Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Por Ahora..."

Last year, Venezuelan voters rejected a sweeping package of constitution changes put forth by president Hugo Chávez, which would have ended presidential term limits. On the heels of that narrow defeat, Chavez proclaimed that, although the people had spoken, most of them would need to be further educated (Communist re-education campspeak comrades?), but that he would respect their choice. "Por ahora." For now.

Chávez, the paratroop commander who co-led a failed military coup in 1992 and who was democratically elected in 1998 is back again, asking supporters one more time to amend the Venezuelan constitution and allow him to seek indefinite re-election. Opponents have again raised concerns that Chávez intends to be "el Presidente" for life---as most dictators wish---however, Chávez on Sunday said he would stay in office only until 2019 if voters abolished the term limits. He said he needs more time to build a socialist economy in Venezuela.

As the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Chávez promotes a political doctrine of democratic socialism and Latin American integration. He has also been a fervent critic of neoliberalism, globalization, and United States foreign policy. But for all the talk of cooperation among the world's poor nations, especially those in Latin America, and his actions against the Washington Consensus by supporting alternative models of economic development, Chávez is a Castro wannabe in socialist sheep's clothing.

And despite the muscle flexing, tough talk, and anti-American rhetoric, Chávez knows full well he's engaged in an interdependent political game with the United States to buy his country's oil. What most people don't realize is that Venezuela has no other market for the greater part of its oil: heavy crude.

Heavy crude is special stuff and is not for the average refinery. The majority of Venezuela's oil can only be processed in the specialist refineries run by Hovensa (a joint venture between US refiners Hess Corp and PdVSA) located in the US Virgin islands, among other places. Meanwhile, the U.S. readily accepts the Venezuelan heavy crude because without it the heavy crude refineries would close. There is no other supplier of this special crude available, so the U.S. would lose around 11% of its total domestic oil products supply in one fell swoop.

The result is of the 2.15 million barrels per day (mbpd) Venezuela pumps presently, 1.35mbpd has to go to the U.S. Simply put, without Venezuela, U.S. refineries will close and the country will have an oil supply crisis. Meanwhile without the United States, Venezuela will have no market for the lion's share of its crude, and thus Señor Presidente would be voted out.

In the Nov. 23rd elections, the pro-Chávez United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 72% of the governorships and 58% of the popular vote, dumbfounding the predictions of most of the pro-capitalist pollsters, and the vast majority of the mass media who favored the opposition. The election results point to deepening polarization between the centrist right and the socialist left. The centrist social-democratic ex-Chavista governors were practically wiped from the political map.

For now, Chávez' term expires in 2013.

Por ahora.


the beige one said...

Nice entry, (S)wine...

While I am weary of Chavez, I tend to think of him as a necessary evil. Almost like a trickster spirit. As buffoonish as he is, combined with his dictator-like tendencies, he's best taken with a bucket of salt; but I do appreciate his voice in the wilderness.

If nothing else, it's left-wing rhetoric in the face of right-wing USA-centric policy.

Dangerous? Sure. So far, though, he's still nowhere near as bilious as some of the more "palatable" Latin American dictators backed by the CIA.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. And yes, I agree; he is not as dangerous as he seems. We both depend on one another. It's a nice, symbiotic thang.