LatAm Venezuela : Powerpoint presentation
LatAm Final Project : Final Country Report (PDF document with graphs and charts)
The Inevitable Revolution: How Venezuela’s History Fashioned the “Bolivarian Revolution” of Hugo Chavez
By Brennan C. Full
Venezuela serves as a testament to the power of oil and the subsequent authority afforded to the international industry it spawned. The influence of this specific commodity far exceeds the financial realm, expanding into every minutia of society, shaping national psychology and identity. From decades of foreign control to oil revenues funding social reform, the relationship between the people of Venezuela and oil has been in constant flux. In order to truly understand Venezuela and its current socio-political atmosphere one must become acquainted with how oil shaped the politics of the past therefore irrevocably influencing the culture of today. Continue reading
A recent Reuters report revealed that PDVSA’s contributions to the state over the span of 2011 have tripled those of 2010. The report states that funds being transferred to the Bolivarian Missions have doubled in 2011 (reaching $8.5 billion) and that Chavez’s new program, “Great Housing Mission” received $2.4 billion. However, without discussing what Chavez’s social “missions” are or their track record of success the article does little to explain the actual significance of this increase.
The Bolivarian Missions are written off as “social projects” that have “assured Chavez’s popularity among the poor” without explaining how exactly these programs have been able to achieve such support. Looking at the declining unemployment, growing female labor participation rate, and increasing primary education attendance, the budget’s focus on such programs is encouraging. Although the drastic increase in spending may be a campaign move by Chavez, no more support would be gleaned if the programs proved to be ineffective.
Agreeably, the article closes alluding to the growing pressure being placed on the national oil company, making note of it’s growing debt and increasing need for investment. As operating costs rise and government’s dependence on PDVSA funding for programs grows we’re left wondering how much longer the company can carry on.
Over this weekend in Caracas, The president of Venezuela Hugo Chávez inaugurated the summit which lunched the beginning of a new unified block for Latin America and the Caribbean. Presidents from 33 countries started this past Saturday; December 3, 2011, the discussions on the platform and work agenda for the Community of Latin American and the Caribbean States (CELAC).
This just formed block is interesting, since left out Canada and specially the United States and includes the participation of Cuba and Mexico. All 33 countries are members of the Organization of American States (OAS),with the exception of Cuba that rejected OAS’s invite to become a member in 2009. Mexico participation is seen as an opportunity to strengthen ties with South America, gain influence in the Caribbean and Central America, which has strong relations with Venezuela, and moves its economy to a less USA’s dependency. For the most part the participant countries have been seen this new created block as a forum to discuss issues and cooperate in matters that concern closely his members, without the interference and influence of the largest economies in the continent, and European countries such as: Spain and Portugal, attached historically to the region.
This is not the end of the OAS, but it is a response to create a block in the region that break out the in some extent the hegemony of the United States and reflect the new circumstances in the global economy. For Chavez and some of his allies is a step closer to the Bolivarian dream.
On one hand, the challenge of this new community will be balancing the needs of large and small countries in a region with different levels of development. On the other hand, the advantage is the opportunity to acquire global bargaining power among all its members in issues that affect all of them, such as environment, drugs and external debt, to mention some of them.
Still considered one of the most famous cases of corruption in Venezuela, “El Chino de RECADI” exemplifies the overtly shameless levels of corruption among Venezuelan government officials and among the society at large. RECADI was the agency that was created to administer the newly created differential exchange rates in 1983. There was a preferential rate given to businesses claiming to be either importing necessary goods and services or using the cheaper foreign currency to pay interest on the foreign debt (Gates 2010). This soon proved to be almost a hoax, RECADI becoming synonymous with “magnet for corruption.” It was involved in scandals all throughout its 6 year existence. Out of $34 billion that were authorized for preferential rates, it was reported that over $11 billion went to fund corrupt transactions (Gates 2010). Everyone in society knew the trick: the agency workers handed over big chunks of cash in return for a nice commission given by businesses. Customs officials and police were often bribed so that they would sign off on imports that were indeed not necessary so that they may still qualify for the preferential rates. The rates were also authorized for friends and family members of both high and low level officials. Large phantom companies were also created in order to obtain the rates, moving millions of dollars through to several schemers.
The most interesting part of this whole ordeal was the end. After opening hundreds of investigations, only one conviction and arrest was made–a nationalized man of Chinese background, and the doorman of the RECADI building. After so many billions of dollars were stolen or fraudulently collected by so many parts of society, it was only this man that was served with punishment. Everyone else simply walked away with their million-dollar Miami mansions and shopping sprees.
Electing Chávez: the business of anti-neoliberal politics in Venezuela, by: Leslie C. Gates (2010)