Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chavez Presents Blueprint for '21st Century Socialism'

In addition to officially registering as a candidate in the upcoming October election during Monday’s rally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez presented electoral officials with a plan to “consolidate the Bolivarian Revolution,” outlined in an extensive document.

The illustrated, 39-page “2013-2019 Hugo Chavez Government Plan” (which was later printed in offical newspaper Ciudad CCS and is available for download on the paper’s website) is an odd mix of vague objectives and highly detailed proposals. In addition to calling for a 45 percent increase in domestic food production and promoting a “multi-polar” world, the AP notes that the plan presents “mundane specifics on pig farms, oil drilling, neighborhood committees and fertilizer output.”

The plan calls for a substantial change in Venezuela’s economic organization. In the next seven years the Chavez government wants to create 30,000 new “enterprises of direct social property” (autonomous community-run cooperatives), which El Universal rather glumly refers to as an attempt to “expand the communal state so that it becomes a way of life for most Venezuelans.”

But perhaps the most economically significant aspect of the plan is a major increase in oil production. Chavez wants to raise production to 6 million barrels a day by 2019, which is more than double the current output of 2.82 million barrels a day. There is no mention of how this would be financed, but if accomplished it would enable the government to significantly increase social spending. Record oil revenue this year has already fueled economic growth and allowed the president to launch a massive subsidized housing program ahead of the elections. To achieve this increase in oil production, however, the government will likely have to confront widespread corruption and inefficiency within the state-run PDVSA oil company.

Of course, between concerns over Chavez’s health and the absence of funding provisions, the 2013-2019 plan is far from a sound projection of Venezuela’s future. But if the rumors regarding the president’s prognosis prove false and Chavez wins the presidency in October, the country may be in store for some monumental changes in the next seven years.

News Briefs

  • Mexico’s Zetas have laundered millions of dollars through a prestigious horse breeding program in the US since 2009, according to The New York Times.  Jose Treviño Morales, an older brother of Miguel Angel Treviño Morales (one of the drug cartel’s top leaders), allegedly used drug profits to buy and breed horses for the quarter horse racing circuit. The paper claims its staff first learned of the scheme in December 2011 while investigating the Zetas, but agreed to refrain from reporting on it until after US law enforcement agents raided Treviño’s ranch yesterday. The Times has posted related court documents, which “describe the ruthlessness with which the Trevino brothers conducted their business,” on its website.
  • While media reports have portrayed Mexico’s youth as largely opposed to Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, a recent Mitofsky poll suggests that more Mexicans aged 18 to 29 support him than either of his rivals. Those who support Peña Nieto are generally among the poorest in the country, while the other two candidates are backed by wealthier, more educated youths.
  • President Felipe Calderon has said that he will use the upcoming G-20 Summit in Mexico, which will be held on June 18-19, to build confidence in the International Monetary Fund and its attempts to alleviate financial crises in European countries like Greece, Spain and Italy. However, the Wall Street Journal reports that the outgoing president has played down the meeting’s short term impact, cautioning reporters that it will not result in a quick fix.
  • In a move that is sure to earn him even further criticism from media watchdog groups, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said over the weekend that he was considering restricting members of his cabinet from giving interviews to the privately-owned press. "Maybe if we stop we won’t be filling the pockets of the six families that dominate the media nationwide,” he remarked. Correa has apparently followed up on the comment, as the AP is reporting that he has expressly forbidden his ministers from speaking to the private media.
  • The government of the Falkland Islands has announced that it will hold a referendum next year on its “political status.”  Gavin Short, chairman of the Falklands legislature, said he has no doubt that the vote will reflect residents’ desire “for the islands to remain a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom." The announcement came just before the 30-year anniversary of the 1982 Falklands War’s end, and was met with scorn by lawmakers in Argentina’s ruling coalition. Mercopress reports that the Argentine legislators say the announcement is illegal under international law, and is nothing more than an attempt to divert media focus from President Cristina Fernandez, who will be presenting her country’s claim to the islands at a meeting of the UN’s Special Committee on Decolonization tomorrow in New York.
  • A little over one year after a law which mandated that El Salvador’s Constitutional Court issue rulings by consent rather than majority sparked a constitutional crisis in the country, another such crisis is brewing. Last week, the Constitutional Court ruled that the legislature’s appointments of Supreme Court justices in 2006 and 2012 violated the constitution, which lawmakers deny. Tim’s El Salvador Blog offers a useful summary of the dispute between the legislative and judicial branches.
  • BBC Mundo interviews French journalist Romeo Langlois, who was held for more than 30 days by FARC guerrillas in Colombia.
  • Over at Latin America’s Moment, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Shannon O’Neil looks at the success of conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs in Latin America. O’Neil points to several studies which show the immense impact of CCT programs on poverty in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador. These programs have been proven to reduce poverty and inequality, while also improving school enrollment and attendance for children of low-income families. Despite criticism from the right, they have not incentivized unemployment in the region, and have actually expanded both self-employment and participation in the workforce.

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