Hugo Chavez, R.I.P. - Leader Broke Venezuela Out of America's Imperial Orbit, Threw Neoliberal 'Economics' in the Trash
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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, Greg Wilpert, what about these issues that Michael Shifter raises of the increasing crime rate in Venezuela—I’m not sure that Caracas is yet at the level of the place of my birth, Puerto Rico, in terms of crime rates, but it certainly has escalated dramatically—and the inflation situation and the unsustainability of the economic model that Chávez has developed?
GREGORY WILPERT: Well, I mean, I obviously disagree, as well, that I think it’s definitely sustainable. Venezuela, for example—I mean, people keep mentioning the inflation. True, it’s very high, but it’s lower than it was in the pre-Chávez years. It averaged 50 percent per year in the two presidents before Chávez. And he brought it—Chávez brought it down to around 20 percent in these last couple years. The average, I think, is around 22 percent per year. So that’s a decent achievement for an oil-producing country that basically earns its foreign currency in oil and funnels it back into the social programs, into the economy. And that, of course, generates inflation. But as long as incomes rise faster than inflation, it’s not really that big a deal. I mean, it’s a hassle, it’s a problem, but it’s not unsustainable.
The other thing is, I think that certainly crime is an issue, and it is a serious problem. I think it was basically based on a miscalculation on the part of the government. They believed that once you get poverty down, crime would go down by itself. And they didn’t do enough to actually make sure that there’s enough police, a decently functioning judicial system. And that’s really one of the big areas where a lot more needs to be done. But other than that, really, I think that, like I said, economically and socially, there’s been tremendous achievements in the last couple of years.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Miguel Tinker Salas, I’d like to ask you about the issue of oil and the importance of oil in Venezuela to the Chávez revolution. But first, I’d like to play a clip of an interview that we did back in 2005 when President Chávez was here for the United Nations General Assembly, one of the first televised interviews that he did here in the United States, where he spoke to Democracy Now! about the role of oil in his country.
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] So we’re now providing—first we’re ensuring the supply of oil, direct supply of oil from state to state, in order to avoid the speculation of multinationals and traders. They buy gasoline in Venezuela, and then they go to a Caribbean country and they charge double. So we are selling the products to the states directly. We are not charging for freight. We assume the cost of freight. But apart from that, this discount is not of 25 percent. It goes to 40 percent of the total. And this money will be paid back in 25 years’ time, with two years of grace and 1 percent interest rates. So, if you make all of the mathematical calculations, the donation percentage is almost 70 percent, because it’s a long-term adjusted 1 percent. So what Venezuela’s doing is supplying 200,000 barrels of oil to the Caribbean and other Central American and South American countries, such as Paraguay, Uruguay and smaller nations in South America—200,000 millions of barrels. If you apply calculations, mathematical calculations, by 1.5 percent of our GDP—1.5 percent of the GDP is devoted to this cooperation—it means that we are financing these sister nations that next year will reach $1.7 billion a year. In 10 years, it’s $17 billion. It’s a way for us to share, to share our resources with these countries.