiroga included so many debris from other political parties, as well as Duchen as vicepresidential candidate seemed to do the trick. For an article on Quiroga's blunders and subsequebt loss of credibility, go here (in Spanish).

However, these people are not leaning for MAS because they want Morales as president or think their policies are appropriate - no party has spoken about policies yet. The reasoning behind this surge for MAS is different: People think that if Morales is not elected president, he will be quick to take the streets and paralyze the country again. On the other hand, if he becomes president, he will soon find himself against a myriad of problems -unrealistically high expectations, excessive demands from social sectors and aid cutoffs, to name a few- and will be forced to resign. The next government, the argument follows, will be the one to bring peace to Bolivia.

There are, however, two elements missing from this reasoning -the constituent assembly and Chavez.

As we know, one of the bigger tasks for the next government is the constituent assembly. If Morales gets elected, he will try to model the Bolivian constitution on his image, much like Chavez did in Venezuela. That means that the chances of ousting Morales with mere street protests is as good as none. (I won't go into discussing other effects of a long-term Morales potential dictatorship now).

The second element, Chavez, will prove important in two respects: First, logistic support for drafting the new Bolivian constitution, and second, financial support. The first point should be clear from the above paragraph. With regard to the second point, if the WB/IMF cut off financial aid, I believe Chavez will be quick to fill the void, at least until the new Bolivian constitution is passed. He has virtually unlimited resources from PDVSA and has shown no repairs in using them for political means. Moreover, as the case of the "Energetic Ring" shows, Chavez is eager to gain energetic control of the region and being Bolivia the second largest powerhouse of South America, it would be a welcome addition to his sphere of influence.