Ghosts Of Chavismo

 We’ll go Down The Rabbit Hole in a sec but first…Our friends at Caracas Chronicles report that Venezuela is haunting Argentina’s elections…again. Venezuela’s economic disaster is a cautionary tale that candidates use as a warning against their contenders. But in the current bizarre fight between a libertarian and a Peronista (socialist), both say the other is the next Chavez.

 The campaign brought back an “old ghost” to the conversation, Hugo Chavez, and the Venezuelan crisis. The libertarian candidate, Milei, has used Venezuela as an example of what will happen to Argentina if Massa, the Peronista (socialist) is elected. They will face off in a few days in a run-off election.

 Massa has been known as a “political pancake”, a reference to how many times he’s flipped. He was close to left-wing Peronista, Christina Fernandez de Kirshner, who was a firm ally of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.

 When she left office he supported many of the activities of Venezuela’s opposition and even supported “interim President” Juan Guaido in 2019.

 Later, with Alberto Fernandez as president, Massa returned to “Kirshnerism” and became the strongman of Peronism, as well as Minister of the Economy.

 Inflation in Argentina has reached 150%, the Argentine peso has devalued constantly, and poverty has skyrocketed. There is also currently a gasoline shortage in many provinces of Argentina. Kinda’ sounds like Venezuela, huh?

 One of the reasons for Massa’s success in the 1st round of voting was his ability to scare the electorate about Milei’s dollarization proposal, saying that adopting the dollar didn’t solve Venezuela’s economic problems. (In reality, de facto dollarization was responsible for Venezuela’s brief economic rebound and failed when Maduro made moves against the dollar)

 So, we have one guy, Milei, who wants to do something that actually worked in Venezuela and one guy, Massa, who wants to follow a more Chavista- like path. We’ll know soon enough who the voters in Argentina will choose but, as Thomas Jefferson said, “People get the government they deserve”.

 Now, let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole…

 Chapter 2/ continued…

 …In 2017 tensions boiled over and another round of mass protests erupted. The repression ratcheted up and over 140 protesters were killed, more than 1,500 wounded, and thousands arrested. This time the world was distracted by North Korea firing missiles so Venezuela was a secondary issue. Conditions  stayed the same for the Venezuelan people, they continued to die. The only change for the government was they finally defaulted on some of their bonds as the government was, for all intents and purposes, going broke. Due to oil revenues there was cash flow. There were also a number of countries and international organizations offering help for the Venezuelan people. Maduro still refused to do anything for his people, not allowing entry of aid into the country, just more bluster and denial.

 With the individual sanctions not having any effect on Maduro’s behavior, the US, sensing the time was right due to selective bond defaults, sanctioned the bond market so the government couldn’t issue new debt, and added more individuals to the sanctions list. The cash flow was still there as were the offers of international humanitarian assistance but Maduro continued to ignore the needs of his people.

 The outflow of migrants, which had been steadily increasing, became a tsunami, and for good reason. The situation for the Venezuelan people continued to deteriorate. In typical Venezuelan humor they referred to the starvation as “The Maduro Diet” with the average Venezuelan losing over 20 pounds. Over the next year and a half over 3 million Venezuelans would leave.

 The sanctions kept ratcheting up, now including the banking sector, and more individuals were added to the sanctions list. It was a measured approach designed to have an effect on the Chavistas and their irresponsible behavior while minimizing the impact on the general population. At each step along the way Maduro steadfastly refused to do anything for the Venezuelan people and they continued to die in ever-increasing numbers.

 Finally, the US had to make a choice. Continue on with the plan as is and watch as the death toll mounted and the migration crisis infected (literally) the entire region, or sanction PDVSA, the government-owned oil company, thereby negatively impacting 96% of government revenue (at least legal revenue). The idea was, if Maduro, who had a 13% approval rating, couldn’t afford to continue to buy the loyalty of the military, he would be forced to step down. These sanctions were not levied until 2019.

 When the sanctions were announced the Chavistas bemoaned the fact that they wouldn’t have enough revenue to provide much-needed food and medicine for the Venezuelan people and the Chavistas were the first to use the number of 40,000 deaths caused by sanctions. The number was then tossed around by all the usual suspects, supporters of the Maduro regime or those blindly wedded to socialist ideology. So, lets recap…

 For more than six years the Maduro regime had opportunity after opportunity to change policy and redirect funding to provide food and medical assistance to the Venezuelan people. They did noting while the death toll continued (and continues) to mount. Only in late 2019 did Maduro allow a shipment of humanitarian aid to enter the country by the Red Cross…ONE SHIPMENT!! Other humanitarian aid shipments have been blocked or confiscated by the regime solely to profit the Chavistas (as other aid languished in warehouses in countries surrounding Venezuela) and doing nothing for the people! (Can you tell I get a little worked up about this?) There was some aid allowed in from Russia and China but it was limited and administered by the Chavistas and primarily became a corruption mechanism or an extortion tool for political support.

 More tomorrow….

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