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“Venezuela got it fixed”: the mirage that haunts the national conscience | International

A couple dances at a Diveana concert on April 30, 2022, in Valencia.  The reactivation of leisure is one of the signs of the economic recovery of Venezuela.
A couple dances at a Diveana concert on April 30, 2022, in Valencia. The reactivation of leisure is one of the signs of the economic recovery of Venezuela.Rayner Peña R (EFE)

A mocking goblin is currently going through the nooks and crannies of Venezuelan public opinion, the Instagram and Tik Tok networks, political analyzes and opinion interviews: “Venezuela has been fixed.” It is a kind of tagline that is continually contested by specialists, that sticks like an arrow into the sensibilities of many people, that especially infuriates the diaspora, and that emerges as a bitter counterpoint to contradict the narrative of the historical tragedy who has lived in the country for at least eight years.

With the collapse of the country’s productive structure now complete, this interpretive disorder feeds on some data offered by everyday life: the reactivation of consumption and the lukewarm return of nocturnal activity; the very clear decrease in crime rates; fuel supply improvements; the opening of new commercial premises; the availability of imported products and the organization of some international musical recitals, the first in more than seven years.

Despite the fact that the phrase is fashionable, no one is able to affirm with all its letters that “Venezuela was fixed.” Not even Nicolás Maduro: “Venezuela has not fixed itself, but it is improving. Venezuela is going to grow, but much remains to be done”, he stated recently in an official meeting with businessmen. The matrix, however, reappears, mocking, to mock the calamities of the Venezuelans, waiting for a new denial.

The failure of the Venezuelan opposition to force a transition to democracy has come up against a bold initiative to make the Chavista government more flexible in social and economic matters, which has produced relief in the productive sectors and a change of tone with some sectors of opposition civil society, part of which does not see political change as feasible and has chosen to try to obtain small victories and concessions from power.

The Maduro government has buried the ax of conflict on some fronts, and, for the first time, has agreed to sit at a table with the Fedecamaras employers’ association and union sectors to agree on salary measures in a tripartite scheme. This initiative was attended by members of the International Labor Organization, a body that Miraflores has usually treated very badly.

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Maduro has not decreed unilateral salary increases: for the first time in almost 15 years, Chavismo has decided to address the variables of the economy and has taken into account the opinions of the business community. The country is barely out of five years of hyperinflation. The Venezuelan minimum wage, which in 2008 was the third highest in Latin America and comfortably hovered at 300 dollars a month, today has been increased to 30, after spending three years at 2 dollars a month.

“In the labor universe there are many doubts about Maduro’s signs because the distrust is enormous,” says León Arismendi, a labor lawyer and union leader. “Not going to dialogue can be worse. Trade unionism needs to take a breather, there are several important leaders who were imprisoned in terrible conditions. Workers need to feel that something is being done to help them.”

“The ‘Venezuela was fixed’ confuses people,” says Alejandro Grisanti, economist, academic and international consultant. “It takes you back to a past that was left behind. Many people want to believe that everything will be as before. Not only was Venezuela not fixed, Venezuela was broken. The glorious past of Venezuela economically, which from 1920 to 1977 made it the country that grew the most economically in the world, the country of opportunities, of European immigration, with a stable democracy, will no longer return.

Regarding the country that is approaching after the 2013 catastrophe, Grisanti positively weighs the economic opening and a relatively acceptable infrastructure. He recognizes that this year the national gross domestic product may grow up to double digits and identifies what he calls “delivery limitations”: an authoritarian government with serious reputational problems; a lot of corruption; with objective difficulties in fully overcoming the sanctions scenario and completely normalizing its oil production.

“It is difficult to draw a horizon of sustained long-term growth in this framework,” adds Grisanti, who considers it feasible that the country will observe initially high recovery rates, such as this year’s, which in a short time will stabilize around two percent. percent annually, leaving the economy much smaller than its usual size, traditionally the fourth largest in Latin America.

“In the private sector there is much more room for maneuver to work and dollarization has helped, but there is a lot of caution,” observes the economist Asdrúbal Oliveros, director of the Ecoanalítica firm. “There is enormous fiscal voracity right now. You can see many young capitals emerging, with a greater habit of risk, accustomed to the Chavista environment, which seeks opportunities and takes risks.”

Utility problems continue to be a calamity. The western part of the country is subjected to harsh electricity rationing of up to five hours a day. The water service is increasingly deficient: Chavismo has not built a single aqueduct in 22 years. Although it has improved slightly, the internet service is still of very poor quality. The hemorrhaging of the diaspora has not stopped, although not a few emigrants, fleeing xenophobia in South America, also decide to return.

While opening the doors of the economy, Maduro locks down his areas of power: a new Supreme Court of Justice was secured with the magistrates most committed to the interests of the regime, without paying attention to the recommendations in the dialogue; and he cooks in the National Assembly a new International Cooperation Law intended to mutilate the existence and purposes of Non-Governmental Organizations.

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