American Elephants


The Decline and Fall of Another Socialist Paradise by The Elephant's Child

Venezuela-food-line-Reuters

Another socialist paradise is crumbling away. This time it’s Venezuela. They have already run short of milk, flour, vegetable oil, sugar and even toilet paper. They can’t manage to even keep baby formula in the stores. Now it’s drinking water. Residents in the capital of Caracas must wait for hours in line to fill jugs of water for drinking, cooking and keeping clean. Even the 5-liter bottles the government mandates are scarce. That’s what you get —5 liters for everything. There’s very little bottled drinking water.

Drought and crumbling infrastructure are blamed, but the socialist state also owes tens of billions to international bondholders and they couldn’t pay their debts and also import bottled water. They were afraid foreign creditors would seize their oil shipments, so they elected to pay $2.8 billion in interest on their foreign debt.

Blaming a drought caused by El Niño, the state-owned water company, Hidrocapital, began rationing tap water in Caracas in May. The Table of Democratic Unity (MUD) opposition party was having none of it, noting “the lack of responsibility and improvisation with which the government acts, postponing investments, maintenance, and opportune decisions.”

The government owes over a billion dollars of debt to foreign companies that provide its medicine, operate the telephones and import the food. Things have been falling apart for some time, thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets to protest. and many have been killed.

When Hugo Chavez died a year ago, he left an estate of $2 billion, which seems to be typical of socialist paradises. He, at least, had some ability in management as evidenced by the size of his estate. Actually he left a mess for his even less competent successor, Nicolás Maduro. Corruption, rampant crime and  economic mismanagement are driving protesters into the streets, not to mention hunger and need.

The Diplomad summed it up clearly back in February when things began really falling apart. This brilliant former diplomat is usually spot on:

A question for us, of course, is where is the United States? Nowhere. While our incompetent Secretary of State dashes about trying to convince Assad to give up power, and the Palestinians to stop being Palestinians, and the Iranians to stop being Iranians, and to convince us that “global climate change” is the gravest threat to our security, our neighborhood is on fire. Events are now transpiring in friendly and hostile Latin American countries with little or no regard or concern for the views of Washington. For the first time in some 150 years, the United States government (not so the private sector) is essentially irrelevant to much if not most of Latin America. In essence, we have no official views of any consequence re Latin America coming out of the White House, no functioning Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at State, and no active and calming US Southern Command at the Pentagon.



The Collapse of Government Medicine in Socialist Venezuela by The Elephant's Child

venezuela-is-struggling-with-a-historic-food-shortage
The shelves are bare in Socialist Venezuela. The people are scrambling to find toilet paper, sanitary napkins and disposable diapers. Milk and automobile parts are also in short supply in the country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves.

Now medical care is in short supply. The country’s 1999 constitution guarantees free universal health care to Venezuelans, yet of the country’s 100 fully functioning public hospitals, nine in 10 have just 7 percent of the supplies they need.

Doctors not allied with the government say many patients began dying from easily treatable illnesses when Venezuela’s downward economic slide accelerated after Chavez’s death from cancer in March. Doctors say it’s impossible to know how many have died, and the government doesn’t keep such numbers, just as it hasn’t published health statistics since 2010.

Almost everything needed to mend and heal is in critically short supply: needles, syringes and paraffin used in biopsies to diagnose cancer; drugs to treat it; operating room equipment; X-ray film and imaging paper; blood and the reagents needed so it can be used for transfusions.

Last month, the government suspended organ donations and transplants. At least 70 percent of radiotherapy machines…are now inoperable in a country with 19,000 cancer patients – meaning fewer than 5,000 can be treated, said Dr. Douglas Natera, president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation.

Venezuela has a limited private health care system, but even the 400 private hospitals and clinics are overburdened and strapped for supplies, 95 percent of which have to be imported. The private system has just 8,000 of the country’s more than 50,000 hospital beds, but treats more than half of the country’s patients, including the 10 million public employees with health insurance. Insurers, many of which are state-owned, are four to six months behind in payments and they cannot meet payrolls and pay suppliers.

Worse, government price caps set in July for common procedures are impossible to meet, Rosales said. For example, dialysis treatment was set at 200 bolivars ($30 at the official exchange rate and less than $4 on the black market) for a procedure that costs 5,000 bolivars to administer.

“The health care crisis is an economic crisis. It is not a medical crisis,” said Dr. Jose Luis Lopez, who oversees labs at the Municipal Blood Bank of Caracas.

Single-payer health care is socialized medicine. Obama’s health care advisers were uniformly great admirers of the British National Health Service, probably because medical care that was “free” at the point of service has made the British dependent on government for care, and often returned the Labour party to office. It has evolved into a national shame.

There are always some who believe that health care is so important that it should be socialized, that it should be a “right.” When you have a nation of people who are using health care as much as they want with no restraint, you soon do have an economic crisis.



The Wonders of Socialism. by The Elephant's Child


Venezuelan President-for-Life Hugo Chávez has introduced “the Good Life Card, which he claims is an instrument to make shopping for groceries easier.   Some Venezuelans are suspicious.  They see it as a rationing card similar to the one used in Cuba.

Roberto León Parilli, president of the National Association of Users and Consumers told El Nuevo Herald, “It would use more advanced technological means [than those used in Cuba] but when they tell you where to buy and what the limits of what you can buy are, they are conditioning your purchases.”

Chávez said on Tuesday that the card could be used to buy groceries at the government chain of markets and supplies.  “I have called it a Good Life Card so far,” Chávez said . “It’s a card for you to purchase what you are going to take and they keep deducting.  It’s to buy what you need, not to promote communism, but to buy just what you need.”

Venezuela has had recurring problems with shortages of supplies.  The card appeared when things began to become scarce.  Although the cards were introduced as a mechanism to deal with scarcities, they could easily become  an instrument of control.  Nothing gives a government more power than having people depend on you to get your food quota.

Chavez is an adherent of Bolivarianism, ideas drawn from Simón Bolivar.  He was long acquainted with Latin American socialist traditions.  From a young age he has been influenced by the Cuban revolutionary doctrines of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, and the writings of Noam Chomsky.

He became president in 1999, and has gradually increased control over the country, and as usual in communist countries, Venezuela has continued to slowly fall apart.  The government got control of the national oil company in 2003.  A 2010 OAS report found concerns with freedom of expression, human rights abuses, authoritarianism, press freedom, threats to democracy and erosion of separation of powers, the economic infrastructure and the ability of the president to appoint judges to federal courts.  OAS observers were denied access to Venezuela.  Chávez rejected the report because its authors didn’t visit Venezuela.



Putting Things into Perspective. by The Elephant's Child

From Richard Fernandez, blogging at Pajamas Media:

With regional enemies challenging the new Iraqi government by sending car bombs against the police it is interesting to note that in many ways the upheavals are worse even closer to home.  Seventy two persons, perhaps illegal immigrants drawn by a border which politicians refuse to close, were found dead in a Mexican ranch close to the US border.

Things are much, much worse than Mexico in that socialist paradise Venezuela, which the NYT says is far more dangerous than Iraq.  So bad in fact that the government has ordered the newspapers not to report any more killings.

In Iraq, a country with about the same population as Venezuela, there were 4,544 civilian deaths from violence in 2009, according to Iraq Body Count; in Venezuela that year the number of murders climbed above 16,000.

Even Mexico’s infamous drug war has claimed fewer lives.

Sometimes a few statistics help to put things in perspective.   It is a complicated, difficult world out there; and it is incumbent on us to struggle to understand what is going on.  A  job most of us have far too little time for.



21st Century Socialist Vision Turns the Lights Off in Venezuela. by The Elephant's Child
May 1, 2010, 8:10 am
Filed under: Energy, Latin America, Politics, Socialism | Tags: , ,


Venezuela, one of the world’s great oil powers — one of the top five providers of crude oil to the United States — is having trouble keeping the lights on at home.  Every day for the past three months, government-programmed blackouts means the lights flicker and go out, in a once prosperous country.

A months-old energy crisis and state interventions are taking a brutal cost on private business.  It’s a major challenge for Venezuela’s President-for-life Hugo Chavez, and his vaunted 21st century socialist experiment.

“The government is paralyzed, unable to handle the situation — and there are no fiscal plans to deal with the crisis,” said José Guerra, a former Central Bank economist who directs the economics department at Central University in Caracas, the capital.  “Our situation is unbelievable, because we have one of the biggest reserves of oil in the world, thermal-electrical and hydroelectric sources.”

Chavez hails his 21st century socialism as the answer to American-style capitalism that he calls an abject failure.  The oil industry is pumping 20% less crude than in the 1990s and is saddled with debt.  Venezuelas hydroelectric plants are unable to generate enough power because they have failed to make the necessary investments to upgrade facilities.  The inflation rate could rise to 35% this year, economists say. Thousands of factories have closed since 1999 for lack of access to money.

To save energy the government has imposed rolling blackouts in cities that can last as much as four hours or more a day.  And they fine  businesses that use too much energy.

They always think that socialism will bring a brighter tomorrow.  But the lights are going out sporadically in Venezuela.

When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?



Hugo Chavez has Sent the Army to Change all Lightbulbs in Venezuela to CFLs. by The Elephant's Child

Venezuela has had a bad drought that has dried up the hydroelectric plants that supply more than two-thirds of its power.  The country has been suffering through the worst energy crisis in the last 50 years.  But Hugo Chavez has a solution.

The Venezuelan president-for-life  has sent the Venezuelan army out to distribute thousands of Firefly energy-efficient CFL bulbs.  They have also put electricity rationing into effect.  It seems that Venezuelans are the highest energy consumers per capita in Latin America.  Venezuelans use more than 1,000 Kilowatt hours per person more than the  second most enthusiastic users in Chile.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the government’s heavy-handed approach, which includes a vigorous education campaign and fines for major domestic energy consumers.  Businesses worry that the forced blackouts, rationing and fines may severely effect Venezuelan productivity.

Obama has set aside $3.4 billion  in Stimulus funds to “jump-start” “Power Grid 2.0″ in the U.S.  No details on when the army will arrive with twisty lightbulbs.



Kindred Spirits! by American Elephant
April 17, 2009, 5:10 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, News the Media Doesn't Want You to Hear, Socialism | Tags: ,

obama-chavez1
obama-chavez2

Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez meet and greet with big smiles and affectionate gestures.

What’s not to love? They both favor seizing control of large swaths of the economy, buying the votes of a majority with free goodies paid for with money stolen from a small minority, had identical positions on the Iraq war, and they both regularly bash and smear America,




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