Outrun Change

We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

Bleak outlook for Venezuela

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

With the supreme court compromised, the president outmaneuvering the congress, all members of the military under the watchful eye of Cuban zampolits (political officers), and the most loyal members of the military allowed to enjoy the spoils, there doesn’t appear to be much hope for either a peaceful solution or near-term end to the massive, intentionally caused humanitarian suffering in Venezuela.

Here are two short comments on the escalating violence and a long discussion of a feature article on the collapse of democracy and the economy.

6/16/17 – AFP at Yahoo News – Venezuela mobs kick, burn thieves in lynching epidemic – What happens when governments take actions that prevent the economy from working and as a result people are starving? Thieves start robbing people of food at gunpoint (money isn’t worth stealing).

What happens when robberies get out control because there is so much disruption and the government can’t do anything to maintain peace and there is widespread suffering? Mobs start lynching robbers.

There were 20 reported mob driven lynchings in 2015, 126 in 2016, and 60 in the first five months of this year.

In one attack on an armed robber, the police were able to pull the near-unconscious man into a police car as the mob cheered having beaten him. Another reporter filmed a robber being set on fire.

As another indicator of the breakdown in the social contract, Venezuela has one of the highest rates of murder in the world. That merely 6 out of 100 murders results in jail time dangerously wears away at the idea of government being able (or willing) to maintain social order. That contributes to the vigilante justice.

In addition to the massive suffering due to shortages of food, medicine, and electricity, Venezuela is slipping into a life of vigilante justice.

6/22 – Al Jazera – One killed as Venezuelan Troops fire on protesters – Another day of protests.

Another day of protesters getting shot at point-blank range.

One died, two wounded.

Number of dead in the last three months is somewhere around 80.

(Yes, Al Jazera is pointing out the collapse of Venezuela.)

6/23/17 – Wall Street Journal – ”The Last Battle for Democracy in Venezuela” – Article provides an in depth description of the economic collapse, current political direction, how the country got into this horrible disaster, and the bleak prospects for an end to the suffering.

Shrinking opposition

Opposition to the destruction of the country is coming from the Congress and Attorney General. The government is working to get rid of the Atty. Gen. and has a plan to replace the Constitution and Congress.

The government has already taken over control of the Supreme Court. The military was purged in 2002 after an attempted coup and now appears to be completely controlled by the government. The Cubans took over indoctrination and training of the military after the coup.

Path forward to end democracy in the country

The most distressing news in the article is that President Nicolas Maduro has called for election of a National Constitutional Assembly at the end of July which will draft a new constitution. Current outline of the Constitution is that the Congress will be replaced as well as state governments. There will be some sort of vaguely defined communal councils that will have power instead.

One comment in the article is that the next election for the president will be the last election in the country.

I don’t think the institutions of democracy will last that long. I predict that the July 30 elections of the National Constitutional Assembly will be the last elections in the country.

The new assembly, or whatever it calls itself, will have 545 members and is described in the article as “a modern-day soviet.”

Both sides see this as a do-or-die moment. The opposition is going to increase protests. The government is expected to continue applying large amounts of tear gas and rubber bullets.

Economic indicators

In four years the size of the economy has shrunk by about one-third. Article further explains that is compared to the economic collapse in Cuba after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Inflation prediction for 2017 is still sitting at 720% with a forecast of 2000% in 2018.

In what was previously one of the richest countries in the hemisphere, it is common to see people picking through garbage heaps looking for food.

I’ve previously discussed the average weight loss of adults in the last year is 18 pounds. Also that you need to take your own medicine and bandages and other supplies with you when you have to make a trip to the hospital.

Vocabulary

Here are a few new words for your learning. From the article:

The government is not leading a “revolucion”, instead it is leading a “robolucion.” More of a robber-ution instead of a revolution.

Massive spending on a subway line merely added one stop to an already existing line. That line is now called the “Centi Metro” instead of the Metro.

Get it? Centimeter.

Another description of the country:

as oil-rich as Saudi Arabia, as authoritarian as Russia and as corrupt as Nigeria.

Corruption

There are extensive accusations of drug trafficking by members of the government, particularly involving the interior minister and current vice president.

Two nephews of the country’s first lady are cooling their heels in New York while they await trial for charges of trying to import 800 kg of cocaine into the US. Sixteen hundred pounds of coke.

A former planning minister, previously a confidant to the president, estimated that out of about $1 trillion of oil revenue during the reign of the previous president, about $300 million just disappeared.

Article says if you have connections to the government and you are an importer, you can get US dollars at the official exchange rate of 10 bolivars to the dollar. To make an astronomical fortune, an importer would not have to divert very much of the imports to the black market where the exchange rate is currently about 8,300 bolivars to the buck. Import something for 10 bolivars and sell it for 8,300.

Throughout history the way dictatorial regimes have increased their odds of not getting killed off by the military is to let the military enjoy a share of the plunder. Emperors in Rome shared plunder with the legionnaires. A new Emperor would pay out nice bonuses to all the soldiers when he took power.

Back during the Viking Age, Scandinavians warriors in the Varangian guard on the payroll of Constantinople were given one-third of the spoils of war to split amongst themselves. That is the same portion the Emperor kept for himself.

Likewise in Venezuela.

The Army now has permission to set up its own oil companies and its own mining companies.

The military has been placed in charge of most imports. One general is in charge of importing black beans. An Admiral is in charge of importing fish.

I am confident the 18 officers in charge of imports will spread the wealth amongst their troops. They want to live long enough to spend their money.

Prognosis?

The outlook? Not good.

The Supreme Court is controlled by the President.

Political control of the military by the Cubans and economic control of the military through structured corruption means it is increasingly unlikely that the military will do anything to end the massive suffering.

With the Congress soon to be vaporized, the opposition will have no power at all.

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