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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

President Chavez & Politics

During our stay in Venezuela, we haven't met any Venezuelan with good things to say about Chavez, but this could be because the people we met are mostly the English-speaking elite and middle/upper class who dislike him intensely because these policies are populist and anti-rich in nature.  They saw him as egoistic, dictatorial and communistic, and some considered him silly in wasting oil money for his grand projects and schemes to enhance Venezuelan prestige.  Many businessmen told me his policies have made business, planning and investment difficult. Many Venezuelans have also emigrated overseas.

 

A number decried Chavez's actions such as changing the country's official name (from Republic of Venezuela to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela), time (turn the clock back by half hour as Chavez complained that the time was too fast relative to the sun) and coat of arms (to turn the horse's head to the front upon comments by Chavez's daughter), which do not improve the country's competitiveness and well-bring. 

The country is full of political billboards and graffiti.  They often depict Chavez, Simon Bolivar, the socialist star, Che Guevara and other leftist figures.  Many states and cities called themselves "Bolivarian Socialist States" or "Socialist City".  Reminds me of Soviet slogans but with a Latin flavour.  Even then, one cannot deny that Chavez has the support of many if not majority of the Venezuelans, at least up till recently and perhaps will be for a while.  Whatever it is, Venezuela has become a very divided society 

 

For the moment, oil prices are high and Chavez is still able to pursue his socialist policies.  I wonder what would happen if oil prices fall.  Right now, Venezuela has the cheapest petrol in the world.  Our driver can fill an entire tank by paying merely a few dollars.  However, not all is well.  In Santa Elena when we stopped by a gas station to buy petrol, there was a long queue with some form of rationing going on.  When you see this in an oil-producing country like Venezuela, you know something is very wrong.

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