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February 26, 2014


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You're not wrong. It looks like someone at Polity IV has an axe to grind, which is unfortunate because that's exactly what you *don't* want in a database like that.

"Regulation of Chief Executive recruitment" looks like a response to Hugo hand-picking his successor. But that's a thing that can happen whenever you have a popular President and/or a ruling party that reasonably expects to win the next election. Lula did much the same, and nobody's dinging points off Brazil.

Ethiopia's a very repressive dictatorship. There are things to like about Ethiopia, but there it is. Venezuela's not remotely in the same class.

Also, yeah, Gabon ranks too high. Bongo _pere_ passed his power intact to Bongo _fils_, who looks set to continue running things for a while to come.

Doug M.

/me rolls the eyes...

Why, specifically, do you insist that I defend the regime, or defend it strongly? Are you saying that I make excuses for it?

I'm pretty entrenched into my position largely because at this point, I'm entirely sure that my position is justifiable and effectively impregnable. Beyond that, I really think you should make more of an effort at addressing Weisbrot's points rather than say that he makes a fool out of himself. It's fun being boastful and brash, but Weisbrot has had to make defenses against some fundamentally unserious attacks, like the op-ed in Beyond Bricks blog some time ago where this economist made this elaborate and overt straw man argument, and further some standard neoliberal proposals (good ideas and otherwise) that are otherwise irrelevent to the particular Weisbrot article that was slammed.

Okay, some further clarifications of my position, which I've said before, at the very least, @ Dart Throwing Chimp blog:

1) The democracy deficit is ultimately driven by the opposition, and not by the state. I look at the situation as partially analogous to the US Reconstruction era. At the end of the day, the *actual* (action desired)controversial issue is the political and economic enfranchisement of the non-white underclass. Not corruption, not environment, not underinvestment, not anything else. All of the political issues are used to justify the idea that non-whites can't govern. If I ever gave you the impression that I'm actually okay with the pollution, with the turgid media environment, with the lack of industry or service sectors, etc, it is reflective of my sense of what the primary issue is, and my belief that this issue blocks rectification of downstream issues.

I do not believe that, should the opposition win, that they would get the oil industry up and running efficiently (at least not without entirely selling it out to the Seven Sisters in practice). I see no sign that were the opposition to win the election, that they'd respect the democratic process any more than the Chavistas do, and I see every signal that among the first thing they'd do would be to disenfranchise what little political/economic franchise the underclass has now for fear that they'd build a new Chavismo--same as Egypt and the Ikhwan. With Egypt in mind, I further think that any such..."demobilization" would probably incur considerable violence, in the same or greater proportion than Sisi state violence/Morsi state violence, specifically because the opposition-that-matters (think ex-Nick Clegg) would have a tiny base of genuine domestic political support.

Until there is such a time that the political opposition stops being driven by a bunch of pied-noir types, democracy in Venezuela can't move on. If there was ever a reason to mutter dark conspiracies about US support for the opposition, I've always thought that this would be the purpose that makes the most sense. A right wing that people can vote for without being afraid they'd subsequently lose the right to vote, or be subject to violent paramilitaries, is a right wing that actually promotes policies, good governance and otherwise, and would make much of the intense corruption and inefficient institutions politically unviable. Such a political dynamic would probably increase internal stability that would allow Venezuela to be more of a hegemon in northern South America, such as prosecuting the border issue with Guayana, and more effectively pursue the rivalry with Colombia in ways that compromise US leadership in the Western Hemisphere more seriously than now.

2) The other issue that may make you think I'm being "defensive" about Chavismo is that I believe that I have a realistic view of what countries suffering from resource curses are like. High value export goods are intensely corrosive to civil societies. They always have been, and they always will be, in first world societies and third world societies.

I'm operating from a civil history where Andrew Jackson thumbs his nose at John Marshall for suggesting the idea that Cherokees had any notion of property rights that white men were bound to respect. I'm also operating from a civil awareness of how cotton and sugar drove extremely malevolent societies in the US, West Indies, and elsewhere, and how all of these places have never really recovered from toxic results to the landscape, legal, and social institutions.

I know about movies like Matewan and watch the news where West Virgina governors go "I see nothing" "I don't need to do anything" whenever the coal industry does anything particularly monstrous, and I read in the newspapers about how lawless Appalachia can be with drug dealing crazy sheriffs. Then there is the way fracking has tended to obviate property and water rights whenever anyone else is on suitable shale formation. I mean, have you checked out how that industry just bought off California, even though California doesn't even really have the water for their agribusiness, let alone water for the environment or urban uses?

By general global standards, Venezuela does a better job while suffering from the oil curse than most places. Maybe they don't do as good a job as Norway does, but the money from the oil reaches a lot more people than they do in Colombia, or Nigeria, or Angola, or the GCC, and good was indeed done. You can complain vociferously about how well it was done, but it was done. As such, I will accord the credit to Chavismo, and more truly so, instead of an empty display of "in fairness, they did some good things" thrown out so as to allow the arguement they really want to press, say, like how Rory Carroll does things.

A couple of last points. I'm never surprised about discrepancies in information products sent out by NGOs. As a rule, what goes for Wikipedia goes for these guys as well. Anything that's controversial, or has intense state interest, will stand a good chance of being nudged in a direction favorable to the elite faction that cares about it. Human Rights Watch might have some utility, but if you expect them to be helpful about what's going on in Syria, or anywhere else that US deep state attention is focused on, you'll be disappointed if you had expected straight truths. There will always be some pretty serious distortion. That's why I never take in anything about Venezuela without mulling it over, and I always drop writers, like Toro, Reinhart/Rogoff, etc, when I catch them in untruth. Instead, I keep people like Setty, Venezuela Politic and Human Rights Tumblr, etc, on my bookmark list, because I can trust them to tell me the truth, no matter if it's pro government or opposition.

Dude. I'm not following you. You've a bit of odd ad hominem of doubtful relevance in there (frex: "pied noirs"?); it obfuscates your point. I'm also not following you about how Andrew Jackson's record or the actions of the current West Virginian government make the Maduro government's policies any less ridiculous.

I'd be careful before comparing the way the GCC distributes oil rents unfavorably to Venezuela's. It is not an easy comparison to make.

Do you really believe that you should credit good things to government simply because it happened to be in power at the time? I'd have to completely revamp my opinion of Rick Perry.

Finally, I don't think many people in Venezuela are worried that a hypothetical President Capriles will take away their right to vote. Other than the bellowing about "fascists," I haven't even heard it implied. Stating that the opposition will indeed continue to hold elections is, of course, a rather low bar. But it is one that they pass rather easily.

P.S. The Worcester decision is interesting in and of itself, even if it's not relevant to Venezuela. The short version is that it did not go down the way you think it went down.

Just the way my mind works. Pull associations from everywheres. My use of pied-noirs is simply to call attention to the all-or-nothing to the point of rule or ruin attitude that the core opposition has.

I'm not saying that Maduro's policies aren't bad. I am saying that most governments with high value exports consistently has their policies warped in a highly negative fashion so long as the money is rolling in. And I offered examples of such governments. Now, if you wish to make the case that Maduro's government is uniquely awful, then you seriously need to make that case. Consistently complaining just how bad and awful Maduro is without actually providing any sort of concrete example is going to lead to people offering examples...that you fail to follow. Put up something. Anything. Show that it's uniquely bad, relative to other countries that export high value raw resources, and maybe show how it could be done better with at least some interest in necessary nuances forced by internal politics, no less!

If my comparisons with GCC is wrong, then I'd like to ask how did I miss it.

Yes, I actually believe I should credit good things, because I can see the benefit as a direct policy outcome. Not only that, I have a ready comparison with the neighboring country, Colombia. Colombia does do many thing better, but practically, what the benefit of the good it does is almost entirely limited to the urban areas. Venezuela clearly does better, per capita, and with the lower Ginni, well--the fact that it regularly has incoming flow of economic migrants from Colombia delivers a TKO. See, I'm showing my work here! No need to credit Rick Perry! There's all sorts of information as to exactly what happened. I can easily look it up and see, immigration, shale oil boom, etc. However, I can say that Texas did not change its distributional policies to improve welfare, but Venezuela did.

You can say that not very many people are not worried about a hypothetical President Capriles, but I read stuff like: http://venezuelablog.tumblr.com/post/77823347017/venezuelan-protests-from-the-view-of-western-caracas Perhaps, you can say, it's not about eliminationist fears, just "things would get worse", but there are plenty of reports out there of neighborhoods that really do have violent expectations if the the right move into power. Just don't have the time to google now. And I've certainly not belted out any "Fascist!" I simply said that the opposition is white supremacist, and I strongly doubt you can effectively deny that. If you really think that the opposition would hold real elections, you're the one who'd need to explain why you think so. We have the direct memory of 2002, you know.

And lastly, teach your grandma to suck eggs! I'm not exactly ignorant of my state history. You can throw it out, and see if the shit sticks, but anyone can look at Wikipedia, and look at what I said, and see that they match. Furthermore, they can read the entire narrative of the Trail of Tears, and gold's role in destroying a Native American nation, and tie that to my notion that high value resource extraction destroys legal norms among other things. That was what Worcester was all about. Now, do you feel lucky, or do you want to look and sound more stupid or willfully dense?

Thanks for the interesting post.

This is confusing. Here's a thought about 2006 and the executive constraints: Could the drop be caused by the Ley Organica de Hidrocarburos of May 2006? Wasn't the key point of that law to force the multinationals to deal with the Ministry, not the PDVSA directors like before? The final blow to the "state within the state", in some sense?

Reading the Polity manual, this wouldn't quite fit to the "executive constraints". But would it be too much of a stretch to say that in Venezuela PDVSA is/used to be one of the executive constraints?

Yellow card on that last paragraph, Shah8. An apology is in order. The Worcester decision did not go down the way that you suggested in your post, which only alluded to it in the context of "Jackson thumbing his nose at John Marshall."

You have to be civil.

Your penultimate paragraph is not rude, but it becomes nonsensical when you suddenly bring up "white supremacy." And who is this "we" with memories of 2002?

Noel, mildly annoyed

Actually, Shah8, I am more than mildly annoyed.

Your Colombia-Venezuela comparison proves my point. Venezuela was richer before 1999 and remained richer afterwards, although the migrant flow has in fact recently stopped. I am rather astounded that you claim that Venezuela's long-standing advantage over its western neighbor somehow credits the current government.

Your statement that there are no concrete examples about bad Venezuelan policies is bullshit. I am not going to link to every damn post I've made on this blog, because they are nothing but concrete examples.

And then there is the white supremacist crack followed by your immature last paragraph.

You should disavow the whole comment, Shah8. What got into you?

RI: I don't know! It's not unreasonable, but it would certainly be an idiosyncratic reading of executive constraints. The government didn't break any constitutional restrictions with that law.

Downgrading Venezuela's score around that time was certainly reasonable. It's the timing that's off. Why not, say, around the time the Tascón list became public?

I don't get the comparison to Algeria. Pieds-noirs refers to people from third countries (not Algeria, not France) who settled in Algeria during French rule. Is there a direct comparison to Venezuela? Thanks for clarifying.

The annoyed feeling is mutual. Again, you actually have to explain what's actually is the issue. Expecting someone not to be upset or frustrated when you fling out a "that's not right" is a bit much! I don't even know what part of what I said is wrong according to you! Moreover, in a slight sense, it's actual personal history since I don't have a little Cherokee blood, and I look as such. I know precisely what I'm talking about.

Venezuela has had a long standing advantage in oil wealth, but Colombia isn't exactly poor in quality natural resources either, and honestly, if Colombia ever offered a truly genuine mass governance, then the natural advantages in a diverse economic regime would have begun to tell. Moreover, just saying that Venezuela is better before and better after doesn't necessarily prove your point. I said that Venezuela offers a better economic climate than Colombia for Colombians, and that it was evidence of superior management. Given how societies change over the decades and how wealth changes, it's not always a given that a country's advantage will remain the same!

I never said that there are no concrete examples. I said that you refused to provide one, and the reason I thought this was important was because I though we needed something to argue over. What policies were uniquely bad? Pick one, so we can probe with a little more vision than blind mice!

At the end of the day, the issue actually is fundamentally about white supremacy. I mean, you can say it's some sort of "crack". However, anyone can google "racist" and "venezuelan opposition", and you'll find plenty of thoughts about it. Trying to deny that, is like trying to deny that the motivating force behind teaparty folks has quite a bit to do with racism and white supremacy.

Jonathan R--I'm basically referring to the Pied Noir's refusal to allow DeGaul to make a settlement with Arab Algerian where such people had any more power than the little they did in the 1950s. When DeGaul forced the issue, there was a terrorist wave and assassination attempts against DeGaul. They didn't believe that non-whites should have any sort of franchise in Algeria, and were willing to kill, to some degree, to prevent or overturn such a grant.

[I]f Colombia ever offered a truly genuine mass governance, then the natural advantages in a diverse economic regime would have begun to tell.

Why? Turkey is definitely a more pluralistic and modern state that Saudi Arabia, with a more diverse economy, but incomes remain lower in Turkey. (Well, GDP per capita anyway.)

If the flow of Colombian migrants to Venezuela has stopped, wouldn't that indicate the relative deterioration of Venezuela vis-a-vis Colombia?

This is ridiculous, Shah8. How old are you?

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