Daniel Thwaites | Feliz Chavidad
So, how do you let your friends know they're doing a terrible job at something really important? It's not an easy thing, because your friend is likely to get really angry, take serious umbrage, and ungracefully remind you of that one time you found an electric shaver and accidentally dug a massive hole in your own hair, or that other time you recklessly allowed J. Wray and his nephew to launch your disastrously short karaoke career. And they will remind you of other things, too, that only they know, and which don't belong in a newspaper. Once thing is for certain: your insulted friend will give payback.
All the same, I think the Jamaican Government needs to be thinking about how to have 'that talk' with the Venezuelan government right about now. Because we ARE great friends with Venezuela, but the government there is, to put it politely, screwing up mightily.
Venezuela is being criminally mismanaged. And the truth is, Venezuela has been more than just a friend to us. At this point, it's our sugar daddy, doling out benefits as long as we feed its needs. Jamaica has been the 'sugar baby', getting rewarded for performances that we might ordinarily give for free. You get the picture. Thankfully, we're talking countries here, so hopefully the servicing stops at Jamaica providing international recognition and prestige for Venezuela, because if it's more than that, and there's stuff in hidden agreements that we haven't been told about, we may need to have a national discussion.
Anyhow, as per usual, sugar baby doesn't care that sugar daddy is abusing his wife and children, and may even be starving them to death. Just 'gwaan goh wuk de money carry come'. Maybe that was OK for a while, but it's going from awful to disastrous in Venezuela nowadays, and 2017 is looking scary.
For instance, it turns out that this past Christmas, SeÒor Nicol·s Maduro managed to mashup de likkle Christmas the people wanted. This is a man named after St Nicholas? Henceforth, I will just drop the Nicolas bit and call him SeÒor Mad.
It happened like this. Supposedly in the name of distributist do-goodery, Seoor Mad has so crippled the economy that inflation is on a tearaway, by some estimates passing 1,000 per cent per annum. The 100 bolivar is now worth less than three US cents. Obviously, most Venezuelans were not going to be having a Feliz Navidad, so in further distributist do-goodery, Seoor Mad confiscated nearly four million toys to be spread around by the government at "fair prices". Oh! And he arrested two of the company executives who had actually imported the toys for "violation of the rights of children". Welcome to government-imposed merriment: Feliz Chavidad!
STATE OF DESPERATION
This is all part of the deepening immiseration of the Venezuelan people being enacted by a government hired to pay special attention to the poor and dispossessed. Instead, now office workers are abandoning the cities to take work in the jungle for armed gangs. Malaria, which Venezuela was the first nation in the world to eradicate, is back and on the uptick. The hospitals are without basic necessities, even water, so saline drip solution is a luxury. Anaesthetic and antibiotics are distant memories. By all reports, people are desperate.
Meanwhile, Senor Mad has been claiming victory for postponing a death sentence, which he himself had declared just days earlier, on his most popular banknote. But the 100-bolivar note, the most widely used money in Venezuela, is still fated to die. SeÒor Mad's policies have so debauched the currency that its denomination is now too small and must be cancelled. It isn't worth the paper its printed on.
Naturally, Seoor Mad doesn't take any responsibility for the slowly unfolding economic cataclysm beggaring the nation in control of the world's largest oil reserves. Of course not. It is the fault of the Venezuelan Opposition, Colombian mafiosa, speculators and, last but not least, that outgoing puppet of capital, Barack Obama.
Fact is, Seoor Mad is pounding his country back into the Stone Age. People are going hungry, not in the newfangled sense of that term which means that they don't have enough of the right kind of calories. We're talking about the old-fashioned Dickensian meaning of hunger. Families are scavenging for food. Record numbers are taking to the ocean, or heading across borders into Colombia or Brazil.
Needless to say, events in Venezuela are of enormous interest to us in Jamaica. After all, Seoor Mad and his predecessor have lavished oil on us in a truly comradely fashion. So we are, let's say, invested in the process.
But also, Venezuela has been a centripetal force in the global south. Therefore, some of those in what used to be called the Left in Latin America and the Caribbean, who have been searching for new moorings, began to have feverish and exalted dreams about Chavismo.
In fact, I don't think it's stretching the connections too far to say that now, when the PNP must once again reorient itself as the head nurse and midwife of the national project known as Jamaica, that it is critical to understand whether the Venezuelan experiment provides a viable template.
It does not. Chavismo is a dead-end, and Chavez a false prophet. Even the most unflagging Venezuela fanboy must be finally admitting that something has gone terribly and horribly wrong there. Chavismo, it turns out, is a system of economic organisation that is more likely to create sand shortages in the Sahara than lead us to economic independence.
- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.