They're At It Again

 In their never ending quest to solidify their grip on power the Chavistas (Maduro) never let the constitution get in their way. They established the ANC (Constituent Assembly), Chavismo’s parallel National Assembly,which usurped the power from the duly elected (opposition controlled) National Assembly, a clear violation of the constitution. We will delve further into this in future Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole segments but suffice to say it was done with the blessing of the TSJ (Supreme Court),again,more fodder for future writings.

 Then,when they didn’t sweep the regional elections and some states had the temerity to vote in opposition governors,the Chavistas invented a new position in their system of government, the “Protector of the People.” There is no provision in the constitution for this but The Chavistas invented it and Maduro appointed loyal Chavistas to all these positions,again, with the blessing of the TSJ. They needed to protect “the people” (Chavismo) from these elected officials.

 Now it’s the Communal Cities Project.” They are still ironing out the details but, according to Provea, it means approving a communal state different from what is stated in the constitution.The project proposes transferring resources and attributions to authorities that will not be elected with direct votes. Maybe they didn’t want the hassle of forming another ANC or inventing another new ministry, it’s difficult to keep track of all those new ministers. Since all the existing entities have failed in all areas I guess it was time to invent a new one. Sort of a new twist to Chavismo’s “fire the minister” strategy. We’ll have to see what it will do and won’t do when they finally release all the details but you can be assured of a couple of things. One, it won’t be accountable to the people. And two, it won’t protect the people (from Chavismo). Yes folks, They’re At It Again.

 Oh, and one more item in the insane Venezuelan political arena. They have elections coming up in November for more than 300 state and local positions. You know, the ones the Chavistas say they welcome the international community to observe. Well the two main opposition figures in this drama will be Hernique Capriles,a blast from the past,who narrowly lost the 2013 election to Maduro (most people think he actually won),and Juan Guaido,another much diminished figure. Both they and their subsequent parties have been banned from participating but, in their endless desire for fair play, the CNE (electoral council) is working on a plan for a new “umbrella” political party to allow participation. Uhhh, isn’t that the same thing as MUD, the opposition “umbrella” party that the Chavistas have been unconstitutionally destroying since the opposition’s (MUD) landslide victory in 2015? The hits just keep on coming.

 Let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole…

 I titled this chapter of Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole  “Just The Basics” for a very simple reason. Once you get past ensuring the safety and security of the population as well as availability of food, (these will be discussed later) there is nothing more basic the government must provide than water and, in the modern world, power. You know, the things we take for granted. Turn on the tap and water comes out. Flip the switch and the lights come on. You would assume that a country with an abundance of natural resources and especially one more or less swimming in oil you would have no problem providing these essentials. You would be wrong. Let’s start with power generation and distribution.

 When I first visited Venezuela in the nineties there were occasional power outages, as is common in third world or emerging market countries. They would last an hour or maybe a few hours and everyone adjusted to it.It was simply an annoyance. To a foreigner like myself it was actually kind of quaint. You know, “Well, there it goes again.” I was in a tourist area so the service was better that some locales and the capital of Caracas had better uptime than rural areas.

 When Chavez came to power one of the things he vowed to fix was the unreliable power grid, which was primarily hydroelectric power. With the abundance of fossil fuels and plenty of potential for thermal power generation, not to mention lots of rivers to expand the hydroelectric system, it simply had to be made a priority.

 In 2007 Chavez nationalized the various independent electric companies and combined them into one entity, controlled and operated by the government. To great fanfare, many new projects were announced, primarily thermal and hydroelectric. Natural gas was largely ignored, used for generating power for oil wells or simply burned off. It’s not hard to imagine the frustration of living in Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second largest city and heart of the oil industry, and seeing the flames of the natural gas burning off as you sit in darkness. “Hey, couldn’t we just use some of that stuff?” With the world’s largest proven oil reserves there is also a vast quantity of natural gas. It’s even more frustrating when you think that Maracaibo was the first city in Venezuela with electric power. 

 The prioritizing of increasing hydroelectric and thermal power generation wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, right? Better for both the people and the government, right? The problem, as with everything Chavismo- related, came in the implementation. The over $50 billion, yes $50 BILLION,spent on these projects has produced zero, yes ZERO kilowatts of power. Billions more were wasted, misallocated, or just disappeared.

 During the Chavez and Maduro years there were several times of crisis where major blackouts occurred and power rationing was put into effect. The primary reason for these was drought causing dangerously low water levels, primarily at the Guri Dam which provides the majority of the country’s power. During these times the government would point to the Tacoma Dam project (yes, one of those zero kilowatt gems) as the solution. Then the rains would return and everybody would forget about the drought. It was also a Chavista favorite to blame right wing terrorists, CIA plots to “bring down the revolution” etc.

 In 2013 and again in 2016 the government was warned about deficiencies and concern over the lack of maintenance. Their willingness to address the issue was typified by their response to union leader, Elio Palacios’, dire warning in 2018 that a crisis level event was imminent.They threw him in jail.

 To be continued….


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