Venezuela’s president-cum-dictator, Hugo Chávez, consumed by his hatred for the United States and President George W. Bush, continued his attempts to disrupt Bush’s fence-mending trip to Latin America by leading a protest rally in Argentina on Friday.
According to the Associated Press, Chávez also excoriated Bush today: this time in Bolivia, “the latest stop on a Chavez tour intended to upstage President Bush’s own trip through Latin America…"
As it turned out, not everyone welcomed Chavez, especially in Bolivia's cattle-ranching state of Beni, which is a stronghold of opposition to President Evo Morales. Morales is a Chavez ally and has promised to redistribute large amounts of land to the poor, threatening the successful cattle industry. Local leaders see Chavez' assistance to Morales as political opportunism and resent his interference in Bolivia.
The governor of Beni and the mayor of Trinidad have refused to receive Chavez. They complained that Venezuelan aid workers have ignored their authority and that Chavez is meddling in their local politics:
"We are grateful for the assistance of the Venezuelan people, but we're bothered by the intervention of Chavez in Bolivia," Mayor Moises Shiriqui told The Associated Press. "He's coming here for a political campaign."
Meanwhile, Bush, in Uruguay on Saturday, was hosted by that country's Socialist President, Tabaré Vazquez at the latter’s ranch retreat, Estancia Anchorena, west of Montevideo. Following a private meeting and discussion, both met with the press. According to the Associated Press:
Vazquez said "We have created a plan starting with this meeting" in which trade and agriculture experts from both countries will meet to iron out differences.
Bush said the United States is "fully prepared to reduce agricultural subsidies" but first wants to make sure "there is market access for our products."
While Chávez indulges in his anti-Bush rhetoric in Argentina and Bolivia, back home in Venezuela the economy is tanking fast. Inflation, which has been rising rapidly due to Chávez’, profligate and importune spending, has reached 20 percent, giving Venezuela the highest inflation in the hemisphere.
Price controls, instituted by Chávez in a vain attempt to control inflation (remember Nixon in the seventies?), have seriously disrupted the food distribution system in the country, causing severe shortages of basic foodstuffs, and prompting the Chávez government to send police patrols to inspect food warehouses and Mom-and-Pop grocery stores, searching for what they are calling “hoarders and speculators,” while threatening violators with jail sentences.
Meat packers and slaughterhouses are turning away farmers’ cows because the government-imposed prices for meat are too low to even pay the cost of slaughtering and butchering the cattle.
According to venezuelanalysis.com a Venezuela-based “news” service, which is plainly biased in favor of the Chávez regime, the government’s latest useless measure to quell the inflation will be an “indexing” of the Bolívar, reducing 1,000 Bolívar notes to a nominal 1 Bolívar face value.
Having lived through similar currency indexings in both Brasil and México, I have seen that this kind of manipulation of the currency does absolutely no good; prices soon rise to their pre-index levels under the pressure of price controls.
Of course, as with all economic problems in any country, the segment of the population hardest hit by the chaos in the Venezuelan economy are the very same poor Chávez has sworn to help, and who are his most ardent supporters.
Mr. Chávez, you would do well to go back home and mind your own business-literally.