Venezuela’s useless elites

#Rosinesing

“That thing you just said,” he growls, pointing right at me, “that Cadivi is a subsidy for the rich … that is FALSE!”

My dad’s friend is a smart, well-respected maracucho lawyer, someone I looked up to when I was growing up. He’s fired up at my comment, his voice raised in anger, but also trying to overcome the deafening sound of the AC.

“You don’t live here, so you don’t know the number of poor and middle class people that benefit from Cadivi. Just the other day, I helped my secretary fill out her paper work so she could go to Aruba and use her cupo.”

And then it hits me: I’m not 12 anymore. I can be barked into a corner, but I don’t have to take it. I raise my voice even more, and fight back.

“No, tío, you’re the one who doesn’t understand,” I say, my face flushing. “Whether or not a policy is a subsidy for the rich doesn’t depend on the number of anecdotes you can collect. This is a technical issue, and from all we know, the vast majority of the dollars that are sold in Cadivi are not sold to people like your secretary, but sold to the bankers, the military, and the well-connected, to the people claiming they need $100 million when in fact they need $20 million, all so they can pocket $80 million at below-market price. That is free money, and it is coming from the pockets of Venezuela’s poor, from the people paying IVA at the bodega.”

I calm down, and it hits me. Venezuela is full of back-asswards policies that supposedly favor the poor but, in fact, favor the rich. Cadivi is just the tip of a mammoth iceberg that includes the gasoline subsidy, the free tuition for Universities, the toll-less roads system, the subsidized electricity prices, y pare usted de contar.

It’s always going to be a challenge to explain these things to the poor. How can you make someone with a fifth-grade education understand that letting the price of gasoline go up … actually benefits them? It’s not easy.

But this is not el pueblo acting thick, that fails to see the basics of social costs and benefits of stupid, corruption-inducing policies.

With few exceptions, these are the elite: the wealthy, the educated, the fat cats who have lived through El Gran Viraje, and Recadi, and the Otac. These are the people that saw the failure of La Gran Venezuela, and Corpomercadeo, and the CVG. These people … we still have to convince them that rentism simply doesn’t work? That money the government gives to these guys is money that is not available for this kid? That Metro systems that don’t work are a huge waste of money, even if a few poor people use it?

How hard is it to understand that when the rich get perks, this only makes us poorer?

Because, rest assured, the elites will be the first ones lining up when a new government – if such a thing ever materializes – tries to untangle the chavista mess.

If we can’t even count on the elites to back us up, if they will be the first one trying to stab reform in the back, then what hope is there?

56 thoughts on “Venezuela’s useless elites

  1. Is just that the same elite is the one that ruled in the fourth. It sacked the country and allowed Chavez to become President by simply thinking that the ‘help” had no rights. I would venture to say that they profited early in the Chavez government until the protege turned on them. I hold them responsible for the 12 year rule by Chavez.
    Unfortunately , they are very much part of our political parties and they hope to regain power in any unity government. That is why I believe that the Capriles-Lopez alliance is such a good one. It makes a break with the past and provides a true option to those of us that would never vote for the old ways. (even if I also believe that some in PJ also belong in the past)
    I just hope that those that were to young to matter 12 years ago and those that truly wish for a better Venezuela are smart enough to understand that sacrifices must be made for the common good.

    By the way, this is Karl.

  2. I hear it has been hot there too. (Wonder how the electrical grid is holding up?)
    ‘If we can’t even count on the elites to back us up, if they will be the first one trying to stab reform in the back, then what hope is there?’- The only hope is somehow to inspire people to fall in love with Venezuela, the government, the new president and decide to work toether and invest in a better future.
    One would hope lots of well-to do Venzuelans will return. We are not rich,but we would love to invest
    in Venzuela if the political situation is different. Until then, no way…

  3. I really loved this post. It had me howling with squeals of outright delight all through…until we got to the very end.

    See, I see a possibility for President Capriles to draft chavismo into the role of bad-cop in a good cop/bad cop shtick in 2013. “Oh my God, I don’t know if I can hold chavismo back from coming around to mop up all you have left…let me deal with this the best way I can, by reforming away these perks…trust me, the alternative is worse.”

    I think that can work.

    • Don’t overestimate the power of hatred toward Chávez. Everything looks rosy from a distance, even chavismo. When President Capriles tries to undo some of these things, people in La Castellana will yearn for the days of cheap Cadivi trips, with cadenas and everything, and they will bang their pots and pans.

      The conversation, as should be evident, left me profoundly depressed.

      • January tends to be a month where politics seems particularly depressing and dire. Specially if you’ve just come from Caracas (Chacao, to be precise; perhaps putting me in a box will help my argument), and now see yourself being accompanied by a laptop only, in one of Europe’s northernmost capitals. Today sunset was at 3pm.

        I digress.

        Or do I? I guess my point is that circumstances affect our vision -and trust me, I can empathize with not being able to debate much, or without worrying to hammer oh so many nerves while doing so, within our elite’s self-aggrandising habladera de paja. I always come out cursing them all. But, in hindsight, perhaps too much.

        I disagree that people in La Castellana ‘will yearn for the days of cheap Cadivi trips’. If you refer to the boligarchs in La Castellana (how many can there be?), then dismiss this comment: I agree with you entirely. But the image of caserolas being smitten in a cacophonous roar, suggests me otherwise.

        I have always thought that the general consensus within the Venezuelan middle-class (of which I am no member) is that Cadivi was a policy made precisely with “ganas de joder” in mind. In their short-sightedness they might not even conjecture what you did (spotlessly, I might add) about how the policy actually benefits the very rich (and gaining in dollars), and those with access to Cadivi. What is very easy for them, however, to spot and argue is: ‘this policy is trumping my economic freedoms, now I cannot travel to this extra place, or buy this extra X-box for Pepe, who’s been asking so much for it this Christmas, and which is so expensive here in El Sambil, and that is just wanton “ganas de joder” on the government’s behalf’. Some of them will remind you of how painstakingly long the bureaucracy thereof is. A smaller group will tell you that all this policy is doing is raising the price of the dollar in the black market.

        Now, I don’t know whether or not they are sound, or right. That you must know better than me. What I do say is that there will be no cacerolazos (figuratively or literally) in La Castellana if Cadivi is shelved. Perhaps the clang of some huge bronze dishes, bought in Marrakesh, will be heard, scattered and distant, from some penthouses in the area. They’d be played in the drunken frenzy of men with big bellies and with big polo signs in their shirts…

  4. Yes. Could not agree more. All this half-baked regulatory crap is strangling the middle class, keeps the poor poor, is killing the economy generally and is making a handful of militaries, their civilian government cronies and their private sector back-scratchers fabulously rich. And it ensures that everybody knows and agrees that the law is an ass (ass as in the quaint english word for donkey ). And to top it off, they call it “socialism” and “revolution”. Snr. Commandante, meet Gordon Gecko. Awesome post.

  5. …and if I can rant a bit more, it also means that any tourist that shows up on those world-famously beautiful shores is either insanely rich, insanely in love, or just insane. Or some dude from Belarus traveling on an Italian passport with a hooker and some unknown agenda…

  6. That’s an excellent post.

    Now: even though I will be voting for Capriles I have my doubts there are more than, say, 4 or 5 people in PJ who are aware of this. I know: there are even less elsewhere. When the last devaluation of the Bolivar took place, Borges criticized the measure in a…let’s say sub-optimal way. Perhaps it was just this populism streak every politician needs to breathe, but I found it was a shame he didn’t use the opportunity to go deeper into the issue.

    Venezuela has been like this even before oil was exploited. Oil, of course, made things much worse. Did you see recently what was happening in Nigeria with the prices for petrol? The reactions were so predictable…and ultimately they were fuelled by the middle-class upwards plus the unions, not by a plain Anagebe carrying water on top of her head.
    A journalist who had been working in Africa for years and later in Venezuela told me the only countries he had seen in Africa with such a level of decay as in Venezuela and had some resources, were Nigeria and Angola. Poorer nations there were a lot, but not with that decay.

    Juan: when will we see someone preaching over and over and over again what you are saying in Globovisión and Venevisión and Union Radio without having his car in the parking lot burn into flames? I suspect never.

  7. “How can you make someone with a fifth-grade education understand that letting the price of gasoline go up … actually benefits them?”

    A: (Regardless of education, it has no bearing on the question or answer) By showing them proof that a connection exists between government income and actual expenditure on services that have an impact. Venezuelans are so used to the money-disappearing magic of corruption, outright theft and waste, to accounts never adding up that they end up thinking that the trickle-down of said chaotic subsidies is the most they are going to get from government.

    Moreover:
    We have historically been prey to the cruelest tax, high inflation. It makes everyone (except rich businesspeople) a beggar, it destroys any ability to save and plan for the future, the State’s future included, save for emigration to more stable countries.
    Also, money is used in keeping useless bureaucracies that -when they actually do something- act as the worst gatekeepers, obstructing and making life miserable, even extorting money. You don’t need an MBA to see how that structure hurts and makes everyone wish they were dead, but if you don’t see a good alternative, you end up accepting clientelism and the resultant corruption as normal or even justifiable.
    Venezuelans are also used to oil. We think that oil pays for everything: directly for the State income, and indirectly for most people’s livelihoods.

    In that sense, a variation on Ex-Torres’s proposals comes to mind: Entitle Venezuelans to a share of oil income, shareholders of PDVSA. But… also… tax their resultant income at Scandinavian levels. Without exceptions. Make it clear that from that money they should expect real services, not consolation prizes for losers.

    • Loroferoz, it is not easy. Look at Nigeria now.

      I agree with you 100% that’s the way to go but communicating it is a hell of a job and so far no one has done it right.

      And Venezuelans have never wanted to pay taxes. They didn’t do it before the Independence, they never did it afterwards.
      It is a feudal society, only that now it got worse with oil substituting the payment of the land and making the serfs bound to the national king, who demands from his knights vote collection.

      In Venezuela of the XIX the governments were all the time broke. The only sources of income they had to cover the basics and to pay back the huge debts Bolívar got us in (because of the thousands of British mercenaries and weapons to go all the way down to Bolivia) was to give foreigners share on the import and export tolls. Those tolls didn’t give much either, as the ones collecting them were Venezuela’s corrupt public “servants” who wanted to become rich very fast.

      I was reading a book by Edward Backhouse Eastwick, a British negotiator of some loans to Falcón shortly after the Federal War. His conversations with some of the Venezuelan elite back just sounded like the conversations you would have today and that without the oil.

  8. Q: How can you make someone with a fifth-grade education understand that letting the price of gasoline go up … actually benefits them?
    A: Piece of cake: quid pro quo. Get rid of subsidies and use that money for UCT/CCT. ex-torres Presidente!

    Q: That money the government gives to these guys is money that is not available for this kid? That Metro systems that don’t work are a huge waste of money, even if a few poor people use it?
    A: That’s part of the problem. Nobody is going to give up their perks if the government don’t stop wasting it. Get rid of give aways to Cuba, Nicaragua, etc. Get rid of pharaonic projects. That’s probably one of the first things that must be done. You can even turn that into a publicity stunt.

    Q: If we can’t even count on the elites to back us up, if they will be the first one trying to stab reform in the back, then what hope is there?
    A: That was exactly CAP’s undoing: the elite’s unwillingness to give up their perks. Who else could afford to impeach a president? It was not “el pueblo”. It was AD/COPEI and the Intelligentsia… It’s true that El Caracazo or El Paquetazo made him very unpopular, but that was just an excuse to get rid of a controversial politician who was threatening their way of life.

    The most dangerous thing is that stupid sense of entitlement that permeates each and everyone of us. And it’s not easy to get rid of it. You’ll need to be creative to make people to open their minds and see beyond their inmediate concerns.

  9. What is bizarre about CADIVI is how it is thought of as “natural” that access to foreign currency should be controlled. Frankly, a new government should plan for the gradual elimination of foreign currency controls and a floating exchange rate driven by supply and demand. CADIVI has been the basis of an inherently corrupt system: it deserves to be killed just like RECADI before it. You’d figure Venezuelans would learn from past lessons?

  10. More than favoring the rich, it favors the rich and CORRUPT…

    This post makes the same mistake Chavez does, and that is satanizing the rich, rest assured, there are people who have made honest fortunes, who work hard to this day, who are being affected by CADIVI.

    I understand where the post comes from, and what it tries to say, but for me it comes across as a gross generalization, as CADIVI benefits very few, very rich, very corrupt people, but the rest of us are screwed (whether rich or poor).

    • There are honest rich and honest poor, dishonest rich and dishonest poor. I don’t think that’s the point.
      It is not only about CADIVI…and when you start counting the kind of subsidies and other related favours the State is giving to some people, you will see the percentage of those
      -rich and poor and middle class- who are living off the nation as a whole to the detriment of the carajitos and carajitas que no tienen vela en este entierro are many more than CADIVI beneficiaries.
      Think importers who thrive in such a system as Venezuela has had for centuries now.

      • “I don’t think that’s the point.”

        Although as I stated:
        “I understand where the post comes from, and what it tries to say, but for me it comes across as a gross generalization”

        The intro and conclusion to the article are what I am mostly referring to.

    • No, ElFeto. Anyone who has a Cadivi cupo and uses it to travel abroad qualifies as
      a) rich, or middle class to say the least; and
      b) receiving a mammoth subsidy.

      Sorry, man, it’s not a judgment on anyone. Them’s the rules, and you would be foolish not to take advantage. It’s the policy that’s immoral.

      • Do you realize how many companies are NOT receiving CADIVI and have price controls over what they sell, have you talked to any of their shareholders?

        You are just pinpointing a tiny aspect of CADIVI, the cupos are as Manuel Rosales would say are “burusa”, the real money is with companies, not in cupos, and most companies are not receiving CADIVI nor SITME. I´m really tired of this Elite and “Amos del Valle” horse crap, there is a new “burguesía” as we all well know, and it´s mostly a very corrupt one, yet people keep insisting on the “elite” and the past “oligarquía” as responsible for everything, which more than a gross generalization, is a great disrespect to many honest people who happen to have made money the honest way.

        I trully believe CADIVI has done more harm than good to rich and poor while benefiting the middle class and a few very corrupt, very rich business people.

      • Just to add. You get a subsidy to acquire luxury items and services….. somewhere abroad!

        So… none of it, actually stays home. It is the most stupid policy ever. On top from what it has already been mentioned here.

  11. If you really want to understand what this is all about read “The Dictators Handbook” All about governance in democracies, dictatorships and corporations, why they behave this way, and maybe, what is to be done….For the majority rich or poor CADIVI is a hassle and a hand out, for the chosen few a way to get rich quick.

  12. I very much enjoyed this post, Juan.

    On the nature of the Venezuelan ‘elites’ (aka, the business class or bourgeoisie): Over the last few years in my “Latin American Development”course, for the Venezuelan part, one of the books I used was
    - Naim, Moisés. 1993. Paper Tigers and Minotaurs: The Politics of Venezuela’s
    Economic Reforms. [Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment, 1993. (Introduction
    by Jeffrey Sachs). PDF at: http://carnegieendowment.org/1993/01/01/paper-tigers-and-minotaurs-politics-ofvenezuela-s-economic-reforms/1iy ]

    What is quite interesting about Naim’s account of CAP’s time and the paqueta of neo-liberal reforms is that he spends at least as much time discussing the surprising level of opposition to market reforms that the government faced from the Venezuelan business class as he does speaking about opposition from the popular classes. This is quite different, of course, from the experience we see in Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and etc.

    In general, the Venezuelan business/capitalist class appears to me to be an under-developed capitalist class, one which has long been accustomed to doing business in a very strongly statist environment, where it has been taken care of, and business success depends strongly on state ‘contacts’.

    For example, historically, just as today, it has generally been much more efficient to employ paid intermediaries who specialize in ‘contacts’ to get favorable treatment from some ministry in order to give you a big leg up on your domestic rivals – say, through being the one who gets to import something that your competitor is prevented from importing. Or, to get your business special treatment at Cadivi, or a reassessment of a price control in your favor, etc. Success in these state ‘contacts’ is almost always much more profitable than investing in actually improving the production and distribution process, than actually ‘out competing’ your domestic competitors in the marketplace.

    Up till the CAP neo-liberal shock (which failed for many many reasons), Venezuela was at times spoken of in development and economic circles in comparison to an East European Soviet-style economy (which was an exaggeration, but not that far from the truth).

    The capitalist class includes many honest people who tried to engage in actual production in small-to-medium-scale industry or farming, commerce, etc; but it is mainly focused on import buying and re-selling, on ‘deals’ . The smaller capitalists are buhoneros reselling cheap stuff in the streets, the big capitalists tend to be simply big buhoneros who import things like Toyotas and have elaborate schemes to get permission to be the ones who do the only importing, who use Cadivi to great advantage and who carry out multiple phony re-sales within a circle of friends to pump up the legal price before actually selling them on the domestic market at inflated prices (sound familiar?). And. if someone doesn’t take advantage of these “opportunities” that the state offers to businesses… you’re looked at as a “pendejo”.

    Rentismo lowers the productivity and morality of all classes – elites certainly not excluded. In fact, it was perhaps as much disgust at these tendencies which drove support for Chavismo as it was indignation (by rich and poor alike) at the neo-liberal paguete that had cut off statist protections. Yes, a contradiction!

    Many in popular classes hoped chavismo would change these corrupt practices (but, it hasn’t). These are things I had hoped presidential candidates would discuss frankly with the Venezuelan public.

    • I agree with you in many things here. The worse thing for me is that the government didn’t provide for things it should have done.
      People had and still has in places to buy all the textbooks for their children in primary school and books are more expensive than in North America or Europe.
      A city like Valencia, with one million people, has as many books in its public librarY as a town of 40000 people in Europe or North America. And if you told people with three nice cars using petrol for almost nothing and getting their Cadivi dollars that now some are giving books to pupils they talk about “populism”.
      And people even from poorer sectors (but without children) think so as well.
      But poor if someone wants to take away the free petrol.

      A lot of the people I know with a lot of money in Venezuela are indeed people with connections to the state machinery now and then and who are basically importing and reselling stuff at incredibly high prices

    • You are quite right about most of your assessment but you forgot to mention one of the biggest reasons Chavez came into power which would be the surge of International Crime and an attempt to control part of the oil revenues :), then the appearance of a carefully studied, charismatic, coup monger who together with vested interests from Cuba and others……..

      True there is/was a group of highly idealistic folks( mostly communists), and some who voted out of vengeance towards the 4rth Republic,and some straggling ni-nis, but the real fuel and power was something else.The way I see it was more like certain factions took advantage of a situation, rather than a situation causing a determined reaction.

    • Thanks Tom. I enjoyed your comment. If you teach about this, you should take a look at Mirtha Rivero’s incredible “La Rebelión de los Náufragos.” It reads like Naím’s book, only twenty years later. It’s fascinating, and it touches on this point precisely.

      I guess what startled me was finding out how widespread this drought of capitalist values really is. I knew the powers-that-be were against capitalism and were used to socialism, but I had a glimmer of hope that somewhere in the educated class, in the professional yet not inner-circle caraqueño class, you could find people who could … understand the obvious.

      Man, we’re miles away from that.

      And your analogy with Colombia, Mexico and Chile is spot on. Say what you will about Chilean elites, but at least they understand the basics of economics. When you talk to them about opportunity costs, at least you don’t get a blank stare like you do in Venezuela.

      • Juan, thanks for the reference – I’ll look for Mirtha Rivero’s book.

        One of my grad students followed up on this observation and showed that there were specific sections of the elites in each of those other LatAm countries that had long lobbied for market reforms and thereby provided a constituency for the political elite to engage in the reforms. In Venezuela it appeared a a policy purely ‘from the top,’ by the state, even to the capitalist classes.

        However, in all these countries, as well as Venezuela, market reforms were often promoted as hard ideological positions towards abandoning market controls (an extreme position, especially in large, poor, developing countries).

        In Venezuela, of course, there were the petroleros around PDVSA and the Apetura, who were ideologically committed to market reforms for some time previously, at least in that sector.

        In both cases, the state constituency, and the PDVSA elite constituency, the killer in Venezuela seems to have been the lack of public preparation for the need for some market-oriented reforms. Not only was CAP’s paqueta literally a ‘shock’ to people of whatever class, so too, PDVSA elites did not do sufficient work to prepare public consensus for their policies. Especially during a protracted period of lower oil prices, it soon appeared to the public that the Apertura was the cause of the lower income available to the state for alleviation of social ills in those years. Thus the notion that the PDVSA elites were only ‘stealing’ and ‘hiding’ money in the guise of market-oriented reforms (er, well, more than traditionally :-)

        POLITICAL PREPARATION of the public, creating a knowledgeable constituency for any market-oriented economic change is really needed (as well as avoiding ideological extremism in this opening, not abandoning affected popular classes or even capitalist groups who will need some subsidies to handle a transition) , or else there will be a big backlash. Are any candidates doing this?
        Thanks again, Juan. I’d like to get your analysis of events in Chile sometime.

        • Thing is – we shouldn’t confuse market reforms and reasonable social policy. I’m more focused on the second one – the notion that policies that help the rich and the middle classes (not all of them, El Feto) are anti-poor. It’s more about getting – rich people – people to understand that tackling poverty requires targeting the poor with smart public policies, and that they … simply don’t qualify!

          Feel free to email.

      • out of curiosity, Juan, when you say “Chilean elites, but at least they understand the basics of economics. When you talk to them about opportunity costs, at least you don’t get a blank stare like you do in Venezuela, is that just post-Pinocchio? Or was that understanding in place, long before the dictatorship?

        Because Pinocchio really applied shock therapy to the local economy, causing a tectonic shift away from government subsidies, leaving many struggling or stranded.

  13. Yes, good insight – though I have to question your uncle’s definition of “poor” if it includes flying to Aruba and even having enough cash to access a “cupo.” But wait – “it hits me. Venezuela is full of back-asswards policies that supposedly favor the poor but, in fact, favor the rich.”

    Say what? This JUST hit you? Say it ain’t so, Juan. I’ve been preaching that one online since 2004, to the blind who would not see. If Chavez were sincere about his pro-poor blather, he would do quite a few things differently. The subsidies and other things like what you mention here are on that list, but even if you name them all, they’re not the whole list.

    If Chavez wants to be pro-poor, he needs to be pro-jobs, because nothing ends poverty like a job.

    • Well, that was poorly written on my part. What hit me is that the elites don’t even grasp this basic understanding. What hit me is that this thing that seems obvious to you and me, is anything but obvious to 99.999% of the population.

      • I hope your uncle didn’t add the usual “Es que éste es un país rico… Y no echa pa’ lante por el ladronismo…”

      • I think the right word isn’t “basic” (because then much more than .001% of the people would get it – and I do believe you understood it on some level, even if that conversation may have crystallized it in a new way), but rather “fundamental.” And that work applies in many ways. Besides the obvious, that it’s pervasive throughout the economy, it’s fundamental in the sense that it’s, in many ways, the foundation of Chavez’s political strength. He creates a system where inequalities and inefficiencies abound, and where the power is concentrated. He then can evade those efficiencies where convenient, or provide occasional gifts (remember Quico’s lottery metaphor?) to a few constituents, and patronage ensues.

        Suddenly he is the only one who can provide the solution to the problem…if you can just overlook – or not comprehend – the fact that the problem is entirely of his making.

  14. “If we can’t even count on the elites to back us up, if they will be the first one trying to stab reform in the back, then what hope is there?”

    Oh, boy, talk about the story of Unconditional Cash Transfers! Try explaining to your readers that spending oil money is the most nefarious subsidy for the rich, EVEN WHEN SPENT ON REFORMS FOR THE POOR.

    As to Venezuelans not enjoying paying taxes, easy: eliminate taxes and replace them with small, daily devaluations. Ask Quico to explain this one… ;)

  15. If you think that those kind of subsidies is “right-wing” dictatorship you have probably never been to Europe and spoke to the people about their house.

  16. I am eith you here, JC. Most non-political elites have lived off the State since, well, 1830. Read Santos Michelena’s scorn for those who asked for public bailouts in 1840!

    Rentism and clientèlism were part of the heavy price we had to pay for a “class-struggle-less” democracy: Everytime they wanted to shake that, the elites (and the Middle classes, which have voted for Chavismo at least between 2000 and 2006) they got trounced: Leoni’s ISLR reform, Herrera Campins’ price liberalisation, the Gran Viraje, the Agenda Venezuela. And even then they still reaped huge benefits, but wanted more. And that is why big business and finance supported the anti-party vote. Who paid for Andres Velasquez’ and Caldera’s campaigns in 1993, while the AD and Copei candidates were truly talking about reform?

  17. BTW: which is the role of economic elites behind the Lopez-Capriles coup-de-grâce? Could it be that they are finally coming to their senses…? After all, not every single capitalist is a rent-seeking monster.

    Disclaimer: I studied at UCV.

    • The whole “capoldo” affair has shaken this thing and making it a real race. Looks like the “beauty pageant” is over and we have finally a real political primary, as it should be.

      Feelings have been hurt (I’m looking to you, Omar Barboza) and positions will reshape. That’s OK, because life is tough, and politics is more so. I’m totally for unity, but the unity cannot pretend that differences don’t exist on how to deal with the issues and the whole post-Chavez era, like the need or not for a “constituyente”.

      I’m for one, welcome this phase of the primary. But I ask the candidates and their campaign teams to avoid taking this into the mud. That’s what EQTC wants.

      I agree with your views in the article about the elites, JC. Something’s gonna give. I always say to my family that the thing happening here is the substitution of an elite for another, and parts of the old one trying to adapt to just survive intact. The consequence is leaving most of us in the same place we’re stuck. That ain’t right.

    • I also studied at UCV. I was thinking about the perks students, professors and workers have at UCV and, well… don’t get me started. An overhaul in our higher education system is long over due…

      • Indeed. Example:
        cupos. Every group there has a lot of student places to distribute. Those places are sold to the best bidder. A huge mafia. And it happens in every public Venezuelan university. Student federations are into it through and through. That is just one tiny example.

        • Disclaimer 2: I also teach at UCV. And I get paid less than what I spend on cabs going and coming there. Let alone my expenses on books.

          having said that, many of my students there -even though they come from modest private school backgrounds- couldn’t possibly afford a private university (even though our fees are much, much less expensive than those of comparable Universities in Latin America).

          Moreover, for many students their access to public university means the first time someone in their family has received tertiary education.

          All in all, I’ve always supported the end of free tuition for better-off students. I even campaigned for it while I was one (you can guess what I was called).

          • So you know the monster from the inside… ;)
            Like I said, I don’t want to extend myself here, but you precisely point out the biggest problem. Nobody will dare to talk about giving up perks.
            Just like in any group of human people, there are good apples and bad apples. The problem is that at UCV and many other universities, there is no way to get rid of bad apples. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about professors, students or workers. Once they bad apples a’re in, it’s over.
            You’re also right about the salaries. The chances of attracting good apples for pennies on the dollar is simply nonexistent.
            Furthermore, if we can even have a decent talk about reforms with the intelligentsia, do we actually stand a chance of persuading the skeptics?

    • Just one example: I remember a former classmate, who later became an infamous member of Jorge Rodriguez’s team in Libertador. The guy got in the UCV just because his father’s a professor. He spent 12 years – 12 years! – trying to get his bachelor degree. But, of course, he was one of the most strident opponents of any form of privatization – and even a member of M28. Sadly, he wasn’t able to connect the dots: the state was wasting money on him! It could have use the money it mispent on him to give higher education to three more deserving students, but he wasn’t capable – or willing – to get that…. We’re very myopic, indeed…

      • Do you think Chávez would give an opinion on this if asked? Do you think the oppo candidate would say something about this without being asked?

        You would have thousands and thousands of professors AND students: “con las unis no te metas”

  18. Brilliant post, Juan Cristobal.
    The rentista mentality is a cancer in our society. I live in South Florida and many of my “paisanos” here can’t even imagine a business that does not involve some kind of Cadivi scam. It’s funny to listen to them rant about Chavez and corruption in Venezuela all day long but, at the end of the day, they are as dependent on Chavez’ “buhoneril-clientelista economy” as anybody in Venezuela. What’s most amazing to me is that, relatively speaking, they’re living in “entrepreneurs paradise” (Miami-Dade and Broward counties alone have more companies than all of Venezuela), but tapping into these opportunities is unthinkable for them because here they lack the “compadre” that will help them secure a contract with the government, or some kind of speculative business (except for Real Estate scam, in which many Venezuelans not only participated but even innovated).

  19. Depressing indeed. The funny thing is that same elite is so clueless that when you ask them what they get from the estate they can’t even say. Living in Venezuela can be unpleasant for sure, but here are some of the things people don’t have to worry about:
    - Gasoline
    - Utilities: Electricity/Water/Phone
    - Education: The cost of schooling (at all levels) is ridiculous.
    - Food: When you can find it.
    - Vacations: Subsidized Cadivi vacations are an outrage, a couple of years ago I had a minor self esteem crisis when a bunch of my friends from high school came over for a week of fun on the slopes during peak ski season. Heck, I live here and I can’t afford a week in the mountains in the high season. I thought my buddies, the people I knew best and those I knew were definitely not smarter than I were making a killing in the place I left because I saw very little future in making a good (and decent) living. I asked them how they could afford such trips, the answer: Cadivi. The Venezuelan government paying for half a luxury vacation in the powdery slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Insane.

    By the way, if you think Cadivi is terrible, what do you say about the subsidy on Beef Tenderloin…?

    • Venezuelans don’t have to worry about electricity? News to everyone who endured the blackouts of 2009-2010 and who regularly get fined if their meter shows 1kw of consumption over the arbitrarily-determined “normal” metric.

  20. If you think Venezuela is alone in having a system full of subsidies for the rich, I have two words for you dear Juan ‘carried interest’ (note I fully agree with you, I just want to highlight that our ills are pervasive)

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