If you think things here are being run into the ground, you might want to keep in mind that there is incompetence and venality beyond even the Washington standard. Look, for example, at Caracas. Leopoldo Martínez, leader of the Venezuelan opposition, wrote in the WSJ this week:
According to his government’s own figures, inflation currently stands at 54%, the highest in the Americas. Much as Chávez did, Mr. [Nicolás] Maduro has plundered Venezuela’s oil industry, which accounts for 95% of export earnings, by providing billions of dollars in oil subsidies to Cuba and other regime allies. Despite the regime’s much trumpeted commitment to wealth redistribution, the country is plagued by shortages of basic goods like cooking oil, milk and corn flour, while concerns over a government debt default have led Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the country’s credit rating to B-.
B-minus? Even Illinois is better than that.
(WSJ extract courtesy of Fausta’s blog.)
The idea of Venezuelans paying more for gasoline was first floated in early December, when Vice President Jorge Arreaza said it was time start discussing raising gas prices. Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said that the country having the world’s cheapest gas wasn’t a point of pride. Finally, last week Maduro himself said he favored gradually raising prices over three years.
“As an oil nation, Venezuelans should have a special price advantage for hydrocarbons compared to the international market,” the former bus driver told newly elected mayors on Dec. 18. “But it has to be an advantage, not a disadvantage. What converts it into a disadvantage is when the tip you give is more than what it cost to fill the tank.”
There are “special price advantages,” and then there is this: a gallon of gas costs about 90 cents in Kuwait, about 50 cents in Saudi Arabia and about five cents in Venezuela, a price which has remained relatively constant for a decade and a half. There is, of course, a reason for that:
In 1989 the price of gasoline was raised, prompting deadly rioting that went on for days and killed over 300 people.
“Well, yeah,” some will cry, “but they have free health care.” Not so fast, Chucky.